A simple rakhi, tied on a wrist.
|Date||Purnima (Full moon) of Shraavana|
Raksha Bandhan (the bond of protection in Hindi, Punjabi, Oriya, Assamese, Gujurati, and many other Indian languages) is a Hindu festival, which celebrates the relationship between brothers and sisters. It is celebrated on the full moon of the month of Shraavana (Shravan Poornima).
The festival is marked by the tying of a rakhi, or holy thread by the sister on the wrist of her brother. The brother in return offers a gift to his sister and vows to look after her as she presents sweets to her brother. The brother and sister traditionally feed one another sweets.
It is not necessary that the rakhi be given only to a blood brother; any male can be "adopted" as a brother by tying a rakhi on the person, that is "blood brothers and sisters", whether they are cousins or a good friend. Indian history is replete with women asking for protection, through rakhi, from men who were neither their brothers, nor Hindus themselves.
The story of Rani Karnavati of Chittor and Mughal Emperor Humayun is the most significant evidence in the history. During the medieval era, around the 15th century, there were many wars between the Rajputs, Mughals and Sultans. Rakhi at that time meant a spiritual binding and protection of sisters was foremost. When Rani Karnavati the widowed queen of the king of Chittor realised that she could in no way defend the invasion of the Sultan of Gujarat, Bahadur Shah, she sent a rakhi to Emperor Humayun. The Emperor was so touched by the gesture, that he abandoned an ongoing military campaign to ride to her rescue.
The rakhi may also be tied on other special occasions to show solidarity and kinship (not necessarily only among brothers and sisters), as was done during the Indian independence movement.
The origin of this festival is usually traced back to the historical incidents of Indra's fight with Vritra-Indra that resulted in Indra's loss. Then, his wife had tied a thread around his wrist and empowered it with divine powers to make sure Indra emerged victorious in the duel that followed.
Krishna and Draupadi
Another incident is the one from the epic Mahabharat that concerns Krishna and Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas. She had torn a strip of silk off her sari and tied it around Krishna's wrist to stop the flow of blood Krishna was so touched by her action that he found himself bound to her by love. He promised to repay the debt and then spent the next 25 years doing just that. Draupadi in spite of being married to 5 great warriors and being a daughter of a powerful monarch only trusted and depended wholly on Krishna.
Krishna repaid the debt of love during "Vastra haran"(literally "clothing theft") of Draupadi. Draupadi's "Vastra Haran" was done in the assembly of King Dritrashtra, when Yudishter,her husband lost her in gamble,at that time Krishna indefinitely extended her saree, so it could not be removed, to save her pride.This is how He paid his debt towards rakhi tied to him by Draupadi.
King Bali and Goddess Laxmi
According to another legend the Demon King Bali was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu had taken up the task to guard his kingdom leaving his own abode in Vaikunth. Goddess Lakshmi wished to be with her lord back in her abode. She went to Bali disguised as a Brahmin woman to seek refuge till her husband came back.
During the Shravan Purnima celebrations, Lakshmi tied the sacred thread to the King. Upon being asked she revealed who she was and why she was there. The king was touched by her goodwill for his family and her purpose and requested the Lord to accompany her. He sacrificed all he had for the Lord and his devoted wife.
Thus the festival is also called Baleva that is Bali Raja's devotion to the Lord. It is said that since then it has been a tradition to invite sisters in Shravan Purnima for the thread tying ceremony or the Raksha Bandhan.
In memory of this event, even to this day, sisters recite this prayer when they tie the rakhi to their brothers:
"yena baddho Balee raajaa daanavendro mahaabalah
Tena twaam anubadhnaami rakshe maa chala maa chala"
Meaning: I am tying a Raksha(Rakhi) to you, like the one tied to Bali, the powerful and generous king. Oh Raksha, be firm, do not go away, do not go away.
Yama and the Yamuna
According to another legend, Raksha Bandhan was a ritual followed by Lord Yama (the Lord of Death) and his sister Yamuna. Yamuna tied rakhi to Yama and bestowed immortality. Yama was so moved by the serenity of the occasion that he declared that whoever gets a rakhi tied from his sister and promised her protection will become immortal.
Alexander the great-Puru
According to some accounts, Alexander, the king of Greece invaded India in 326 B.C. He married an Indian lady, Roxana (Roshanak) to cement his relations with the new Central Asian regions. Alexander's wife sent a sacred thread to Porus, asking him not to harm her husband in battle. In accordance with Hindu traditions, Porus gave full respect to the rakhi. On the battlefield, when Porus was about to deliver a final blow to Alexander, he saw the rakhi on his wrist and restrained himself from attacking Alexander personally.
Raksha Bandhan celebrations in India
While Raksha Bandhan is celebrated all over the country, different parts of the country mark the day in different ways. These celebrations happen to fall on the same day, and may not have anything to do with Raksha Bandhan itself or Rakhi.
Rakhi is celebrated as Rakhi Purnima in North and South India. The word "Purnima" means a full moon night.it is also called as rakshabhandan.
In western India and parts of Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Goa this day is celebrated as Nariyal Purnima. On this day an offering of a coconut (nariyal) is made to the sea, as a mark of respect to Lord Varuna, the God of the Sea. Nariyal Purnima marks the beginning of the fishing season and the fishermen, who depend on the sea for a living, make an offering to Lord Varuna so that they can reap bountiful fish from the sea.
In central parts of India such as Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Jharkand and Bihar this day is celebrated as Kajari Purnima. It is an important day for the farmers and women blessed with a son. On the ninth day after Shravana Amavasya, the preparations of the Kajari festival start. This ninth day is called Kajari Navami and varied rituals are performed by women who have sons until Kajri Purnima or the full moon day.
Other festivals on this day
In southern & Central parts of India including Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Orissa, this day (i.e. Shravan Poornima day), is when the Hindu community performs the rituals of Avani Avittam.
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