India is a land of diverse faith and myriad cultures. The festival of Rakhi, though rooted in mythology and ancient Indian history, has not really been understood for what it actually represents.
Rakhi traditionally celebrates the bond of love between a brother and a sister. Tying of rakhi, exchanging of sweets, a gift from the brother to his sister/s –this is the common perception and this is how most of us celebrate this festival.
But how many of us have given a thought to what this bond actually denotes?
First and foremost, Rakhi is synonymous with purity of the relationship and purity of the self and therefore of the soul. It is not just a thread tied by the sister on her brother’s wrist whereby the brother pledges to protect her from any worldly harm. In a broader spectrum, it is a chance to free oneself from one’s internal enemies, the vices. A man is pulled down by his negative energies and the festival of Rakhi gives him a chance to retrospect and pull out of that dark side.
This colored thread with multiple decorations and motifs is tied not necessarily only by one’s sister, but can be tied by any woman who shares a platonic relationship with a man. There is a complete absence of a physical relationship and has no age or space barriers between the two connected by this sacred thread. Simultaneously, it is absurd to think that a mere child or one who stays miles away would be able to offer protection to his “rakhi” sister. The issue which is of prime importance here is the bond of spiritual love established between two individuals of the opposite gender.
Eight days after Rakhi, we celebrate Janmashtami.
The sacred thread tied during Raksha Bandhan connects us to Janmashtami, when we celebrate the birth of Lord Krishna. In this period of eight days between “Purnima” and “Ashtami” we get a chance of cleansing and purifying our soul and subsequently being reborn again.
This seven-day period, symbolic of the time taken by God for creation of the world can be likened to a recreation of the self by us. This period is to be seen as a time for penance when all negativity is purged to achieve the level of pure spirit. Needless to say, all forms of “spiritual downers” should be abstained from, so that a free communion, free from all hindrances, with the soul is made possible. In fact, an ideal gift to one’s sister can be the shedding of a vice.
The message of Rakshabandhan is that of love and purity. It can be viewed as a thread tied on behalf of God to set us on the right path.
The initial representation of Rakhi as a pledge to protect the sister and her right to be protected by the brother has gained wide propagation due to the fact that in Indian history and mythology there have been instances when this aspect of the festival has been highlighted. Rani Karnavati sent a rakhi to the Mughal Emperor Humayun to ask for help when she was besieged by enemies. In the realm of the Gods, we have Indrani tying a rakhi on Lord Indra. There is also the tradition of tying rakhi by a Brahmin to a Yajman.
The connection between Rakshabandhan and Janmashtami is highlighted keeping in view the spiritual aspect of man’s life, which is the ladder that helps him to achieve oneness with God.