Many of the North Indian festivals have migrated to South India, like Divali. However, Raksha Bandhan, otherwise called Rahki, has remained as a northern tradition.
And a sweet one at that!
Rakhi is a celebration of the love between sisters and brothers. Sisters pray for their brother’s well being, and brothers pledge to protect their sisters. A sister ties a rakhi bracelet on her brother’s wrist to seal the bond between them. “Brother” has a loose meaning. A cousin or a cherished male friend of the family can become a Rakhi brother. The bond that is formed is intimate and special. Men proudly wear their sometimes garish and glittery bracelets for a full month. In recent years, the bracelets have expanded to include almost any design imaginable and vendors are picking up on the opportunity to market their brand of rakhi.
The day of Rakhi changes from year to year based on the Hindu lunar calendar. On the actual day, brothers and sisters wake up early to take a ritual bath, perform a puja and dress up for this special occasion. Then rakhi is tied, sweets and gifts are exchanged and a meal is shared.
Rakhi has special significance to new brides who have left their parental home to live with the husband’s family. For this festival, brothers often escort their sisters back home for the first time since the marriage. Imagine the joy, reuniting with the family again.
But this tradition goes deeper than what one might see at first glance. Based on ancient mythology, Ganesha’s two sons asked Ganesha for a sister who would tie rakhi. So Ganesha created beloved Santoshi. In another story, Yama tied a special thread on the wrist of her brother Yamuna to protect him from his stepmother’s curse. Another stepmother story! And voila, the curse was lifted.
We make rakhi bracelets every year at Blue Mango, which sell to major brands in India. We market our simple animal rakhi bracelets for birthday favors.
So on Thursday, August 22, remember your siblings and your close family friends, whether you celebrate Raksha Bandhan or not. Celebrating love and connection has no cultural boundaries.