THE FESTIVAL OF RAKSHA BANDHANA

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  • Raksha Bandhan falls on the purnima (full-moon day) of the month of Shravana. It is sometimes called Rakhi Purnima (in Western India) and Saloni (in the north).
  • By the western calendar, Raksha Bandhan usually falls sometime in August.
  • The central theme of the festival is brotherly protection.
  • ‘Raksha’ means ‘protection’, and ‘bandhan’ means to tie. The common practice is for sisters to tie a ‘rakhi’ on the right wrist of their brothers, or other close male relatives.
  • The rakhi is a silk bracelet decorated with a bauble of silk or tinsel. They are of different colours, but red is often considered most auspicious.
  • In return for the rakhi, brothers offer their sisters a small gift, usually in cash, and promise to protect them.
  • Some say the ritual goes back to the initiation ceremony when the guru awarded the sacred thread, but also tied a red thread around the disciple’s right wrist. Today many rituals involve this procedure, with the tying of the thread symbolising the vow and commitment to complete the ceremony.
  • This festival also marks the day when Brahmins (and sometimes other members of the ‘twice-born’ classes) renew their sacred threads, discarding the old ones. This day may go by the name, ‘Shravani’.
  • In earlier times, the festival was not just for sisters. Even today, the head of the household sometimes performs the ceremony.
  • The festival is often associated with King Bali, well known for his charitable disposition. Another story relates how Indra was protected by a rakhi when fighting with the other Devas (gods) against the Asuras (demons).