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Raksha Bandhan – Transcending Blood and Family Ties

Festivals are primarily occasions for social gatherings and community participation. They are usually celebrated to pass down traditions and unique traits of a culture or society and most festivals celebrate inter personal relationships. The dynamics and relationship between individuals are the building blocks of society; they are run on mutual co-operation and harmony between individuals. And Raksha Bandhan is one such festival that promotes social harmony, peace and kinship.

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Raksha Bandhan is also popularly known as Rakhi festival. It is an ancient Hindu festival that celebrates the special relationship between brothers and sisters. The festival ritually honors the chaste bonds of love and commitment between the siblings. On the occasion of Raksha Bandhan, sisters pray for the safety and well being of their brothers with elaborate prayers and rituals. The brother visits his sister on this day and the sister performs an aarti ceremony before him. She then ties the ceremonial thread also known as Rakhi on the wrists of her brother and in return in, the brother ritually makes a pledge to protect and take care of his sister at all times. He also presents her with gifts for the occasion. The gifts are a token of appreciation for her prayers and wishes and also symbolic of the agreement of their special relationship.

Raksha Bandhan literally translates from Sanskrit into English as “the tie or knot of protection,” and Indian traditions maintain that the tie of the rakhi is so powerful that not even the gods can break them. Indian tradition also maintains that when a woman ties the rakhi on the wrists of any male, he is considered as a real brother and he also becomes honor bound to protect and safeguard her at all costs. There are many instances in history which exemplifies this like the story of the Rani of Chittor who sent a rakhi to the Mughal Emperor Humayun when her kingdom was being attacked by Bahadur Shah. The emperor on receiving the rakhi became so overwhelmed and rushed to Chittor with his army to protect the kingdom from the invading forces.

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Thus Raksha Bandhan is not exclusive to real brothers and sisters; the festival is also an occasion to celebrate and enforce brother-sister like blood ties between relatives and other people even biologically unrelated men and women. It transcends cultural differences and brings together men and women across diverse religions and ethnic groups.