The Tradition of Rakhi

Raksha Bandhan is celebrated on the day of Shraven Poornima that occurs during the month of August every year. It is a symbol of the fraternal bond between a brother and a sister and manifests itself as a silent pledge exchanged between them that solidifies their relationship and the protection it offers them.

On the day of Shraven Poornima, the sister encircles her brother's wrist with a delicate and sometimes decorated, thread that demonstrates their love and affection. This binds the brother to the promise to protect his sister from any harm. While tying the thread the sister chants a holy mantra:

Yena baddho Balee raajaa daanavendro mahaabalah 
Tena twaam anubadhnaami rakshe maa chala maa chala 

The mantra is intended to protect the brother from sinister influences.

Once the sister has tied the Rakhi around her brother's wrist, he in turn, give her a gift which acts as a token of his love for her. Traditional sweets and dishes are enjoyed by the whole family on this very festive day.

Rakhi is mostly celebrated in Northern India and tends not to vary too much from state to state in this region. In other areas of the country, however, the rituals and customs take on a more local meaning as there are numerous legends and tales that tell the story of Rakhi.

The Story of Rakhi

In one legend, Indra, the King of the Heavens, was fighting a losing battle with the Demon King. Unsure of what to do, Indra asked for the advice of Brihaspati, the Guru. On Shraven Poornima, Brihaspati had Indrani (Indra's sister) tie amulets known as Raksha, on Indra's wrist. Not long after, Indra defeated the Demon King and regained peace in his kingdom.

Another story centered around the Rakhi tradition is found in the Mahabharata. In this story Yudhishthira asks Lord Krishna how he can best protect himself from all the evils the coming year will bring. Krishna advises him to observe Rakhi and he will be protected.

In another tale, Alexander's wife sought to save her husband from being murdered by Puru. She tied a Rakhi bracelet around Puru's wrist and just as he was about to strike the fatal blow to Alexander, Puru saw the Rakhi. When he saw the thread about his wrist he refrained from killing Alexander.