Rakhi, which is also known as Raksha Bandhan, is a Hindu festival which is celebrated across India. Raksha Bandhan is recognized and celebrated among Hindus for its symbolic significance. Raksha Bandhan draws it significance from a sacred thread which is known as Rakhi. It is believed that the thread protects the one who wears it, especially during the auspicious time of Shravana Purnima.
The concept of tying the sacred thread on the auspicious day of Shravana Purnima is not new. Shravana Purnima is also considered significant to change the sacred thread among Brahmin community. The ritual of wearing sacred thread or changing of sacred thread on the day of Shravana Purnima is known as Upakarma. Upakarma, which is a Vedic ritual, is still practiced by Hindus of Brahmin caste.
The origin of Rakhi can be attributed to the most ancient legend of Goddess Indrani which narrates the power of sacred thread, when tied to Lord Indra, resulted in his victory over demons.
Rakhi is celebrated during Shravana Purnima i.e. the full moon day during Shravana month in Hindu lunar calendar. Shravana is the fifth lunar month in Hindu calendar and considered highly significant for Lord Shiva and Gauri Puja.
The Rakhi ceremony is observed during auspicious time when Bhadra is over and the auspicious time of tying Rakhi is known as Rakhi Muhurat.
One can find important episodes of Rakhi in Hindu epics and legends. The origin of Rakhi can be attributed to the most ancient legend of Goddess Indrani which narrates the power of sacred thread, when tied to Lord Indra, resulted in his victory over demons.
According to legend, Lord Indra was challenged by demons and was unable to match the strength of demons. When Lord Indra was leaving for the battle, Indra's wife and Brihaspati tied a sacred pouch, known as Raksha Potali, to the Lord Indra. The power of sacred thread tied during the auspicious day of Shravana Purnima resulted in the victory of gods over demons. This episode strengthened the belief in the power of Rakhi.
Another legend which is related to Rakhi mentions that Lord Yama, the God of death, blessed his sister and promised that all sisters tying Rakhi on the auspicious day of Shravana Purnima would have his blessings.
In great Hindu epic Mahabharata, Lord Krishna suggested Yudhishthira to tie Rakhi for the protection and victory during the war. In the same epic, Draupadi tied a strip of cloth to the bleeding hand of Lord Krishna and was bestowed with divine protection of Lord Krishna.
In modern context, Raksha Bandhan is seen as the ritual which bonds siblings especially sisters and brothers. When the sister ties Rakhi on the wrist of his brother, it shows the love of a sister for her brother in a unique indelible bond of affection for a lifetime. As a gesture of gratitude for the love and affection, brother promises to help and protect the sister from all sorts of troubles.
Hence, Rakhi is representative of the instinctive ties of sister-brother relationship. The occasion of Rakhi reinforces the sublimity of this relationship in a very endearing manner, much like the eternal nature of this bond itself. In fact, the strong conviction about the power of Rakhi to bestow longer life for the brother and protection for the sister is boosted with every advancing year.
Modern Indian history is also replete with stories of Hindu queens sending Rakhi(s) to Mughal emperors in their hour of need while the latter honoring the bond of Rakhi in both words and deed. Hence, the popularity of this old-age tradition of tying Rakhi is an acknowledgement of the bond of pure love and affection among siblings.
A typical ceremony to observe the day of Rakhi involves certain rituals like Aarti for the brother imbued with prayers of his long life, putting red Tika on the forehead before tying the Rakhi on the wrist of the brother. After thread ceremony, the brother is treated with sweets and traditional home delicacies, usually prepared by the sister. The brother shows his affection and appreciation by giving a nice gift, especially bought for the occasion, to the sister.
In Maharashtra, Rakhi Purnima is known as Narali Purnima. In Tamil Nadu Rakhi Purnima is observed as Avani Avittam, a significant day for Brahmin community to wear and change the sacred thread. In Andhra Pradesh, the same ritual of changing thread is known as Jandhyala Purnima. In other parts of India, changing of sacred thread during Shravana Purnima is known as Upakarma day.
The day of Rakhi also coincides with the birth anniversary of Lord Hayagriva and known as Hayagriva Jayanti.