Raksha Bandhan in Sanskrit literally means ‘the bond of protection’, the word Raksha means ‘Protection’ and ‘Bandhan’ means ‘Knot’. The festival is observed on the full moon day of the Hindu month Shravan, that falls in the Gregorian calendar month of August-September. On the day, sister ties ‘rakhi’ on her brother’s wrist and pray for his happiness and prosperity. The brother in return gives her a gift and a promise to protect her. In 2018, Raksha Bandhan falls on August 26. There are many rituals associated with Raksha Bandhan and some go beyond the more popular practice of tying a rakhi around the brother’s wrist. In Maharashtra, Raksha Bandhan is celebrated along with ‘Narali Purnima’, the coconut day festival. Kolis, the fishermen community, offer prayers to Lord Varuna and seek blessings. There is a tradition to throw coconuts into the sea as an offering to the Lord.
There are various myths and stories associated with the origin of the festival. According to Bhavishya Purana, during the war between gods and demons, Lord Indra, the deity of the sky, rains and thunderbolts, defeated demon king Bali after his wife Sachi tied a thread around his wrist. The holy thread was blessed with prayers and was given to Sachi by Lord Vishnu. Since then the power of sacred thread became popular and women started tying it on men’s wrist to protect them from the evil spirit.
In the epic Mahabharata, Draupadi tied a holy thread on Krishna’s wrist and Kunti on her grandson Abhimanyu before the war.
The reference to the festival can be found even in the history. As per a legendary narrative, Alexander the great invaded India, his wife Roxana sent the king of Kaikeya Kingdom Porus a sacred thread requesting him to not harm her husband in the battle. Porus tied the thread around his wrist. During the battle of Hydaspes, when Porus saw the rakhi on his wrist he restrained himself from attacking Alexander.
During the Bengal partition of 1905, the British empire divided Bengal on the basis of religion. Rabindranath Tagore, the Indian Nobel Laureate for literature, used Raksha Bandhan as a way to inspire love and mutual protection between Hindus and Muslims. Tagore arranged a ceremony of Raksha Bandhan to spread the feeling of brotherhood. Unfortunately, the plan didn’t work out as Bengal was split during the colonial era, making a part as a Hindu Indian state of West Bengal while the other a predominantly Muslim country Bangladesh. Even today, ‘Rakhi Mahotsav’ is organised in parts of West Bengal.
Tithi (August 26)
Raksha Bandhan thread ceremony: 6:25 am to 5:25 pm
Aparahan time Raksha Bandhan muhurat: 1:55 pm to 4:24 pm
Purnima tithi begins: 3:16 pm on August 25, 2018
Purnima tithi ends: 5:25 pm on August 26, 2018