The festival of Raksha Bandhan is a many-hued festival imbued with a lot of colour, sweetness, myths and spiritual significance. As per tradition, on the auspicious occasion of Raksha Bandhan sisters apply tilak on the forehead of their brothers and also tie a golden-red thread or colourfully decorated rakhi, round their wrist besides offering them sweets as token of their love and affection. Tying rakhi to a brother's wrist is commonly believed to be a ceremonial expression of a sister's hope that her brother would protect or help her in the time of need. However, it is well worth considering, how a small brother or one living far away can come to the sister's rescue in the time of distress? It is thus obvious that the significance of this festival is different from what is generally believed.
This festival is also known as the “Punyapradayak Parva (merit-giving)” or “Vishtodak Parva (vice-eliminating festival)”. The brahmins ie the priests have from time immemorial carried on the practice of tying rakhi round the wrists of their yajmans (religious believers as their patrons) as a symbol of purification. Hence, it’s obvious that it is a very ancient festival and its real significance lies in pointing to the viceless and pure love between a brother and sister, and in reminding all thereby to observe chastity in their lives. That is the reason why this festival has been given the other symbolic names, mentioned above.
Applying the tilak or red mark on the brother's forehead is also indicative of the sister suggesting to her brothers to be soul-conscious for it is in the space between the eyebrows that the soul is located. Then again “Raksha Sutra” (a red and saffron coloured thread) that is tied around the brother's wrist is also meant to serve as a constant reminder of that bond of purity. Similarly, sweetening of the brother's mouth by the sister is also symbolic of her pious wish that the brother succeeds in overpowering vices especially lust, or a token of the sister's sincere wish that he succeeds in his noble undertaking.
Hence, Raksha Bandhan conveys the divine message of achieving victory over man's great enemies, the five vices – lust, anger, greed, attachment and ego – by strict observance of continence through soul-consciousness; and it inspires human beings to make a sacred “deed of covenant” to lead a life of purity in thought, speech and action and thereby attain divine wisdom, peace and prosperity. Om Shanti.
The writer is a spiritual educator and popular columnist for publications across India, Nepal & the UK. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org / www.brahmakumaris.com