Raksha Bandhan is an
unspoken pledge exchanged between, a brother and sister cementing
their fraternal relationship.
the occasion of Raksha Bandhan, the ancient township of Allahabad
reverberates with festivities. A troupe of Brahmins can be seen
surging towards the Sangam for an early dip. Amidst the magical
chanting of hymns and mantras, the Brahmins
ceremoniously exchange their old sacred threads for new consecrated
translated the chanting means- I am tying a rakshaa
to you, similar to the one tied to Bali, the powerful king of the
demons. Oh rakshaa, be firm, do not waver. The
mantra recalls how the demon king Bali had become very powerful with
the raakhi on. The power of the mantra is supposed to protect the
wearer from evil influences. Legend goes that once Indra,the
Puranic King of the Heavens, while warring with the Daitya-Raaja
(demon king) was confronted with reverses. Humbled, he sought the
advice of Brihaspati. On the ausp`icious occasion of Shravana
Poornima, both Shachee Devi, the consort of Indra and Brihaspati, the
Guru of the Gods, tied silken amulets popularly known as rakshaas on
Indras wrist. Subsequently, Indra vanquished the Daitya-Raaja
and reestablished sovereignity over his celestial abode. Other
references to this simple ceremony are found in the epic Mahabharata
where Yudhisthara, the eldest Pandava son, once enquired from Lord
Krishna on how best he could guard himself against all impending
evils and catastrophes in the ensuing year. It is believed that
Krishna advised him to observe the rakshaa ceremony.
still remember nostalgically, how joyously my brother had proffered
his arm on this occasion for that small endearing raakhi I had bought
for him so impulsively. His spontaneous reciprocatory gesture of
flooding me with gifts sent my head reeling.
never fails to surprise me how this simple, annually recurring act
of tyin the raakhi on ones wrist can evoke such strong and
intense emotions in a person. It seems almost like an unspoken
pledge, exchanged between a brother and a sister cementing their
fraternal relationship and reinforcing their protective bound against
all ills and odds.
tales of women seeking protection from heroes via the rakshaa, abound
in the country. It is said that at one time, Alexanders wife
approached the mighty Hindu adversary, Pururava, and sought assurance
of her husbands life by tying the raakhi on Pururavas
hand. The story goes that just as Pururava raised his hand to
deliver a mortal blow to Alexander, he saw the rakshaa and refrained
yet another poignant instance, a Rajput princess sent a raakhi to
the Mughal Emperor Humayun, enlisting his support against the
onslaught of the Gujarat Sultan. Though engaged elsewhere,
Humayun, hastened to the rescue of his raakhi sister but to his
bitter disappointement, found that the kingdom had been seized and
the princess had committed jauhar to save her honour.
down to a rich festive repast, my grandmother, an erstwhile resident
of Bombay, recounted how the festival of Raksha Bandhan also known as
Narial Poornima or Coconut Full Moon, was celebrated on Bombays
famous beaches. Coconuts were thrown into the sea to propitiate the
Sea-God, Varuna, who is the chief object of worship on this occasion.
The three eyes of the coconut are believed to represent
the three-eyed Shiva and hence the religious significance. In fact,
Hindus consider it auspicious to break a coconut in front of a deity
before embarking upon any important venture.
our neighbourhood, little girls could be seen applying the red tilak
on the forehead of their baby brothers and receiving small gifts in
return. Later, we strolled out towards the glittering mela. On the
way we paused awhile to watch a congregational raakhi function in
progress. It had been organized by one of the socio-religious
organizations, and the ceremony of tying the rakshaa on the Bhagava
Dhwaja, the saffron flag, was being solemnly observed. This, simple
ceremony affirms the peoples loyalty and protection not only
amongst themselves, but also for the society in its entirety.
we reached the fair grounds, we found the mela in full swing,
resounding with the beats of loud popular Indian music. Colourful
stalls beckoned passers-by with a dazzling array of games, goodies
and refreshments. The merry-go-round, giant wheel and the outsized
jhulas were the inevitable crowd pullers.
main marketplace sparkled radiantly, with festoons and streamers
adorning the shops at attractive angles. Rakhis in scintillating
colours and in multifarious shapes, designs and dimensions decorated
the thoroughfare. Large crowds thronged the sweetmeat shops which
exhibited an assortment of mouthwatering delicacies and savouries.