Festivals of India: Raksha Bandhan

Happy Raksha Bandhan to those celebrating! Over the last few months I’ve dedicated posts to most prominent Indian festivals. If you’d like to read about those, I’ll link them down below. Do follow my blog for more on Indian culture and festivities. Today we’ll talk about the festival of Raksha Bandhan or Rakhi.

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This predominantly Hindu festival is popular with Indians across classes, castes and in some cases, even religions. Though the festival is meant to celebrate the bond between brothers and sisters, many people tie Rakhis on non-relatives as well.

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Tying a Rakhi on my uncle in the absence of my cousin

WHAT IS THE FESTIVAL ABOUT?

Traditionally sisters tie a ‘Rakhi’ or thread/ amulet on the wrist of their brothers. This Rakhi ties them together in a bond of protection and love. The brother usually gifts the sister some money and she feeds him sweets. She prays for a long and happy life for him, in return for his protection should she ever need it. The Rakhis are typically ornamental threads, though some can be plain as well.

Rakhis can also be tied in relationships of economic benefaction or out of respect for elder family members. This includes priests to their patrons, employees to their employers or women to older matriarchs of the family.

Bhai Duj” or “Tikka” is another festival dedicated to brothers and sisters and most North Indian families celebrate either Rakhi or Bhai Duj, rarely both.

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A sumptuous lunch spread for family Rakhi celebrations

RAKHI CELEBRATIONS:

Usually sisters travel to their brothers’ or maternal homes for this celebration. This is especially meaningful for women in rural areas, who are married away from their villages and eagerly wait for a chance to visit their parental homes.

Everyone dresses in Indian finery, and gorges on traditional and modern mithai/ sweets. Gifts and money are readily exchanged before enjoying a family feast together. The celebrations are especially fun when the families are large.

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Tying a Rakhi on the Guru Granth Sahib- the holy book of the Sikhs

HOW I CELEBRATE RAKHI:

I’m fortunately blessed with a brother and two cousins I’m very close to, which makes Rakhi an important festival for me. I also tie Rakhi on a “muh-bola bhai/ brother” (someone who’s not related to me), which is a fairly common practice across India.

My first Rakhi, however, is reserved for the holy book of the Sikhs, the Guru Granth Sahib. I’m not particularly religious, but I am deeply spiritual and believe in most tenets of Sikhism. My parents maintain a book at home and Rakhi always begins there.

The rest of the day is about enjoying delicious food and banter with my loved ones. How do you celebrate Rakhi? Do tell me in the comments!

You can read about other Indian Festivals here:

Holi

Lohri

Gurpurab

Eid

Christmas

Diwali Part 1

Diwali Part 2

Diwali Part 3

Diwali Part 4

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