Raksha Bandhan~रक्षा बंधन - Legends Of Rakshabandhan
According to a popular story, the queen of Mewar, Maharani Karmavati, had to face the threat of Governor Bahadur Shah who laid seige on her kingdom. Unable to fight the army, she sent a rakhi to the Mughal king, Humayun. The muslim emperor who under normal circumstances would not have preferred to help a Hindu ruler, decided to protect her from the threat. Humayun reached Mewar at the nick of time when the queen was preparing for self- immolation. He chased Bahadur Shah and his men and restored the kingdom back to the queen of Mewar.
The Rakshaa Bandhan stirs up one of the deepest and noblest emotions in the human breast - the abiding and chaste bond of love between the brother and the sister. The delicate cord tied by the sister to the brother on this day pulsates with this sublime sentiment. History and legends of Bharat (ancient name of India) abound in touching episodes of ladies seeking protection from far-off, unacquainted heroes, though the Raakhi. A story is told of Alexander's wife approaching his mighty Hindu adversary Pururavas and tying Raakhi on his hand, seeking assurance from him for saving the life of her husband on the battlefield. And the great Hindu king, in the true traditional Kshatriya style, responded; and as the legend goes, just as he raised his hand to deliver a mortal blow to Alexander, he saw the Raakhi on his own hand and restrained from striking.
In the Hindu tradition the Rakshaa has indeed assumed all aspects of protection of the forces of righteousness from the forces of evil. Once, Yudhishthira asked Sri Krishna how best he could guard himself against impending evils and catastrophes in the coming year. Krishna advised him to observe the Rakshaa Ceremony. He also narrated an old incident to show how potent the Rakshaa is -
Once, Indra was confronted by the demon king - the Daitya-raaja - in a long-draw battle. At one stage, the Daitya-raaja got better of Indra and drove him into wilderness. Indra, humbled and crest-fallen, sought the advice of Brihaspati, the Guru of Gods. The Guru told him to bide his time, prepare himself and then march against his adversary. He also indicated that the auspicious moment for sallying forth was the Shraavana Poornima. On that day, Shachee Devi, the wife of Indra, (also known as Indrani) and Brihaspati tied Raakhis around Indra's right-wrist. Indra then advanced against the Daitya-raaja, vanquished him and reestablished his sovereignty.
One can also trace some more recent incidents like this one : Shri Raamakrishna Paramahamsa who coined the world, Daridra Naaraayana. could not even tolerate expressions like `showing pity to the poor and sick.' Once when he was in a semi-samaadhi state, he exclaimed, "Compassion for creatures! Compassion for creatures! Thou fool! An insignificant worm crawling on earth, thou to show compassion to others! Who art thou to show compassion? No, it cannot be. It is not compassion for others, but rather service to man, recognizing him to be the veritable manifestation of God!" Swami Vivekananda picked up the thread and invoked God in the poor and ignorant and said, 'daridradevo bhava, moorkhadevo bhava.'
There is also another interesting episode of one of the greatest kings of medieval India, named King Rantideva. The boon asked of God by the King Rantideva who, when his kingdom was ravaged by famine, gave away his last morsel of food to a hungry man and the last sip of water to a thirsty dog, remains the eternal heart-beat of every devout Hindu.
Na twaham kaamaye raajyam na swargamnaapunar bhavam |
"Oh Lord, I desire not kingdom nor the heavens nor even moksha. All I desire is to remove the suffering from the afflicted beings."
It is only when this type of attitude towards one's less fortunate brothers and sisters corrupts society that exploitations of the weak by the strong will end. Powers of intellect and body, and of material wealth and influence will then be utilized for the uplift and service of others. A Sanskrit saying says,
Khalasya sadhorvipareetam etat jnaanaayadaanaaya cha rakshanaaya ||
For the wicked, learning is for dry arguments, wealth is for satisfying vanity, strength for harassing others, but in the case of holy men these are for imparting knowledge, offering charity and protecting others.
In short, Raksha Bandhan affords a most auspicious occasion to recharge ourselves every year with the true spirit of service and sacrifice for the welfare of the society, and find therein the highest spiritual fulfillment of human life.
Over time however, the significance of rakhi moved on from battle fields to personal relations reflecting the bond of affection. Sisters tied rakhi to their brothers asking for protection. While the sisters also prayed for their brothers' welfare, the latter vowed to take care of them even if it called for some sacrifice on their part. Friends also tied rakhi to reaffirm their solidarity and close bond.
The rakhi thread which was simple and unostentatious, gradually began to be embellished with beads, semi-precious stones, colored or golden/silver threads, satin ribbons, floral motifs etc. Some are very ostentatious and others simple, yet aesthetic. Rakhis are available in different sizes, colors and shapes from the typical round ones to heart shaped, symbolising the bond of love.
On the day of Raksha Bandhan, there is a lot of excitement among the girls. After an early bath, the sister invites her brother to wear the rakhi and reaffirm the bond of love. She applies `tilak' or vermilion powder on his forehead and ties the rakhi on the right hand. She then performs aarti and offers her brother some sweets. After she completes the traditional formalities, the brother gives her a gift as a token of his love and affection. It could be in the form of jewellery, new clothes, money or blessings too!
The beauty of Raksha Bandhan is that its celebrations are not marred by the interruption of physical boundaries. When brothers are far away, sisters still observe the occasion by sending their token of love by mail. And the brothers too reciprocate by sending a gift!