A couple of days ago we celebrated an Indian holiday called Raksha Bandhan. Relationships and protection are at the center of this festival. “Raksha” means protection and “bandhan” means binding.
In “the old days” a woman tied a raksha (traditionally an ochre-colored thread) on her husbands wrist to protect him from the evils of the world and temptation. By receiving it he committed a vow to always protect her also. Over time this tradition changed to the binding between brother and sister. The sisters tie a Raksha on the right wrist of their brothers in order to protect him from evil, and he in return vows to protect her from all harms and troubles. It’s a festival that has brought families closer together for centuries.
As time has passed, the tying of the rakhi (raksha) has spread to encompass full communities. The women of the community tie a rakhi on neighbors and good friends to signify a peaceful co-existence of every individual. In the early 1900′s the Nobel laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore used the tradition as a community festival to spread the feeling of goodwill, unity, and a commitment to all members of society to protect each other and encourage harmonious co-existence.
Which ever way you look at it, Raksha Bandhan is a festival of building stronger relationships. For those of us who may not celebrate the festival, it could serve as a reminder about how important our bonds to each other are, and to give thanks for all the special relationships we have. It can also remind us that as a society we will all live more happily together if we can commit to protecting and being kind to one another.