Raksha Bandhan is a day on which sisters tie the sacred thread (rakhi) on the wrist of their brothers. A sense of responsibility, well-being, bonding between family members, sharing, etc is inculcated into the family members through the ritual of raksha-bandhan. The ritual denotes not only prayers for protection, health and long life for the brother, but it also represents the brother’s commitment to protect the dignity and respect of the sister.
However, in its larger perspective, it is known as “Raksha Sutra”. The raksha-thread is first placed at the altar of the Lord, and then tied round the wrist of the person. Basically, it is to invoke the Lord’s blessings for protection from all dangers, harms, calamities etc. Normally after offering it to the Lord, either the priest or the eldest in the family ties it round the wrist of the individual. The sacred thread is also tied round the wrist when an individual makes a sankalpa or undertakes a vow. In this case it is called ‘kankana’. The individual is ‘kankana-badha’, meaning committed to his sankalpa or vow. When the sankalpa or vow is fulfilled, the ‘kankana-visarjana’ (removing the thread round the wrist) is carried out. The colour (red, yellow etc) of the thread depends upon the sankalpa. Undertaking a sankalpa or vow demands discipline and earnest self-effort on the part of the individual. The thread or sutra or kankana itself represents the VOW. It is a TAPAS, whether undertaken for one’s own self or for someone else.
Two stories associated with Raksha Bandhan:
Goddess Lakshmi ties Rakhi to Bali : During the Vamana Avatar, Lord Vishnu made Bali Chakravarthi, the king of the lower world, and promised to remain there as his security. However the devatas wanted the Lord to return back to Vaikunta. All the devatas requested Goddess Lakshmi to help them. Lakshmi in the guise of an ordinary woman reached Bali Chakravarthi’s kingdom and sought protection and shelter from him stating that her husband had left her. Bali gave the Goddess shelter. Pleased with his hospitality, on the full-moon day of the month of Shravan, Lakshmi tied a raksha-sutra on Bali’s wrist seeking the blessings of the Lord for him. Bali was very pleased and and told her to ask whatever she wanted and he would grant it. Lakshmi asked Bali to relieve her husband from the security work he was doing. Bali was surprised and asked her who was her husband. Then, Goddess Lakshmi and Sri Hari appeared in their true form and gave darshan to Bali. The Lord and his consort went back to Vaikunta with an assurance to visit Bali’s kingdom every year. Hence the tradition of women tying the raksha-sutra not only to brothers but to all well-wishers wishing them all goodness, plenty and prosperity, and they in turn promise to protect the dignity and respect of their mothers, sisters and daughters.
Lord Krishna and Draupadi : During the Rajasuya Yaga in Indraprastha, Yudhisthira decided to perform the agra-puja to Lord Krishna. The evil-minded Sisupala who hated Krishna insulted and abused Krishna in the royal assembly. When he crossed all limits and still continued to abuse the Lord, Krishna invoked his mighty and powerful Sudarshan Chakra. It came at tremendous speed, struck Sisupala down and with the same speed went back to settle on Krishna’s finger. Krishna’s finger got injured and started bleeding because of the chakra’s sharp edges. Everyone ran around trying to find something to bandage his finger. Draupadi who was standing there immediately tore a part of her saree and wrapped it around Krishna’s finger and to keep it in its place wound it round his wrist. The Lord was very pleased with her devotion and spontaneity and told her that he was indeed indebted to her for all his life. Considering her as his own sister, he told her that whenever and wherever she needed him, he would be there to protect her and this little act of tying a small piece of her garment round his finger would one day become “akshaya”. Later on, during the game of dice, when the Pandavas lost everything to the Kauravas, Dushasana dragged Draupadi into the assembly and tried to disrobe her. She invoked Krishna at that time and the Lord protected her from the humiliation – miraculously the saree she was wearing became “akshaya” and protected her. Raksha Bandhan therefore represents the Lord protecting his sister, Draupadi.
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