Traditions and Customs
Brothers and sisters in India celebrate Raksha Bandhan with joy and verve on the auspicious Shravan Purnima day. This is the full moon day of the Hindu month of Shravana or Savana (July - August). Raksha Bandhan helps to renew and strengthen the bond of love shared between brothers and sisters by a sacred thread of Rakhi which a sister tie on brothers wrist. This simple ceremony is being religiously carried out since time immemorial and its wonderful to note that the new generation too has joyfully adopted this beautiful tradition.
It may be noted that traditions and customs of celebrating Rakhi vary a little from region to region but what is remarkably same is the faith in sacredness of relationship between brothers and sisters.
Morning Rituals - Puja Thali Preparation
People wake up early on the auspicious day of Raksha Bandhan and take a bath to purify mind and body before they start with preparation. Sisters along with mothers prepare festive foods inclusive of some sweet dish for the day. Many sisters keep a fast till they complete the Rakhi rituals.
Sisters also prepare an elaborate Rakhi Puja Thali for the occasion. Traditionally, Rakhi Puja Thali has kumkum powder and rice grains kept in katoris or on betel leaves for the tilak besides a diya or oil lamp for the arti. Some also keep incense sticks and sandalwood in the thali. Sacred Rakhi thread is kept in pair or along with moli/kalawa. The thali must also have sweets for the brother. A swastik is drawn with the kumkum in the centre of the thali.
Rakhi Tying Process
Rakhi tying process is performed on a Shubh Mahurat or at an opportune time that is calculated by pundits and is declared in newspapers. Normally, sisters visit the house of the brother but sometimes brothers are invited by sisters to celebrate Raksha Bandhan.
After worshiping family deities, sisters make the brother sit on an asana or chair. She then applies the sacred red tilak on the forehead of brother and sticks some akshat on the tilak. Sister then lovingly performs arti of brothers by doing rounds of the puja thali and simultaneously prays for his long life. After this, sisters tie the sacred Rakhi thread on the right wrist (preferably) of the brother and offer him sweets. While tying the Rakhi thread sister prays for brothers well being and chants this mantra:
"Yena baddho Balee raajaa daanavendro mahaabalah
tena twaam anubadhnaami rakshe maa chala maa chala"
This mantra mentioned in Hindu scriptures means:
I tie you the rakhi that was tied to king Bali, the king of Demons,
Oh Raksha, I pray that you be firm, do not go away, do not go away."
The mantra is in memory of demon King Bali who is said to have gained power after tying the
Rakhi. People believe that sacred thread of Rakhi helps to ward off negative influences.
Mantra of Rakhi varies in different languages for instance the Rakhi Mantra in Punjabi is:
"Suraj shakhan chhodian, Mooli chhodia beej
Behen ne rakhi bandhi / Bhai tu chir jug jee"
The sun radiates its sunlight, the radish spreads its seeds,
I tie the rakhi to you O brother and wish that may you live long."
After this, brother expresses his gratitude for sisters affection and promises to stand by her under all circumstances. Traditionally, brothers are supposed to present a Rakhi gift to their sisters. These days sisters also shower affection on their brothers with loads of Rakhi Gifts. The family relishes best of festive food after the completion of rituals. This simple and joyous ceremony of tying Rakhi helps to reaffirm and strengthen the sacred bond of love shared between brothers and sisters.
Modern Day Trends
Today, Rakhi tying ceremony is not confined to siblings alone. Girls also tie Rakhi to men they regard as their brothers. These brothers are called Rakhi Brother, as there is no blood relation involved. These days, women tie Rakhis to orphans and prisoners for humanitarian cause too. Such an act gives lonely souls a feeling that somebody cares for them.
Send Rakhi Online
Sisters unable to meet their brothers on a Rakhi day send Rakhi by post or courier. The latest trend is to send Rakhi and Rakhi Gift online by way of various Rakhi shopping sites. With the help of online medium sisters conveniently send Rakhi along with the gift at a click of a mouse. Many sisters also express their affection with the help of Rakhi cards that have Rakhi attached to them. Sending Rakhi E-Cards is also a fad amongst siblings these days.