Does the festival of Rakhi still have its real essence in the contemporary society? With an emerging show-off society, hasn’t this celebration become more significant to vendors and retailers than to brothers and sisters?
Today is the only rare day when guys will not run after girls, but will run from girls. I wonder how many people will deactivate their account if Facebook only allowed rakhi request instead of friend request. While on one side we take notice of the funny misery of guys, on the other side Raksha Bandhan would be such a patriarchal festival for feminists; saying brothers should protect sisters, gosh such a patriarchal thought! If the festival is so scary and menacing, why are we still celebrating it?
Further than these fashionable debates dwells a meaningful and momentous spirit of this event. Raksha Bandhan in Sanskrit literally means “the tie or knot of protection”. The sister performs a Rakhi ceremony, then prays to express her love and her wish for the well being of her brother; in return, the brother ritually pledges to protect and take care of his sister under all circumstances. It is one of the several occasions in which family ties are affirmed in Mauritius.
The festival is also an occasion to celebrate brother-sister like family ties between cousins or distant family members, sometimes between biologically unrelated men and women (Edward Balfour, 1885). To many, the festival transcends biological family, brings together men and women across religions, diverse ethnic groups and ritually emphasizes harmony and love (Hinduism Today, 2013).
Merriment in Mauritius
The scriptures, epics and ancient fiction of Hinduism is peppered with stories of Rakhi and Raksha Bandhan. While some associate the festival with King Bali and Goddess Laxmi, others accept as true that Draupadi tied a Rakhi to Lord Krishna, even as Kunti tied her Rakhi to her grandson Abhimanyu before the great war.
Hindu families in Mauritius celebrate Raksha Bandhan with good cheer. You wake up in the morning with Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) Radio’s traditional Hindustani songs which are dedicated to brothers and sisters. During the day, the national TV channels make sure to broadcast Raksha Bandhan related movies. An atmosphere of joy prevails when sweets (mainly ladoos) and gifts pass between the brother and sister. The sister ties a rakhi on the wrist of her brother and applies red tilak on his forehead before making his aarti with lighted camphor.
This symbolizes the sister’s love and prayers for her brother’s well-being, and the brother’s lifelong vow to protect her. The brother wears the Rakhi for the entire day, at school or work, as a reminder of his sister and to mark the festival of Raksha Bandhan.
I’m overseas and away from my sisters this year on Raksha Bandhan. But we are still connected; I believe the Rakhi thread is longer and stronger than an undersea optical cable. Distance doesn’t matter when hearts are close to each other.
Sisters in Crisis
In the recent years, the rate of crimes towards our sisters have appallingly been increasing. I’ve gone through some international reports and the outcomes are basically shocking.
- According to a 2013 global review of available data, 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence. However, some national violence studies show that up to 70% of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime from an intimate partner. (WHO, 2012)
- More than 64 million girls worldwide are child brides, with 46% of women aged 20–24 in South Asia and 41% in West and Central Africa reporting that they married before the age of 18. Child marriage resulting in early and unwanted pregnancies poses life-threatening risks for adolescent girls; worldwide, pregnancy-related complications are the leading cause of death for 15-to-19-year-old girls. (UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2008)
- Approximately 140 million girls and women in the world have suffered female genital mutilation or cutting. (WHO, 2012)
- Trafficking ensnares millions of women and girls in modern-day slavery. Women and girls represent 55% of the estimated 20.9 million victims of forced labour worldwide, and 98% of the estimated 4.5 million forced into sexual exploitation. (International Labour Organisation, 2012)
- In New Delhi, a 2010 study found that 66 per cent of women report experiencing sexual harassment between two and five times during the past year. (JAGORI and UN Women, 2010)
- Women are already two to four times more likely than men to become infected with HIV during intercourse. Forced sex or rape increases this risk by limiting condom use and causing physical injuries. (UNAIDS, 1999)
On the auspicious occasion of Raksha Bandhan, let’s pledge not to be douchebags to other people’s sisters. The way you see his sister is the way he will see yours!
Thought of the Day
Hey dude, putting aside the cash, sunglasses, chocolates, gadgets, clothes and perfumes you’ve exchanged with your sister today, what do you plan to do to strengthen your bond with your sister with Raksha Bandhan being celebrated today?
Share your thoughts…
– KRISHNA ATHAL