The Hindu Festival of Raksha Bandhan

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By Jaya Mistry, Equity Project Officer, Equality Diversity and Inclusivity Team

Raksha Bandhan is on 11th August and is centred around the tying of a thread, bracelet or talisman called a Rakhi on the wrist as a form of bond, ritual protection and love between brothers and sisters. It will start as soon as a child is born, with parents tying the Rakhi on behalf of the sister until they are old enough to tie the Rakhi.

What is a Rakhi?

Rakhis are sold in Indian shops alongside religious artefacts and household goods in Indian grocery/sari shops, and also can be bought online. Rakhis are normally red and gold, however, you can buy them in a variety of colours with lots of different centre pieces.

Image description: Image shows eight Rakhi bracelets on a white background. The thread is red or yellow with some beads in the middle of each bracelet.
Image description: eight Rakhi bracelets on a white background. The thread is red or yellow with some beads in the middle of each bracelet.

What does Raksha Bandhan mean to me?

Since I moved away from my hometown, the festival of Raksha Bandhan is very special to me. It is an opportunity to plan a visit to see my brothers and tie the Rakhi and have a lovely day together. The tradition is to take a box of mithai (Indian sweets) or chocolates/sweets along with your Rakhi.

I start by putting a little dot (tilak) of kumkum red powder along with a few grains of rice on my brother’s forehead, tie the Rakhi which is usually quite a sturdy one as my brother likes to keep the Rakhi on as long as possible, then offer him a chocolate/sweet. In return my brother will give me a small gift which is usually monetary.  I will also make a card or sometimes buy one – the message is one of love, protection, good health, and happiness always.

Image description: Image shows five Rakhi bracelets tied on a person’s wrist.
Image description: five Rakhi bracelets tied on a person’s wrist.

A Rakhi can also be tied on a cousin brother or anyone you have formed a brotherly bond with. About 20 years ago I met a distant cousin visiting from Australia who asked if I could send him a Rakhi as he didn’t have a sister which was such an honour and also brought us closer together – I sent my Rakhi last week and hope this will reach in time for Raksha Bandhan on the 11th August.

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