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.
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.
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.