Raksha Bandhan

By Anjali Joshi

Raksha Bandhan (also known as Rakhi or Rakri) is a beautiful holiday celebrated by Hindus around the world to honor the love and duty between brothers and their sisters. However, for many, the holiday transcends biology, and brings together men and women across religions, ethnic groups and is a celebration of all forms of platonic love.

In Sanskrit, “Raksha Bandhan” literally translates to “the knot of protection.” Though the rituals vary across geographic locations, they all incorporate the tying of a thread. The sister (or sister-like figure) ties a colorful, sometimes ornate, thread on her brother’s wrist. The thread signifies the sister’s prayers and well wishes for her brother. The brother then gives his sister a thoughtful gift.

The Origins

Mentions of Raksha Bandhan date back to 326BCE in legends of Alexander the Great. There are also several mentions of Raksha Bandhan in Hindu scriptures:

Sachi and Indra

In the Bhavishya Puran scripture, Sachi, the wife of Indra, tied a thread around Indra’s wrist to protect him in battle against the powerful demon King Bali. This story suggests that holy threads may have served as amulets in ancient India, used by women to protect men going to war, and not just limited to brother-sister relationships.

You can catch Indra in action in our flagship title, Hanuman and the Orange Sun.

Lakshmi and Bali

In the Bhagavat Puran and Vishnu Puran, after Vishnu conquers the three world from King Bali, King Bali asks Vishnu to live in his palace. Goddess Lakshmi, Vishnu’s wife, is not happy about this arrangement. She ties a rakhi on King Bali making him a brother. Honored by the gesture, King Bali grants her a wish. Lakshmi requests that Vishnu return home.

Use Padmini is Powerful as a fun and colorful way to introduce your little one to Hindu gods and goddesses like Lakshmi and Vishnu.

Shubh, Labh, and Santoshi Maa

On Raksha Bandhan, Ganesh’s sister, Devi Manasa, came to visit. She tied a Rakhi on Ganesh’s wrist. Ganesh’s sons, Shubh and Labh, were taken by this beautiful tradition, but were angry that they did not have a sister. They begged their father for a sister so that they, too, could participate in the Raksha Bandhan celebration. After much convincing, Ganesh obliges. Santoshi Maa is created, and the three siblings celebrate Raksha Bandhan every year thereafter.

You can read about Ganesh’s childhood adventures in Ganesh and the Little Mouse.

Krishna and Draupadi

Krishna and Draupadi are good friends. When Krishna injures his finger in battle, Draupadi tears her sari to bandage his wound. Krishna is overwhelmed with gratitude by this act of love and promises to repay her in some way. Krishna keeps his word and valiantly rescues Draupadi in a time of need.

In addition, in Mahabharat, Draupadi tied a Rakhi on Krishna before he left to fight in the great war. And, similarly, Kunti tied a Rakhi on her grandson Abhimanyu before he went to war.