Published By: Nibandh Vinod
Last Updated: August 27, 2023, 08:15 IST
RAKSHA BANDHAN 2023: Raksha Bandhan is a Hindu celebration steeped in mythology, history, and culture. It consists mostly of a sister tying a sacred thread to a brother’s wrist to protect him from harm. The brother is also responsible for safeguarding his sister against any tragedy that may befall her. Raksha Bandhan honours the love and protection that siblings feel for one another, and the thread bears testament to their bond. This auspicious occasion can be traced back to several mythological narratives as well as historical instances.
Mythological significance of Raksha Bandhan
1. The story of Lord Krishna and Draupadi is one of the most well-known legends surrounding the origins of Raksha Bandhan. As per one version of the epic Mahabharata, it is believed that Krishna injured his index finger in battle while using his heavenly weapon, the Sudarshan Chakra, on his nephew, Shishupala.
2. Another folklore claims that he injured his finger while harvesting sugarcane in the fields. It is said that to stop the bleeding, Draupadi, whom Krishna considered his sister, tore a piece of cloth from her saree and wrapped it around his finger. Draupadi’s loving act moved Krishna, who took an oath to preserve Draupadi’s honour in the future. This is also said to be the reason he came to her aid during the disrobing by the Kauravas.
3. Another mythological tale surrounding the festivals is about the brother-sister bond shared by Goddess Lakshmi and King Bali. The narrative mentions that Lord Vishnu was impressed by Bali’s devotion when he selflessly delivered what Vishnu requested disguised as Vamana. The king was given the same stature as Lord Indra.
Vishnu also vowed to safeguard Bali and posed as a gatekeeper guarding his mansion. Vishnu’s wife, goddess Lakshmi, however, felt her husband’s absence in Vaikunth. Therefore, it is believed that she disguised herself as a poor Brahmin lady and went to Bali, telling him she needed a place to stay until her husband returned from his mission.
As per the narrative, Bali welcomed her and protected the Goddess in disguise, as if he were an elder brother. Soon after Goddess Lakshmi’s arrival, Bali’s palace was filled with happiness and luxury.
Eventually, the goddess, disguised as the poor Brahmin lady, put a colourful cotton thread around Bali’s wrist on Shravana Purnima. The king, overwhelmed by her kindness, gave her a wish. The Brahmin lady motioned to the gatekeeper and requested that her husband be released.
Vishnu and Lakshmi then reverted to their original forms, and Bali was moved by their love and care for him and asked Vishnu to return to his abode with Lakshmi. He did, however, beg that Vishnu pay him a visit at least once a year.
The historical significance of Raksha Bandhan
While there are many mythological tales that have elevated the significance of the festival of Raksha Bandhan, the occasion also has a deep-rooted political significance. The Nobel laureate and literary legend Rabindranath Tagore transformed the religious ceremony into a political symbol.
In 1905, when the partition of Bengal was announced, Tagore urged Hindus and Muslims to tie rakhis to one another’s wrists as a symbolic gesture to unite people against imperialist forces. Following Tagore’s request, hundreds of people showed up with rakhis in towns and cities including Kolkata, Chittagong, Dhaka, and Rangpur.