The Hindu sibling festival Raksha Bandhan explained

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Raksha Bandhan is a religious festival that celebrates the sacred relationship between siblings

Raksha Bandhan is a popular traditional Hindu religious festival in which sisters of all ages tie an amulet called a rakhi (a thread) around their brother’s wrist to symbolically protect them.

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Also known as Rakhi, Saluno, Silono or Rakri, the festival is celebrated in different ways across South Asia with traditions dating back thousands of years.

But when is Raksha Bandhan and how is it celebrated? Here’s what you need to know.

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When is Raksha Bandhan?

A sister ties a “rakhi,” a sacred cord, around her brother’s wrist on the occasion of the Raksha Bandhan festival, which celebrates the bond between sisters and brothers

Raksha Bandhan is celebrated on the last day of Shraavana, the Hindu lunar month which normally falls in August in the Gregorian calendar.

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This year the festival will take place on Thursday 11 August 2022.

What is the story behind Raksha Bandhan?

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In Sanskrit, Raksha Bandhan literally means “the band of protection, obligation, or caring,” which is the underlying theme of the day.

The festival of siblings has different origins with the same premise deriving from folk culture, cultural traditions and precedence in Hindu texts, all of which play a role.

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Legend surrounds Lord Krishna and his friend Draupadi, a couple who embodied platonic male-female relationships. When Lord Krishna cut his finger, his friend Draupadi rushed to help him with his wound by wrapping the loose end of her sari around his finger.

Because of their actions, Lord Krishana promised Draupadi eternal and unshakable protection.

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Indian women buy rakhis (traditional bracelets) on the eve of the Hindu festival of Raksha Bandhan

The origins of popular culture consider the combination of cultural traditions from the Saluno festival, where women leave the village to live with their husbands, wives express their concern and devotion to their brothers by placing barley sprouts behind their ears. In return, her brother gives them small coins.

On the same day, the priests tied a charm around the wrist of each patron and were rewarded with cash. Eventually the two ceremonies merged.

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In another set of traditions in northern India, the festival is associated with married women when a bride marries outside of her parents’ village or town. In rural northern India, Hindu women travel home accompanied by their brothers, who act as lifelong intermediaries between their marriage home and their sister’s childhood home.

According to some texts, rakhi was used in Indian history to strengthen relationships – with one of the oldest stories about Alexander the Great.

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During his invasion of India in 326 BC. Alexander’s wife is said to have approached King Porus and tied a rakhi around his wrist to ensure her husband’s safety.

How is Raksha Bandhan celebrated?

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A Pakistani Hindu sister ties a “rakhi” – a sacred cord – on her brother’s wrist during the Hindu festival of Raksha Bandhan

The general outline of Raksha Bandhan sees a sister tying a rakhi around her brother’s wrist for protection, with her brother offering her his protection in return.

In West Bengal, Krishna pujas (prayers) are performed in which women tie rakhi around their brothers’ wrists for immortality.

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In the state of Maharashtra, Raksha Bandhan is celebrated with Narali Pournima – the coconut festival. Here fishermen pray to Varuna, the Hindu god of the sea – and bless her by throwing coconuts into the sea. Girls and women tie the rakhi around their brother’s wrist for their protection.

In some regions of northern India it is customary to fly kites, and in Haryana people combine the festival with salano – where amulets against evil are tied around everyone’s wrists.

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In some areas of Nepal, Raksha Bandhan is known as Janai Purnima and involves a ceremony observed by some Buddhists. The men change the thread they wear around their chests, and the girls and women tie the rakhi around their brother’s wrists.

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