History Of Rakhi

Introduction

Raksha Bandhan, popularly known as Rakhi is one of the important Hindu festivals of India. Though it is a Hindu festival, people of all castes and creeds celebrate this festival with lots of verve and enjoyment. Rakhi is also known as Rakhi Purnima as it is celebrated on the full moon day of the Hindu month of Shravana. As per Gregorian calendar, the date of the festival falls between July to August. This festival is completely dedicated to the love and care shared between a brother and a sister.

On the day of the festival, sister gets up early in the morning, takes a bath, wears new or clean apparels and prepares Rakhi thali. She puts a vermilion ‘tilak’ on her brother’s forehead and performs his ‘aarti’ with the thali. This is followed by tying of sacred Rakhi thread by sister on her brother’s wrist, within the opportune time of the day. This custom strengthens the eternal bond of love and affection between brother and sister. Moreover, it is believed that this sacred thread protects the brother from any adverse situation. Hence, for this reason the festival is known as ‘Raksha Bandhan’ meaning ‘bond of protection’.  In return, brother presents wonderful gifts to her as well as promises to protect her from all difficulties of life.

Origin of Rakhi

Though the exact trace of this festival is uncertain, we get few references of this festival in history and epics. Some of the popular tales associated with Raksha Bandhan are mentioned below :-

Rakhi celebration by the Aryans

Many historians believed that Rakhi ceremony was practiced by the Aryans. Before going to the war field, they performed yajnas in front of Gods and Goddesses to seek their blessings. This custom was followed by tying of thread by their wives on their hands. They believed that this thread would protect them from danger as well as led them to victory.

Mahabharata

In the great epic Mahabharata, we find two to three references of Rakhi festival.

Legend of Yudhishthira

Yudhishthira, eldest brother of Pandavas, was asked by Lord Krishna to perform the Rakhi ceremony in order to protect his brothers from the dangers of the war.

Legend of Kunti and Abhimanyu

Kunti, the mother of Pandavas, tied Rakhi on her grandson, Abhimanyu’s wrist. Since, then in many Hindu households, grandmothers’ tie Rakhi to their grandsons.

Legend of Draupadi and Lord Krishna

Seeing Lord Krishna’s bleeding finger, after the death of Shishupal, Draupadi, wife of the Pandavas, torn her sari and tied it on his wrist. Lord Krishna was very much overwhelmed by her gesture and declared to protect her from any hazard. Moreover, he also said that he would do the same for next twenty five years.

Legend of Shri Vishnu Kumar Muni

This legend narrates the story of Shri Vishnu Kumar Muni’s tactics of handling Bali, one of the five secretaries of Shridharma, Jain king of the city of Ujjain. Once, these five secretaries of Shridharma, had a debate with ‘Shrut Saga’ (one of the Munis of the great saint Acharya Akampana’s Sangha). Shrut Saga was a very learned saint. As a result, he very easily defeated the secretaries in the debate. This annoyed them very much and they went to kill him. However, their act failed. Shridharma asked his secretaries to move out of his city. They settled in Hastinapur and served ‘King Padma’. Their activities had impressed the king very much. So, he asked Bali for a boon. However, Bali told him that whenever he required the need of the boon, he would definitely ask him.

In the meantime, the city of Hastinapur was visited by Acharya Akampana muni with his 700 muni sangha. Getting the right opportunity, Bali asked for the boon from King Bali. His demand was to rule Hastinapur for the next 7 days. The king accepted his demand. After becoming the king, Bali started to create problem over Shrut Saga. This problematic situation was reported to Shri Vishnu Kumar Muni (younger brother of King Padma). He with his power of ‘Vikria Riddhi’ (power to expand the body as desired) expanded Bali’s body to sky and kept his first foot on a hill named ‘Sumeru Parvat’ and the second foot on another hill named ‘Manushottar Parvat’. This act disturbed the universe. Bali was frightened. He fell on Shri Vishnu Kumar Muni’s feet and begged for forgiveness of his sins that he had done to Shrut Saga. Shri Vishnu Kumar Muni not only saved Shrut Saga but also the other 700 Munis from such problematic situation.

Thus, on Rakhi Purnima people celebrate this festival, keeping in mind this ancient legend that spread the spirit of brotherhood as well as humanity.

King Puru and Alexander The Great

One of the most oldest references of this festival can be traced back to 3000 BC, when the great Emperor Alexander invaded India. King Puru’s strong defensive tactics shocked King Alexander of Macedonia very much. Alexander's wife, Roxanne was too worried about this situation. However, she came to know about the Raksha Bandhan festival. Hence, in order to save her husband’s life, she approached King Puru with the Rakhi thread. However, he accepted it and kept the promise of Roxanne by not killing him, even though he got the opportunity.

Emperor Humayun and Rani Karnawati

It is known to all that Indian medieval history mostly highlights various battles fought between the Mughals and the Rajputs. In this context, the reference of Rani Karnavati, widowed queen of the king of Chittor can be highlighted. When she realized that she could not protect her kingdom from Bahadur Shah (ruler of Gujarat), she sent a Rakhi to the Emperor Humayun. The Mughal emperor was very much moved by her behaviour and helped her from getting captured by Bahadur Shah’s army.

Rakhi celebration during British Rule

The festival of Raksha Bandhan was much popularized by the Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore during the great historical event - ‘The Partition of Bengal’ in 1905. Tagore’s main intention was to save Bengal from communal riots that Britishers actually wished. He clearly understood their evil motives. Hence, Tagore celebrated Raksha Bandhan, in order to create a bridge between the Hindus and the Muslims. He asked every individual to tie a thread on each other’s hand in order to spread peace, harmony and nationalist spirit amongst them.

All these stories and facts reveal the fact that the core essence of the festival has remained constant year after year, only the reasons behind the celebration varied.