Rakhi – A Festival of Bonhomie

Rakhi in India (bond of protection) is the sacred thread girdle traditionally tied to the wrists of brother by sisters through the ritual of Raksha Bandhan (protective tying). The associated festival is referred to either as Rakhi or as Raksha Bandhan. The festival is held on Shravan Poornima, or the day (night) of the full moon in the Indian monsoon month of Shravan. The tradition of Send Rakhi to London is a pan-Indian culture and for centuries have been recognized and honored across religions, races, and communities residing in India. With the tying of Rakhi, new relationships as sisters and brothers are created between males and females, and existent relationships are reinforced.

One of the prime reasons for the popularity of Rakhi in India has come from the fact that any girl or woman who desires to socially declare a male as a brother could send him a Rakhi or tie a Rakhi on his wrist. This socially approved process immediately recognizes a bond as brother and sister between the parties; thus, imposing upon the male both restrictions as well as responsibilities of a brother vis-à-vis the concerned woman or girl.

In Indian society, many women have gained protection by declaring a powerful man as Rakhi Bhai (Rakhi brother), or frustrated an unwanted suitor by socially declaring him as Rakhi Bhai. The cultural norms are so deeply imposed that under ordinary circumstances, aspiring suitors of yesterday would quickly change their feelings and attitude once declared Rakhi Bhai, and would become protective of the new sister. At the very worst, they would never continue their proposals to the same girl or woman. Declaring a suitor as a Rakhi Bhai is also a subtle way of insulting and humiliating a man whom the girl or woman detests or finds contemptible as a suitor, and who, in spite of clear refusals, keeps on trying to gain the attentions of the woman.

The popularity of Rakhi in India has also come from genuine sisterly feelings of a woman or girl towards any male who was not a brother by blood relation. This rule of converting a non-kin male into a brother and accepting him into the household is practiced and accepted across religions and communities in India. Thus, Rakhi in India means much more than a simple yearly celebration, but the creation of lifelong secular relationships in a society firmly segmented by caste and religion.


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