The markets across the country are gearing up for Raksha Bandha. There are many varieties of the holy thread of Rakhi, in many colours, styles and designs for sisters to choose as per their brothers' taste. The holy thread has great significance in Hinduism as it is a mark of the love between a brother and sister. The sister ties the thread on her brother's wrist on the day of Shravan Poornima and the brother, in turn, vows to always protect her. There are several tales about the origin of the festival and the meaning behind the gesture of tying the thread, and the brother's promise of protection.
In modern times, the celebrations have also evolved. Today, it is not only a tradition limited to sisters tying Rakhi to the brothers but also sisters tying the holy thread on each other's wrists. Also, gifting has become an integral part of the celebrations. But the overall spirit of the festival of Raksha Bandhan is still the same, the festival celebrates the brother-sister bond. Here is a list of five mentions of Raksha Bandhan found in our mythologies about why it is celebrated:
Lord Indra's Story
One of the most popular legends about the celebration of Raksha Bandhan dates back to the time when there was a battle between the gods and the demons. The gods were led by Lord Indra. But the lords were on the verge of being defeated. So he approached Guru Brihaspati who advised him to tie a sacred thread on his wrist powered by all the mantras on Shravan Poornima. His wife tied the thread on the day on this wrist and the gods eventually won the battle. Since then it became a custom for women to tie a thread on the wrist of men going for war, to protect them and make them win the war.
Lord Vishnu's Story
In another story, Lord Vishnu was pleased with the devotion of the demon King Bali and granted him the wish to guard his kingdom. So he left his abode Vaikunth, and went to live in King Bali's kingdom along with his wife goddess Lakshmi. But Lakshmi was not pleased by this and wanted her husband to return to Vaikunth. On Shravan Poornima, she tied a thread to King Bali who in turn granted her a wish. She asked for her husband to be returned to Vaikuntha. But since Lord Vishnu had pledged to protect the kingdom of Bali forever, he was in a dilemma. It was eventually decided that Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva and Lord Brahma will guard Bali for four months each.
Lord Krishna's Story
Lord Krishna once cut his finger. When his wife Rukmini sent her help to get a cloth to bandage his finger, one of his consorts called Sathyabama rushed to get it herself. Watching all this, Draupadi, instead tore her saree and tied a piece around Krishna’s finger to stop the bleeding. Krishna said “Akshayam”, which means “may it be endless”, as a blessing. This is also why her saree became endless by Krishna’s blessings when she was being disrobed in King Dhritarashtra's court.
Lord Yama's Story
Another popular legend associated with the celebration of Raksha Bandhan is that between the lord of death Yama and his sister Yamuna. When Yama visited Yamuna after a very long time, she tied him a Rakhi and also asked him for a promise to visit her again soon. Yama was touched by this gesture and granted her sister immorality. This is a reference to the ever-flowing river Yamuna. Yama also said that any brother whose sister ties him a Rakhi and vows to protect her, will be granted immortality in return.
Lord Ganesha's Story
Lord Ganesha's sons Shubh and Labh on seeing that Ganesha's sister Manasa visited him to tie him a Rakhi, asked him for sisters. Ganesha was later convinced by saint Narada to have a daughter. So Ganesha created from the flames of his two consorts Riddhi and Siddhi Goddess Santoshi who started tying a rakhi to Ganesha's sons.
There are many other stories, like that of Roxana and King Porus, and Rani Karnavati and Emperor Humayun, about the celebration of the festival of Raksha Bandhan. And people across the country celebrate it with different customs and traditions. This year Raksha Bandhan is being celebrated on August 26.