Actupondy, the Guide to Pondicherry

The meaning

bracelets2Raksha Bandhan is a religious festival that celebrates the brotherhood between two individuals of opposite gender, brother and sister by the blood or by the friendship they maintain. Raksha Bandhan is a Sanskrit expression that means "the link of protection". The festival is more simply called "Rakhi" in some parts of India; Rakhi appointing the sacred bracelet the girl will tie to the boy's wrist.

Originating in the Hindu religion, the festival is also celebrated by Jains and Sikhs. Outside India, Nepal and Mauritius commemorate this day: cultural exchanges between India and Nepal are important because of their geographical proximity; Indians and their progeny are numerous in the Mauritius population.

Myths and legends

bracelets and coloursThere are many myths and legends about this festival. The most historicized legend backs to Alexander the Great. When he invades India in -326 BC, his wife Roxana decides to send a sacred bracelet to the Indian king Pôros who reigns over the actual Punjab. This present is in fact a request: Roxana implores Pôros to not execute Alexander if they fight together. At the Hydaspe battle both kings are faced: Pôros is closed to kill Alexander, but at time to give the last blow he sees the bracelet on his own wrist and holds his sword. Finally Pôros looses the battle, but Alexander will let him in power by conferring a Dominion status.

The festival takes place the full-moon day of the month of Shraavana, fifth month of the Hindu calendar. Compared to the Gregorian calendar used in most countries, the month of Shraavana matches to the period between the end of July and the third week of August.

The preparation

Indian women buy or make themselves few days before Raksha Bandhan the famous bracelet that they will offer to the boy, the teenager or the chosen man. Indian men are also in the mood and look for an elegant gift (such as clothes, cards, etc.), symbolizing the brotherly love they have for the girl, the young woman or the woman. Raksha Bandhan is celebrated by all generations; in some parts of India it's even more practised by children.

The ritual

The day of the ceremony, boy and girl face each other, surrounded by all the members of the two families: parents, grandparents, cousins, etc. A candle is traditionally lit between them to symbolize the goddess of fire.

elephant bracelet1. The ritual starts by the donation of the sacred bracelet that the girl ties to the boy's wrist. By this act she shows her sincere friendship and asks him his protection.

2. She dedicates him a prayer of love, happiness and protection. In return the boy engages to protect her for the rest of his life, no matters the circumstances.

3. Once the prayer finished, the girl applies a tilak (the Indian colour mark) on his forehead.

4. The young woman directly feeds him in the mouth, by offering him desserts, traditional cakes and dry fruits.

5. Then it's the boy's turn to offer gift to his "sister".

6. He directly feeds her in the mouth as well.

7. The ceremonial ends by an embrace between young people.

8. All the families congratulate them and commemorate their friendship by a festivity.

The boy keeps the sacred bracelet all the day – no matters his quotidian activities.

Yesterday and today

tikkaRaksha Bandhan was traditionally celebrated between young people of the same family, most of the time faraway cousins; today this religious festival reaches to secularize and becomes increasingly multicultural. The festival was the opportunity to meet the faraway family and to have a peaceful relationship with the neighbours. Young generations practise it more between friends. In a conservative society as India can be, the sacred bracelet also justifies the relation between a boy and a girl who are together in a public place. Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave the example in 2014: newly elected in power, he got a Rakhi from Ananbinden Patel, his successor at the post of Minister-in-Chief of Gujarat.

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