Raksha Bandhan (ROCK-sha BOND-an) is a special Hindu festival that is celebrated in India and some nearby countries. It is about the special bond between a brother and sister.
Why would we here in United States care about a Hindu festival that we may never have heard of?
One reason is that most people in the United States (eight out of every ten people) have a brother or sister. Some have more.
Another reason is it’s fun and interesting to learn how other countries celebrate something that we also celebrate and to compare how they do it to how we do it.
In the United States and Canada, April 10th is known as Siblings Day. Siblings means brothers and sisters.
A few things that people here do on Siblings Day are take their brothers and sisters out to dinner, or send them greeting cards or text messages, or get together to watch a movie, or look at childhood pictures. It’s a special day for brothers and sisters to think about each other and spend time together.
To understand how Raksha Bandhan in India is different from Siblings Day in the United States, lets start by learning three things: What does Hindu mean, when is Raksha Bandhan, and what is the meaning of the two words Raksha and Bandhan.
Many people in the world — particularly in India and surrounding areas — believe in the Hindu religion, which is also called Hinduism. The Hindu religion is the third largest religion in the world. More than a billion people follow its beliefs and teachings.
Though most Hindus live in or around India, there are also many who live in the United States.
When is Raksha Bandhan? This is tricky for us to figure out, because the Hindu calendar is different from our calendar. Raksha Bandhan is celebrated on the full moon day in the Hindu month of Shravan. For us, it falls on a different day each year. This year, Raksha Bandhan will be on August 11.
Raksha Bandhan is a combination of two words: Raksha, which means protection, and Bandhan, which means to tie things together. The two words give the idea of tying a knot of protection.
Our Siblings Day is for sisters and brothers to show their love for each other. The Hindu festival of Raksha Bandhan is for a brother and a sister to express their love and to vow to help and protect each other.
We saw that the two words, Raksha Bandhan, give the idea of tying a knot of protection. On this special day, a sister will tie a thread bracelet around her brother’s wrist. The bracelet is called a rakhi (sounds like rocky). After doing this, she says a prayer that he will be safe and healthy and happy.
A rakhi can be simple or fancy. It can be homemade or bought at a store. Usually the thread has beads or a decoration on it. The important thing though, is that the sister ties the rakhi onto her brother’s wrist and prays for him.
After the sister ties a rakhi on her brother, he gives her a gift and promises to protect her from harm, no matter what.
After that, they eat mithai (mit-TIE). Mithai is the Hindi word for sweets. These yummy treats are candies or small cakes, usually made from flour, milk, sugar, and nuts. They might be flavored with rose water or spices such as saffron and cardamom.
Raksha Bandhan is a lovely, sweet festival that celebrates the special bond and duty that a sister and brother have for each other.
But what if a person doesn’t have a sister or a brother?
The day can celebrate any type of brother-sister relationship. It can be celebrated between cousins, for example. Or between an aunt and a nephew or an uncle and a niece.
Even people who are good friends and feel like they are brother and sister can celebrate Raksha Bandhan.
• Siblings Day is a new holiday. It began in 1995.
• Raksha Bandhan is much, much older. It began more than 6,000 years ago.
• There are many ancient stories about rakhi. In one, there was a battle between gods and demons. A woman named Indrani tied a sacred thread on the wrist of her husband, Indra, to protect him from the demons.
• Online, it is easy to find videos showing ways to make a rakhi. Some of the videos may not be in English, but they are still fun to watch.