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Raksha Bandhan 2023: How is the Hindu tradition celebrated?

 (Ashwini Chaudhary / Unsplash)
(Ashwini Chaudhary / Unsplash)

A sibling bond can be arduous at the best of times, but this holy Hindu tradition makes space to strengthen family relationships.

Rakhi, or Raksha Bandhan, is one of the oldest festivals in the Hindu calendar, celebrated by millions across the globe.

Originating as a festival between brothers and sisters, the familial promise of protection is renewed in the annual celebrations, with Raksha Bandhan translating from the Sanskrit for “the bond of protection, obligation, and care”.

When is Rakhi 2023?

The festival is celebrated in the Hindu month of Shravana, which spans July and August, and always coincides with the full moon.

The period of celebration for 2023 falls across August 30 and 31 and last year it was celebrated on August 11.

Each year, the Gregorian date changes as the Hindu calendar follows a lunar cycle.

What is the meaning behind the tradition?

The Hindu epic of Mahabharata recounts the tale of Lord Krishna and his friend Draupadi.

The pair served as an example of friendship between males and females.

Lord Krishna, in this ancient story, cut his finger on a sacred discus and Draupadi bandaged the wound with the end of her saree.

He promised her eternal protection in return for her kindness — and held true to the promise in later tales.

Following on from this origin story, sisters carry on the tradition by tying sacred thread (or rakhis) around their brothers’ wrists.

How is Raksha Bandhan celebrated?

It is customary to observe fasting on this day, although this is not obligatory for those celebrating.

The fast is considered a blessing upon the person’s sibling, wishing them a long and healthy life.

Central to the ritual is the puja thali, a devotional plate adorned with roli, diya, sweets, rice grains, and the essential rakhis.

Sisters apply tikkas to their brother’s foreheads and tie the religious thread around their wrists with prayers.

In return, they are offered gifts and vows of protection.

Modern rakhi traditions

The festival has, in recent times, broadened to include those who don’t have siblings and now included the general themes of loyalty and affection between family and even friends.

In that vein, rakhi designs have evolved with various options available.

The Eco Rakhi (from £5.25 on Etsy) by “sustainability sisters” Jaanvi and Paavani is made of hemp-fibre twine and Rudhraksh seed. Each non-profit package is accompanied by a wildflower seed paper note that can be planted — with proceeds shared between WWF and other charities.

NOTHS offers a variety of rakhis, including a gold-plated evil eye bracelet (£8) and knitted cotton sunflower bracelet (£9).

How can I get involved with Raksha Bandhan?

It is well-celebrated in India but is mainly held within families as a sisterly and brotherly show of respect and love, which means there are not often public events.

The festival usually begins with a prayer ceremony, where sisters tie a rakhi, or sacred thread, around their brother’s wrists, makes a mark on his forehead with henna powder (tikka), then they wish each other well, and say prayers and blessings.

Raksha Bandhan blessings

Siblings or friends wish each other happiness and luck in the future.

Typical messages often used include:

  • May you always be safe and protected from harm. I love you, my dear brother. Happy Raksha Bandhan! I pray that our bond of love continues to grow stronger.

  • May the bond of love between us always remain strong. Wishing you a very happy Raksha Bandhan!

  • I wish that this Raksha Bandhan brings you all the happiness and success in everything you do. Happy Raksha Bandhan Bhaiya (brother).

  • On this Raksha Bandhan, I want to let you know that you are the best brother in the world and I love you. Happy Raksha Bandhan Bhaiya.