Raksha Bandhan–the Bond of Protection–is a festival that has been celebrated in India for years. It’s a recognition of the bond between brother and sister, in which the sister ties a special thread around her brother’s wrist to show her love and affection. In turn, the brother gifts her a bit of cash and promises to “protect” and take care of her.

When I was a child growing up elsewhere and visiting India over many summers, this holiday would always make me sad since I had no brothers. But it always fascinated me. The custom, however, has grown to include women tying rakhis, or the special threads, on men not related to them. This gesture gives the men the status of brothers. The rakhis themselves used to be simple golden threads, decorated perhaps with a golden flower made of lace, some beads, pearls, or a customary rudraksha bead (a brown seed with religious significance) in the center.
I was in India a few summers ago and got the chance to rediscover this festival. How things have changed! What caught my eyes were the new rakhis, especially the ones for little children. Gone were the plain ones, now it was commercialism at its best: rakhis with Spider-Man (he even had an LED under him so he lit up!), Batman, little Ganesha, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Pokémon, tiny cars and more lined the stalls near our house in Delhi. The gifts that brothers gave to their sisters in the past tended to be cash, clothes, or some simple typical Indian dessert. These days, there are bounties of chocolates, spa certificates, and large baskets full of cookies. Even the traditional desserts are fancier, with shops having special stalls outside offering gift wrapping. Not to mention the commercials on television making you feel two feet tall if you have not bought happiness in the form of some expensive gift for your sister. It’s a shame in a way, as the original tradition was simple and lovely, and much like all festivals the world over, it has become a victim of commercialization. Even so, it has not taken away the sadness I felt, still longing for a brother of my own.

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  1. I’ve always longed for a brother, too. I have two wonderful sisters, but as the baby of the family, I thought it would be so wonderful to have either an older brother who looked out for me or a younger one that I could boss around 😉

    This festival sounds lovely!

  2. you’re right about the commercial part, very sad, most festivals have become like that . i liked it too when it was simple .

  3. Even though I was an only child, I was so fortunate in having protective big cousin brothers to tie Rakhis.. I’m reliving the tradition with my son getting a rakhi from his kid sis…This is indeed a precious tradition!

  4. Raksha Bandhan is an important festival of India that is dedicated to brother sister love. You can visit ‘Post My Greetings’ an online gifting website that has a wide array of Rakhi gifts and greetings. It is a reliable gifting website, prompt to your order queries, high quality products etc. See more on Raksha Bandhan Gifts

  5. What a beautiful custom….I raised a blended family and what a lovely custom this would have been for the boys to “welcome” their half sister. In terms of progress and commercialism…what can I say? I’m na old fashioned kind of gal inside really.

    1. Thanks! I love this custom as well 🙂

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