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Home > Religious Festivals > Hindu Festivals > Rakhi Purnima
Rakhi Purnima
Rakhi PurnimaRakhi Purnima is celebrated on the full moon day of the month of Shravana (July- August). It is an occasion when women tie Rakhi or amulet on the wrists of their brothers. The word Raksha means protection.

In scriptures, Raksha Bandhan is described as the `Punya Pradayak`. It represents the day that bestows boons to the generous `Vish Tarak` (the destroyer of venom or the vicious) and `Pap Nashak` (the destroyer of sins).

Raksha Bandhan has a historical background. About 3000 B.C. Aryans entered India through the northwestern passes and settled in northwestern India. They brought with them their traditional custom, Raksha Bandhan. It was a tradition among the Aryans to have a `Yajna` (sacrificial ceremony) before a war to invoke God`s blessing for protection and security. Apart from the regular army, the clan leader called the able - bodied men of the villages to join the war. Before the men departed for the battlefield the women-folk tied an anointed sacred thread or amulet. This amulet protected the man and at the same time reminded him to uphold the honour of his clan. This is how the custom of Raksha Bandhan originated. Later, different ethnic tribes entered India, each with its own traditional customs. This led to a fusion of Aryan and Non-Aryan customs. Consequently, new and modified forms of the various customs came to be followed.

In the Middle Ages, especially in Rajasthan, it was practised both for imperial alliance and matrimonial alliance. We find many such examples of Rakhi ceremony in Todd`s Annals of Rajasthan`. Marwar (Mewar) was attacked by the Sultan of Malwah. Queen. Karna Devi, the dowager queen of Marwar sent a Rakhi to the Mogul Emperor Humayun, to accept her as his sister and to come to her aid. Humayun accepted and responded to her gesture. He drove the Sultan of Malwah away from Marwar and saved the queen. That particular day of Purnima was celebrated as Raksha Bandhan in Marwar and then all over Rajasthan and, finally, throughout India. This probably was the beginning of a cross-religious observance of this festival. And, even today a lot of non-Hindus follow the custom of Raksha Bandhan.

A popular legend mentions this custom when Alexander invaded India. Porus, King of the Punjab, stood no chance of winning the battle. The following day was the full moon day of Raksha Bandhan. Porus’s wife visited Alexander secretly and tied a Rakhi on his wrist. Alexander knew of the custom and asked her, that she was now his sister, what present would she like. She asked him to spare the life of her husband, so that she would not become a widow. Alexander gave his word. The following day Porus was defeated on the battlefield and Alexander spared his life.
One legend describes a war between the Gods and the Demons. The demon King Brutra was advancing and the Gods lead by Lord Indra stood almost beaten in a long-drawn battle against the demons. Full of remorse, he sought the advice of Guru Brihaspati, who suggested the auspicious day of Shravana Purnima (full-moon day of the month of Shravana) for his counter-attack. On that day, Indra`s wife, Sachi also called Indrani and Brihaspati tied a sacred thread on the wrist of Indra, who then attacked the demon with renewed force and routed him. The power of the sacred thread called Raksha helped the Gods to victory.

Yamuna was the sister of Lord Yama, the God of death. On every "Shravan Purnima" Yamuna used to tie a sacred thread (Rakhi) to Lord Yama. Since then it has become a tradition for the sisters to tie Rakhi to their brothers on this day. And the brothers bestow blessings on their sisters.

Another legend associated to this day is of King Bali and Goddess Laxmi. Demon King Bali was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu had promised to guard his kingdom leaving his own abode in Vaikunth. Goddess Laxmi wished to be with her Lord back in her abode. She went to Bali disguised as a Brahmin woman. She regarded Bali as her brother and therefore tied a Rakhi onto his wrist on the `Shravan Poornima` day. When Bali wished to give her some present she told him her true story and also the true reason for her visit. She requested him too send Lord Vishnu back to Vaikunthdham. Raja Bali immediately urged Lord Vishnu and Goddess Laxmi to return.
According to another legend, Yudhishthira, the eldest son of King Pandu and one of the five Pandava brothers asked Sri Krishna, how could he guard himself against impending evils and catastrophes in the coming year. To this Krishna asked him to observe Raksha Bandhan.

Sri Krishna was once injured on his hand and blood was oozing out. Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas, tore a portion of her garment and tied it around his wound. For Krishna, this signified Raksha Bandhan and he immediately accepted Draupadi as his sister. In fact, it was Sri Krishna, Draupadi called out to when she was being derobed by the Kaurava prince Dushashana (second cousins of the Pandavas and their sworn enemies) in the middle of the court after her husband Yudhishthira gambled and lost her in a game of chess. And ultimately Krishna protected her honour.

The most recent reference of Raksha Bandhan is found in 1905 when the British empire decided to break Bengal on the basis of religion. Kaviguru Rabindranath Tagore arranged a ceremony to celebrate Raksha Bandhan to unite both Hindu and Muslim people of Bengal and launch protest against British Empire. The tradition continues as people tie Rakhis to the neighbours and close friends.

For children, it is the eternal tie of love; for Brahmins the day for annual discarding of old sacred threads and putting on of new consecrated ones and for those who depend on sea and monsoon, it is the beginning of the new season. Kshatriyas and Vaishyas also, change their threads and wear new ones.

Raksha bandhan is primarily a North and West Indian Festival but is celebrated in other parts of India as well. The Rakhi Purnima is important in more than one way. It is celebrated differently throughout the country.

Brahmins Changing their holy threadsIt is called Avani Avittam in South India. It is an important day for the Brahmins. They first take a holy bath and then remove their holy thread (Janeyu) and put on a new one while chanting the Vedic mantras. They take the pledge of Brahmanic rites given in the holy books. The Janeyu or Yagyopavit is a thread of three rounds and represents the vow for adherence to vedic culture, observance of Hindu traditions and service to humanity. The ceremony is called Shravani or Rishi Tarpan or Vpa Karma. This ceremony signifies the cleansing of the mind of all evil. It holds special significance for the Brahmins and for people of higher castes. It is observed in Bengal, Orissa, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Southern India. After the ceremony, sweets made from coconut, like coconut-burfi and sweet coconut rice, are served.

In North India, Rakhi Purnima is called Kajri Purnima or Kajri Navami. It is a season when wheat or barley is sown. Farmers worship Goddess Bhagwati for a good crop.

It is called Saluno in Haryana. This festival is also known as Rakhri or Rahkiya.

Rakhi purnima is also called Baleva. It signifies the might of King Bali and his devotion to Lord Vishnu and Goddess Laxmi.

In Gujarat, on the Rakhi Purnima, they offer water and pray to Lord Shiva for forgiveness. In one ceremony known as Pavitropana, a few twisted filaments of cotton are soaked in panchagaivya (mixture of cow`s ghee, milk, curd, urine and cow-dung). Then, these filaments are fastened around a Shivalinga.

Narial PurnimaMain celebrations are fairs held at some waterfronts and ceremonial bathing. Such revelry is observed prominently in Maharashtra and Gujarat. Sea-god Varuna is main object of worship. People gather at the beach and offer narial (coconuts) to the sea-god. Hence, the day is called Narial Purnima. This is a full-moon night and coconuts are offered to the sea to appease its fury. It marks the end of heavy monsoon and after the Narial Puja, fisherman go out fishing. People living far from the seacoast offer coconuts to rivers, lakes and tanks.

It is the festival for all those who depend on the sea for their livelihood. Therefore, Sea-god Varuna, a Vedic deity of considerable importance in the Puranic pantheon, is worshipped on this day. Coconut has three eyes and is believed to represent the three-eyed god, Lord Shiva. Coconut plays a prominent role in all religious offerings. When embarking upon any new enterprise, coconut is broken before the family deity, the coconut-water is splashed on the idol and pieces of coconut are distributed.

Hindu married women gather together, eat and enjoy, play games, sing and dance and put kumkum tilak on each others forehead as symbols of good luck. Rakshabandhan or Rakhi, the more popular of the two festivals is a Hindu sister`s day when brothers and sisters reaffirm their bonds of affections. Sisters tie colourful threads or Rakhis on their brother`s wrists. The brothers in turn promise to protect their sisters and give them gifts. The value of these gifts is not counted in material wealth but is symbolic.

These Rakhis range from simple threads to expensive gold-plated jewelry. Those families in which the relation of brother and sister is missing, they recruit `brothers and sisters` amongst family friends and relatives just for the sake of taking part in this celebration.
More...
• Diwali• Dussehra• Mahashivratri
• Janmashtami• Holi• Pongal
• Hanuman Jayanti• Vat-Savitri• Gond Festival
• Nagpanchami• Rakhi Purnima• Rama Navami
• Vasant Panchami• Ganesh Chaturthi
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