It’s a cotton thread that binds together in a unique way, a brother’s promise to protect and a sister’s love and well wishes.
The universal Hindu celebration of raksha bandhan is a much-awaited event on the calendar of Indians all over the world.
Captured in merry making, sweets, the giving of gifts and therefore the inevitable commercialisation, and glamourised by Bollywood many times over, the event, being celebrated in Fiji today is a simple one to renew the bond between brothers and sisters.
The ceremony involves the sister tying a rakhi (a cotton thread that can range from just a simple thread to fancy designs fitted on the thread) on the brother’s right wrist.
The design of the rakhi has evolved over the years. While the cotton thread used for tying the rakhi remains, the face of the rakhi is often beautifully crafted with embroidered sequins and studded with artificial stones and varies in size, design and shape.
The ceremony itself is centuries old and has its roots in Hindu mythology, in instances where religious figures gave females divine protection for an act of love.
Thus, the tying of the rakhi signifies a sister asking her brother for protection and the brother confirming his love and affection for his sister by accepting the rakhi.
Raksha Bandhan (cord of protection) is an occasion for the entire family with everyone dressing up in traditional Indian outfits and getting together to witness the exchange of affections between the siblings.
The ritual begins with an arti (moving a brass plate lit with camphor around the brother’s face to steer away evil spirits) followed by putting a tikka (sandalwood powder mixed with water) on the forehead. Then comes the tying of the rakhi.
Sweets and gifts are an inseparable part of the occasion with the brother and sister giving each other traditional sweets after the rakhi has been tied.
Although it has been traditional for the brother to give his sister a gift at the end of the ceremony, sisters have been gifting their brothers in recent times.
The tying of the rakhi is not confined to blood relatives.
It can be tied on the wrist of a cousin, a good friend or out of kindness for someone who does not have a sister.
It can even be used to ward off unwanted male attention in a gentle way.
Sometimes, when a Hindu girl feels that a member of the opposite sex has developed feelings for her that she might not be too keen on reciprocating, she sends the boy a rakhi, indicating she desires a non-romantic, brother-sister type relationship with...