Wednesday, August 10, 2011

My disenchantment with Raksha-Bandhan

Image source :

Many Indian homes will be celebrating the festival of  raksha bandhan or rakhi as it is usually called, in a few days. Sisters all over Indian homes, will tie a sacred thread on their brothers wrists, reminding him of his duty of protecting and loving them.
It is a beautiful tradition that celebrates the bond and love shared by brothers and sisters.
It has roots in hindu mythology, with many versions of it's origins, the most common one being the one where draupadi tore off a piece of cloth from her sari to tie up a bleeding wound on krishna's hand, and he in turn promises her to protect her and repay her debt down to the last thread, which he later follows through on, during the attemped disrobing of draupadi in the royal kingdom, when he magically appears and keeps adding fabric onto her sari, eventually saving her from getting disgraced.
Thus began the tradition of rakhi, or raksha bandhan (which roughly translated means a bond of protection) .

In the modern day scenario, even though the protection aspect has become somewhat irrelevant, yet the overall sentiment of celebrating the love and bond shared by a brother and sister still lives .

Growing up raksha-bandhan or rakhi as it commonly called, wasn't exactly my most favorite festival, mainly because I don't have a brother, I have a sister, who I love, and am very close too, but there wasn't a similar occasion for sisters to celebrate their bond, I would tie rakhi to my male cousins, but always felt a little sad that just because I don't have a brother for a sibling, I don't have a similar occassion to celebrate my bond with her. Later, my husband told me that he too had similar feelings, as he is one of two brothers, and doesn't have a sister for a sibling, and rakhi was just a reminder of that .

Another thing which I remember disliking, growing up related to rakhi, is the concept of Rakhi brother or rakhi sister. Indians are still uncomfortable by and large with the mingling of the sexes, except for major metros, the interactions between boys and girls are kept at a minimum, and even when there are interactions, we Indians usually love to categorize the boy-girl relationship in two categories, either brother-sister or boyfriend-girlfriend, the concept of having someone from the opposite sex be just a 'friend' is almost alien. It's changing rapidly and definitely in the metros, but still in smaller cities and towns these categories of boy-girl interactions remain prevalent .
Now, naturally not all boys a girl knows are her boyfriends, they are just her friends, some may even be close friends, but since this is generally frowned upon, there is a novel (?) idea of making him your rakhi brother, i.e tying a rakhi around his wrist every year at Raksha-bandhan and calling him your brother from another mother (for the lack of better phrase). I knew some girls who had several rakhi brothers and likewise some guys who had quite a few rakhi sisters.
This is a part that bothers me quite a lot, to me it actually diminishes the importance of not just the tradition but even the sacredness of the brother-sister bond. Many of these so called rakhi brother-sister pairs didn't even keep in touch after high school, let alone continue the tradition of tying rakhi.
What was worse was some girls even used raksha bandhan as an occasion to tie rakhis to those boys who were romantically interested in them, but who the girls themselves didn't like. So many a times in and around my neighbourhood, one could see similar sights such as in this picture around raksha-bandhan, ie. the guys trying their best to avoid even getting spotted by the girls they did not wanna get a rakhi from, and the girls doing their best to catch them, it was just a game for the most part, and nothing serious, and hence demeaning to the actual depth and beauty of the tradition.

This kind of frivolous use of this tradition for self-gain and selfish interests diminishes the value of these cultural practices.
I honestly, have known some young couples in Mumbai (where I'm from) who were romantically involved after they've been rakhi brothers and sisters, and also know a couple who eventually got married..lolzz...
So, clearly the rakhi brother concept is abused. There are some people who definitely value their rakhi brothers and sisters, I have some examples in my own family, but these by and large remain less common than the abusing variety. As it is said that necessity is the mother of invention, so this concept of rakhi brother has been invented (for the most part) due to restrictive mentality of Indians towards boy-girl friendships.

I just hope that future generations of Indian kids will not have to take refuge of this rakhi brother-sister concept inorder to just be friends, and girls will not frivolously use rakhi as a means to keep unwanted boys at bay, and it;s about time that rakhi was broadened to include sister-sister and brother-brother siblings as well, but maybe I'm dreaming the impossible here . 


  1. Yeah,

    you have rightly pointed out the issue,

    Being a south Indian, Rakhi was not much popular in my engineering days.

    Sometimes girls used to misuse this and used to tie a rakhi to the boy , if they have a doubt that the particular boy is interested in her.

    similarly some couples used to fool society and their dear ones by having a rakhi bond to have multiple partners.

    this is not at all fair.


  2. its all so true what you written here, even i know a couplle who used to be a Rakhi brother-sister and then eventually got married.....and even there are people who have been Rakhi brother-sisters for decades an maintaining the relation of brother-sister in all its all about how one takes it....

  3. thats a nice case study on the rakhi... :P

    Very true infact... just want to add one more scenario here - during my schooling, some gals use to tie Rakhi to almost everyone in the class - not just for the 'rakhi brother' concept - but for the gifts some guys used to give in return!!

    And you don't need to feel bad about not having similar concept for those having siblings of same gender.. I had seen many here who actually celebrate it in a different way (may be just hanging out together, buying gifts etc... ) everything is the same except the rakhi thread.. :)

  4. very well spoken out the exact pints about rakhi bond. hope sooner or later we shall be get rid off such kinda mentality :) nice post.

  5. Rightly said it's being abused. It's a very sacred festival and nobody should play with its piousness...

  6. Nice post Anjali. I didnt know the concept behind this Rakhi. Thanks for it.

  7. Nice post, I am a bit out of the loop on the new trends, I had no idea about the rakhi brother thing existing.
    Like you DH has 2 brothers no sister, so it was his cousin tying a rakhi on him, I think maybe this nice tradition should actually envolve a little celebrating bond between sibling regardless of the gender, since the whole protection aspect has died down a little it would be a good way to remind siblings they are family and should care for one another, each sibling exchanging a rakhi instead of the brother sending return gifts to their sisters.

  8. Good one. I don't have any siblings, and I do wish I had a brother to tie a rakhi too, although I can do without Raksha from him!I like the idea of extending this to brother-brother or sister-sister. I wonder why this was never so. Most interesting idea.

  9. Wow...thanks everyone for the comments.
    Welcome, Gowardhan, some unspoken words,& Sunil to the blog , nice to interact with new people.
    @ Sunil, I agree, getting money or gifts is also another aspect of this rakhi brother idea, pathetic indeed .
    @ Saru & Jidhu, thanks, I agree with you.
    @ Cyn , I agree there must be an effort to include same sex siblings as well in the celebration, dunno if and when it would happen though...
    @ Richa, I know for those who are an only child too such festivals like rakhi and bhaidooj, can be somewhat sad. Like I said, I hope someday Indians start including same sex siblings as a part of raksha-bandhan too...and maybe we can call it sneh-bandhan (bond of love), instead of raksha-bandhan...Wot say ???

  10. yup it happens a lot & just not a gud thing at all that something this sacred is abused so

  11. Welcome to the blog Sujatha, hope to interact with you more here...and thanks a ton for the award.. :-)

  12. So glad to read a reverse take on this subject.

    Yes why can't a sister festival be there? Not fair to elate the guys and give no importance to the girls. After all without women, men would not be born (as boys of course!).

    In Chennai, Rakhi is not common, but on some college campuses people do it. So the phrase was 'If she ties a rakhi, I will never get a thali tied [from her].'

    So now I understand a deeper level to that.

    In someways it's reverse of Valentine's day!!

    Your story reminds me of my US days in High School. On Valentines day we had to wear a heart pinned to our shirts (girls). So if a guy made us talk to him, he got our heart. Whichever guy got the most won some prize from the school. I always hated this - one reason was the tactics the guys used to make us girls talk was not good- teasing us and being mean to us so we'd fight back.

    But of course I find it to be completely sexist. I am not sure why they allowed such behavior in the school. Even when I had to participate in that in school I felt it was wrong.

  13. wonderful writeup, revolutionary

  14. Agree completely Anjali! In Tamilnadu this tradition is not really followed much and I have never tied a rakhi to my bro ever, although I do think that it is a nice occasion. But I don't go abt calling every guy I knw as a brother because in my mind, only my own brother is my brother! And yes I too know a couple who tied rakhi to each other and then promptly got romantically involved with each other! lol!

  15. hello there:-)
    visited your blog for the first time...liked your page as Sujatha has crowned you with the award so thought to pay a visit here..and em not disappointed at all..liked it..and well stalk you too...btw the rakhi thing looks great to you as an outsider but you have mentioned a very solid issue..its all about the way you take things..and sincerity is the key to any relation and custom..keep writing:-)

  16. @ Anonymous, Welcome to the blog, and thanks for your comment...I agree in a way it is a reverse of Valentine's day in India... :-)

    @ lava, Thanks for visiting the blog and commenting, hope to see you around more.. :-)

    @ Anne, welcome to my blog, thanks for commenting, I agree making every random person your brother, is belittling to the sanctity of the relationship...what's next we are gonna call random people our mothers and fathers too ??

    @ Mishi, welcome to the blog dear, glad to know you liked it, hope to see you around here often, I'm grateful to sujatha, for introducing me to so many new interesting bloggers.. :-) Thanks for your perspective as well..

  17. I feel the concept of brothers protecting the sisters should change to siblings, (two brothers, two sisters, a brother and a sister) standing by each other and always being there for each other - more like sibling bonding. Raksha Bandhan should not make families wish they had male children to protect their female children.


    Rakhi being used to get rid of a stalker (or to convert him into a friend) isn't such a bad idea, because a lot of Indian men have this sense of entitlement, if they like a girl, she must like them back and if she doesn't then she must face an acid-attack or constant harassment. Once they accept a rakhi, they are supposed to respect and protect, very difficult if one is planning to harass someone. So Rakhi in such cases, is used like a protective-shield for defense, by women who generally can't even complain to their families about being harassed.

    And with the amount of segregation we have, rakhi-brothers made some interactions between young men and women possible. (Nothing wrong with such interactions when the interactions were welcomed by both, not forced.)
    I wish this wasn't required, but seeing what hypocrites we are, what else were (are) young people to do? Where ever men and women interact freely the need to create rakhi brothers gradually disappears.

  18. @ IHM : Thankyou for the poignant comment on the issue. Completely agree with your comment. I don't even feel like I need to say anymore, you've said it all....Kudos !!!

  19. wow very nice post...


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...