Image source : yah.in
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 .