Raksha Bandhan festival is celebrated in India, on the full moon day (purnima) of the Hindu month of Shravan (July-Aug.). Basically this festival belongs to the Northen and Western regions of India.
However, gradually it has been adopted all over the country. Raksha Bandhan is basically performed by tying a Rakhi with affection, by a sister to her brother. This day is also called as Rakhi Purnima.
This occasion expresses the the love, care, affection and sacred feeling of brotherhood. However, nowdays the Rakhi is also tied to a person, other than a brother, who is protector in many ways.
Rakhi is a sacred thread of love which is tied by a sister to her brother as a symbol of Bond of Protection ie "Raksha (protection) Bandhan(bond)".
In olden days the Rakhi was a simple thread or a strip of cloth, but as the generations modernised, the Rakhis started coming in market in various designs, sizes and colours.
Some Rakhis have even music and songs in it. The markets exhibit fancy Rakhis, since fifteen days before the day of Raksha Bandhan.
The bond of Rakhi is considered to be stronger than iron chains as it establishes the most beautiful relationship of love and trust between two indivisuals (mostly a sister and brother).
Since the ancient days women are tying Rakhi to men from various religions for giving them protection. Rakhi festival also has a social significance because by tying a Rakhi to a beloved person, a new relation of bother and sister is established.
It is not necessary that the rakhi be tied only to a blood brother. However, any male can be adopted, as a brother by tying a rakhi to him. In many cases the strained relationships among the brothers and sisters are ended up on this auspicious day.
The family members get ready for the rituals early in the morning. The body and mind is purified by taking sacred bath. Delicious sweets are prepared, such as Jalebi, Kaju katli, Barfi etc.
Then the sisters prepare the puja thali which contains Rakhi threads,kumkum, raw rice grains,oil lamp and sweets. First, the deities are worshipped.
Then the sister performs aarti (revolving thali with lamp in front of face) of her brother and ties Rakhi around the wrist. Then she applies kumkum powder, tilak and rice grain on the forehead of her brother and puts sweets in his mouth.
Sisters pray for good health, prosperity and longetivity of their brothers and pray to the God to shower them with blessings.
In return, the brothers give attractive gifts to their sisters and promise them protection from evil forces of the world, all the life. The sisters who can not visit the brothers, send the Rakhis by courier angencies.
It is also seen nowdays that the sisters staying abroad send e-rakhis (sending Rakhi graphics with messages through internet). Greeting cards of Raksha Bandhan are also available in market.
1- Krishna and Draupad
The legend from the epic Mahabharat mentions that Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas, had torn a strip of her silk sari and tied it around Krishna's index finger to stop the flow of blood.
Krishna was so touched by her action that He found himself bound to her by brotherly love and promised to repay the debt by protecting her life long.
During the 'Vastra-Haran'(removing the clothes) of Draupadi, in the kingdom of Dhritarashtra, no one came for her rescue, since Pandavas had lost her to Kauravas in the gambling game.
Soon, she prayed for Krishna who indefinitely extended her saree and saved her pride. This is how He repaid his debt towards rakhi tied to Him by Draupadi.
Draupadi in spite of being the wife of great Pandavas, always relied upon Krishna,as her brother, for every decision.
2- Rani Karnavati
This is the most significant evidence in the Indian history, between the Rani Karnavati of Chittor and the Mugal emperor Humayun.
During the medieval era, around the 15th century, there were many battles among the Rajputs, Mughals and Sultans. Rani Karnavati, who was a widow queen had lost her confidence.
She wanted to protect her kingdom from the attack of Bahadur Shah,the sultan of Gujarath. Rani Karnavati soon sent a thread to Humayun, as a symbol of respecting him as her protector.
The Emperor was so much touched with the gesture, that he organised a big military force for her rescue. This established the example of tying a Rakhi and Rakshabandhan in the world.
3- King Bali
The rakshabandhan day is also called as 'Baleva', named after the Demon King Bali, who was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. Vishnu promised to guard his kingdom and by leaving his own abode in Vaikunth, stayed with Bali.
His consort,Goddess Lakshmi wanted Vishnu, back in Vaikunth. She disguised as a Brahmin woman and approached Bali with her motive to get the lord back.
Later, on the day of Shravan Pournima, Lakshmi tied a Rakhi, the sacred thread to the demon King Bali and confessed her intensions to him.
The king was impressed by her loyalty and her purpose and requested the Lord to accompany her to Vaikunth. Since then it has been a tradition to invite sisters in Shravan Pournima for the Rakhi tying ceremony ie Raksha Bandhan.
4- Yama and Yamuna
One more legend says that, Raksha Bandhan was a ritual followed by the Lord of Death - Yama and his sister Yamuna - the river in northern India. Yamuna tied rakhi to Yama and bestowed immortality.
Yama was so moved by the sacred feeling of the occasion that he announced that the person who gets a rakhi tied from his sister, Yamuna and promises her protection, will become immortal.
The great king Alexander of Greece, attacked India in 326 B.C. who married an Indian lady ,Roshanak to develop his relations with the new sector.
Since the battle between Alexander and Porus was about to start, Alexander's wife sent a sacred thread to Porus, requesting him not to harm her husband in battle.
Porus honoured the rakhi as per the hindu tradition. Later on, during the war when Porus was about to knock out Alexander, he saw the rakhi on the wrist and controlled himself for not to kill him with his own hands.
Rakshabandhan Day Significance
Narli Pournima (Coconut Day)
In Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa this day is celebrated as Narli (coconut) Pournima. On this day Varuna, the God of sea is offered coconuts by the fisherfolks by praying him to safeguard them and give plenty of good fish in the season.
People also play a game of breaking coconuts. One person holds a coconut and the other one bangs on it with his coconut and wins or loses the challenge of breaking it.
In Orissa, Rakhi is celebrated as 'Grahma Purnima'. On this day all the tamed Cows and Bullocks are decorated and worshipped.
Home made cakes and sweets called 'Pitha' and 'Mitha' are prepared and distributed among the friends and relatives.
In Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Jharkand, Bihar etc. the central parts of India, this day is celebrated as Kajari Purnima. It is a significant occasion for the women blessed with sons.
On the ninth day after Shravan Amavasya (dark moon), the preparations of the Kajari festival begins. This ninth day is called Kajari Navami and various rituals are performed until Kajri Pournima. This day is also celebrated by the farmers.
This is celebrated by the people in Gujrath. It is a grand pooja of Lord Shiva which is being performed throuhout the year till this day.
This is a festival in Uttarakhand, India. Janyo means Janeu (sacred thread worn by men on body) and Punyo means Pournima. On this day people change their threads. Rakshabandhan is also celebrated here.
This is the birth day of Prabhu Balram, the elder brother of Shri. Krishna and is celebrated as Baldeva birth ceremony.
On this day sisters often sing the popular hindi film song - "Bhaiya mere, Rakhi ke bandhan ko nibhaana".
It means-My dear brother, please keep up and observe the sacred relationship of ours, forever, life long.