You may have seen or will soon see, some boys and men and also some girls and women, mainly Indian, sporting colourful bracelets on their wrists. You probably assume these to be just some fashion bands or charms. But do you know that there is a meaningful message behind these beautiful pieces?
At this time of the year, during the Hindu month of Shraavana, Hindu communities celebrate Raksha Bandhan Utsav. This year, the utsav or festival takes place on Monday, August 3rd. Raksha Bandhan is a festival that celebrates the duty of care, the obligation to serve those in need, and the relationships we hold dear.
The meaning of the word ‘Raksha’ is protection, and ‘Bandhan’ means a bond. This ancient festival traditionally involves the sister tying a rakhi (the bracelet), around the wrist of her brother. The tying of the rakhi represents the relationship between family members, and the duty to protect each other eternally. However, it is not just to celebrate the bond between a Hindu brother and sister, but also the bond with those who may be considered to be part of the family. This reflects the open and uniting nature of Raksha Bandhan, as well as mirroring the Hindu saying: ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ which means the ‘World is One Family.’
Historically, one of this festival’s roots are thought to have begun during the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata. The story involves Lord Krishna and Draupadi. On Makar Sankranti, Lord Krishna started to bleed whilst cutting some sugarcane. Draupadi, who was present during the incident, tore off part of her sari, and tied it to his finger to stop the bleeding. In return, Lord Krishna promised to help and protect her whenever required.
There is also another story that when Alexander the Great invaded India, his wife Roxane tied a “rakhi” to the Indian King Puru. This relationship helped Alexander, who was spared death at the hands of King Puru, due to his obligation to his “honorary sister” Roxane. A similar story regards Rani Karnavati, the widowed queen of the King of Chittor. When she realised that she could not defend against the invasion by the Sultan of Gujarat, Bahadur Shah, she sent a rakhi to Emperor Humayun who promised to defend Chittor with his troops. These stories are significant in that they demonstrate the universality of relationships, irrespective of region or religion.
So, on this occasion, on behalf of the Girlguiding community, I would like to take the opportunity to express my gratitude for the tremendous support and care that all the Guiding leaders and helpers have provided to me and for so many girls and women, not only during this difficult time of the pandemic, but since the founding of Girlguiding. As an organisation, you represent part of the good in society and are role models for so many young girls out there.
I would like to extend the ethos of the Raksha Bandhan festival by tying a “virtual” rakhi to you all and in turn, I promise to serve our society, our community, just like you do. As these sentiments also resonate with The Promise and The Law of Girlguiding, I hope this will bring everyone together, now and forever.