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Celebrate Raksha Bandhan tomorrow

Published: 
Saturday, August 25, 2018
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Pundit Veda Persad, spiritual leader of the Ramjit and Basso Persad Hindu Temple. Photo by:courtesy Basso Persad Hindu Temple

Raksha Bandhan will be celebrated tomorrow. The festival, according to Pundit Veda Persad, “celebrates the bond between brothers and sisters.”

Persad, the spiritual leader of the Ramjit and Basso Persad Hindu Temple in St Helena, explained that according to Sanskrit, the word “raksha” when translated means protection, while the word “bandhan” means tie, resulting in “a tie/bond of protection”.

The pundit further explained the details of the occasion. He said: “Over time, Raksha Bandhan has grown to represent the bond between brothers and sisters. The sister would tie the string (or rakhi), normally made out of silk, on the brother’s wrist thereby signifying and personifying the bond of love and compassion.” This rakhi is tied to protect the brother from evil, negativity and malice. In return (for tying the rakhi), the brother blesses the sister for protection and offers her protection. In addition, he gives her a gift in the form of sweets, money, jewelry or whatever is to her liking.

Today, during the rituals of puja (Hindu prayer ceremony), one may see the pundit tying a raksha on the wrist of the yajaman (person performing the puja). He will chant mantras of protection and benediction, the yajaman will hold the raksha and offer prayers, wave it around the sacred fire and it is then tied around the wrist.

According to Persad: “In this case, it holds the same merit as that tied by the sister for her brother - protection.” Today, however, females also tie the rakhi for males who are not in their bloodline.

“Nowadays, the rakhi is represented in that strength of protection and prayer for another human being” Persad stated.

But from where did this ritual originate? There are many stories of the sacred thread being tied for protection in Hindu scriptures. Pundit Persad related one such story. “Lord Indra, God of the heavens, was about to lose a war so he went to his guru, Brihaspati, and was given the instruction to tie the sacred thread with the chanting of mantras before going to war. Lord Indra did as he was told and his wife then tied the sacred thread for him. He then went into battle and emerged victorious. Going back into other stories, all the soldiers, before they went into war, their wives would have tied this sacred thread for protection,” Persad related.

Another story, as told on http://www.rediff.com, relates, “…when Alexander the Great invaded India in 326 BC, his wife, Roxana sent Porus, a sacred thread and asked him not to harm her husband on the battlefield. Honouring the request, when he confronts Alexander, he refuses to kill him. Eventually, Porus would lose the battle of the Hydaspes River but would gain Alexander’s respect and honour. Eventually, after his death, Porus would become a very loyal Macedonian satrap.”

The same site then tells another story of Lord Krishna and Draupadi. It states, “An incident in their lives finds a mention amongst the various stories of the Mahabharata. According to one version on a Sankranti day, Krishna managed to cut his little finger while handling sugarcane. Rukmini, his queen immediately sent her help to get a bandage cloth while Sathyabama, his other consort rushed to bring some cloth herself. Draupadi who was watching all of this rather simply tore off a part of her sari and bandaged his finger. In return for this deed, Krishna promised to protect her in time of distress. The word he is said to have uttered is ‘Akshyam’ which was a boon: ‘May it be unending’. And that was how Draupadi’s sari became endless and saved her embarrassment on the day she was disrobed in full public view in king Dritarashtra’s court.”

Pundit Persad then pointed out that he is questioned quite often by teenagers regarding the sacred thread. He said: “One of the popular questions I get is, ‘How is a string, bearing this capacity—that could be cut by a knife or by a scissors—protect me from anything’?”

He explained: “Going back into scripture, it is the belief and the faith one has in God that is being tested, not the strength of the thread.”

Questioned on the growth and popularity of this occasion in T&T, Persad said: “There has definitely been a growth of Raksha Bandhan over the last three to four decades. Information is at the finger tips of the younger generation with the Internet and social media so a lot more people are seeking interest in the festival. Hindu stores and puja shops are now able to reach an audience, not only locally but globally.”

So how exactly is the rakhi tied? According to Persad: “In a thali (brass plate used for puja) place some sindoor, haldi and rice. Take all three and place a tilak (a mark or dot) on the brother’s forehead. The rakhi should then be tied on his right wrist and then aarti should be performed for him. Aarti is performed using a deya with a wick that is soaked with oil or ghee from the filled deya—the wick is then lit. When aarti is done a piece of sweet is then fed to him.”

Sweets such as ladoo, barfi and kurma are commonly used. It is common for the brother to give his sister presents or a token of his affection.

Pundit Persad extends Raksha Bandhan greetings to all of T&T and encourages citizens to remember the true spirit of brotherhood.

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