On freeing bandhan (bond) from Raksha (protection)
Rakshan Bandhan, a beautiful bond between a brother and sister, a festival of love among siblings, right?
Then where does Raksha fit in? The moment a brother is expected to ‘protect’ his sister, isn’t the girl automatically assumed to be weaker?
I remember countless evenings when, after a late college programme, a well-meaning teacher would ask one of the classmates, “Will you accompany her home?” I used to always wonder how this thin, lanky boy of the same age as mine, not any stronger, was really going to ‘protect’ me, especially when I was the one trained in martial arts.
Then, one may ask, whom are they protecting you from? Other men? Then isn’t it better for the boy to promise to respect every woman instead, so he doesn’t need to ‘protect’ her?
We usually don’t see the root problem every time the hero’s sister gets kidnapped or raped because of a fight between two men. The brother swore to protect her on Raksha Bandhan, so if the enemy succeeds in raping her, the brother has failed. Do we even note the toxicity of this thought that gets perpetrated in our movies and serials, and lives everywhere?
In many homes with economic troubles, the daughters help in the kitchen, sacrifice their education and go to work much earlier, just so that the male members can get an education, get a job and uplift their families. Maybe Raksha Bandhan in those homes is a promise from the brother to not forget the love of the sister. In homes where there are no sons, the girl is often encouraged to tie a rakhi to a cousin or even a friend or neighbour. If it is just sibling love, why not just tie a rakhi to your sister?
Think more about who is truly protecting you then — our soldiers, policemen, the school security guards, the helper who takes care of the child when the family is away. Maybe this is a time to say thanks to them for keeping a watch, so we can breathe safe, and share a gift with them?
When you retell the great brother-sister bond between Draupadi and Krishna, rather than focusing on the piece of sari she tied on Krishna’s hand because of which the Lord saved her from her vastraharan, perhaps we should go deeper and look at the meaning of faith and surrender to the Lord in devotion. She called everyone in the court to see the injustice of her situation, but when nothing was working out, she turned to a greater power that gave her the solution to overcome the situation. If Draupadi had not tied that piece of her sari (the rakhi) around his finger, wouldn’t Krishna have answered her call?
Festivals are absolutely brilliant occasions for the families to come together and celebrate. Let us celebrate love, togetherness, and promises of shared memories that should not get lost in the ravages of time. If we bring Raksha into this, it better well be for those who truly protect us, and then it has to be a brother and sister tying a rakhi to our building watchman, who makes sure they are safe when we sleep.
Incorporating changes doesn’t rob our culture of its essence. Customs and rituals need to progress with the times, so they remain relevant and help the culture thrive. Then that will become a part of religion, a festival one wants to embrace, because it shapes the person you want to be, in a world you want to make.
Note: The article was originally published here.