We hear a great deal about sibling rivalry but a lot less about sibling devotion and connection, and this is one of the most sacred of all family bonds. Our sisters and brothers know us as few others do; they can be our role models, our best friends, and our tormentors.
Ancient cultures stressed not only the joys of being a sibling but also the responsibilities. In Egypt, the brother/sister bond was considered so sacred that the Pharaohs married their sisters, and the two ruled together.
On Aug. 21 this year, Hindus all over the world celebrate Raksha Bandhan or Rahki -- a time dedicated to the love and caring between brothers and sisters.
Rasksha Bandhan Ritual:
Traditionally, a sister ties a red string (raksha) on her brother's right wrist as a sign of affection and protection. Originally it was made from cotton string but now it ranges from sterling silver to beads and baubles. The raksha represents strengthening the bond between sisters and brothers.
Then the sister says, "Suraj shakhan chhorian, Mooli chhorian beej, Behen ne rakhi bandhi / Bhai tu chir jug jee." This means, "The sun radiates its sunlight, the radish spreads its seeds, I tie Rakhi to you O' brother and wish may you live long."
Performing a Puja
A Puja is a spiritual act connecting you to the divine. On Rasksha Bandhan, the sister applies kumkum (vermillion) and rice on her brother's forehead. It is believed that this ritual application of kumkum can attract divine energy. The rice used in the puja symbolizes her wishes for a long life for her brother.
Vows and Gifts
In return the brother gives her a gift and vows to protect her. By taking the time to honor each other, a stronger bond is built. Although this is not in my family's tradition, I would love to share this ceremony with my brother. I'm not sure he would appreciate the rice and kumkum but I know he would love the thought behind it.
Rahki For All
Another take on this holiday comes from a famous Bengali Poet Rabindranath Tagore. He believed that Rahki should be a celebration of kindness to bestow blessings for all.
In 1905, when India was under British rule and they decided to divide Bengal on the basis of cast and religion, Tagore created a ceremony to create harmony and love between the Hindus and Muslims of Bengal. He used this holiday as a platform to spread peace among people of all racial groups.
Consider partaking in this special ritual celebration of Rahki. Take, make or buy simple strings of cotton or anything else you choose and give them to your siblings, friends and neighbors as a sign of blessings, respect and friendship. In essence these were the first "friendship" bracelets... let's tie one on!
Let me know what happens. Who says we can't change the world?
A brother shares childhood memories and grown-up dreams. -- Author Unknown
Sisters are for sharing laughter and wiping tears. -- Author Unknown