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RAKSHABANDHAN
By Mohan Shenoy

Raksha Bandhan is the tying of a band known as Raakhi to the wrist of a brother by a sister. When the Raakhi is tied it is understood that the sister is seeking protection from the brother from enemies.

The Wise men of Hinduism devised a festival in which any woman could tie the Raakhi to a man she wishes to be protected from the effects of lust. The Raksha Bandhan is a permanent contract between the lady and the gentleman. They are brother and sister from then on for all practical purposes even if they are not blood relatives. Still the sentiment of Raksha Bandhan lingers on among the Hindus.

As a corollary, a lady who wishes to marry a gentleman, or a lady who has a chance of getting married to a gentleman, she be careful not to tie the Raakhi to him. A gentleman who has a chance, remote or otherwise of getting married to a lady then he better refuse to be party in tying the Raakhi to him by that lady. Always a lady ties the Raakhi to a gentleman, not vice versa.

Raakhi is merely a nine-inch (21 centimeters) long soft rope made of cotton and silk threads with or without some kind of a glittering flower attached in its center. The rope is about 0.3 inches (0.5 centimeters) in thickness. The flower is about 2 inches (5 centimeters) in diameter. The flower is usually made of cotton, nylon or silk cloth and has glittering threads or beads on it.

When the Raakhi rope is tied on, usually the right wrist, the flower stands over the back of the wrist. The Raakhi is kept on one's wrist for about a week or even a month and then discarded. It is not used again at the next year's Raksha Bandhan festival.

Every year a new Raakhi has to be purchased by the girl (woman) in Hindu households. Raakhi has no religious connotation and it is a secular item used by all those who live in India. Raakhi is an important merchandise sold during the Raksha Bandhan festival especially in northern parts of India.

Nowadays, the threat of assault or attack a lady faces is not the kind that ladies in India faced in the olden days. The recent stories of significance of the event in which a Hindu queen tied a Raakhi to a Moslem king seeking protection was during the Mogul rule. Later the women in Punjab regularly celebrated Raksha Bandhan by tying Raakhi to their brothers because of the constant threat that they faced during the turbulent period of wars between the Mogul and Sikh armies.

Sikh religion prescribes the followers to carry a small dagger known as Kirpan with them all the time. The length of the Kirpan was sufficiently long in the past for it to be used in real fights. But at present the Kirpan is a symbolic dagger and it is as small as 4 inches (10 centimeters) in length.
It is a festival welcomed by the community, because of the beauty of love of a lady to her brother. The transaction involves giving of a gift by the brother (or whoever the lady ties the Raakhi to) to his sister ( or whoever ties the Raakhi). The gift is anxiously looked forward to by the lady since it could be a packet of money or it could be some valuable item like a saree, dress, jewelry, a new car, a real estate property, etc.

The people who manufacture the Raakhis are also eager to make some money during the days before the festival. The shops display hundreds of varieties of Raakhis and it is a beautiful sight to watch groups of women go around the market to buy Raakhis. The Raakhis are priced according to the value of the rope and the flower. In some of the Raakhis the flower is replaced with small toys but this is rare.

The Raksha Bandhan festival is held on the day of Full Moon or Poornima in the month of Shraavana which usually falls in the month of August, every year. The Shraavana Poornima is the day on which festival of one or other kind is held in places where Raksha Bandhan is not so popular.

Yajurupaakarma
The festival known as Yajurupaakarma is held on this day during which the sacred thread worn during the past year is discarded and in its place a new sacred thread is worn by the Brahmins ( a Hindu sect) of Karnataka state. This Yajurupaakarma festival may be held by Brahmins living in other places also.

Those Brahmins who claim to be followers of Rig Veda, celebrate this festival as Rigupaakarma on the day following the Poornima or on the Paadya thithi day. The rituals are same for Yajur and Rig Upaakarma(s).

At other places in India Shraavana Poornima is a day of festival in which feasts are an important part but no Raakhi or sacred thread are involved.

FRIENDS' DAY
On the other hand, the Friendship band does not impose such condition on either of the persons who exchange the Friendship band on the Friendship Day. The Friendship band can be tied by a girl or a woman to another girl or woman. The Raksha Bandhan has by rule to be tied by a female to a male. The male is the recipient of the Raksha Bandhan which comes with the unwritten undertaking that the male will always protect the female from assaults and attacks from other persons, usually males.

The Friendship Day is therefore not a replacement of Raksha Bandhan Day, on principle.

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