Every year as the Rakhi day (Rakshabandhan) approaches, I get wistful about tying a pretty little thread around my baby brother’s wrist. I think fondly of all those past celebrations of this Indian festival shared with my little brother.
This day holds a gentle place in the hearts of those who share it and the magic to take them flying through time to to their shared a childhood. A gesture or moment they may share or maybe pass as tradition to their own children.
When we were small (my brother 3, me 13), I would align our hands together and say,” See, how big my hand is than yours ?” He laughed as his eyes sparkled with glee.
Slowly but surely, his hand kept getting bigger. The joy he found in aligning our hands together and saying, “See, my hand is getting bigger.” became something we shared for an instant smile.
Years passed by, we separated, reunited and did it again. Now all grown up, my little brother boasted. “My hand is finally bigger than yours now.” he said proudly.
I grinned delighted.
Over the years, he grew up from being someone I led around to someone I lean on. He is my little brother. My first baby. The one whose name I take by mistake instead of my child’s often.
When we met the last time two years ago, we did it again. And then he did it to my son. “See, how much bigger my hand is than yours?” My son laughed.
And now my 6 year old does it to his 3 year old sister. Teaching her a silly practice that his mom and her brother did that connects them to this day.
The origin of Rakhi or Rakshabandhan has various stories. From mythology to history, it goes back to powerful men and women who protected each other in dire times valiantly to honor the promise made when the thread was tied. This was a way to make sure women were respected, honored and protected at all times.
This festival that mainly constitutes a simple act of a sister tying a pretty thread on the wrist of her brothers’ wrist to celebrate their love and duty (loyalty, protection, care) towards each other. It’s heartening how over the years it has transcended into a one when people honor their relationship : the laughter, the memories, the mischief, the fights, the tears shared.
Today siblings and cousins tie it to each other, daughters to fathers, mothers to sons, friends to friends they consider siblings even. This day holds within it the promise of togetherness.
This festival thus inspires bravery and fondness among those who celebrate it. I remember when I was small we used to create our very own Rakhis and mail them from Kuwait to India to all our cousins. Today, with the very many options available online and shipping being so expensive online stores come to the rescue and we just pick our favorite designs and have them shipped to our beloved family members.
In our home, I tie it to my son and my daughter ties it to her father and brother. My husband’s sisters from India mail him their Rakhis and I decorate a Thali with flowers, sweets, diya and the Rakhis. On any occasion decorating these is my favorite thing to do.
We bathe and celebrate early morning. After prayer, the brother sits and the sister puts Tika on the forehead, does Aarti of the brother (circles the plate around the brother’s face) and then ties the Rakhi and feeds him the sweet. The brother then, irrespective of his age takes blessings of his sister for a long, prosperous and protected life!
Ideally, the brother gifts the sister whatever she wishes on this day. But as commercialization has crept in parents often gift both the brother and sister with presents to ensure they both feel celebrated! My kids love partaking in all the rituals and enjoy their gifts (read:toys) all day!
And then as any festival in India, there is a lavish meal of Indian delicacies. I usually make any meal celebrating the brother and sister with whatever dishes they most enjoy.
Happy Rakshabandhan to all those who choose to celebrate the sacred bond they share every single day in the little things they do for each other! Do share your silly stories of your siblings with us.