Raksha Bandhan, a Hindu festival, is also called Rakhi Purnima or simply Rakhi or “Rakhri”. The festival celebrates the love and duty between brothers and sisters. It is also celebrated by many communities as a secular festival. Various fairs are held in Punjab to mark the occasion.
On Raksha Bandhan, sisters tie a rakhi (sacred thread) on her brother’s wrist. This symbolizes the sister’s love and prayers for her brother’s well-being, and the brother’s lifelong vow to protect her. The festival falls on the full moon day (Shravan Poornima) of the Shravan month of the Hindu lunisolar Nepali calendar.
Raksha Bandhan in Sanskrit literally means “the tie or knot of protection”. The word Raksha means protection, whilst Bandhan is the verb to tie. Once the Rakhi has been tied, the sister says a prayer for the wellbeing – good health, prosperity and happiness – for her brother. This ritual sometimes involves an aarti, where a tray with lighted lamp or candle is ritually rotated around the brother’s face, along with the prayer and well wishes.
The prayer is a self composed note, or one of many published Rakhi poems and prose. One of the earliest examples of a Rakhi prayer is found in Book V, Chapter V of Vishnu Purana; it is the prayer that Yasoda says while tying a Raksha Bandhan amulet on Krishna’s wrist. An abridged form of the prayer is:
May the lord of all beings protect you,
May the one who creates, preserves and dissolves life protect thee,
May Govinda guard thy head; Kesava, thy neck; Vishnu, thy belly;
the eternal Narayana, thy face, thine arms, thy mind, and faculties of sense;
May all negativity and fears, spirits malignant and unfriendly, flee thee;
May Rishikesa keep you safe in the sky; and Mahidhara, upon earth.