"Raksha Bandhan" is an Indian festival that celebrates the sacred relationship between brother and sister; it is the reaffirmation of a relationship in which a brother must love and protect his sister as long as he lives. The festival is celebrated according to the Hindu calendar on the full moon day in the month of Shravana, which occurs sometime in July-August.
Legend has it that Shravana, a pious and dutiful son of blind parents, set out one day to a lake in the jungle to fill a pitcher of water for them as they were feeling thirsty. King Dasharatha, Lord Rama's father was out hunting in that very jungle. When he heard the gurgling sound of the water entering the pitcher, he mistook it to be a thirsty deer. He shot off an arrow in that direction. The arrow pierced Shravana's heart. It is believed that Shravana did not have a sister to tie a rakhi on his wrist to protect him from danger.
According to another legend, Sachi, the wife of Lord Indra, tied a silken thread around the wrist of her husband when he was going to fight the asuras. He eventually won the battle and attributed it to the tying of the thread, which he thought was an auspicious act.
On the day of Raksha Bandhan, everyone in the house is up early and gets dressed in fine clothes. The puja room is swept clean. A puja thaali containing water, rice, flowers, a coconut and rakhis is first placed in front of the God. The mistress of the house then conducts the puja by bathing the deity and tying a rakhi on it. Rice from the thaali is then showered on the God and the ritual thus ends. The remaining rakhis in the puja thaali are then tied to the male members of the family.
To celebrate Raksha Bandhan, the sister ties a rakhi on the right hand wrist of her brother to protect him from all evil. She then puts a teeka on his forehead. With this rakhi, the sister bestows blessings on her brother and it is a symbol of the deep affection between brother and sister. As is the tradition with most Hindu customs, auspicious occasions are not complete without platters of sweets. Thus, after the sister applies teeka to her brother's forehead, they feed each other sweets. The brother accepts the rakhi with grace and love, and in return provides the sister with his unstinted support and protection. He then gives the sister a little gift as a token, often in the form of money.
If Raksha Bandhan is a working day, the family members then carry on with their daily routine. Otherwise, these festivities continue with a hearty meal and the family spends the rest of the day together. Men generally keep their teeka and wear their rakhis the entire day (some even for the next couple of days), as it is a matter of pride to show that one is loved and cared for at home. Most of the little boys in the family feel really bad if they don't have a rakhi to show off.
Rakhis come in different shapes and sizes to suit everyone's taste. There are flashy, multicoloured rakhis to suit the more flamboyant and the plain and unvarnished variety for the sober. There are white rakhis, blue rakhis, orange and pink rakhis, striped rakhis and….the list is endless. Rakhis transcend all age barriers. A seven-year-old as well as a seventy-year-old sports a rakhi with pride. Raksha Bandhan is such a popular custom that even girls who do not have a brother will adopt one for the occasion in order to forge a bond of love and protection.