Other than Christmas and Easter none of the holidays in Judeo-Christian America have much of a history. Sure St. Patrick’s Day is in celebration of a 4th-5th century Catholic saint, and Hallowe’en goes back to ancient Ireland but both, in their current Americanized forms, are so far from their original form that they are hardly worth entering into the discussion.
Most holidays are what I call “Hallmark Holidays” which have been invented in very recent times in order to sell cards and various types of consumer goods. Like, for instance, Siblings Day. It is April 10, if you are interested. But how many people have even heard of Siblings Day? And how does one celebrate it? Probably by going to Hallmark and getting a Siblings Day card, and going to TGI Fridays and eating a Siblings Eat For Half Off meal. I don’t know. For all I know, the Kardashians made it up! What I am trying to say is that the meaning and history behind this holiday and all holidays like it is obscure, watered down, corporate and lacking in soul.
Enter August 2, which is a Hindu festival called Rakhi Purnima, or Raksha Bandhan. I say a Hindu festival because that is what it is primarily, but it is practiced by Muslims and Sikhs as well. On this day, sisters tie a band or amulet on her brother’s wrist, for protection, and in exchange he gives her the promise to protect her, along with gifts of any value. It doesn’t matter. It is symbolic. It is called Hindu Brother-Sister Day. There is probably more to it than that and, dear reader, feel free to add information where I am wanting of it.
It has a history that goes back to about 3000 B.C. with the Aryan culture, and has varies ties to scripture. My favorite story of Rakhi Purnima tells of how Krishna, injured in battle, was given a strip of silk by Draupadi from her sari. She tied it on his wrist to stop his bleeding. So touched by this gesture, Krishna declared Draupadi his Sister. Krishna would later protect Draupadi from being assaulted by the Kuru miscreants by making her sari endless as they tried to unravel it, protecting her from harm and from shame.
Other stories revolving around the rakhi are associated with Alexander the Great, whose wife sent Alexander’s enemy (who was aware of the tradition) a rakhi, and it later reminded him of a promise not to harm Alexander.
These examples show the tradition being observed on a very universal humanitarian level. Today it is observed amongst biological siblings but I have the feeling that the universal spirit remains within this festival day.
I love this tradition because, though it very well may be a commercial event in India these days, it has its roots in romance, and also another kind of true love between humans who, regardless of the circumstances, are able to see each other as brothers and sisters, and caring for one another.