By Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Rakshabandhan is the bondage that saves you. You are saved by your bondage to something Higher. Bondage is essential in life. But bondage to whom?
Your bondage to the Knowledge, to the Master, to the Truth, to the Self – all save you. Just like a rope can be tied to protect you or to strangle you, the small mind immersed in mundane things can strangle you. But The Big Mind, the Knowledge, saves you, frees you.
Three types of Bandhan
There are three types of bandhan or ties: satvic, rajasic and tamasic. Satvic bandhan ties you with knowledge, happiness and joy. Rajasic bandhan ties you with all kinds of desires and cravings. In tamasic bandhan, there is no joy but still you feel some kind of connection. For example, a person who is in the habit of smoking might not feel any joy in it but he still finds it difficult to give up. Rakshabandhan is said to be a satvic bandhan whereby you bound yourself with everybody, with knowledge and love.
This day brothers and sisters affirm their bond. Sisters tie the sacred thread on their brothers’ wrists. This thread, which pulsates with sisterly love and sublime sentiments, is rightly called the ‘Rakhi’. The brothers’ in turn give their sisters’ gifts and promise to protect them. Rakshabandhan is celebrated in different forms and is also referred to as rakhri, baleva and saluno in different parts of India.
Stories of Rakshabandhan
The tradition of tying Rakhi can be traced to various stories in Indian Mythology. According to one legend the Demon King Bali was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu had taken up the task to guard King Bali’s kingdom leaving his own abode in Vaikunta. Goddess Laxmi wished to be with her lord back in her abode at Vaikunta.
She went to Bali disguised as a Brahmin woman to seek refuge till her husband came back. King Bali gave her refuge and protected her like his own sister.
During the Shravan Purnima celebrations, the Goddess Laxmi tied the sacred cotton thread to the King. Touched by the gesture, the king promised to grant her a wish and that she could ask for anything. On being granted the boon, she revealed who she was and why she was there. The king was touched by her goodwill and her purpose and requested Lord Vishnu to accompany her back to Vaikunta.
Thus in some parts of India, the festival is also called Baleva that commemorates Raja Bali’s devotion to the Lord and his sister. It is said that since then it has been a tradition to invite sisters in Shravan Purnima for the thread tying ceremony or Raksha Bandhan.
Although, now it is considered as a festival for brothers and sisters it was not always so. There have been examples in history wherein rakhi signified raksha or protection in different contexts. It could be tied by a wife, daughter or mother. The Rishis tied rakhi to the people who came seeking their blessings. The sages tied the sacred thread to themselves to safeguard them from evil. It is the ‘Papa Todak, Punya Pradayak Parva’ or the day that bestows boons and ends all sins as it is mentioned in the scriptures.
When we live in society, there are always some arguments, misunderstandings, difference of opinions, and all this creates tension, insecurity, and fear. When society lives in fear, it is bound to get doomed. When the members of a family live in fear of each other, the family is doomed. So Raksha Bandhan is a festival of giving assurance to each other, “Look, I am with you”.