USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Rakhi’
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Raksha Bandhan

Text:

“Theres a festival every year for the bond between a sister and a brother. The sister will tie a knot on the brother’s wrist so that signifies their bond… its like a bracelet type thing. There’s a certain type of string for religious reasons but it’s really any kind of string. It’s gotten pretty elaborate now but that’s only to make it look good. The ones that I use are just a very simple red band. In our family, all our cousins do it, 9 cousins total. Eight of them are girls so I’ll have eight bracelets on my wrist, and I’ll give them each a gift. In our family, it’s money, so I will give them each $50. So it’s like they give me love and I give them money… It’s not always money but that’s how we do it in our family. The girls also give us sweets, it’s like a ritual to show the love between a brother and sister. So you keep the string on as long as possible and you’re supposed to let it fall off by itself. I’ve kept mine on for as long as a year. The knots are called Rakhi. It’s a certain time of the year, but I don’t remember what the date is. For the actual event, you have a chair and you have a fire that’s lit, and you put a dot on the brothers forehead, you tie the knot, and you feed them the sweet. The the next one comes… Oh, the sweets are just desserts, and there’s usually a variety of them.”

Background:

My informant loves the festival, because he likes anything that brings family together. But now there are more generations who don’t care as much. Whereas before, 50 or so people would show up, now only 40 or 30 people come because people are living in different places, and people don’t want to go. He still does it though, but it is hard to get everyone together all at once.

Context:

This a festival that is held annually, and each family with host their own. It sounds like each family will have different variations as to who attends the festival, what sweets they have, and what kind of gifts they give.

Personal Thoughts:

I think this festival really stresses the importance of family in Indian culture. However, it’s interesting that it is only about the bonds between siblings, and not the bonds between elders and offspring like most other Asian countries. An image of some sample Rakhis are shown below.

 

http://www.sify.com/news/musical-or-cartoon-rakhi-take-your-pick-this-raksha-bandhan-news-national-mh1okdeaaih.html

Customs
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Rakhi

My informant was born and raised in Fresno, California. His parents immigrated to the United States from India. He described the traditions his family has to celebrate the Indian holiday of Rakhi:

“Rakhi takes place in late August, and it basically resembles protection from one sibling to another sibling, mainly from a brother to a sister or a sister to a brother. I personally have a sister, and every August we celebrate Rakhi. What happens in Rakhi is we pass each other bracelets made of twine, sort of like friendship bracelets. And it’s not even just to my sister. My cousins from Canada, India, and like other parts of the U.S. like Chicago and New York, they always send us little bracelets in envelopes every single year. And um, we… My sister and I, we tie them on each other. We select a few and tie them on each other. And my parents do the same thing too, it’s not just for people our age. My mom has three or four siblings, and she always gets bracelets form her brothers and sisters, and same with my dad. Rakhi is really nice because it just shows the love between a brother and a sister, and it shows how much a brother protects a sister, and the love that a sister provides. And usually the guy gives his sister money, and the sister gives the brother some gifts.”

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are widely celebrated holidays in the United States, but in the U.S., the relationship between siblings is not commemorated in the way that Rakhi celebrates it. My informant is glad to have the chance to specially acknowledge his younger sister and to honor her in a traditional way. The actual actions involved seem relatively simple; the bracelets and gifts exchanged between siblings are not fancy and the phone calls shared between relatives would not take a huge amount of effort. Even so, it is wonderful to have a special day reserved for these small gestures that can make a big impact. It is interesting how this holiday perpetuates gender roles in a subtle way. The males are expected to protect the females; my informant says part of the reason the holiday is important is because it commemorates the way brothers protect their sisters. The females are expected to support their brothers in return. Even so, the underlying message of the entire holiday is the love siblings have for each other, and that is what my informant focuses on.

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