My informant is half Indian and Caucasian. She considers herself not “very Indian” but explained to me one Indian festival that her family used to celebrate every year:
“So in India we have a holiday called Raksha bandhan where it’s basically just celebrating the brother and sister bond. Or basically any male or female bond—it can be cousins too in a family. What basically happens is the sister or girl cousin ties like a little bracelet—a little hand-made bracelet—on the brother or the male cousin. That’s like a little show of love. And then in return the brother or the male cousin gives a gift or money to the sister or girl cousin. So we always loved celebrating it because my cousin gets like a little crappy bracelet but me and my sister get cash in return. It’s a great holiday.”
Hahah that’s amazing. When you guys do this, is there a certain date that you do it to celebrate or is it just whenever?
“There is a certain day. I’m not really sure, but I’m pretty sure it’s sometime in August”
Do you guys celebrate every year?
“We usually do it every year.”
And do you guys still do it?
“Uhm we still do it. But I don’t have any brothers so we always do it with my cousins. But honestly this year we didn’t do it cause I think they’re tired of getting ripped off hahah. And there’s more girls in our family than guys, so it’s kind of sad cause they’re giving so much money away to all the girls in the family. The guys literally just… it’s not even a….it’s thread. Like what you would use thread—that’s how thin the bracelet is. We just tie it on them. But it was really cute cause my guy cousins, I have one that is older than us but two that are 7 and 10. They were just… you can just tell on their face that they were so confused like ‘What? This is a rip off’.”
After some research, I found that Raksha Bandhan is a festival that celebrates the bond between a brother or sister or any brother-sister type of relationship. According to the Hindu calendar, the festival is recognized on the full moon in the month of Shravan, which is August. The bracelet—called Rakhi— that is tied onto the boy’s wrist symbolizes the girl’s sisterly love for them. The boy is supposed to offer them gifts in return along with a vow promising them protection. This festival seems to stem from the idea that women are spiritually superior and require physical protection whereas men are physically superior and need spiritual protection.