In today's world of online Rakhis and WhatsApp wishes, the festival of Raksha Bandhan has lost some of its lustre. I just received a loving message from my brother this morning asking how he could protect me against any harm across the thousands of miles. It's the thought that counts I thought. And then the feminist inside me reared its head and said, well bro you're in luck, I don't need to be protected. Not in the ‘sending across armies’ sense anyway!! However if you want to send me a personal jet to save me from my ‘commute hell’, I would be mighty pleased, Thank you!!
Then comes the question of time. What is the right, appropriate and auspicious time to tie the Rakhi? In the morning when everyone is rushing to work and school? Or in the evening when the ’Rakhi day in India day is over’. Anyone mentioning ‘mahurat kaal’ in my household gets the 'look’. ‘Mahurat kaal’ according to what? India star alignment, adjusted to whichever country you are living in, again adjusted for sunset end of your day - shenanigans - this needs a rocket scientist's brain and infinite time. And are you suggesting that we all take a day off? Not for me - thank you!
Like all Hindu festivals Raksha Bandhan does get the bad press. The regular feminist diatribe of patriarchal supremacy and how women do not need to be protected gets a good amount of press. Then there is the liberal story line of how Rani Karnawati sent a Rakhi to Humayun. By the way history books fail to mention that Humayun didn't come and protect her and she had to commit suicide along with 13,000 women and children when Bahadur Shah attacked Chittor. That is a story for another day.
The brother-sister angle of Raksha Bandhan is somewhat more recent. Our scriptures mention that Lord Indra’s wife Indrani tied a thread given to her by Lord Vishnu around her husband's wrist to protect him from demons during the Dev-Asur war. The sacred thread of Raksha has been tied between, husband and wife, father and daughter, friends and guru-shishya. The promise of protection crosses age, relation, and time and distance barrier. Such is the beauty and flexibility of my Hindu Sanatan Dharma that ensures flexibility of traditions and growth with the times.
My children have been excited about Raksha Bandhan for a few days. I have explained this festival as a promise of love and devotion to each other and the unit of the family. A promise to look after each other, have the others best interest in mind and give the other the respect and love they deserve. After a small pooja they apply tilak to each other and tie a sacred thread. Each gives the other a small token of love - chocolates work for now, personal jet will have to wait.
From across the miles, Happy Raksha Bandhan to all who believe in the magic of love and the honor of a promise.