The festival of Raksha Bandhan falls on Sunday, August 22, and this year many brothers and sisters around the world will be looking forward to the sibling-focused festivities being somewhat freed from the shackles of the Covid-19 lockdown.
Attachment with our roots grows deeper as we move further from our homes. And bonds get stronger when we move away from our near ones.
For this reason, Raksha Bandhan holds special significance for Indians residing abroad. This is the festival, unlike others, where we celebrate not only with family members under the same roof but also celebrate the bond while being away.
British Indians are among the most extensive Indian diaspora communities worldwide and they all mark the festivities in their own unique style – from Punjabis, Gujaratis and Bengalis to Tamilians, Malayalis, Marathis, Konkanis and all other regions of India. But at heart lies a common thread – that of love and bonding.
Besides the conventional ritual of Raksha Bandhan demonstrating the tie or bond of 'Rakhi' between siblings, traditionally, there is also a broader significance of Rakhi. At various times, the celebration of Raksha Bandhan has surpassed the ritual and demonstrated the profound message of national ties or the bonding of fraternities.
According to Hindu mythology, Draupadi— wife of the Pandavas in the epic ‘Mahabharata’, tied a piece of her own clothing on Lord Krishna's hand to nurse his injury, thereby hoping that Krishna will also always protect her in return. The brother-sister bond between the two since then is respected and commemorated through the celebration of Raksha Bandhan.
From the pages of history, it is known that once Maharani Karmavati, the queen of Mewar had sent a 'Rakhi' to the Mughal emperor Humayun to protect her from Governor Bahadur Shah, who laid siege on her kingdom. Humayun – a Muslim emperor – chose to help the Rajput Hindu queen and defeated Bahadur Shah.
During colonial rule, Rabindranath Tagore, at his Shantiniketan abode, started the Raksha Bandhan practice to celebrate Bengal's unity. During the anti-Partition movement in 1905, Raksha Bandhan transcended from a religious ceremony to a socialist movement – a symbol of protest. Hindus and Muslims came together opposing the decision of Partition and tied Rakhis on each others' wrists.
Heartwarming images of young women tying rakhis on the wrists of Border Security Force (BSF) personnel on the eve of the Raksha Bandhan festival in Jammu appeared in the media last year.
Members of the Muslim Women Foundation (MWF) in Varanasi perform an annual ritual of making rakhis for Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the occasion of Raksha Bandhan since 2013.
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A global pandemic and a year and a half of lockdown restrictions have changed our perspective like no other. Last year, due to the lockdown, families had to celebrate within their households. Despite being in the same cities, many families had to resort to sending Rakhi by post.
Among one the highlight events this year, was a community Raksha Bandhan event held in Dundee.
“Raksha Bandhan, Hindu Festival that celebrates brotherhood and love, and to show gratitude to the Armed Forces, Police Scotland and other Emergency services,” said Hindu Forum of Britain (HFB) in reference to the event.
Elsewhwere in Dundee, National Health Service (NHS) workers were honoured for their work to protect their communities during the pandemic in a ceremony by the Tayside Hindu Cultural and Community Centre.
The guests included Dr Rajesh Sharma, Dundee West councillor Fraser MacPherson, Chief Inspector Leanne Blacklaw and fire service officer Lewis Duncan.
Naina Penman, the Tayside Hindu Centre chairperson, explained that Raksha Bandhan is also "a great sacred verse of unity, acting as a symbol of life's advancement and a leading messenger of togetherness".
She said it was the dedication and sacrifice of the frontline workers which inspired the centre to focus the celebration on the NHS this year.
The Brahma Kumaris celebrate Raksha Bandhan all over the world, where the BK Sisters tie Rakhis to both men and women. The festival reminds us of the innate qualities of the soul and underlines the notion that everybody should live in harmonious coexistence with one another.
An event of meditation, speech and celebration of Raksha Bandha can be watched here.
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Members of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh and Hindu Sevika Samiti (HSS UK) of Swindon celebrated the annual Hindu festival by keeping it Covid safe.
A spokesperson of the organisation said: "During these unprecedented times, the value of community spirit has proved to be necessary more than ever. Through acts of kindness and selfless service ('Sewa'), we have seen the spirit of humanity come together, break down barriers, and fully embodying the essence of the Hindu value of 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakum' – the whole world is one family".
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