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Raksha Bandhan


Raksha Bandhan
Around mid-August, on Shravan Purnima, Hindus all over celebrate Raksha Bandhan. "Raksha" means protection, "bandhan" means bound or binding.
The festival is also known as Balev.

       Scriptural Origin

  • The Bhavishya Puran cites a story that the devas once battled with the danavas (demons) for twelve years. However, the devas lost, including the mighty Indra. So they prepared to fight again. On this occasion, Indrani tied a raksha on her consort Indra, after extolling Raksha Bandhan's glory. Indra then attained victory.
  • During the battle of Mahabharat, Queen Kunti tied a raksha on her grandson Abhimanyu to protect him in battle.
  • When the demon King Bali's devotion won over Lord Narayan, he was compelled to leave his abode, Vaikunth, to stay in Bali's kingdom in Sutal. When Lord Narayan failed to return, his distressed consort Lakshmi arrived in Sutal on Shravan Purnima. She accepted Bali as her brother by tying a raksha on him. In return, Bali asked her to wish for a boon. She requested Narayan's return. She grieved that despite having a consort she was experiencing premature widowhood in Narayan's absence. However, the Lord had pledged to eternally protect Bali, by guarding his door. To resolve his dilemma, Brahma and Shiva agreed to guard Bali for four months each, while Vishnu (Narayan) would guard him for the auspicious four months - Chaturmaas - beginning from Ashadh Sud Ekadashi and terminating on Kartik Sud Ekadashi, usually from Mid-July to Mid-November. The festival of Raksha Bandhan commenced when Lakshmiji tied the 'rakhadi' ('rakhee' in Hindi) on Bali Raja. Since Bali Raja offered devotion by sacrificing everything to the Lord, the day is also known as 'Bali-eva' or 'Baleva' for short. Therefore when Brahmin priests perform puja rituals, they chant a famous mantra while tying the 'nada chhadi' (raksha) on a devotee:
    Yena baddho Baliraja daanavendro Mahaabala,
    tena twaamabhi badh naami rakshe maa chala maa chala
    i.e. I tie on you (the devotee) the raksha which was tied on Bali, the King of demons. Therefore O Raksha! Do not ever fail to protect this devotee, do not ever fail.

-Bhavishyottara Puran : 137/20

       Rituals & Sentiments

  • In ancient times a woman tied a 'raksha' on her husband's wrist to protect him from evil. Gradually this changed; she tied a 'raksha' on her brother's right wrist, to protect him from evil influence and those factors which may taint his character, and to strengthen the bond of sibling love between them. She visits her home and performs his 'pujan' by applying kumkum and rice grains on his forehead. In return the brother gives her a gift and vows to protect her too. The 'rakhadi' itself ranges from a coloured cotton string to exquisitely decorated balls of various sizes and materials such as fluffy cotton, 'zari' paper, tinsel, beads and so on.
  • A second sentiment relates to 'Baleva' and our devotion to the Lord. Just as Bali Raja offered devotion to Lord Narayan by sacrificing his kingdom and himself, devotees should endeavor to emulate him. That is the true spirit of Baleva.
  • The Guru also ties a 'rakhadi' on his disciples. In the Swaminarayan Sampradaya, Pramukh Swami Maharaj and the sadhus tie 'rakhadis' on devotees on this day. The underlying sentiment is that the Ekantik Dharma of the devotees be protected.
  • On 18/8/87, Pramukh Swami Maharaj defined Raksha Bandhan as, The Raksha Bandhan is our surrenderance to God and the Satpurush. Even if the body is not immortalized by such a Raksha Bandhan, the soul is, in that it is freed from metempsychosis - the cycles of birth and death. We also do not falter from Satsang. Devotees should forever beg for such a Raksha Bandhan.

Therefore on this day devotees pray to the Lord and Guru for ultimate protection; to be delivered from 'kusang' - evil elements, from the bondage of samsara and to be eternally bound, hence true 'bandhan' - to You and none others.

Adorning Yagnopavit
On this day, Yajurvedi and Rigvedi Brahmins and those who normally wear 'yagnopavit' (janoi) also adorn new 'janois'.

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© 1999, Bochasanwasi Shree Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha, Swaminarayan Aksharpith