Raksha Bandhan is a Hindu festival that’s dipped in history, mythology and folklore. Celebrated on the last day of the lunar month of Sawan, Raksha Bandhan mainly consists of a sister tying an amulet on a brother’s hand as a talisman that will protect him from any danger. The brother also has the responsibility of protecting his sister from any misfortune that may befall her. Raksha Bandhan celebrates the love and sense of protection that siblings feel towards each other and the amulet stands witness to the shared camaraderie.
However, Raksha Bandhan went through unbounded change after 1905, when Nobel laureate and literary legend Rabindranath Tagore turned it into a socialist movement for a bigger cause.
In 1905, India was grappling under the terror of the British government who was planning to divide the eastern part of India to Bengal and Bangladesh. Even though British authoritarianism described it as some administrative action done for public good, the people knew that it was to plan and divide the country and change the course of the growing Bengali community. It also had the hint of religion to it – they wanted to part Hindus and Muslims.
Tagore used the perception of Raksha Bandhan that time to create hope and spread harmony in the minds of the people. His action was a call to all communities to come together and protect each other. He turned Raksha Bandhan to a movement where Hindus and Muslims tied rakhis on each other’s hand, promising to save each other from the terror of the then government and separation.
However, Tagore’s vision of an undivided India didn’t last long when in 1947, the massive partition of Bengal took place. Lakhs of people had to leave their homes, their loved ones and their country. The borders of India and Bangladesh saw refugees shifting from their houses and entering the countries. People were uprooted and massive torture followed, which triggered decades of trauma.
But, now more than ever, we need to bring Raksha Bandhan back as the movement that Tagore intended – to use rakhi as the talisman that would protect us, and give us the sense of being safe in our sibling and loved ones’ company.