This thread, which pulsates with sisterly love and sublime sentiments, is rightly called the 'Rakh''.The literal meaning of Raksha Bandhan is Raksha" means protection, "bandhan" means bound or binding. Another traditional custom between brother and sister on this day is to feed one another sweets. The festival of Rakhi is celebrated according to Hindu calendar and hence the date keep varying every year and the year 2010 is going to celebrate it on 24th of August with great fervor and joy.
History and OriginThe origin of rakshabandhan can be dated back based both on historical and mythological facts. This festival of joy and excitement mainly symbolizes love and affection. It is believed that Rakhi Purnima started with Indrani wife of Lord Indra.Indrani prepared a twine and tied it around her husband's wrist on Sravan Purnima which was marked with magic signs and believed to confer on its bearer supernatural powers which made him victorius.Thus the tradition of tying the thread on the day of Sravan Purnima started so that they are blessed with health, wealth, happiness and victories.
There is also another Hindu mythology related to the origin of Rakshabandhan.Once Lord Vishnu went to protect King Bali from the demons. But goddess Lakshmi didn't want to be without her husband so she took the disguise of a Brahman woman and seeked help from the Bali king for her shelter. On the day of Shravan Purnima, Goddess Lakshmi revealed the truth to King Bali and tied a rakhi thread on his wrist and the King felt very help and he promised to help at any circumstances. From then on the tradition of tying the rakhi thread got associated with the Raksha Bandhan festival.
Coming to the historical origin the Rajput women folk followed a ritual of tying a thread around the mens wrist before they took off to war. They strongly believed that this was a sign of good omen and the ladies believed that it would protect their men from the enemy's and bring them victory. It once happened that Governor Bahadur Shah was threatening the queen of Merwar, so as to capture her kingdom. Helpless she sent a rakhi to the Mughal king, Humayun who was very much taken aback by her love and helped her by fighting a battle with Bahadur Shah and restoring her kingdom.
Yama and the YamunaIt is said that the Raksha Bandhan was a ritual followed by Lord Yama (the Lord of Death) and his sister Yamuna. Yamuna tied rakhi to Yama and bestowed immortality. Yama was so moved by the serenity of the occasion that he declared that whoever gets a rakhi tied from his sister and promised her protection will become immortal.
In the EpicsRaksha Bandhan finds a mention in Mahabharata when Lord Krishna advised Yudhishthir to perform the ceremony to protect himself and the army from the dangers of the war. It is said that Kunti, the mother of the Pandavas tied rakhi to her grandson Abhimanyu and Draupadi to lord Krishna.
Bhavishya PuranAs already mentioned in the origin there was a battle between the demon king Brutra and Lord Indra.Lord Indra was almost nearing defeat, so Guru Brihaspati asked Lord Indrani to tie a sacred thread on his wrist, powered by the sacred mantras on the Shravan Purnima.She also did the same which helped the gods victory. Thus as a fact of goodwill the tradition of tying thread is still followed.
Rakhi Customs and TraditionsThough the customs and traditions followed on Rakshabandhan is quite old, it is still followed with the same enthusiasm from ancient period. As a tradition the women folk of the house rises up early on this day have a bath and prepare delicious dishes and perform pooja to seek the blessings of God. Most of the brothers and sisters fast on this day. The most important tradition followed on this day is the preparation of the pooja thali with rakhis, rice particles, kumkum, diya and sweets. The sisters do aarti for the brothers and put tikka on his forehead and then tie the rakhi for his prosperous life, for which the brother's reassure to take care of their sisters at any point of difficulty.
They also exchange gifts with each other. Among the Hindu customs this festival is also known by the name Avani Avittam during which the brahmins take out their Mahasankalpam or thread and wear new thread called Janeyu or Yajnopavit. By offering libations of water they penance for their mistakes which they have committed in past one year. In Maharashtra the rakhi festival is celebrated in the name of Narial Poornima or Coconut Full Moon, because on this day the people throw coconuts into the sea to appease the sea god, Varuna.
Rakhi CelebrationsRakhi is the festival of celebration of love between sisters and brothers. Though the concept behind the celebration of this festival is the same from ancient period, the way of celebration is changed a bit. The preparation for the celebration of this festival starts much ahead before the exact date. The market places are filled with fancy and colorful rakhis which is the main highlight of celebration. Shopping for Rakshabandhan includes Rakhi gifts and new clothes. Some people prepare sweets at home than buying from sweet shops. This colourful festival follows different rituals. There are family get together or they meet out for lunch or dinner. They also celebrate it by exchanging of sweets with enthusiasm.
The main highlight of the celebration involves the preparation of the pooja thali with rakhis, rice particles, kumkum, diya and sweets. The sisters do aarti for the brothers and put tikka on his forehead and then tie the rakhi for his prosperous life, for which the brother's reassure to take care of their sisters at any point of difficulty. They also exchange gifts with each other. The sisters also feed the brothers with sweets for which inturn they pamper their sisters and present beautiful gifts to lure them and assure to be present with them at any circumstances.Ofcourse no celebration is complete without delicious food where all the family members sit together and relish it. They also perform dance.