An age old tradition, an essence of the love shared by brothers and sisters, sweets and gifts galore,
Raksha bandhan undoubtedly brings a family together.
But today feminists have targeted this holy festival and question its very presence. Now before you think of me as an anti-feminist person (woman) let me tell you I am all for women’s rights and equality. Feminism is a choice of lifestyle for me rather than a fashion adjective many seems to carry with them today. But I digress.
My point is Do we really have to deprave our cultures and traditions in the name of gender equality and feminism?
Undoubtedly the very name of the festival “Raksha Bandhan” sounds sexist. Brothers providing protection to their sisters in the name of their duty is nothing but an extension of our stereotypes. But often what seems true isn’t always.
How did Raksha bandhan really come into existence? For protection of women? Is the word Raksha significant for sisters or women alone? No.
According to Hindu mythology, here is how it all started.
There had been a long battle between Gods and demons and the demons were in the verge of winning it. The king of Gods, Lord Indra went to Brihaspatiji, the guru of all Gods for advice. The guru suggested a ritual ‘Raksha vidhan’ which he performed on the Purnima of shravan maas in the presence of Lord Indra and his wife Sachi devi. The guru then gave a raksha potli to sachi devi and asked her to tie it on Lord Indra’s wrist. He said, this would act as a mascot and would save Lord Indra from getting defeated. The Gods won in the end and since that day, Shravan Purnima (Full moon day of shravan maas of hindu calendar) was celebrated as the Raksha bandhan day.
Every year on this day, women started tying rakhi on the men’s wrist for the safety of their men. Here protection was a mutual thing and not specifically reserved for women.
Along the years, Raksha bandhan lost its true essence. The pre modern society was male dominating and the women were considered the weaker sex. It still is the same but women of those times were not as educated and aware as they are now.
People of those times (including both men and women) believed, that the women were to be protected. They were treated as the paraya dhan whom the family had to keep safe until she was handed over to her husband (another man) who continued to keep her safe.
Hence, started the trend of sister tying rakhi on her brother’s wrist and praying for his long life. The brother (the strong man) in return promises to ‘protect’ his sister from all the evil.
Over the course of years, this got etched in our minds that raksha in the Raksha bandhan was for the sisters or women.
But times have changed. Society has evolved. There were many practices in ancient India that changed with times. Many were altogether stopped for good but others just kept changing its courses according to the need of the hour.
Sati, for example has been stopped altogether. As people became more and more aware of the horrors of this practice they opposed it. A widow now doesn’t have to don a white sari and live a life of misery. Nor can a woman be threatened by another woman for dowry anymore. (Atleast not legally)
Change has always played an important role in the betterment of society. I call it improvisation.
Don’t you think it’s time to change our beliefs regarding Raksha Bandhan too?
Couldn’t we try to go back to its roots and celebrate this festival keeping its origin in mind- that is the safety of the one who wears the sacred thread? Or at least see the positive side to it? The one that is pure and free from any sexism whatsoever?
Why can’t we allow this festival to shape and mold itself and evolve as a better meaning festival (if not to its original form) than questioning its very presence?
Today when a girl ties rakhi on a man’s wrist, she doesn’t seek a protector in him. She doesn’t need a man’s assurance for her safety. It is out of the love they share.
This holy thread reminds them of the times spent together. Of the innocent childhood, of their petty fights and blissful moments.
In this so called modern era, when everybody is so busy in their lives, Raksha bandhan serves as a chance for siblings to meet or at least force them to take a pause and remember this lovely relationship in their lives. Because no one can argue, love and relationships are what keeps us going. These are far more important aspects in our lives than any other thing.
We don’t have to dampen our spirits just when Raksha bandhan is around the corner.
As far as women’s equality and feminist issues are concerned, there are a lot of worse things happening around people. Let’s voice for them instead of targeting our festivals.
Can we keep feminism out of this lovely festival and celebrate it the modern way? The choice is yours.
By- Sweety Pateliya