What is Raksha Bandhan? For those of you who did not grow up around this awesome tradition, it is the Hindu festival observed mostly in the Indian subcontinent and celebrates the bond between a brother and sister. On this day, a sister ties a thread (the thread is called rakhi) on her brother’s wrist symbolizing her love and well wishes for his health and happiness. In return, the brother promises to protect her and gives her a present as a symbol of his love. I have the fondest memories of Raksha Bandhan growing up in India. It was a day that we got to meet our cousins. Dinner was usually hosted at one of my mom’s brothers home where the entire family would gather and we would spend the evening catching up after we had finished the ceremony of tying rakhi. There was always so much love, laughter and happiness associated with this day.
One of the many things that I am thankful to my mom for is also associated with this festival. I was the only child for 9 years before my baby sister was born. The first Rakhi after Priyu was born, my mom insisted that we tie rakhi to each other even though it was not a typical brother-sister relationship. We were very clearly and obviously of the same gender. A lot of people thought this was very strange and we always had a lot of well meaning questions posed as to why we as 2 sisters (2 girls) were tying rakhi to each other. I always and till date cite my mom’s rationale – it is so that no matter where we are and regardless of what our relationship is we will always remember each other on this day and make sure that we are there for each other. We will protect and love each other and gender has nothing to do with our ability to stand up for each other. I LOVE my mom and this is one of the many many reasons why I LOVE her. She gave me this new and amazing tradition to follow and now that I have two boys I have passed it along to them. My sons have been tying rakhi to each other from the very first year that our second was born. I explained to them what their Nans (my mom) told me and they know that this thread symbolizes that they will always love, protect and put each other first!
Although we live so far away from our cousins, who are now all over the world, it is an annual ritual that I mail my rakhis to my cousins and my sister and we connect over phone and Facetime. The boys also receive rakhis from their cousins and the sweetest letters with the rakhi (the letters are always my favorite part.). It is always bitter sweet when I talk to my family in India because the pangs of missing out on this tradition in person are definitely greater on this day BUT it is amazing how we are still so connected despite the miles and miles of ocean and land between us. This year, the boys said that they wanted to pick out presents for each other and I thought that was an awesome idea! They thought so too until they got to the store and each picked out the one thing that they wanted – for themselves!!! After some gentle nudging and repeated reminders of how brilliant their original idea was, they very reluctantly agreed to buy a toy for each other. Well, guess what? They both picked the exact same thing! Shocker!! So, I have 2 different bags which are being kept as a “Surprise” for after they tie rakhi to each other. The rest of that day was spent with them asking at much too frequent intervals if they can have their airplane yet. It was hilarious until it was not and I threatened to take their toys back to the store if I was asked this question one more time! At one point, I was even tempted to have them do the ceremony a day early just so they would stop asking me when they could have their airplane!!
As annoying as all of their questions were, these are the things that go down in memory and that we will laugh about when we look back on it years later. I still remember the silliness that ensued at our dinners all those years ago. Thinking of my sister and brothers who I know will always have my back! Here is to hoping that my kids have bonds like these with each other and their cousins.
The Chaurdia boys this year did great with following through all the steps independently with a little help from me with making the bunny ears on their rakhis! they were both very happy to be able to exchange those much awaited presents (do you see what I mean about how identical their choices were!) They missed their cousins that are located all across the globe and did great with picking presents for them all!
The Makkar family is celebrating Raksha Bandhan today as well with their little girl and are fortunate to have some cousins that they can meet and celebrate with locally. Charu’s daughter ties rakhi to both her parents as well as her cousins since they are epitome of love and protection for her! Love the uniqueness that they have brought to this ritual in their family.
A very Happy Raksha Bandhan to all who celebrate, make those memories and build on those amazing traditions! Let us know how you celebrate in your household. We would love to hear about your unique traditions.