It's that time of the year again! As Shravan Poornima (the full moon day in the month of Sawan according to the Hindu calendar) nears, so does the festival of Raksha Bandhan, that sees sisters tie rakhi (sacred thread) on the wrists of their brother(s) as a symbol of their love, culminating into the latter's vow of lifelong protection.
You have probably already chosen the gifts that will be exchanged and while the sweets are waiting to be devoured, do you know all the legends and the history that cemented the belief in the festival that celebrates the bond between a brother and sister?
Indra and Indrani
Turns out, Raksha Bandhan wasn't just meant as a symbol of sibling love, as is illustrated by the story of Indra and Indrani. During a war between Gods and demons, wherein Indra was losing to King Bali, Indra's wife Indrani prayed to Lord Vishnu, who gave her a holy thread which she tied around Indra's wrist. Blessed with its powers, Indra won the war and the thread became his protection against any evil.
Krishna and Draupadi
It's said that after Lord Krishna hurt his index finger while hurling the Sudharshan Chakra at Shishupala, Draupadi tore her saree immediately and tied it around Krishna's finger to prevent it from bleeding. Touched by her unconditional love, Krishna took the mantle of Draupadi's care and protection upon himself, as was also seen during her cheer haran by the Kauravas.
Queen Kunti and Abhimanyu
Queen Kunti is said to have tied a sacred thread as a measure of protection, on the wrist of her grandson, Abhimanyu--the son of Subhadra and Arjun--during the battle of Mahabharata.
King Bali and Goddess Lakshmi
When a turn of events led to Lord Vishnu disguising himself as the doorman of King Bali--the grandson of Vishnu's ardent devotee Prahlada--Goddess Lakshmi became restless because of his absence in Vaikuntha (their abode). She came to earth in the guise of a Brahmin woman and told Bali, the story of her husband having gone away for some work, due to which she requested for shelter from the King. Bali not only gave her a place to stay, but also took care of her. It's said that on the full moon day (Purnima) of the Shravana month, she tied a thread around Bali's wrist with prayers for his protection and happiness. Touched by her affection, Bali granted her a wish. She requested him to free her husband, the gatekeeper. The incident had Bali confused as he couldn't envision the lady as the doorman's wife. It's then that both Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi revealed their true selves to the King, who urged Vishnu to return with the Goddess to Vaikuntha. The festival is also known Baleva.
On seeing Lord Ganesha celebrate Rakhi with his sister, his sons Shubh and Labh started insisting upon a sister, leading to the creation of Santoshi Maa, from the flames that emerged from his consorts, Riddhi and Siddhi.
Alexander the Great's wife Roxana and King Porus
Legend has it that during Alexander the Great's invasion of India in 326 BCE, his wife Roxana sent a sacred thread to Porus, requesting him not to harm her husband in battle. It's believed that on the battlefield, the thread on his wrist was a constant reminder of his promise to Roxana, preventing him from attacking Alexander directly.
Rani Karnavati and Emperor Humayun
Rani Karnavati--the widowed queen of Chittor--is said to have sent a rakhi to Mughal Emperor Humayun, upon the looming threat of invasion from the Sultan of Gujarat, Bahadur Shah. Though Humayun turned up too late, it's no secret that he honored the sentiment with which it was sent.
From Lord Ganesha's sons pestering their father for a sister to Roxana's rakhi--legends like these can't be taken on face value, but they always make the festival a fun affair.
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