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Flipside: Raksha Bandhan, sacred thread of patriarchy around a woman

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By Atul Mishra

Raksha Bandhan, which literally translates to ‘a sacred knot of protection’, is no doubt sacred to the highest degree right down to its core. But ‘sacred’ just in the sense that its string is attached to some ‘divine’ scriptures and that the overtly obvious love and duty that a brother has for his sister is to remain eternally intact.

From this string to the string that a sister buys for her brother, the echelon of sexual hierarchy shapes itself sharply to prove that that the sacred thread is nothing but a symbol of patriarchy. The vow taken by brothers to protect their sisters is a patronizing and protectionist approach towards women.

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Raksha Bandhan is a manifestation of the fact that society views women as the weaker agent, incapable of confronting the various challenges of life, constantly in need of being encircled by a Laxman-Rekha. Why do sisters need brothers to protect them? Shouldn’t we as humans protect each other, irrespective of the sex?

Also, if having a phallus means machismo, giving men liberty to subjugate women, then this sacred thread can be seen as phallogocentric ( masculine privilege). The Indian male over thousands of years of civilization has convinced women that bad men (who have their own sisters to take care of) are out there for them, and they need good men (presumably themselves) for their protection.

The male dominance i.e. patriarchy is so clearly symbolized by this thread, that it undoubtedly becomes phallocentric. They tie sacred knots on their brothers’ wrists and the brothers promise to protect them for lifetime. After the sweets, hugs and gifts, everything comes down to the need of women to be protected by menNew-Rakhi-Designs-2014-Facebook-Pictures

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Apart from the patriarchy which is so evident, it’s also about the Marxist-feminism here. The sacred thread that is so biological in a way (it being phallocentric), is also a symbol of transaction. As the Belgian-born French feminist Luce Irigaray once said that all sexuality is meant for transaction and is a profit-loss statement, Rakhsha Bandhan is a mere form of transaction.

 

 

Going beyond just the brother-sister relationship, hundreds and hundreds of sacred threads are sold for profit. It seems as if patriarchy is sold in the market rather than the sacred threads actually. 

This capitalist notion of transaction of sexuality is very much in relation and synthesis with the biology of the sacred thread and the patriarchy of the raksha bandhan.

At a domestic level, is rakhi more about sisters than brothers or is it the other way round? Is it just about ‘rakhi’, the sacred thread itself? Is it a hidden right of a brother over his sister in the name of protection or a subtle underscoring of the weakness of the fairer sex? These are some of the pertinent questions that the society needs to address as a small step towards gender equality.    

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Tibetan Ladies Tie Rakhi on wrist of RSS boss Mohan Bhagwat on the event of Raksha Bandhan

On each Raksha Bandhan, Tibetan ladies from Gothangaon tie rakhi on Bhagwat's wrist

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A group of Tibetan women from neighbouring Gondia district tied rakhi on the wrist of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. Wikimedia Commons

Nagpur, August 8, 2017: A bunch of Tibetan ladies from neighboring Gondia locale today tied rakhi on the wrist of RSS boss Mohan Bhagwat on the event of Raksha Bandhan.

On each Raksha Bandhan, Tibetan ladies from Gothangaon in Gondia area visit the RSS base camp here so as to tie rakhi on Bhagwat’s wrist.

ALSO READ: August 7 is Rakshabandhan: Hindu Festival that Celebrates Brother-Sister Bond can be traced back to Indus Valley Civilization

After their flight in 1959 to India, Tibetan fugitives were restored in different parts of the nation.

Gothangaon is one such fugitive settlement.

-prepared by Harsimran Kaur of NewsGram. Twitter @Hkaur1025

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Special rakhi for Lord Shiva in Madhya Pradesh temple on the occasion of Raksha Bandhan

A specially decked out Lord Shiva was offered a Bhasmarti (special puja) and tied a silver rakhi (sacred thread) to mark the start of the festival in MP temple

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Ujjain, August 18: The festival of Raksha Bandhan, which is an ancient Hindu festival, is being celebrated on Thursday across Madhya Pradesh starting with a special ceremony in this city ar the famous Mahakaleshwar temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.

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As early as 3 a.m, a specially decked out Lord Shiva was offered a Bhasmarti (special puja) and tied a silver rakhi (sacred thread) embedded with gems to mark the start of the festival.

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Also offered to Mahakaleshwar, who defines the cultural life of the city, were 1.25 lakh laddus (sweets of gram and wheat flour shaped into balls) to be later distributed to the devotees as ‘prasad’.

Thousands of people visit the Mahakaleshwar temple every day. (IANS)

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Celebrating Raksha Bandhan: Significance of the ancient Hindu festival is all about Brotherhood

Dividing the name: ‘Raksha’ means protection and ‘Bandhan’ means bound; in Sanskrit, it literally means ‘the knot of protection’

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Raksha Bandhan. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
  • Raksha Bandhan is a festival that’s celebrated each year around mid-August
  • Even the sages tied the sacred thread to themselves as a method of safeguarding themselves against all evils
  • There are logical reasons behind each action performed during this festival

August 18, 2016: This year, India celebrates August 18 as the festival of brotherhood. Raksha Bandhan, popularly known as Rakhi is one of the ancient and most significant festivals among Hindus.

“To the most wonderful sister in the world: they say your rakhi is my promise to protect you but I hope that doesn’t mean that I can no longer mess up your freshly tied ponytail, wrestle for the remote or steal the last piece of cake from your plate. However, I and only I can pick on you, so expect me to soon punch that guy in your class who calls you fat. Not because you aren’t fat but simply because you are MY fatty to annoy. Happy Raksha Bandhan loser, I promise to be your superman in case you ever need one.” – a message from a brother to her sister on Raksha Bandhan.

Messages like the one above, can bring a tear to someone’s eye; for the ancient Hindu festival celebrates brotherhood by bond. Having said that, do any of us know the real reason behind this festival’s existence? If this question has bothered you for a while then do read further to satiate that curiosity.

History

Taking it back to the old school, even the rishi munis tied rakhi to the people who came to seek their blessings whereas the sages tied the sacred thread to themselves as a method of safeguarding themselves against all evils. Rabindranath Tagore first promoted the festival, to spread the feeling of unity and encourage, a harmonious social existence with a promise to protect each other from any harm or evil. In that era, people didn’t stop at siblings; a rakhi was tied to the neighbours and close friends too. It was each individual’s way of signifying a peaceful co-existence.

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Raksha Bandhan elebration with street children
Raksha Bandhan elebration with street children

Significance

Dividing the name: ‘Raksha’ means protection and ‘Bandhan’ means bound. In Sanskrit, it literally means ‘the knot of protection’. It’s a festival that’s celebrated each year around in mid-August. Even though it is a Hindu festival, but Jains and Sikhs celebrate it too.

There are logical reasons behind each action performed during the festival. For example, there’s a purpose behind tying the sacred thread on the right wrist instead of the left. It is due to the Brahmin’s action of placing an amulet on your right wrist in order to protect you from misery and depression. This sacred thread promises love, care and respect for one another, in addition to the vow of protection. Additionally, the early morning baths are to purify your mind and soul.

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There are various legends that follow this festival, one such interesting legend is of the Lord of Death (Yama) and his sister, Yamuna. When Yamuna tied a rakhi to him, Yama was so moved by the serenity of it all that he declared immortality to whoever promised protection to their sisters when tied a rakhi. Well, immortality sounds like a good reason to support the celebrations with some gusto.

Raksha bandhan, a festival that involves preparing elaborate food items, distributing sweets, and gifts. The main purpose behind the festival is togetherness, that adds happiness in one’s life. It’s a celebration of love, care and respect that one has for the another.

– prepared by Karishma Vanjani of NewsGram. Twitter: @BladesnBoots

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