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.
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 men.
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.