Friday, August 23, 2013

Do Sisters really need an yearly guarantee of protection on Rakhi?

While channel surfing a few day ago, I happened to see the new Idea advertisement where in a girl on a two wheeler stops at a check post and asks for directions. A traffic policeman guides her with a waver of his hands and in a heavy Jat accent, whereby she takes note that the wrist of this cop is bare on the occasion of Rakhi. She questions him as to why is a Rakhi on his wrist missing to which he replies that he is on duty and couldn't go and meet his sister.She in turn dictates her terms and ties a rakhi around his wrist. In a moment of emotional outpouring he realizes that he has nothing to give to her as a gift and in turn pesters her to save his number for any kind of help in the future. Then the Idea jingle plays in the background and it all comes to a happy ending.
Now for all those who do not know what this festival Rakhi is all about, Wikipedia goes on to say that it is a Hindu festival where in the central ceremony involves the tying of a rakhi (sacred thread) by a sister on her brother's wrist. This symbolizes the sister's love and prayers for her brother's well-being, and the brother's lifelong vow to protect her. The festival is primarily celebrated in the northern parts of India, and often I wonder what about South Indians and the brothers and sisters in the other parts of the world? Since they don't commemorate this festival, are the women out there always at risk and how do their brothers protect them if a mishap happens, in the absence of a rakhi? For that matter, do women who always need to be protected as sisters, wives, mothers and girl friends?  You can read more about the festival here

Facts about Rakshabandhan

Yama, the lord of death, was blessed with eternity as his sister Yamuna tied up a Rakhi thread on his wrist. Since that time the festival of Raksha Bandhan is associated with tying of Rakhi thread.
Lord Krishna was left with a bleeding finger, after Shishupal's death. To stop bleeding, Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas, tore a strip of silk off her sari and tied it around Krishna's wrist. Touched by her concern, Krishna declared that he would protect her and promised to repay the debt manifold, and spent the next 25 years of his life doing just that.
Queen Karmavati of Chittor had sent a Rakhi to Humayun to protect her from Bahadur Shah. Humayun, then engaged in an expedition against Bengal, turned back to carry out his sacred brotherly duty and tried to protect her but was too late. Chittor had already fallen and the Rani had immolated herself in the Rajput custom of Jauhar.
Rabindranath Tagore, the Nobel laureate poet used the occasion of the Raksha Bandhan as a community festival and gave a call to tie a rakhi amongst all Hindus and Muslims so as to maintain peace and harmony between them and spread the nationalist spirit among people from different ethnic backgrounds.

These are the fictional stories that support the observance of this festival but are there any written historical manuscripts to ratify this practice. What happened thousands of years ago cannot be held true for today's times. Only if all this was on paper in the holy books of Hindus or in the old manuscripts, this practice could have perhaps become more justified. For that matter any festival that occurs on the calendar every year, much like common cold makes me wonder, are these blind practices or do these rituals really hold meaning?

Now whenever I see sisters flocking to their brother's houses and vice versa to get this thread tied, with traffic jams to add to the woes in our city I have wondered do sisters really need this protection that comes with a year long warranty, and next year it needs to get renewed with a new thread, and thus the vicious cycle continues. The Delhi government also allows free travel for women on this day in the DTC buses. Another sexist reservation that vouches for votebank politics, and women in all glee are happy travelling for free that day. Also if one watches the television closely, one can see images of young girls tying rakhis on the PM's wrist and on the wrists of soldiers who are manning our borders. I mean do these soldiers not stutter a bit, before raping innocent girls, where does the "raksha" suddenly disappear in that moment of fleshly fervor? Aren't the business class and priests cashing in on the moolah that are spent during such festivals? I mean the thousands of rupees that gets wasted on rakhis, gifts and sweets could be put for a more worthy cause, like feeding the poor who can't afford two square meals a day. How can a non-living thread act as a pledge for protection, and why are the sisters obliged to tie it? Why are the brothers spared?

The Times of India group had come up with an innovative advertisement advocating equal rights for the sister where in the brothers were encouraged to thank their sisters for all that they have done for them until this day. Without getting preachy, the ad really appealed to me, although the photograph showed a sister dressed as Rani Laxmibai tying a rakhi on a brother's wrist.A vow of protection taken after tying a bondage is just another outdated practice that Indians are crowing over.  If the festival reveled in sibling love, maybe it would have made more sense to women like me. One that only celebrates siblinghood with neither the brother's superiority nor the sister's inferiority painted in black and white. One that advocated tying of Rakhis to mark sibling love with siblings of both sexes and not just brothers and sisters indulging in the act, where even sisters could tie rakhis on the wrists of their sisters and brothers could do the same to their brothers.   Until then it is just one of the tens of hindu festivals that compel commercialism and not a festival that needs reveling of any kind. By the way, this was the first Rakshabandhan when I didn't post any status update for Roger or any of my brothers. This time it just didn't appeal to me, although it seems it took me a lot of time to decipher the patriarchal sentiments behind this festival. I think I am happier without a yearly guarantee of protection.


asteria's canvass said...

Well it will take many more years to change the traditions...
But thankfully in my family, females tie rakhi to odr females as well,
Some hope for improvement.

rinzu rajan said...

Thank you for telling me about the practices in your family! Have added that point to the post!

Anonymous said...

Really liked the idea of siblings tying the Rakhi to each other to share and spread sibling love instead of carrying on this sexist tradition.

Anonymous said...

Really liked the idea of siblings tying the Rakhi to each other to share and spread sibling love instead of carrying on this sexist tradition.