Prepare for Raksha Bandhan
Days or weeks before Raksha Bandhan, women shop for rakhi, the ceremonial thread to tie around her brother's (or brother-like friend's) wrist. Some women make their own rakhi. A rakhi may be a simple thread, woven and colorful, or may be intricate with amulets and decorations. Sometimes, a rakhi may be a fancy watch or men's wrist accessory in the form of bracelet or jewelry. Rakhi in the form of a colorful woven thread is most common. Typically the brother also shops for gifts for his sister, ahead of Raksha Bandhan. The gift from the brother can be a simple thoughtful token of love, and may be more elaborate.
On the morning of Raksha Bandhan the brothers and sisters get together, often in nice dress in the presence of surviving parents, grandparents and other family members. If the sister and brother are geographically separated, the sister may mail the rakhi ahead of the Raksha Bandhan day, along with a greeting card or letter wishing her brother well. The ritual typically begins in front of a lighted lamp (diya) or candle, which signifies fire deity. The sister and brother face each other. The sister ties the rakhi on her brother's wrist.
Prayer, aarti, promise and food
Once the rakhi has been tied, the sister says a prayer for the well being of her brother – good health, prosperity and happiness. This ritual sometimes involves an aarti, where a tray with lighted lamp or candle is ritually rotated around the brother's face, along with the prayer and well wishes.
The prayer is a self composed note, or one of many published Rakhi poems and prose. One of the earliest examples of a Rakhi prayer is found in Book V, Chapter V of Vishnu Purana; it is the prayer that Yasoda says while tying a Raksha Bandhan amulet on Krishna's wrist. An abridged form of this prayer is:
May the lord of all beings protect you,
May the one who creates, preserves and dissolves life protect thee,
May Govinda guard thy head; Kesava, thy neck; Vishnu, thy belly;
the eternal Narayana, thy face, thine arms, thy mind, and faculties of sense;
May all negativity and fears, spirits malignant and unfriendly, flee thee;
May Rishikesa keep you safe in the sky; and Mahidhara, upon earth.
After the prayer, the sister applies a tilak (tikka), a colorful mark on the forehead of the brother. After the tilak, the brother pledges to protect her and take care of his sister under all circumstances.
The sister then feeds the brother, with her hands, one or more bites of sweets (desserts), dry fruits and other seasonal delicacies.
Gifts and hugs
The brother gives his sister(s) gifts such as cards, clothes, money or something thoughtful. The brother may also feed his sister, with his hands, one or more bites of sweets, dry fruits and other seasonal delicacies. They hug, and the larger family ritually congratulate the festive celebration of brother-sister love and protection.
The brothers wear the rakhi for the entire day, at school or work, as a reminder of their sisters and to mark the festival of Raksha Bandhan.
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Happy Raksha Bandhan 2017 !
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