Raksha = protection and Bandhan = bond, pledge and an oath. Rakshabandhan means a pledge to protect. A pledge that a brother takes to protect his sister. There are 3 holidays celebrated in Hindu culture that signifies the importance of the relationship between a brother and sister – Rath Yatra, Rakshabandhan and Bhaibij (or Bhaiduj). Among many relationships, relationship between brother and a sister has a place of its own. The bond that they share is unparalleled - an unbreakable one. Enduring and unconditional faith that a sister puts in her brother is like no other … and in return brother pledges to protect her. Without much fanfare, this is quite simply symbolized by sister tying a rakhi on her brother’s wrist – a gesture that has no match. No gift from brothers matches the love and trust that a sister puts in that rakhi.
Rakshabandhan is celebrated on full moon day of Shravan month. It is also observed on Bhadarvo Sud Bij (second day of the light fortnight – ascending moon of the month Bhadarvo) when boys and men change their janoi / yagnopavit (threads). Janoi is a collection of cotton threads that’s worn across the body (from left shoulder to the right hip). Unmarried men wear janoi of 3 threads while married men upgrades it to 6 threads (3 for himself and 3 for his wife). During ancient times, women used to also wear janoi, but as times changed, the traditions changed. Accepting a janoi for the first time is a significant event in a man’s life – it is considered his second birth. Yagnopavit Sanskar (Thread Ceremony), 10th (out of 16 total) sanskar is one of the most important sanskaras. This is when a student accepts a teacher, a guru – a guru that leads the young student on the righteous path. (Guru is revered and worshipped as God in Hindu culture, as evident by another festival – Guru Purnima.) Janoi, a simple collection of cotton threads, is a constant reminder that God is with you. Three threads represent the trinity of Gods – Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. Wearing a janoi is a matter of pride. It is with pride that men should accept and change it; it is a beacon of righteousness, a moral compass that serves as a reminder to follow the virtuous path, an ethical path.
Such simple symbols – a rakhi and janoi – made of cotton worn on wrist and around the torso respectively; yet such significant gestures and important reminders.