Onam celebrations

Onam at Amritapuri was a day of many surprises. In the morning, Amma announced that She would hold the morning darshan program in the new hall where only bhajans and Devi Bhava darshan are usually held.

Talking to the devotees present, Amma said, “You have been able to see the ashram as your own home. Ashrams are the abodes of spiritual culture. The root of Sanatana Dharma (Eternal Religion) is spirituality. Even in the cyclone of materialism, we have been able to maintain the light of Sanatana Dharma, because some children like you are dedicated to following the path of truth and dharma.

“Only when celebration and values merge does life become a true celebration. Many a times we sacrifice values for our pleasures. To cultivate values needs a lot of patience, effort and time, but to destroy it is easy.”

After giving satsang, instructions for manasa puja (mental worship of one’s beloved deity) and instructions for meditation, Amma stood up and danced blissfully, playing hand cymbals as the swamis sang Amrita Vahini, a popular bhajan sung to the tune of a traditional Kerala boat racing song.

All were mesmerized at the sight of Amma dancing gracefully. Many devotees also started dancing. When the swamis had finished singing the song, Amma continued dancing and playing the cymbals, so the swamis had no choice but to start singing again! Amma slowly danced to a halt, and then sat down in a spontaneous meditation. For a few minutes, all meditated blissfully in the presence of the Divine Mother. The silence was absolute. Then Amma stood up, stepped backwards onto her peetham, and began giving darshan to the visiting devotees, who rushed eagerly into Her arms.

Lunch was a joyous affair as Amma served prasad to one and all, including our beloved Ram, Amma’s young elephant. The serving itself took well over two hours, as many devotees had come to Amritapuri to celebrate Onam. All the brahmacharis, ashram residents, children of Amma’s orphanage and many devotees pitched in to cook, serve and clean up.

Amma was in Her room for only two hours before returning to give darshan again! Bhajans began at the usual time, and most thought that Amma would retire for a well-needed rest. But She came for the bhajans, just as She does every night at Amritapuri.

After the devotees had taken their dinner, Amma returned to watch an evening of cultural programs performed by the brahmacharis, ashram residents, and devotees.

It is part of the Onam tradition that wherever one might be living, one will return to one’s home to celebrate this holiday with all of one’s extended family. And yet thousands of people came to Amritapuri to celebrate Onam with Amma… no doubt because they feel Amritapuri to be their real home.

Pure dance

31 August 2001, Amritapuri

It is natural to feel a bit reserved among strangers or in big crowds. And when you are in an ashram, you would imagine that you would have to behave with a certain decorum. But when the Guru Herself tells you to drop your shyness and embarrassment, stand up and dance… well, even if at first it is only from obedience, you try.

That’s what happened on Onam this year.

Amma had finished Her satsang, and everyone was expecting Her to begin giving darshan. That’s the normal pattern for this yearly festival: She gives darshan until lunchtime, and then stops so that She can feed Her children. They approach Her by the thousands, and She gives each and every one their Onam day prasad.

But you could tell something was different this year when Mother leaned over to whisper to the Swami sitting next to Her, and his face broke into a big smile. It was after that that She looked out at the sea of upturned faces, and encouraged the four or five thousand people gathered there to stand up and dance.

To dance with Her. Indeed, Amma is not one who simply tells us what to do. She shows us. So there was nothing surprising when, last Friday morning, She Herself took up Her hand bells and started dancing.

And what a treat it was. We have all seen pictures of Amma dancing in ecstasy, years ago. We may have even heard the tinkling of ankle bells from the open windows of Mother’s room, late, late at night, and pictured Her dancing alone. On foreign tours, even today, Mother sometimes dances with retreatants: after they form a large circle, Mother starts dancing along the inner circumference, passing each person until She returns to the point where She had started dancing.

But on Onam in 2001, with thousands of Her children gazing from the floor of the huge new auditorium, Mother danced, there on the stage.

The music was irresistible. The musicians – singers and instrumentalists – launched into a traditional Kerala boat song, only the words had been replaced with lyrics about Amma. The beat was lively, but moderate. With a lovely smile, Amma began marking the tempo with Her hand bells. The smile remained as She moved gracefully from left foot to right, to left, to right, there in place, just in front of Her pitham

In less than a minute, it was clear that the dance was not proceeding in quite the way it had started: Mother smiling, tempo moderate, all “in order”.

Mother was no longer smiling: now Her expression made a smile trivial. There was a transparent clarity: radiance. Her eyes were closed, and did not open for the next ten minutes.

Unseeing, She danced on, circling gradually to Her left, never missing a beat, ringing Her bells, stepping from one foot to the other, in a world of Her own. Down below, standing shoulder to shoulder, Her children danced too. Lacking handbells, they clapped, many raising their hands high above their heads.

Like Her, they moved rhythmically from one foot to the other. But unlike Her, most of them kept their eyes open… for who could resist so stunning, and so rare, a sight as Amma dancing, Her brilliant white sari billowing from Her raised arms and Her brass bells flashing before Her darkly beautiful Face?

The tempo increased. Mother was no longer facing the crowd. Nor was She in front of Her pitham The circle She had begun to make was growing and was surrendering to something too free to conform to geometry. People around Her began to move away. They had already pulled Her pitham out of the way, and now they shifted their harmoniums and microphone stands, and dragged sound and electrical cords to the side, letting nothing impede the flow of Her Dance.

Faster. Eyes still closed. No longer on the carpet. Near the edge of the stage. A brahmachari jumps down to the ramp beside the stage and another joins him. They clasp hands and make a “fence” lest Mother come too near the edge. Some brahmacharinis appear, arms upraised, alert, ready. No one wants to touch Amma, or to inhibit Her dance, but care must be taken as She, oblivious, comes within inches of the edge.

She is brilliance silhouetted against a dark sea of exuberant dancers. Seen from the other direction, She is pure white Dance backed by rich colour. Her entire Form is movement, except Her Face, which is the embodiment of a stillness we don’t know, a joyful Mystery. Can it be that the music is growing even faster? Yes and Her bells never miss a beat as She raises Her Hands above Her Head, and by Her arms Her utterly peaceful Face is framed.

It is too much. A brahmachari slides Mother’s asana near Her, an invitation to sit. The musicians stop.

But Mother doesn’t.

Can five thousand people be so silent that you hear only the gentle tinkle of two brass bells held in soft brown Hands? Yes. For a full sixteen beats.

Then the clapping of thousands of pairs of hands returns, the music stumbles back in, and devotees who were reserved before are swept up in the divine dance. Only the careful watchers at the edge of the stage are not moving. Their stillness is a counterpoint to the dancing mass behind them and the shining Grace before them: they embody shraddha, sacrificing the excitement of joining in to concentrate on keeping Mother’s Body safe.

Two minutes more of dancing and suddenly, without allowing the cadence to diminish, Mother sits down. Not on the small carpet they had placed nearby; not on Her pitham; not front and center. No; She simply sits on the bare floor about six inches from the edge of the stage, very close to the east corner. Sits still. Silent. In the midst of stillness and silence.

Her Face an unmoving Mystery.

Onam at their home

31 August, 2001, Amritapuri

Onam at Amritapuri was a day of many surprises. In the morning, Amma announced that She would hold the morning darshan program in the new hall where only bhajans and Devi Bhava darshan are usually held.

Talking to the devotees present, Amma said, “You have been able to see the ashram as your own home. Ashrams are the abodes of spiritual culture. The root of Sanatana Dharma is spirituality. Even in the cyclone of materialism, we have been able to maintain the light of Sanatana Dharma, because some children like you are dedicated to following the path of truth and dharma.

“Only when festival and values merge does life become a true celebration. Many a times we sacrifice values for our pleasures. To cultivate values needs a lot of patience, effort and time, but to destroy it is easy.”

After giving satsang, instructions for manasa puja and instructions for meditation, Amma stood up and danced blissfully, playing hand cymbals as the swamis sang Amrita Vahini, a popular bhajan sung to the traditional tune of a Kerala boat racing song.

All were mesmerised at the sight of Amma dancing gracefully. Many devotees also started dancing. When the swamis had finished singing the song, Amma continued dancing and playing the cymbals, so the swamis had no choice but to start singing again! Amma slowly danced to a halt, and then sat down in a spontaneous meditation. For a few minutes, all meditated blissfully in the presence of the Divine Mother. The silence was absolute. Then Amma stood up, stepped backwards onto her peetham, and began giving darshan to the visiting devotees, who rushed eagerly into Her arms.

Lunch was a joyous affair as Amma served prasad to one and all, including our beloved Ram, Ashram’s young elephant. The serving itself took well over two hours, as many devotees had come to Amritapuri to celebrate Onam. All the brahmacharis, ashram residents, children of Amma’s orphanage and many devotees pitched in to cook, serve and clean up.

After the devotees had taken their dinner, Amma returned to watch an evening of cultural programs performed by the brahmacharis, ashram residents, and devotees.

It is part of the Onam tradition that wherever one might be living, one will return to one’s home to celebrate this holiday with all of one’s extended family. And yet thousands of people came to Amritapuri to celebrate Onam with Amma… no doubt because they feel Amritapuri to be their real home.

Want Rice?

21 August 2001, Amritapuri

A Real-Life Allegory

Watch!

A little boy arrives in front of Mother’s table. She has finished serving Tuesday lunch to everyone else in the temple. She asks him, “Rice?”

No particular response. So She takes a plate of rice and curry and holds it out to him.

He shakes his head vigorously. He doesn’t want rice!

She acquiesces, and sets the plate aside.

“What?” She asks him. But She knows without his answering. She reaches back and brings Her Hand towards him with a sweet.

He nods his head vigorously. He wants a sweet!

He clutches the sweet, turns his back and walks away from Her.

Satisfied but not nourished.

Fine for a little child. But how old am I?

How often does God or Guru offer us spiritual nourishment, and how often do we refuse it, in favor of pleasurable but useless titbits?

No doubt, more often than we would like to admit!

Fortunately, both God and our Guru have towards us unconditional love and infinite patience. Mother will not give up on us, but day after day She will offer us rice, and someday we will accept it!

A prayer offered at the end of meditation on many Tuesday mornings in Amritapuri:

O Amma, O Divine Mother of the Universe, this child of Yours has wandered for long on the face of this earth, in search of true love and happiness.
Whenever I cried for You, you consoled me by dropping me toys and amusements of this world through the windows of my selfish desires.
But Amma, now this child is not going to stop crying until I attain You.
I need nothing else except my Mother.

A mere pigeon?

16 August 2001, Amritapuri

Last Tuesday, a mangled bird lay nestled on Amma’s lap while She meditated.

No, not exactly Her lap. Mother sat in the half-lotus position, with Her right Foot on Her left thigh, sole upturned, as She usually does for meditation. When a little girl brought the wounded bird, Mother (Who had already met the pigeon at the previous Devi Bhava) took it gently, kissed it softly, kept it wrapped snugly in its golden cloth and white towel, and set it securely on the sole of Her Foot. Resting Her left Hand on it, She continued to meditate

The scriptures speak of the Feet of a Mahatma as a symbol for the Supreme Truth. It is to show our reverence for this Truth and for the Great Soul who guides us to It that we touch the Guru’s Feet. But a pigeon, of course, doesn’t comprehend this; the wounded bird could not have grasped the preciousness of its position, nor the incredible compassion and humility of Mother, Who was cuddling the suffering one so simply between Her Foot and Her Hand.

Maybe the pigeon had been involved in an encounter with a cat or dog; we don’t know, but the poor fellow had lost all the flight feathers from its right wing, and its head seemed to dangle, as if the neck had been badly injured or even broken. Some of the ashramites had taken it in, and were caring for it. It was the natural thing to bring this suffering creature to the Mother of Compassion. Throughout the meditation session, Mother held the bird.

It stayed quiet, and now and then She would reach Her right Hand over and gently stroke its head or lift its beak. When meditation finished, She took up a letter that someone had left on Her cot. Continuing to hold the bird, She read the letter, and began to speak, gesturing animatedly, while at the same time, carefully holding the bird firmly in place.

She was the picture of total shraddha, doing Her duty as a Teacher and expressing Her nature as the Compassionate Mother, both at the same time, and each perfectly, neither sacrificed to the other. Some ten minutes later, while a brahmachari was translating Mother’s teachings, the bird began to struggle. Mother at once unwrapped the coverings and caressed the pigeon, moving it now to the middle of Her lap. She opened a packet of sacred ash and applied it to the bird’s wounds: shoulder, under the wing, neck. Amma appeared to be fully engrossed in ministering to Her suffering charge, when suddenly She looked up and interrupted the translator, making a correction to what he was saying (never mind how Someone Who claims not to speak English can discern errors; w’’ve all seen Her slip that mask, on occasion). Correction made, She returned to treating the bird.

There is something about this juxtaposition that must be recognised: a wise Teacher, sought out by heads of states, who addresses throngs of tens of thousands and who also sits on Her humble cot to teach whoever comes into the temple on a Tuesday morning; and a tender Healer, whether of bodies, hearts or minds, who sits caressing a dull grey pigeon, giving it the same loving attention we have seen Her give to us.

Kali In the kitchen

13 August 2001, Amritapuri

There was an eager crowd waiting for Mother after bhajans; that’s when She feeds and plays with Ram. But Ram was not to be seen. When Mother came, instead of walking to Her room, She took a left turn and strode into the big, new “industrial” kitchen.

It was time for one of Amma’s famous inspections.

First Mother examined big buckets of peeled vegetables, and was quick to point out that much more than the skin had been peeled off. She said that this was such a waste.

Next came the rice-serving vessels. Mother ran Her hand along the inside of an emptied pot, collecting grains of rice that had stuck there. “Don’t wash a vessel after you empty it,” She said. “Wash your hand! Then scrape the inside of the pot with your hand, collecting all the grains of rice. Only then should you wash the pot.” Showing the rice She had collected from this one container, Mother pointed out that from ten or twelve serving vessels, we could collect enough rice to feed one person. That may not seem like much, but when you are cooking for thousands of people every day, the vessels and their otherwise wasted grains of rice mount up.

Amma then picked up a huge ladle, and pretended to beat the brahmachari in charge of serving the rice. Everyone laughed except one visitor who had never seen Amma disciplining the brahmacharis before. He looked a bit taken aback to see the Mother of Compassion in this role! Smiling apologetically at his consternation, Mother reassured him, “I’m sorry, but I can’t help it when I see so many poor and hungry people. How can we preach when we waste?”

Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, who travelled to Chicago as a spokeswoman for the Sanatana Dharma at the Parliament of World Religions in 1993, and who flew to New York to address the Millennium World Peace Summit of World Religious Leaders at the United Nations in 2000, stood in Her ashram’s kitchen in 2001 to impress upon the ashramites the necessity of being attentive to even the humblest of tasks. “Shraddha* in all that we do; that is what is needed,” Amma urged.

Everyday, Amma meets, listens to, holds and comforts people who suffer. Standing there in the kitchen, She shared this insight: there are people without jobs and money. They borrow money to come to the ashram from their homes in far away places like Tanur or Talassery. With so little money, they will eat only once in their two days here. They’ll have no proper place to stay and will just lie in a corner somewhere to sleep. This they will endure, just to have Amma’s darshan for two days.

However, it is not uncommon to see Amma instruct a brahmachari/brahmacharini during darshan to ensure that a devotee gets enough food and proper accommodation.

“Don’t think that Amma is a miser,” She explained. “It’s just that Amma has seen enough poverty. So She feels bad seeing so much food wasted here. Our lives are for the world. We should be of some use to the world.”

If Mother’s lessons about shraddha and not wasting food are taken to heart, then from the estimated hundred and fifteen rice-serving vessels filled every day, at least 10 more people can be served food.

Imagine you were hungry, and one of those ten, you’ll understand why Amma, even when disciplining the brahmacharis in the kitchen, is still the Mother of Compassion.

* Shraddha has many meanings; here it refers to carefulness, concentrated effort, intentional action.

Payasam for Pachyderm

11July 2001,Amritapuri

Amma is not one of those people who say one thing and do another. You can count on it: if She tells Her children to do things a certain way, She will follow Her own directives. She models what She teaches.

Take this evening when She was playing with Ram after bhajans:

It was a special evening – Karthika is coming: the ashram is decorated with strings of lights, and the canopy to shelter people who will do the special Kali puja has already been erected outside the Kalari. To celebrate, Ram garlanded Amma. Then Amma gave the young elephant, whom She usually feeds bananas and biscuits a special treat: payasam (a sweet rice pudding).

Obviously, you can’t be too delicate feeding an elephant pudding. Elephants aren’t adept with spoons. Anyhow, one sign of a mother’s love is that she feeds her child with her own hand. So tonight Mother fed Ram by Hand. From the brass plate held for Her by a brahmachari, She scooped out one handful after another, plopping each elephant-sized helping precisely on the huge pink tongue held at the ready. The dish was finally empty – no, almost empty: Mother ran Her cupped hand around the inside edges of the plate, gathering any last bits of payasam, and these She indelicately smeared it onto Ram’s tongue!

The brahmachari standing behind Mother took the plate – but not for long! She called for it again. “Empty”, it was handed back to Her. Amma tried to scrape the last bits of payasam from the bottom and sides, and decided She couldn’t really empty the plate properly that way. With determination She turned the plate towards Ram’s always-open mouth, and dragged it across his tongue and lower lip. And again. And once more.

Satisfied at last, She handed away the plate.

In a world where people starve, and where nourishment depends upon the lives of plants and sometimes animals, Mother says that food should never be wasted. When She serves lunch to the ashramites and devotees on Tuesdays, She asks people to tell Her how much food they want: “Big one? Small one?” She’ll say, in English, to westerners. She encourages the computer students never to take more food than they’ll eat. The wardens check plates to see that food isn’t wasted! Back when Mother used to visit the kitchen, She used to check the waste buckets, scolding if She saw good food being thrown away. During one kitchen visit, to make Her point more dramatically, She even ate some of the rice that had been thrown away! The garbage separation system at the ashram serves Her policies also, for food waste is collected separately and fed to the cows or used to make compost.

So, naturally, Mother wasted none of Ram’s special treat tonight.

Ever fresh

9August 2001,Amritapuri

Bhajans sound different tonight. What is it?
Oh, we hear only the delicate voices of women. No men. Few instruments. No Amma.

Why is that?

Because Amma is at the pool.

Yes, at about five, She went over to the pool, welcoming all the women and children to accompany Her. Then, around six-thirty (bhajan time!) She sent the women away and called the men. That’s where they all are now, and that’s why we’re hearing only women singing bhajans this evening.

What goes on at the swimming pool? You can bet it isn’t ordinary lap swimming, nor water fights. There is a Sanskrit term applied to Mahatmas. It is Purana. It means “Old but ever new.” What Mother does at the pool She has done ever since the pool was constructed; what She does is not new. But it doesn’t feel old. It is ever fresh, ever new. That’s why, when the word goes out, “Mother’s gone to the pool!”, ashramites drop everything and run.

Here’s what happened there this evening:

First, when only a very few people had heard, the crowd wasn’t too big, and Mother Herself went into the water. She invited the girls into the pool to form a big circle with Her. She led the way and all joined in: She cupped Her hands, dipped them into the water, lifted them to about eye-level, and then began chanting the Gayatri mantra. At the end, She raised Her Hands above Her Head, letting the water cascade down over Her. Then She ducked down under and bobbed up, wiping the water from Her Face, only to chant again. Several times Mother and the girls did this familiar ritual, until the crowd of women and children gathering in the water and along the edges was too big. It was time for Mother to get out.

She stood at the edge of the pool, at the deep end. Of course She was flanked by as many people as could crowd near Her on both sides; others stood pressing close from behind, and yet others were in the water at Her Feet, some reaching tentative hands to touch Her Feet, some, less shy, clinging. But a small section of the water directly in front of Her was kept clear (well, relatively clear) so that She could push people in!

Now, can you imagine yourself queuing up to be pushed into a swimming pool? Never mind that: if you happened to be at a swimming pool where someone was pushing people in, would you stand still, hands clasped, gazing intently for an hour or so? That happens in Amritapuri.

Mother never ceases to fascinate. The chance to receive a momentary touch from Her lured ALL kinds of people to Her this afternoon: ammamas (grandmothers), computer institute students, householders, brahmacharinis and children.

But She was pushing people in at the DEEP end. What if you didn’t know how to swim? No problem. There were inflated toys, inner tubes, a rubber kickboard – and lots of good swimmers in the water just beyond where you would land, ready to grab you and escort you to safety. Mother would look at each person, determining whether she knew how to swim, and then decide whether to push her to the ministrations of the life guards, or to give her a flotation device. Or, in a few cases, to give her a touch but refuse to push her in. Mother knows best. What hilarity when someone would flail about in the water and Mother, on land, would imitate her! Or that time when a brahmacharini was bobbing precariously right at Mother’s Feet and She bent down, grabbed the girl’s hair, and pulled her right up out of the water!

Meanwhile there were those who didn’t go in – they preferred to watch. They were too fascinated by the scene to want to miss any thing. They lined both sides and the far (shallow) end of the pool, and kept their eyes fixed on Mother and Her antics.

The sun was setting; the light on the trees beyond the wall (actually, across the backwaters in the village of Vallickavu) grew soft.

It was that time between day and night when, Mother and tradition says, bhajans ought to be sung. So of course, there at the pool – Mother began singing. The swimmers and spectators joined in, singing alternate lines with Mother, and clapping the beat that She set.

Then the dreaded signal: Time to leave! She sent the women away and called the men.

After a similar playful time with the men, pushing them in, laughing at the awkward attempts of some novice swimmers, and joking around with those who stayed out of the water, Mother again started singing bhajans.

Imagine: bhajans in the great hall, and bhajans at the pool, all at once!

Over there, near the backwaters, unamplified and unlit save for the night sky’s stars, the men are singing bhajans. Over here, formal bhajans in the hall have ended, and through the ashram’s sound system we hear the arati to Mother being sung by only women’s voices.

Ram is growing up!

5 August 2001,Amritapuri

Mother is still playing with Ram the baby elephant after bhajans, but the scene is changing, because Ram is growing!

He is much bigger and seems to have matured, not that he is old but he does seem to have more dignity and a certain bearing. Now the crowds who gather after bhajans, eager to watch Mother and son, are kept a safe distance away by restraining ropes and the reprimands of one of the mahouts!

Now when Amma walks into the yard from the big hall south of the temple building, She is welcomed by Ram, who falls into step with Her as the two head for the foot of Her stairs. There, a brahmachari will be standing with a plate of biscuits and bananas, and Mother will immediately begin to feed Ram.

When he first came to live at the ashram, She would offer him a treat by hand, and he would take it deftly with his trunk. But then She would hold some biscuits between Her lips, or behind Her back, and he would still be concentrating on Her Hands. Nowadays, he’s never fooled; he knows all Her different ways of feeding him, and is quick to adjust his attention, following Her every move alertly and successfully.

In the earlier times, his main accomplishment (other than making more and more food materialise somehow in Mother’s Hands even after She would have told him “No more! You go now!”) was that he could prostrate more or less on command: he would bend his front legs and flop his rotund baby body down in front of Mother. Now he has mastered a few other tricks: when commanded to, he will sit-chubby body barely able to balance! Then he can lie down, and roll to one side, flailing his legs in the air, and perhaps trumpeting!

Whatever he does, he has Mother’s fullest attention-that is Her nature: to be utterly present. His antics draw laughter and shrieks and shouts from the people watching; from Mother they attract even deeper attention. She laughs, of course, and jokes, but if you watch Her eyes, you’ll see that She is actually keeping very close tabs on his condition: his health, his growth, and his new acquisitions, be they tricks or tusks (yes, two fine curves of ivory proclaim his growing maturity now).

Rakhi: its meaning and significance

Raksha Bandhan is a popular festival celebrated across the country. Irrespective of caste and creed people from all walks of life participate in this festival. It is celebrated on the full moon day of the lunar month Shravana (Shravana Poornima) which also coincides with Upa-karma (changing the sacred thread for the brahmins, Avani Avittom in South India).

The festival is also called as Rakhi Poornima, Nariyal Poornima and Kajari Poornima in different states and is celebrated differently.

How to celebrate Raksha Bandhan?

On the occasion of this festival sisters generally apply tilak to the forehead of their brothers, tie the sacred thread called Rakhi to the wrist of their brothers and do arati and pray for their good health & long life. This thread, which represents love and sublime sentiments, is called the ‘Raksha Bandhan’  means ‘a bond of protection’. The brother in return offers a gift to his sister and vows to look after her.  Before tying a Rakhi on their brothers hand the sisters first tie a Rakhi on the Tulasi plant and the another Rakhi on the peepal tree asking for the protection of nature – Vriksha Raksha Bandhan.

Singificance

The concept of Raksha Bandhan is mainly that of protection. Commonly we find people going to the priests in temples and getting a sacred thread tied to their hands. We find this in the temple of Kala Bhairava at Varanasi where people get a black thread tied to their wrist. Similarly at Sri Vaishnodevi Temple in Jammu, we find people tying red band to their forehead after worshipping the Goddess.

In Hindu religious functions we observe the preist tying a thread to the wrist of person/s performing the ritual before its commencement. It is believed and said that even Yagnopaveetam (sacred thread across the chest) acts as a Raksha (protection) to the wearer if one maintains its sanctity.

In the concept of Marriage, Mangala Sutra (tied around the neck of the bride) and Kankana Bandhana (a thread tied to the wrist of the bride and groom by each other) also has a similar inner significance.

The tying of a Rakhi is not confined to a brother and sister. It could also be tied by a wife to her husband, or by a disciple to the Guru. This bond does not have to be between blood relatives – a girl might adopt a boy as her brother through the tying of a Rakhi. This ritual not only strengthens the bond of love, but also transcends the boundaries of the family. When a Rakhi is tied on the wrists of close friends and neighbors, it underscores the need for a harmonious social life. This helps to broaden ones’ vision beyond the borders of ones own family to the entire earth (vasudha) as one family – Vasudhaiva kutumbakam.

According to Indian religous lore, Lord Siva is considered as the Father and Goddess Parvati as the Mother. The devotees of the Lord are my relatives, and I belong to all the three worlds.

mata cha parvati devi pita devo mahaeswara
baandhavah siva bhakthascha swadesho bhuvana-trayam

Mythological references

Indra – Sachi Devi : As per Bhavishya Purana, Indra the King of Devas was advised by Deva Guru Brihaspati to wear a Rakhi as a protection against enemies (Demons) when he was facing defeat at the hands of Vritra Asura. Accordingly Sachi Devi (consort of Indra) tied a Rakhi to Indra.

According to one mythological allusion, Rakhi was intended to be the worship of the sea-god Varuna. Hence, offerings of coconut to Varuna, ceremonial bathing and fairs at waterfronts accompany this festival. Usually fishermen offer coconut and rakhi to the Sea God Varuna – this festival is known as Nariyal Poornima.

Historical References

It is said that when Alexander was defeated at the hands of the great Hindu King Purushottam of Punjab, Alexander’s wife tied a Rakhi to Purushottam to protect her husband from being slain.

During the days of Emperor Humayun, it is believed that Rani Karnavati (Queen of Chittor) had sent a Rakhi to emperor Humayun in order to get protection from Bahadur Shah who was invading her kingdom. Inspite of being of a different religion, he rushed to her help.


The Message of Rakhi

Raksha Bandhan symbolizes the unmatched bond of love, care and respect. But in a broader perspective the festival of Rakhi (Raksha Bandhan) conveys an intrinsic message of universal brotherhood and sisterhood. Thus the festival of Rakhi conveys a message that has socio spiritual significance underscoring the need for nurturing of positive qualities, purity in thought, word and deed.

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See related posts

A Rakhi Bond to Fight Farmer Suicide

Vriksha Raksha Bandhan

Amma tying Rakhi to a sapling video