The social, economical and political relationships that a Rakhi binds
The North Indian festival has assumed importance during the time of wars and strife in a pre-independent era when pillaging was common. Women who had no surviving male relative would tie a rakhi to friends or acquaintances, who will then take up the role of their ‘protector’.
The story of the Rakhi finds mention in mythology too. Draupadi the queen of the Pandavas, in the epic Mahabharata, is believed to have tied a band around Lord Krishna’s arms, which turned into a rakhi. In turn, Krishna saved her with an endless supply of cloth as her husband’s rivals, the Kauravas, tried to disrobe her in an open court.
The widowed queen of Mewar, Karnavati, sent a rakhi to Emperor Humayun of the Mughal Empire seeking help when her kingdom was under attack from Bahadur Shah. Humayun obliged and ran to rescue her despite the rivalry between the two families. Though she had immolated herself by the time his army reached the area which is now a part of Rajasthan, he did restore the kingdom to her young son by defeating Shah.
The 21st century
In the 21st century, Rakhsa bandhan celebrates the brotherly bond. Many Indians now refrain from tying a rakhi only to brothers but also include sisters and even parents into the fold. It has truly turned into a Thanksgiving of sorts where a family comes together and feasts, while honouring those who love and protect each other.
Like most other India festivals, Rakhi too is mostly about giving gifts, in exchange for a rakhi. A large number of stores turn into a mini-Christmas offering a variety of options from potpourri, to clothes, to jewelry to spa passes. This is apart from the e-commerce blast on special offers for the day. Now, mutual funds and insurance companies also offer Rakhi schemes, making it an economically significant festival for the country.
Whatever the cause and effect, Indians are known to celebrate them all with pomp, glory while sparing no expense.