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Raksha Bandhan - The Hindu Tradition of Siblings Day

Every year in India, one of the most sacred and ancient festivals of Hindu tradition, Raksha Bandhan, is celebrated. This holiday is when brothers and sisters, blood or otherwise, get together to share that special bond between each other. The sister ties a 'rakhi' on the right wrist of her brother, symbolizing the bond between them both. Brothers usually provide a gift to their sister; it could be sweets, a sari or some other thoughtful present. The literal translation for the words 'Raksha Bandhan' means “the bond of protection, obligation, or care”. Every year, Raksha Bandhan is celebrated in Shravana month during full moon day or Purnima day. The dates vary each year as per the position of the Moon. This year Raksha Bandhan is celebrated on August 22nd.

Yesterday, there was a noticeable difference in traffic and then I realized everyone was scrambling to buy rakhi's and gifts for their siblings preparing for this auspicious holiday. It felt like Christmas Eve in NY, when everyone is rushing around for that last minute gift, to pick up sweets or buying that last minute item at the supermarket.

Interestingly enough, Siblings Day in America is celebrated in April and after some inquiry, I realized that Siblings Day began in 1997 and was based on one persons personal experience. In India, this ancient tradition has deeper roots, having been around for hundreds of years, and it is embedded in the fabric of Indian family tradition for even longer than that. Of all the stories I read about this widely celebrated ritual, the most interesting is this one. In Hindu tradition, in the epic Mhabharata, Draupadi tore the corner of her sari to prevent Lord Krishna’s wrist from bleeding after he hurt himself. This solidified the tradition between brother and sister, and the promise of brothers to protect their sisters.

But what does it symbolize for brothers and sisters throughout the world?

Well, it doesn’t really matter where you live, the bond between siblings is real and in every culture, there are ups and downs in those relationships. While siblings have shared experiences of familial life, each have different interpretations and impacts from those experiences. In my own family, the relationship between my siblings have been fractured going back to my mom’s diagnosis of cancer. All the siblings had different opinions on how to handle my mothers care and for me, there were times when I overstepped the boundaries of my siblings’ duties with my mother to satisfy my own viewpoint of what I thought was best. In all honestly, we all wanted what was best for my mother’s treatment and my actions of forcefully trying to intervene in her care ultimately led to me not speaking to my siblings.

Though my yoga practice of inquiry, asana and meditation, I discovered where I had cast blame on my siblings and did not take responsibility for my own actions. A few years later, I attempted to reconcile those relationships, holding myself accountable for the things I said and did, to both my brother and sister. While my sister has still not responded to me, my brother thoughtfully sent me a message to let me know he had forgiven me and wanted to move on. For me, that was enough. It was enough for me to hold myself accountable, ask for forgiveness and put the ball in their court. I am confident that if I am called upon by either of them, the bond of siblings is strong enough that I will be there for them, despite all the challenges we have been through.

This week, my Indian friend experienced the same thing. His brother was not speaking to their sister. Yet despite the differences, they met today and celebrated Raksha Bandhan. ‘Side by side or miles apart, we are brother and sister connected by heart.’ - unknown

Go out and celebrate Raksha Bandhan wherever you are in the world!

Call your sibling, send them a text or an old photo, and let them know you love them!

Self Inquiry: After hearing about my Indian friends experience, I realized how powerful his brother was to give up his resentment and show up for his sister on this special day, yet I let my resentment fester for a few years before resolving it.

Questions - Get a journal and a pen and answer the following questions completely before starting to answer the next question.

  1. Put your attention on a sibling you resent. If you have more than one, focus on the sibling you have the most resistance with.

  2. Write down 10 things you are grateful for that sibling for. It could be memories of your childhood like something they did for you.

  3. What resentment is in the way of you having a peaceful relationship with them?

  4. What does your relationship with that sibling look like when you put that resentment out of the way? What are you doing? Where are you? How does it make you feel?

  5. State this out loud, “I love my brother/sister _______________. I am grateful because they ______________________. I wish them happiness, love and a healthy life. I will be there for them no matter what.”