Yesterday several parts of India celebrated Raksha Bandhan – a festival to celebrate siblings. A sister ties a “Rakhi” to her brother so that their bond remains strong forever. Before the shrill feminist voices start off about women empowerment, Raksha Bandhan does not mean, women need protection.
When a woman gets married, she moves away from her parents and siblings to a new village or town. The brother becomes the main connect to her maternal home. A brother has several responsibilities towards his sister and her children. I know of friends who wouldn’t be married today, if not for their Mama’s (maternal uncle) intervention. In every marriage, there is an important role that the Mama plays in the wedding ceremony.
The relationship between a brother and a sister is deep and very central to our Hindu culture.
Its such a beautiful relationship that unknown men can be made into “rakhi” brothers !! And what’s wrong with that ?
Raksha Bandhan is celebrated on the Poornima (Full Moon) day of the month of Shravan.
South Indians and definitely Tamilians celebrate the Shravan Poornima as Upakarma or Avani Avittam. Over the years it has unfortunately become a Brahmin ritual but the sacred thread (Yagnopaveetham, Poonal or Janeu) was worn by everyone in earlier times.
The Upanayam is conducted between the ages of 7 to 10 usually, and marks the age at which the child would be sent to a Gurukul or school to start his education.
The Yagnopaveetham is changed annually on the Poornima day in the month of Avani for those who follow the Yajur and Rig Veda. There are some slight differences between Rig Veda and Yajur Veda followers but mostly those following these two vedas change their sacred thread on the same day annually. Those following the Sama Veda do this Upakarma on the day that Ganesh Chaturthi falls, each year.
Avani Avittam is also called Upakarma which means the “beginning” of Vedic studies.
This year, two of my nephews, Dhanush and Sri Ranga celebrate their “thalai” Avani Avittam or their first Avani Avittam.
And the best pic from Dhanush’s upanayanam –
Wishing everyone a very happy Raksha Bandhan and Avani Avittam. May our beautiful traditions continue !