Why should rakshabandhan be about a brother protecting a sister? Can’t we look at it purely from the point of view of a bond between siblings?
It is that time of the year again, when the local markets are flooded with beautiful rakhis. Commercialization has seeped in – there are now designer rakhis and unique gifts.
The name ‘rakshabandhan‘ suggests ‘a bond of protection’. On this day, brothers make a promise to their sisters to protect them from all harms and troubles, and the sisters pray to God to protect their brother from all evil.
Hailing from a family with two elder sisters, we tied rakhi to our first cousins. In our family, the tradition is that the sisters tie rakhi even to their nephew (brother’s son) with the same intention (i.e. promise of protection). As kids, it was all about getting together and gifts. We used to get a lot of – “Oh three sisters! Hmm, so no brother!” As rakshabandhan and Bhai duj approached, “Whom will you tie a rakhi to? Do you have any cousin brother?”
As I grew up, I realized that something was massively wrong with this whole concept. The tradition is deeply rooted in the patriarchal nature of our society. Why do I need a brother to protect me? Won’t my sisters protect me or stand for me if required? Will I not help my maternal aunt, if she is in trouble? When we sisters raised this to our mom, she told us- “It is a tradition we follow. If you wish you three sisters can tie rakhi to each other.”
We did not do that, since our sisterly bond was way above all the tradition. I knew deep down my mom did not believe in this whole concept, but she did not mind performing the ritual. Someone told us that if you have no brothers you can tie rakhi to Lord Krishna. He will protect you. I wondered, “Why not Goddess Durga or Kali?”
I am sure many people won’t agree with my views and will say that I bring feminism in to everything. I don’t have a problem with this festival, but I have a problem with the way this festival again glorifies “Man being the provider and protector and women being weak.”
I have seen so many cases where the boys hear, “Do one thing – you tie rakhi to your sister, instead of she tying it to you.” Are we not giving a wrong message here? If it is about sibling love, then why doesn’t a sister tie rakhi to another sister? Or a brother tie rakhi to another brother? Are not all siblings bound to protect each other irrespective of the gender of the other sibling?
So what change did I bring into my family? I tie rakhis to my nieces too (not just my boy cousin’s daughter but my elder sister’s daughter too). I tie a rakhi not for any promise of protection but purely for the family ties that exist and bind us all.
Image source: wikicommons