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Community members share their modern makeover of Raksha Bandhan

by Shradha Aswani

The new-age Raksha Bandhan.

By Kripa Singh 

Raksha Bandhan is around the corner. No matter the distance or age, siblings will celebrate their bonds by vying to be there for each other. Typically, sisters will pledge their support and brothers will offer their protection. The Rakhi-tying ceremony is then sealed with lots of gifts, food and love.

But as time goes on, the festive occasion is undergoing a modern makeover. The new-age Raksha Bandhan has eliminated some of the traditional activities to make it a more personalised and meaningful celebration in today’s context. Slowly and gradually, the festival has evolved to become whatever it means to
you, so long as it’s a celebration of togetherness and sibling love.

Masala spoke to four community members to find out how they are celebrating their sibling bond this year. They share their unique plans and show us how cultural traditions give us a sense of belonging and togetherness, and they remind us that while our traditions may evolve, they’re still sustained over time, however untraditional they may seem to others.

Raksha Bandhan is a small yet heartfelt celebration between my sister and me. She loves dressing up and forces me to as well, even if it’s just for a short duration. The ritual then begins with her tying the Rakhi on me, which takes her pretty long since she still can’t tie knots [Laughs]. This is followed by the exchange
of sweets, and we get to her favourite part of the festival — the gifts.

The gift exchange is an integral part, and my sister would have it no other way. But I haven’t quite figured out the science when it comes to selecting the perfect gift, so she accepts an envelope loaded with cash. This year it’ll be different since she is in Sydney, but I’m sure she’ll still manage to make it special somehow.

We normally also add our own traditions to the festival. Being a family of four here, we tie Rakhis amongst ourselves on behalf of our relatives. My sister ties a Rakhi to my parents, and my mom ties it to her. We ensure we all feel the festive vibe and everyone has a Rakhi on their wrist.

Over the years, Raksha Bandhan has continued to change and I’m sure it will still evolve. For instance, we see sisters or even friends tying Rakhis for each other. But what’ll be constant is the love and emotions attached to the festival, regardless of how people celebrate it.

Till this day, I have never been able to celebrate Raksha Bandhan with any of my siblings in person. That being said, we always make sure that we send a Rakhi by post to all our brothers, and whenever we meet them they would have a gift ready for me and my sister. I love giving and receiving gifts, even if it’s something simple. We usually just exchange chocolates, mithai, and money.

The way we all celebrate Raksha Bandhan has changed a lot over the years. It is no longer just about a brother and sister bond. I know a lot of people choosing to use this occasion to celebrate their friendships, or even tie a Rakhi to their sisters.

I have also adopted some unusual Raksha Bandhan traditions. My college friend and I celebrate Rakhi together. We started this around 14 years ago and it is a cute way to celebrate the bond we share. If we don’t get to meet in person, she still makes sure to send me a Rakhi every year and in exchange, I send her all her favourite childhood snacks. I remember this one time I bought a whole bag of candies and chocolates from 7-Eleven and surprised her with them!

We celebrate Raksha Bandhan in a simple but festive way. We usually meet up at my cousin’s place for dinner and drinks. Then we spend the night playing board games and being competitive with each other. Our get-together is less about the formal traditions and more about spending time with each other.

I also enjoy being creative with the gifts for my brothers. I spend time selecting the right thing and choosing something personal. For example, instead of the conventional Rakhis, I give my brothers wristbands, based on their horoscopes.

I don’t foresee the celebration of Raksha Bandhan ever becoming insignificant. Certain traditions will never change — especially as sisters wouldn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to get money from their brothers. But what might change is the way we get together with our siblings and the manner in which we exchange gifts — this may become more virtual in our constantly-evolving world.

When we were little our mum used to make kheer and all the Indian delicacies to celebrate the festival. She would insist that we shower, pray, and then tie the Rakhi. We would then go to our relatives’ houses to celebrate. The coming together of all the cousins, our gentle ribbing and laughter, is what I always cherish
about this festival.

Unfortunately, it’s been 25 years since I’ve been with my brother on Rakhi, and I usually courier it to him. But this year I plan to personally tie the Rakhi on my brother since we will finally get to be together on the festive day.

The Rakhi that I pick up is usually a simple thread that my brother wears till it breaks. We both aren’t particular about gifts – he either buys me something or gives me cash, and I usually send him mithai or chocolates. Interestingly, however, my daughter likes to use modern alternatives like men’s bracelets that her brother can wear every day.

The rituals are changing with nuclear families and children going away to different parts of the world. For instance, my son is in California and my daughter is in Boston, and I wonder how they will be able to celebrate Rakhi. I will have to wait and see what innovative ideas they will come up with.

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