Last week Hindu communities in parts of Asia (predominantly India, Pakistan, Nepal) celebrated one of my favourite festivals, Rakhsha Bandhan, ‘the bond of protection’. This ancient ceremony observes the special relationship between siblings. Traditionally, the ritual involves a sister tying a rakhi (sacred thread) around her brother’s wrist as a symbol both of her love and of her brother’s commitment to protect her. The brother reciprocates by renewing his vow to protect his sister and by offering her a gift.
Traditionally presents have included jewellery, clothes and soft toys but in India this year there were reports of brothers giving their sisters onions! An essential ingredient in Indian cooking, the price of onions has rocketed recently owning to heavy monsoon rains destroying crops. Consequently, onions have become something of a luxury in many Indian kitchens this year.
As my children spend a large chunk of their time fighting each other I decided Rakhsha Bandhan was a ceremony to embrace. I didn’t think our 6 year old daughter would appreciate a kilo of onions in exchange for ‘jewellery’ though and so to avoid any bickering, we settled on a rakhi each.
Coming from the UK, where Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are so actively, and perhaps overly, celebrated I am surprised that there isn’t a National Sibling Day. Or perhaps there is? Should there be one? Do we even care enough? I doubt it. After all, half the fun is in observing the tradition itself. In the case of my family, my mother would always get a bunch of daffodils on Mother’s Day and my dad would get a Terry’s Chocolate Orange. In this respect, I don’t think it would have hurt to pause once a year to consider my siblings as well. But as most traditions stem from childhood, it seems a little late in the day for us to exchange cards and such sentiments now. Not for my children though! And besides, I felt that Rakhsha Bandhan was a particularly fitting custom to adopt as they both spent their early childhood in India and, I expect, will always maintain strong ties with the country.
What about you? Do you or your children celebrate a Sibling Day of some form?
Is Rakhsha Bandhan a festival you would adopt in your family? And whilst you ponder these thoughts, I shall leave you with a few rakhi-inspired bands that I’ve spotted on my Delhi wanderings.