by Vagisha Agrawal, Sadhana active member

Raksha Bandhan is a popular, traditionally Hindu festival that takes place in August. “Raksha” translates into protection and “bandhan” translates into bond. Raksha bandhan or “the bond of protection” is symbolized by wristbands (rakhis) that traditionally, sisters tie on their brothers’ wrists in order to pray for their prosperity, health and well-being. Brothers in return offers a gift and promises to protect their sisters.

Raksha bandhan is a beautiful celebration of sibling-love but I have always felt it could be so much more. If the world is one family, then we hold the promise of raksha bandhan beyond our siblings, to our brothers and sisters around the world. In recent years, my brother and I have practiced a transformed version of Raksha bandhan. We both commit to protecting each other and standing for justice.

The rakhi I tied on my brother’s wrist a few days ago symbolizes his promise to me: that he will never act in ways that can make a woman feel uncomfortable and that he will never be a bystander in situations where a woman, or anyone for that matter, is degraded. In return, my brother tied a rakhi on my wrist expecting from me the same sort of commitment to humanity and justice. His rakhi on my wrist symbolizes our commitment to egalitarian relationships where women and sisters are considered of equal value to their male counterparts. The bond of protection that my brother and I share strengthens our relationship by anchoring both of us in our core values. Raksha bandhan is a meditative tradition for my brother and I as we discuss the practice of compassion and equity in our daily lives. The rakhi we tie on each other’s wrists reminds us of our dharma towards our brothers and sisters around the world. Today, among the many rakhis I have on my arm, I have one on behalf of my sisters around the world. This rakhi is my vow to never forget the women who came before me and to live a life of service to my sisters around the world.

This raksha bandhan, I call on my sisters and brothers to join me in reimagining tradition. Instead of expecting our men to protect, it is about time we start expecting them to participate in creating a more dignified world for all women. Let us expect nothing less from our brothers than respect for all women. Let us expect nothing less than equality from our relationships. I ask of you all the same promise I have asked of my brother. In return, I promise you all the same commitment that I promised my brother.

Wishing all my brothers and sisters a happy raksha bandhan.