The significance of the festival of Raksha bandhan has always been associated with the strengthening of a bond between siblings, regardless of being related by blood or lineage. From Alexander’s wife, Roxanna’s request to King Porus to Rani Karnavati’s desperate appeal to Humayun, history is overflowing with incidences of women sending the sacred thread, Rakhi, to men, now bound in brotherhood to defend their honor, when the need arose.
However, the sacred thread, Rakhi, played a significant role in shaping the Indian freedom struggle, bringing together sects of society the British were convinced they could divide, sustaining the spirit of Bengal. In 1905, then Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon announced the partition of Bengal. The British would divide the state on the basis of religion, looking to strike at the very fibre of India – its unity, on 16th October. Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore at this hour urged the Hindus and Muslims of the state, who would be drastically affected by the unfair division, paralyzing the economy of the otherwise rich state, to come together and tie the sacred thread to one another’s wrists, celebrating their love and showcasing the brotherhood that prevailed.
Though Bengal was partitioned on the decided date, it was later re-unified in 1911. However, the tradition of tying a Rakhi to your close friends and loved ones, continues in the same spirit with which it began, preserving the immense significance this event holds. A poem Tagore wrote to instill the spirit in his countrymen is till today read and recalled as an example for the new, young India – to learn from.
The love in my body and heart
For the earth’s shadow and light
Has stayed over years.
With its cares and its hope it has thrown
A language of its own
Into blue skies.
It lives in my joys and glooms
In the spring night’s buds and blooms
Like a Rakhi-band
On the Future’s hand.
The poem and the event, were elemental in inculcating the lost spirit of hope, and a longing to work for a free India. This event was significant in proving the importance of festivals and traditions in Indian. It was a spectacular idea to peacefully, show oppressors that in harsh times we as Indians will stand together, mightier – overcoming the divide and rule policy in the most ironic manner there could be. So this Raksha Bandhan, while we remember the importance and role of this sacred thread in the lives of individuals, let us take a moment to remember how it was massively elemental in changing the course of India’s history, by doing nothing – but propelling the freedom movement in a fresh direction.