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Raksha Bandhan (Hindi: रक्षाबंधन, Punjabi: ਰਕਸ਼ਾਬੰਧਨ, Urdu: رکشا بندھن the bond of protection), or Rakhi (Hindi: राखी, Punjabi: ਰਾਖੀ, Urdu: راکھی), is a festival primarily observed in India, which celebrates the relationship between brothers and sisters. The festival is observed by Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims. The central ceremony involves the tying of a rakhi (sacred thread) by a sister on her brother’s wrist. This symbolizes the sister’s love and prayers for her brother’s well-being, and the brother’s lifelong vow to protect her. The festival falls on the full moon day (Shravan Poornima) of the Shravan month of the Hindu lunisolar calendar. It grew in popularity after Rani Karnavati, the widowed queen of Chittor, sent a rakhi to the Mughal emperor Humayun when she required his help.
The festival is marked by the tying of a rakhi, or holy thread, by the sister on the wrist of her brother. The brother in return offers a gift to his sister and vows to look after her as she presents sweets to her brother. The brother and sister traditionally feed one another sweets. Since North Indian kinship practices give cousins a status similar to siblings, girls and women often tie the rakhi to their male cousins as well (referred to as cousin-brothers in regional parlance) in several communities. Unrelated boys and men who are considered to be brothers (munh-bola bhai or adopted brothers) can also be tied rakhis, provided they commit to a lifelong obligation to provide protection to the woman or girl.
Historical occurrences and mentions
The tale of the deity Santoshi Mata, and the narrative of her creation on Raksha Bandhan day, was popularized in the 1975 Bollywood blockbuster Jai Santoshi Maa. Ganesh had two sons, Shubh and Labh. On Raksha Bandhan, Ganesh’s sister visited and tied a rakhi on Ganesh’s wrist. Feeling deprived, the sons immediately began pressing Ganesh and his two wives, Riddhi and Siddhi, for a sister. Finally, Ganesh conceded the demand and Santoshi Ma (literally the Mother Goddess of Satisfaction) was created by divine flames that emerged from Riddhi and Siddhi.
Krishna and Draupadi
Another incident is from the epic Mahabharat and concerns Krishna and Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas. She had once torn a strip of silk off her sari and tied it around Krishna’s wrist to staunch the bleeding from a battlefield wound. Krishna was touched by her action and declared her to be his sister, even though they were unrelated. He promised to repay the debt and then spent the next 25 years doing just that. Draupadi, in spite of being married to 5 great warriors and being a daughter of a powerful monarch, trusted and depended wholly on Krishna. Krishna repaid the debt of love during the “Cheer-Haran” (literally “clothing-robbing”) of Draupadi, which occurred in the assembly of King Dhritarashtra when Yudhisthira lost her to the Kauravas in gambling. At that time, Krishna indefinitely extended her saree through divine intervention, so it could not be removed, to save her honor. This is how he honored his rakhi-vow towards Draupadi.
King Bali and Goddess Laxmi
According to a legend the Demon King Bali was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu had taken up the task to guard his kingdom leaving his own abode in Vaikunth. Goddess Lakshmi wished to be with her lord back in her abode. She went to Bali disguised as a woman to seek refuge till her husband came back.
During the Shravan Purnima celebrations, Lakshmi tied the sacred thread to the King. Upon being asked, she revealed who she was and why she was there. The king was touched by her goodwill for his family and her purpose and requested the Lord to accompany her. He sacrificed all he had for the Lord and his devoted wife.
Thus the festival is also called Baleva that is Bali Raja’s devotion to the Lord. It is said that since then it has been a tradition to invite sisters in Shravan Purnima for the thread tying ceremony or the Raksha Bandhan.
Yama and the Yamuna
According to another legend, Raksha Bandhan was a ritual followed by Lord Yama (the Lord of Death) and his sister Yamuna, (the river in northern India). Yamuna tied rakhi to Yama and bestowed immortality. Yama was so moved by the serenity of the occasion that he declared that whoever gets a rakhi tied from his sister and promised her protection, will become immortal.
Alexander the Great and King Puru
According to one legendary narrative, when Alexander the Great invaded India in 326 BC, Roxana (or Roshanak, his wife) sent a sacred thread to Porus, asking him not to harm her husband in battle. In accordance with tradition, Porus a Katoch king gave full respect to the rakhi. On the battlefield, when Porus was about to deliver a final blow to Alexander, he saw the rakhi on his own wrist and restrained himself from attacking Alexander personally.
Rani Karnavati and Emperor Humayun
A popular narrative that is centered around Rakhi is that of Rani Karnavati of Chittor and Mughal Emperor Humayun, which dates to 1535 CE. When Rani Karnavati, the widowed queen of the king of Chittor, realised that she could not defend against the invasion by the Sultan of Gujarat, Bahadur Shah, she sent a Rakhi to Emperor Humayun. Touched, the Emperor immediately set off with his troops to defend Chittor. Humayun arrived too late, and Bahadur Shah managed to sack the Rani’s fortress. Karnavati, along with a reported 13,000 other women in the fortress, carried out Jauhar on March 8, 1535, killing themselves to avoid dishonor while the men threw the gates open and rode out on a suicidal charge against Bahadur Shah’s troops. When he reached Chittor, Humayun evicted Bahadur Shah from fort and restored the kingdom to Karnavati’s son, Vikramjit Singh. Although contemporary commentators and memoirs do not mention the Rakhi episode and some historians have expressed skepticism about it, it is mentioned in one mid-seventeenth century Rajasthani account.
(source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raksha_Bandhan)Raksha Bandhan (Hindi: रक्षाबंधन, Punjabi: ਰਕਸ਼ਾਬੰਧਨ, Urdu: رکشا بندھن the bond of protection), or Rakhi (Hindi: राखी, Punjabi: ਰਾਖੀ, Urdu: راکھی), is a festival primarily observed in India, which celebrates the relationship between brothers and sisters. The festival is observed by Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims. The central ceremony involves the tying of a rakhi (sacred ...
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SRI PADMANABHASAWMY TEMPLE, TRIVANDRUM
SIR THOMAS MUNRO, GOVERNOR of MADRAS
Hinduism, also called Sanathana Dharma, is universal in application and does not make any difference between one religion and the other. All the devotees who believe and follow the tenets of Hinduism are respected and rewarded alike. The foregoing is a classic example of an Englishman by name Sir Thomas Munro [1761-1827] who was the Governor of Madras and his devotional attachment to Sri Padmanabha Swamy Temple at Trivandrum [then called Travancore].
When India was ruled by the British, there were so many princely states like Mysore, Rajasthan, Travancore etc. which were directly ruled by the respective Maharajas who owed allegiance to the British throne. The erstwhile Maharajas of Travancore ruled the State in the belief that it was their ‘Divine Right to Rule’. They were simultaneously aware of the fact that the Right to Rule entirely depended on their ability to rule ‘rightly’ in keeping with the tenets of Hindu Dharma or Raja Dharma as it is called in Sanskrit. They also knew that it was Divinity that gave them the power to rule.
In 1750, King Martanda Varma, the most powerful of the Travancore rulers, pledged that he and his descendents would serve the kingdom as servants of Lord Padmanabha [Padmanabha Dasa], the Lord being the King. The British had observed the tradition and honoured the Lord with a 21-gun salute.
When the Indian states were merged, Independent India appointed the Travancore royal head as the Raj Pramukh; but he preferred to be known as Padmanabha Dasa, and not as Raja Pramukh. The government had continued to honour the tradition of 21 gun-salutes to the Lord till 1970 when, along with the abolition of princely titles, the honour of the Lord was withdrawn.
Sri Padmanabha Swamy Temple, as seen today, was built by Maharaja Martanda Varma in 1773. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the Temple has an 18 feet long idol and a seven-tier Gopuram.
Sometime in the early 19th century, the State was ruled by Maharaja Martanda Varma. When he passed away in 1813 he had no male heir to succeed him to the throne. So, the British Government approved of a provisional arrangement to rule the State by making his wife Rani Lakshmibai as a Regent. This was an immediate and temporary arrangement till a final decision was taken about the successor. At that time Thomas Munro who was stationed at Travancore was representing the British Government as Dewan.of Travancore. After sometime, the Governor General of India asked Munro to intimate the name of a suitable successor. Munro could not give an immediate reply as he knew that at that time Rani Lakshmibai was carrying and the delivery was expected soon. If the Rani failed to deliver a male child, the Travancore State, as per the Doctrine of Succession, would lapse to the British throne.
When a final reminder came from the Governor General for an immediate reply and the decision could not brook any delay, Munro was in a real fix. The Queen had not yet delivered. However, as Munro had great respect to Hinduism and believed in the Divinity of Lord Padmanabha and as he was also keen on continuing the lineage of the Maharaja, he prayed to Lord Padmanabha and sent a letter to the Governor General saying that the Queen had delivered a male child, even though no delivery had taken place. He took a great risk of uttering a lie, guided by an inner voice that divine intervention would prove him true.
Munro spent sleepless nights after sending the letter. One fine morning he went on horse back to the East Fort at Travancore and facing the Lord murmured “O Lord! I believe you are omnipotent. I adore you. Please grant me a boon. Let Her Highness deliver a male child. There should not be a gap in your Slave Kings. Bless Her Highness with a male child for the throne”. He further added “if it is true that you are there, grant me my boon. If it is not granted, I cannot say what I will do”. After his prayer, Munro returned to the Residency, his official residence. Within a few minutes, he heard the news that Her Highness had delivered a male child. The joy of the Resident knew no bounds. He cried in ecstasy “O Lord Padmanabha! You are a reality. You are very much there in flesh and blood”.
The male child that was born to Rani Lakshmibai in 1813 was none other than the most famous ruler of the State who later ascended the throne of Travancore as Swathi Tirunal Maharaja—one of the greatest composers of Carnatic music. Besides music, His Highness was highly learned in Sanskrit, poetry and other fine arts. Though His Highness died at the young age of 34 years, he ruled the State for nearly 18 years and was a master of 13 languages. Apart from music compositions, he has written a book on “The Theory of Music” in his own handwriting which is preserved even today in the Department of Oriental Studies, Trivandrum.
Munro became an ardent devotee of Lord Padmanabha and personally undertook the work of temple administration. The code he evolved in Temple Administration is even now followed in several temples of that region.
As a digression, it may be noted that when Munro first came to India and took service under the British Government in 1801, he was for some time looking after the administration of some of the districts in the South, ceded by the Nizam of Hyderabad. In this capacity, he was once entrusted with the job of bringing the land on which the famous Sri Raghavendra Swamy Math is situated in Mantralaya under the control and jurisdiction of the East India Company under the Permanent Settlement Act. When this order came to the notice of the local citizens, many natives and devotees of the Math vehemently opposed the move as they thought it would be a religious sacrilege for a foreign government to encroach upon the holy premises of the Math. They approached Munro with their grievance. Munro decided to visit Mantralaya personally and check about the religious sanctity of the Math. It is said that when he reached the Math premises, removed his shoes and was about to enter the Math, Sri Raghavendra Swamy himself appeared before him in a vision and it is further said that both became involved in a conversation. However, no one knew about this till the fact was made known by Munro himself. A subsequent issue of the Madras Government Gazette, however, bears witness to this strange incident. It is also learnt that soon after this incident, Munro was promoted as the Governor of Madras Presidency in which capacity he got cancelled the earlier decision of the British Government to annex Mantralaya. When the Math sent some consecrated coloured rice [Mantrakshatha] to Munro as God’s Blessings on the occasion of his elevation to the post of Governor, he received it with all humility and reverence.
Sir Thomas Munro, Scottish by birth and Hindu at heart, died of Cholera in India in 1827 when he was on tour of the Northern Districts.
(contributed by:Mohan Rao on 25.06.2011)SRI PADMANABHASAWMY TEMPLE, TRIVANDRUM And SIR THOMAS MUNRO, GOVERNOR of MADRAS Hinduism, also called Sanathana Dharma, is universal in application and does not make any difference between one religion and the other. All the devotees who believe and follow the tenets of Hinduism are respected and rewarded alike. The foregoing is a classic example of an Englishman by ...
Bewildering Choreography(contributed by: Mohan Rao on 08.10.2011)
(contributed by: Mohan Rao on 08.10.2011)