Monday, 7 August 2017

An Unknown Story of A Popular Festival - Raksha Bandhan

In India, Raksha Bandhan is one of the most important festivals; celebrated during the month of August. The day is usually the full moon day of the Hindu month Shravan. It is a special occasion to celebrate the emotional bond of love between a brother and a sister, by tying a holy thread called ‘Rakhi’ around the right wrist of the brother. It signifies that the strong must protect the weak from all that’s evil. There are so many popular historical and mythological stories are behind this festival; but today, I want to share a quite unknown story of Raksha Bandhan.

It was July 1905. Lord Curzon, the contemporaneous Viceroy of India, announced the Partition of Bengal. As details of the plan became public knowledge, prominent Bengalis began a series of demonstrations against partition and a boycott of British products. At that time, the Indian first Nobel Laureate for literature, Rabindranath Tagore took initiative to take the British Emperor back their decision. They wanted to break the unity of Hindus and Muslims in during India's colonial era. Rabindranath Tagore used the idea of Raksha Bandhan to spread the feeling of brotherhood. He arranged a ceremony to celebrate Raksha Bandhan to strengthen the bond of love and togetherness between Hindus and Muslims of Bengal, and urge them to protest the British Empire together. He composed a poem titled "Rakhi" and marched through Calcutta with Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Aurobindo Ghosh for a holy mass dip in the Ganges. They tied rakhi to people's hands as a symbol of the unbreakable unity of Bengal. In certain parts of India, especially to the east, Hindus and Muslims tie rakhis to each other to promote communal harmony.

Unfortunately, all the efforts were unsuccessful; But, the Rakhi Mahotsavas, started by Rabindranath Tagore remain as a symbol of Bengal unity, and as a larger community festival of harmony. In parts of West Bengal, his tradition continues as people tie rakhis not only to brothers, as well as to their neighbors and close friends.

This year, Rakhi Bandhan festival falls on 7th August; and 22 Shravan according to Bengali calendar, which is the death anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore. I salute this great soul from the core of my heart.

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