- Many families add their own twists to the occasion to create new traditions.
Rakhi or Rakshabandhan, a festival celebrating the lifelong bond of love and protection between brothers and sisters was observed on Aug. 22. Indian Americans marked the occasion with sisters tying a symbolic decorative amulet on their brothers’ wrists, while the brothers vow to protect the sisters.
Some Indian Americans added their own twist to create new traditions.
Actress and author Sheetal Sheth has two daughters who celebrate the festival by tying a rakhi on each other’s wrists. “I love and celebrate my roots whenever I can,” the New York City-based Sheth wrote on her Facebook page. “But we must admit that there’s a lot of nonsense that comes with these older societies and traditions. And it’s up to us to modernize and equalize.” Adding that “historically, Raksha Bandhan has been a tradition for sisters and brothers,” she said, “it’s a beautiful sentiment and a symbol of strength to ‘protect them’ as they went off into the world.” But it wasn’t for sisters or reciprocated “because women weren’t expected or meant to be out in the world,” she wrote. “So we’ve made our own tradition. My girls will always have each other’s backs.”
At the Mavely-Washington home in Charlotte, North Carolina, “the protection promise goes both ways.”
Rimili Roy, artistic director of Surati for Performing Arts, envisions Rakhi as a global movement for promoting universal brotherhood, love, respect, trust, understanding, and unity across cultures, races, religions, and traditions. “This Rakhi / Raksha Bandhan, I pray that we learn to respect and protect human values across genders, faith and man-made boundaries,” Roy wrote on her Facebook page. “May we gain the insight, education and enlightenment to put humanity above all differences.” she wrote. “The rakhi I’m sending to my brothers and sisters around the globe online may be virtual, but my love is not!”
On Aug. 18, Roy’s school hosted the second International Rakhi Festival at Amiya restaurant in downtown Jersey City in New Jersey. At the Aug. 18 event, Roy explained the history and stories behind Rakhi and its relevance in society today in fostering the message of unity through diversity. She then performed a danced story-telling piece to the ancient stories of Rakhi. Additionally, she tied rakhis to guests as a token of thanks for the work they do to protect our community. Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop attended the event along with Ward-E Councilman James Solomon, officers from the Jersey City Police Department and leaders of the Jersey City LGBTQ community, among others.