Raksha Bandhan: Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh Helps Society to Bond During Happy and Challenging Times
- According to HSS philosophy, Raksha Bandhan reminds each individual that she/he is responsible for protecting society and the world.
From time immemorial, humans developed special occasions or festivals to come together and enjoy the season. Although most ancient festivities mark a change of season, some festivals have historical significance, thus breaking any societal barriers. Raksha Bandhan is one such festival that has gained momentum of cross-cultural celebration.
Raksha Bandhan falls on the full-moon day of the Hindu month of Shravana that comes sometime around August-September every year. Traditionally, on this day, a sister ties a colorful thread, called “rakhi,” on her brother’s wrist and reminds him of his duty to protect her from any evil forces. In return, the brother accepts his responsibilities to protect her from any harm. The rest of the festivity, as always, involves sweets, food, gift exchanges, and joys family moments.
There is a famous story that depicts Raksha Bandhan’s significance. One is from Mahabharata when the Queen of Pandavas, Draupadi, ties her torn corner of her saree to Lord Krishna’s bleeding finger. The story goes telling how Lord Krishna protects her later from the evil Kaurava clan.
Over the generations, tying a thread, also called Raksha Sutra, became a tradition. A priest ties Raksha Sutra to the host’s wrist during any auspicious occasion and celebrations, and the host pledges to protect the community, nature, and society.
The popular culture of Bollywood has many scenes and famous songs on Raksha Bandhan. It is a common experience across India to listen to melodic movie songs on Raksha Bandhan on the radio shows or to watch them on TVs on this day.
In the U.S., too, Raksha Bandhan is widely celebrated among families and friends. Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), a U.S.-based organization, since its inception in 1989, celebrates this festival at a broader societal level. HSS calls it Universal Oneness Day. According to HSS philosophy, Raksha Bandhan reminds each individual that she/he is responsible for protecting society and the world. HSS volunteers promise to help the community by reaching out to the local first responders, elected officials, and community leaders to tie rakhis and share sweets with them.
This subtle but essential social awareness results in fruition when society is in need. During the COVID-19 crisis of 2019, HSS immediately organized its volunteer base to help the local community and supported over 350 first responders and medical professionals and 45,000+ needy families. Later in partnership with FEMA, HSS actively facilitated vaccination drives in 8 states. In regular times, HSS continues assisting the needy in the community through food donations, school supplies to children, and more.
There is always a temptation to eliminate age-old practices with an expectation to remove any infused ill rules. Raksha Bandhan festivity represents a good role model that integrates traditional festivities with present-day responsibilities and bonds the society during happy and challenging times.
Vikas Deshpande lives in Boston, Massachusetts, area. He writes on social and political topics in Marathi and English. He actively volunteers within the Indian American and American Hindu community, organizations in the field of religion, culture, language, and entrepreneurship. He is on the boards of directors for nonprofits working for the environment and yoga and meditation.