Raksha Bandhan Tales: How Love & Loyalty Bound Siblings In Mythology
If marriage binds spouses, Raksha Bandhan ties brothers and sisters. And mythology has numerous stories about such sibling love and loyalty but each telling a different tale.
One of the most unusual and unique relationship is the one that between Krishna and Draupadi. Once, to stanch the bleeding finger of Krishna, Draupadi promptly tore the end of her sari and tied the strip around his wounded finger as a dressing. The debt of this bond Krishna was to fulfil later, when he came to Draupadi’s rescue during her worst time – the vastraharan, where she was stripped of shame and dignity to be saved by a seamless sari. Krishna kept his promise that he would be a holy presence in her life, protecting her forever – saving her from the humiliation of being disrobed by making her sari endless and by punishing the perpetrators with death in the battle of Kurukshetra. The significance is of course, layered. Avatar means a form which descends upon and Krishna’s presence and interference is seen more as an all-pervasive consciousness actuated upon anyone in the royal Sabha, including Vidura and others in protest against the disrobing of Draupadi by Dushasana. Krishna descends into those with Dharma in their mind and conduct and thus saves a woman from humiliation.
Krishna kept his promise that he would be a holy presence in her life, protecting her forever.
In the war between the devas and the asuras, Indra – the king of gods was once defeated and disgraced by the powerful King Bali. Sachi, Indra’s wife sought the help of Vishnu, who gave her a bracelet made of cotton, which she tied as the holy thread around Indra’s wrist. Blessed with her prayers and good wishes, Indra defeated Bali and recovered his celestial kingdom of Amaravati. Interestingly, this story is a precursor of the rakhi in ancient India were the holy thread is an amulet, used by women as talisman to guard men going to war, and not restricted to sibling relationships.
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Another thread has the same King Bali where after Vishnu won the three worlds from him, Bali requested Vishnu to stay at his opulent palace. Vishnu agreed. But Lakshmi wishing to return home to Vaikuntha and neither approving the stay at the palace nor the budding new friendship between her husband and Bali, goes to Bali and ties a rakhi on his wrist. As a sister would request a brother, she voices her wish to go back home with her husband. Bali accepts his sister’s wish and the couple return to Vaikuntha.
One legend goes that a busy Yama, the god of Death, had not visited his twin sister Yamuna for twelve long years. A dispirited Yamuna complains to Ganga who goes to Yama to remind him of his brotherly duty. Yama eventually visits his sister who welcomes him with a grand feast and a small request that he visit her more often. Yama agrees and to be able to see her frequently, he makes his sister immortal by making her the perennial river Yamuna which flows all the year round.
The moral behind this story is of course that one needs to have Santoshi (satisfaction) after all the Shubha Labha (good fortune).
A much later added story is that of Ganesha, who though a father of two sons, Shubha and Labha, wished for a daughter as did the two boys who missed having a sister to tie them a rakhi. Ganesha creates a daughter Santoshi from the divine flames his two wives, Riddhi and Siddhi. The moral behind this story is of course that one needs to have Santoshi (satisfaction) after all the Shubha Labha (good fortune).
Kavita Kane writes a monthly column named Goddess of All Things for SheThePeople. Views are author’s own.