Five Things to do with your children this ‘Rakhi’


Today  is Rakhi, Or Raksha bandhan. India is a land of festivals. We have one for every day of the year and then some to spare. But that’s what makes India such a wonderful place to grow up in. Here we celebrate everything – harvesting cycles, seasons, God’s birthdays ( Honestly!!!) , relationships! Raksha bandhan is the festival to celebrate the relationship between  brothers and sisters.


For the benefit of those not familiar with India and its customs. On Raksha bandhan sisters tie their brothers a “Rakhi” (something like a friendship band)-  seeking their protection. The brothers give them a gift as a token of their love and affection and promise to look after them and protect them always. In the traditional Indian context this practice made a lot of sense. Women did not have access to power – economic, physical or social and needed a male to protect their interest. Kingdoms were broken or made on the threads of a ‘rakhi’. One did not have to be born of the same parents to be tied in this platonic bond. A girl could tie a ‘rakhi’ to any man she thought worthy of being her brother. Once the bond was made, it was honored  forever. Indian mythology and history is studded with shining examples of the strength of the bond between brothers and sisters.

As a child, I was a great fan of Raksha Bandhan. It meant being with  cousins, delicious food, and tons of gifts. A large part of Raksha bandhan was the process of making the rakhis. A month or more before raksha bandhan, the girls hostel where I studied would come alive. The softest silk threads in impossibly beautiful colors were bought. Rakhi cords were made with these. There were complex techniques and every year even more intricate designs were discovered. Everywhere one looked , girls  braided and plaited the silken threads. They bought or exchanged embellishments to decorate the ‘Rakhis’ like  Beads, dried leaves, feathers, shells, ribbons. Making ‘Rakhis’ was not only an art but a religion.

With time though like other festivals, Raksha bandhan too got commercialized. The feelings were  the same but the personal touch was lost. These days the festival i means going to the market and selecting  a ‘Rakhi’   that fits one’s budget and aesthetic sense.  Very much like buying a dress! Most ‘Rakhis’  in fact come from China. I can only imagine what the Chinese men/ women making those ‘Rakhis’ think about them. Definitely not the happy thought we thought about our brothers while making ours.


We celebrate Raksha Bandhan a little differently in our home. Here is what we do:
Instead of going to the market and purchasing the latest fad driven’ rakhi’ of “doremon”  or some other similar Chinese cartoon.  We get creative and make our own ‘ rakhis’. Sadly the silken threads are no longer available. Driven out from the market by (you guessed it) the plastic lit up ‘rakhis’ with ‘made in china’ tags. So we improvise. This year we used pop up  stickers, satin ribbons, cut outs from old cards and beads etc. from old ‘rakhis’ to create our own ‘rakhis’. A little puppy ‘rakhi’ for the four year old brother who loves puppies, a beaded bracelet for the seven year cousin who loves dressing up. My  daughter indulged her creativity and we got some beautiful personalized ‘rakhis’ and two  proud kids.

Traditionally ‘Rakhi’ was tied by a sister to a brother seeking protection and care. The brother promised protection and also as the “giver” bestowed gifts on her. In changed circumstances of our home where we attempt to raise both our daughter and son similarly we have changed the rules.  They both tie ‘rakhis’ to each other and they both give and receive gifts. I hope my daughter will grow up to be as able to look after her brother. And that they will both provide protection, love and care to each other.

This year we encouraged our children to fund their own gifts. M, our daughter has just turned eight and K our son is six. A good time we  figured to teach the lesson of finance. The piggy bank was brought out and broken. Treasures divided equally so each child could buy the other a gift, with their own money. The kids were dazzled that all the coins they had carelessly flung into the piggy bank had accumulated into such a handsome sum and what’s more,  it was theirs to spend.

We also let them decide what they would get for each other. They chose two toy shops they wished to go to, to pick their gifts.  I ferried them around. And was pleasantly surprised with the remarkable thoughtfulness and restrain they displayed. For the first time, M  didn’t head directly towards the dolls and K spent a respectably long  time looking at ‘Meg cabot’ novels!  That his sister simply adores.  I was proud of the maturity with which they conducted themselves. Carefully checking labels for prices, doing the math. Trying to make up their minds what the other would enjoy more.  When K came to me To ask for an extra thirty rupees so his sister could also have the skipping rope she wanted .  I was only too ready to oblige my little ‘Magi’.

In our home My sister in laws had started this lovely practice of making the dessert for ‘rakhi’ themselves. No Indian festival is complete without a sweet. We’ve decided to adopt and continue this beautiful gesture. Today both K and M are cooking little surprises for each other. I hope to raise not only a daughter who can protect and provide but a son who can cook and feed. (Tall order that one! whew !!!)

Its easy to shun a festival for being steeped in  chauvinism and smack of gender bias. But its infinitely more satisfying to adapt the festival to suit newer values , modern scenarios and create something awesome and new. So that while our children don’t miss out on all the fun of festivals they also don’t fall prey to old “messages” about gender rules and acceptable social roles

What is your favorite festival? Have you adapted any old customs to better suit your own modern views. What was your experience?


8 Comments Add yours

  1. ZinalBhadra says:

    Very nice post Sapna..We should definitely adapt our festivals to suit our modern outlook.. Its a great idea to make your own rakhis, both siblings tying on each other’s wrists and also shopping for gifts with whatever little money they saved.

    1. ya it was great to see them today! and the gifts meant so much more to them because they had come with their own efforts!

  2. amira says:

    A beautiful festival. I grew up watching bollywood movies and I have to say I tear over the scenes where a sister ties a rakhi to her doting brother and brother with so much love in his eyes gives the sister a gift back 🙂
    i often times wondered what the brother did with the rakhi eventually … 🙂

    1. if the brother lives in our house, he puts all teh rakhis in a box to be used for all kinds of craft projects through the year. Rakhi decors go on friendship bands, birthday cards, gift tags etc. So they continue to create more smiles round the year 🙂

  3. In school and college I have seen girls tying rakhis to boys who had proposed to them 😉 those became great anecdotes afterwards 🙂

    1. 🙂 🙂 The ways in which a rakhi comes to a girl’s rescue !!!

  4. What a wonderful adaptation, Sapna! The brother-sister both tying rakhis, making them, saving money, thoughfully buying gifts. You have removed all one-sidedness from this festival. Love your take on it !! 🙂

    1. I love the festival and wanted to do away with its gender bias! it was fun!!! a number of people around me have adapted the changes too. Who knows in a few yrs, it may become a custom 🙂

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