Raksha Bandhan-Strengthening Community Bonds
Raksha Bandhan celebrates the strong protecting the weak. The killing of Videsh Subir (13) and Rose Mohammed (57) of Malabar, Arima demonstrates that in our society there is an unwritten culture of the strong taking advantage of the weak. A government’s duty is to protect the weak and vulnerable. The slaying of these innocent people in the most brutal manner is ample evidence that the Rowley government has failed the nation. This failure comes despite government spending of billions of dollars annually in policing and defence.
A social festival that celebrates the bond between a brother and a sister, Raksha Bandhan is celebrated in August every year. The sister ties a sacred thread called a raksha on the brother’s wrist and the brother presents a gift to the sister and takes a vow to always protect her.
Not confined to the Hindu community or between biological brothers and sisters, Raksha Bandhan has now become universal in appeal bringing together all of humanity in that bond of peace, love and brotherhood.
During the early years of indenture the concept of jahaji-bonding in the ship- helped to strengthen relations among Indians. Growing up I always thought that “Nani by the river” was a relative. It was much later I learned that we were not related by blood. I grew up calling her elder son “uncle” and he always called my mother “sister”.
My mother’s best friend was a Muslim woman whom she called “Didi” and my sisters and I always addressed her as “Tanty”. That bond continues with her children and grandchildren long after my mother and her “Didi” have passed on. There are others I can safely say that showered love and protection much more that those who were related by blood. You were always welcomed at their homes to share in laughter and meals with them.
In the Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh-Trinidad (HSS) Raksha Bandhan is given much emphasis. Its observation goes beyond the family and is extended to the community and nation. Its volunteers tie rakshas on the Bhagwa Dwaj or Hindu flag. The Bhagwa Dwaj is a symbol of Hindu society. By tying the rakshas on the staff, the volunteer pledges his commitment to protect Hindu society with his life.
It is common that Gurus tie raksha in the hands of their chelas. In the Raja Yoga Ashrams the Sisters tie rakshas to the hands of members. The tying of the raksha is a pledge by the Sisters to always be there to protect and guide the disciples in their spiritual path.
Raksha Bandhan has come to be associated with the political struggles of the Indian nation. In 1905 Lord Curzon, the Viceroy of India, divided Bengal to stem the tide of protest that was rising against British rule. The entire Bengal rose in protest. Rabindranath Tagore, in a move to unite the Bengali people, invited them to observe the anniversary of partition as Raksha Bandhan Day. On the first anniversary of partition he mobilised 50,000 Bengalis, who took baths in the Ganges and vowed to struggle for a united Bengal. Every year on the anniversary of the partition young men took ceremonial baths and renewed their pledge. The struggle to reunite Bengal saw the birth of the Swadeshi movement to encourage the reinvigoration of indigenous industries and the boycotting of British goods. The campaign to unite Bengal increased to such intensity that the British was forced to restore a united Bengal in 1911.
Raksha Bandhan is not without its presence in mythology. The story is told that Bali, a demon, had captured heaven. Homeless, Sachi, the consort of Indra, the King of heaven, turned to Lord Vishnu for help. Lord Vishnu gave her a bracelet of cotton and instructed her to tie it on Indra’s wrist for protection when he is engaged in battle with Bali. Wearing the amulet around his wrist Indra went to battle against Bali and defeated him.
Unity is strength. As a community we need to understand that only through unity that we are going to overcome the many ills that are troubling us. Our jahajee ancestors survived the hardships of indenture by working together and sharing resources. Our success in agriculture was mainly because of the concept of “lend a hand” where villagers came together to plant and harvest each other fields.
Our success in home ownership was mainly because we were able to pool our skills. The small loan afforded by Sugar Welfare Association was used to buy materials while the labour was provided free of charge by the community. Without this brotherhood and family co-operation it would have been impossible for most to survive the hardships and challenges of plantation life.
Raksha Bandhan is a festival not only to celebrate once per year but to incorporate in our daily lives. Today our civil courts are crowded with siblings bringing litigations against each other. When the parents were alive they did not make distinction among their children. Today siblings are on each other’s throat to inherit wealth that they did not create. Such is the audacity and outrage that threatens our community today!
Raksha Bandhan needs to be developed into a national event not only to bring Hindus together but also non-Hindu. Its significance of “protection” is so relevant in this time of rising criminal activities. It is our mistrust and disunity that the criminals and our enemies continue to exploit. Our survival is in our hand-in the raksha that is worn on our wrists.
We need to follow the Bengalis and make a pledge of unity to work toward a strong and united community that would have no room for petty bickering that criminals can kidnap us and cut our throats at will.