Indian festivals are a jumble of gatherings, celebrations, exchange of sweets, gifts, lots of noise, singing, dancing and chatting. Festivals are the celebration of togetherness the celebrations of bonds within families and between people. The Festival of Rakhi or Raksha Bandhan is one such major occasion which is celebrated around May. It is the celebration of the bond that exists between brothers and sisters. The festival has been celebrated in the same way with the same traditions for centuries.
As per the traditions, the sister on this day prepares the pooja thali (platter) with diya, roli, chawal and rakhis. She worships to God for her brothers protection in life while tying the Rakhi/sting to the brother(s) wrist, apply roli and rice to his forehead and wishes for their over all well being. She bestows him with gifts and blessings. The brother in turn acknowledges the love with a promise to be by the sisters' side through the thick and thin and gives her a token gift. The gift is the physical acceptance of her love, reminder of their togetherness and a symbol of his pledge.
This festival pulls the siblings together. The increasing physical distances evoke the desire to be together even more. They try to reach out to each other on the Raksha Bandhan day. The joyous meeting, the rare family get-together, that erstwhile feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood calls for a massive celebration. Tasty dishes, wonderful sweets, exchange of gifts and sharing of past experiences.
For those who are not able to visit each other, rakhi cards and e rakhis and rakhis through mails perform the part of communicating the rakhi messages. Hand made rakhis and self-made rakhi cards are just a representation of the personal feelings of the siblings.
The word "raksha" signifies protection, and "bandhan" is an enduring bond. The significance of a woman tying a rakhi around the wrist of her brother, is her loving attachment to him and the sweets she gives him signifies her blessing him with happiness and radiance in his life. He responds by extending his wrist forward and promising to always protect and love her and showering her with money and gifts.
This festival is also celebrated by many people who have a brother and sister relationship without having being born into one. Rani Karnavati of Chittor sent a rakhi to the Mughal Emperor Humayun when she was threatened by Bahadur Shah of Mewar. Humayun abandoned an ongoing military campaign to ride to her rescue.
The rakhi may also be tied on other special occasions to show solidarity and kinship (not necessarily only among brothers and sisters), as was done during the Indian independence movement when the Indian nation came together as one big family.