The festival of Raksha Bandhan is observed on the full moon day of Shravana (July-August). The word “Raksha” means protection. On this auspicious day women and girls tie an amulet-like thread round the right hand wrist of their brothers as a token of protection against evil during the ensuing year. The thread is called “Rakhi” and is made of a few colorful cotton or silk twisted threads. It can be from the threads of gold and silver. The brothers give their sisters gifts of money, clothes and other valuable things in return. Sisters feed their brothers with sweets, dry fruits and other delicacies on this occasion.
Priests and Brahmins also tie this kind of thread round the wrist of the right hand of their patrons and receive gifts. They recite a mantra or a sacred formula while doing so to charge the thread with the power of protection.
The thread charged with the power of mantra protects the wearer from the possible evils.
According to Hindu scriptures Sachi, the consort of Indra, the god of heaven, tied such a mantra charged thread round the right wrist of their husband when he was disgraced in the battle by the demon forces. Indra again fought and gained a convincing victory over the demons, and recovered his lost capital Amaravati. The sacred amulet helped him in defeating the enemy.
In South India, it is celebrated as Avani Avittam. Holy thread (Upanayna) is changed and libation of water is offered to the ancestors and rishis on this occasion. The new thread is worshipped with saffron and turmeric paste before wearing and the old one is discarded in the water of a pool, tank or a river. This day is specially significant for a Brahmin boy who has recently been invested with an upanayan (holy thread). It reminds him of the glorious religious significance. Vedas are also read and recited on this day.
In Mumbai, coconuts are offered to the sea-god Varuna on this occasion. Exchange of sweets, setting up of fairs, visiting the relatives and friends, sending the “Rakhis” by post to brothers living at far of places, and remembering the Rishis and Gurus whom we are indebted for their guidance and spiritual knowledge, are other highlights of this festival.