This article is a chapter from the book Hindu Fasts and Festivals.
RAKSHA BANDHAN is called Avani Avittam in South India. This falls on the full moon day of the month of Sravan (August-September). It is an important Hindu festival. Hindus wear a new holy thread and offer libations of water to the ancient Rishis on this day.
Recitation of the Vedas on this great day is highly beneficial. This festival is also known as Upakarmam, and is specially sacred to the Brahmins, who have been invested with the sacred thread.
When a Brahmin boy is invested with this thread, symbolically his third eye, or the eye of wisdom, is opened. The holy festival of Upakarmam reminds one who wears the sacred thread of its glorious spiritual significance. Brahmins also offer libations of water to their ancestors, to whom they owe their birth; to the great Rishis, to whom they are highly indebted for their spiritual knowledge; and to the Vedas themselves. The true Hindu never forgets his benefactors!
The followers of the four different Vedas have their Upakarmam on different days.
On this day, Sachi, the consort of Indra, tied a holy thread or amulet around the wrist of Indra, when he was defeated by the demons. Then Indra, the king of gods, gained victory over the demons by the power of this protection (Raksha means “protection”). He then recovered the lost city of Amaravati.
In North India, on this day, an amulet known as a Raksha or Rakhi, is tied round the wrist of brothers by the sisters as a protection from evil during the coming year. Brahmins and Purohits similarly tie amulets round the wrists of their patrons and receive gifts. A Mantra is recited when the Rakhi or the silken thread is tied. The silken thread is charged with the power of the Mantra, which is as follows:
Yena baddho balee raajaa daanavendro mahaabalah;
Tena twaam anubadhnaami rakshey maa chala maa chala.
“I am tying on your hand this Raksha, with which the most powerful and generous King Bali himself was bound; O Raksha, don’t go away; don’t go away.”
The power of this Mantra protects the wearer from evil influences.