Raksha Bandhan celebrated around Redbridge with sacred thread and protection pledges

Hindu festival where sisters are putting special bracelets on their brothers.
Shivai Khertola, age1

Hindu festival where sisters are putting special bracelets on their brothers. Shivai Khertola, age1 with Divya, age6 Roshni, age11 and Riya, age12 - Credit: Archant

An ancient tradition which has been celebrated in India for thousands of years is taking place today involving sacred thread and lifelong pledges of protection.

Raksha Bandhan is primarily a Hindu festival and involves sisters tying a special thread around the wrist of their brothers and in return receiving gifts.

The red thread often has decorations and religious symbols on it and is worn until it falls off naturally.

Vinaya Sharma, from the VHP Hindu Centre, Albert Road, Ilford, said: “It’s a festival to basically consolidate relationships.

“In ancient times it was more teachers, gurus and kings and people would pledge their loyalty and in return they would pledge to protect them.”

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The word raksha means protection and bandhan means bond and during the ceremony the brother makes pledged to protect his sister.

“All Hindu families do it and Sikhs as well. The festival happens all over India and it keeps the family bond.

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“It’s built around consolidating relationships of any kind but now it’s more or less between brother and sister.”

Mrs Sharma said she went to her brother’s house to perform the ritual which started by placing a red dot on her brother’s forehead.

“It used to be done with saffron as it has a cooling effect,” she said. “I said a mantra which is a blessing on him and then tied the thread and he gave me a pledge that he will protect me and gave me a token of a present.”

The bracelet is made of a rakhi, or sacred thread, and symbolises the sister’s love for her brother.

“It’s a just action but as well it’s an understanding that there’s a promotion of mutual respect,” Mrs Sharma added.

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