Archive for August 13th, 2011

Sam and Cj on the eve of Raksha Babdhan

Today is the 13th of August, but it is also, according to the Hindu lunisolar calendar, Shravan Poornima … the full moon day of the month of Shravan … time to celebrate Raksha Bandhan.

Raksha Bandhan (Hindi: रक्षाबंधन, Punjabi: ਰਕਸ਼ਾਬੰਧਨ, Urdu: رکشا بندھن the bond of protection), or Rakhi (Hindi: राखी, Punjabi: ਰਾਖੀ, Urdu: راکھی), is a festival primarily observed in North India, which celebrates the relationship between brothers and sisters. The festival is observed by Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims. The central ceremony involves the tying of a rakhi (sacred thread) by a sister on her brother’s wrist. This symbolizes the sister’s love and prayers for her brother’s well-being, and the brother’s lifelong vow to protect her.

I have to wonder why such an important occasion hasn’t managed to spread more widely, as a celebration of the bonds between brothers and sisters is noticeably lacking in most of the world, a reality that undervalues a relationship that should be extolled, rhapsodized and encouraged toward its great potential.

As a thread in the fabric of society, the tensile strength of the tie linking sister to brother has the capacity to weave a structure than can stand strong against much that will rip the loosely knitted to shreds, but today the apparent impetus is to sever this particular attachment.

Too often it seems competition between siblings is created as a tool in families where divide and conquer props a power base or love and acceptance are doled out in doses. Pitted against each other, weakness can be manipulated, strength may morph into bullying and an every-child-for-himself mentality can result contributing greatly to the ME, ME, ME issues discussed in yesterday’s post.

Sibling rivalry has become an accepted component of family life in many cultures, an expected reaction …

David Levy introduced the term “sibling rivalry” in 1941, claiming that for an older sibling “the aggressive response to the new baby is so typical that it is safe to say it is a common feature of family life.”

Is there a question as to why brother/sister relationships aren’t celebrated in an atmosphere of anticipated conflict? Not according to this article in Psychology Today:

Western culture has an obsession with sibling rivalry that began with the story of Cain and Abel and was elaborated by Freud, who labeled and dwelt on the competition between siblings for parental love and attention. It’s colored our perception of sibship ever since. Therapists and lay people alike tend to view the relationship largely as one of struggle and controversy. We have no rituals that make, break, or celebrate the sibling bond. And family experts have underemphasized the sibling relationship, instead concentrating on parents and children and husbands and wives. Small wonder that sibling rivalry is accepted as the normal state of affairs.

More than a world apart are the views of western culture –Cain and Able and Sigmund — from the roots that celebrate the connection:

Raksha Bandhan was a ritual followed by Lord Yama (the Lord of Death) and his sister Yamuna, (the river in northern India). Yamuna tied rakhi to Yama and bestowed immortality. Yama was so moved by the serenity of the occasion that he declared that whoever gets a rakhi tied from his sister and promised her protection, will become immortal.

How incredibly sad it is that so many of us were never shown the path that was wide enough to walk together, but rather steered toward a harder, lonelier road where independence was valued over attachment to those who should be our closest allies, the sharers of our history, fellow inmates in the involuntary incarceration a family can represent.

Could it be that something as simple as incorporating a ceremony into our culture, a commemoration of the value of brothers and sisters, might teach us to treasure the ties and accept the significance of very real bonds?

It certainly couldn’t hurt.

With that thought, we’re observing Raksha Bandhan and encouraging others to take advantage of the day to celebrate threads too often forgotten.

Our brothers and sisters are there with us from the dawn of our personal stories to the inevitable dusk.
~ Susan Scarf Merrell

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