Raksha Bandhan. A festival to mark Protection for Women???
“Mayer’s (1960:219) observation for central India would not be inaccurate for most communities in the subcontinent:
‘A man’s tie with his sister is accounted very close. The two have grown up together, at an age when there is no distinction made between the sexes. And later, when the sister marries, the brother is seen as her main protector, for when her father has died to whom else can she turn if there is trouble in her conjugal household.’
Our society is majorly a patriarchal and patrilineal in nature. It’s the social and economic vulnerability of the Indian women that are often in a patronising position in this age old tradition of learned gender roles.
The story of raksha bandhan dates back to the yuga of Lord Krishna and Draupadi – the wife of Pandavas. According to the legend, the Lord had cut his little finger while flying a kite. While his wives Rukmini and Sathyabhama rushed their helps to bring a bandage, Draupadi rushed to the Lord, tore her sari and wrapped it around his finger. Pleased with the gesture of his sister-like Draupadi, Lord promised to protect her. It is also considered to be the reason for Draupadi’s saree becoming endless when she was disrobed in Dritarashtra’s court. But then who disrobed Draupadi??? A man right!!!!
They say Rani Karnavati sent Rakhi to Humayun and the ‘brother’ carried a massive army to save her sister. What they do not tell you is that Rani Karnavati was wife of Rana Sanga. Humayun who was on Bengal’s invasion responded graciously and assured his assistance to Rani Karnawati, which could make Rajputs favourable towards Mughals, he left the Bengal expedition midway but he could not reach Chittor on time.
But then this Rakhi was also symbolic of political agreements and arrangements. A medium which could have initiated historically significant treaty between Rajputs and Mughals. Karnavati and the other noble ladies of the court immolated themselves in a mass suicide by fire known as Jauhar after the defeat, saving themselves again….. from men.
Year after year we usher our young generation into this social misconstrued version of reality whereby the brother assumes the role of ‘protector’ and the sister is the one that must be ‘protected’.
We often forget that this tradition started at a time when women had little or no land rights. The home of the father or brother was considered her utmost salvation at times of desertion, divorce or worse widowhood. Thus, the intrinsic value of sibling love was divorced from the custom that simply became a tool for gender based stereotypes.
So What are we doing here? Support a tradition that is rooted to patriarchy so that men protect women from ‘other’ men. Instead shouldn’t it be a bond celebrating the lovely childhood and emotional bondings that siblings share.