The Makings Of The Modern Rakhi

Rakhi or Raksha Bandhan is a festival celebrated on the last day of the Hindu lunar calendar month of Shravanna, which typically falls in August. Usually celebrated in the Hindu culture, it is popular in India, Nepal and many other parts of Southeast Asia.  However, due to integration of culture and globalization, the festival has also spread to many members of other religions.It marks the celebration of the bond that siblings share, and commemorate set promise every brother make towards his sister, of protecting and helping her in times of need. The proceedings are usually fairly uniform across the subcontinent. The auspicious day it started off with sweets and specialties of local cuisine. The sister typically ties a decorative thread across the wrist of the brother. This very well known custom is synonymous with the sacred thread. Rakshabandhan literally translate the ‘bond of protection, obligation and care’. Even between individuals that are not related by birth, the custom is often practiced with equal enthusiasm in an attempt to create a bond of kinship or a sense of family.Rakhi, along with most traditions followed in today’s world found its roots in various tales from the country’s rich culture and history. Some believe that the festival originated when Draupadi tied a piece of cloth to Lord Krishna’s wrist, before the Great War- Mahabharta. She did so to symbolize their bond and her blessings to him. She respected and loved him as her elder brother. However, Puranas also give rise to another theory that after Vishnu won the three worlds from the demon King Bali, the King asked Vishnu to stay with him in his palace, a request Vishnu granted. Conversely, Vishnu’s wife, Goddess Lakshmi was not comfortable , and wished that her husband and she return to their home- Vaikuntha. So she went to the King, tied a thread to his wrist and hence formed a strong sense of siblinghood between them. The King asked her what she desired. She expressed her desire that she and her husband should be freed from the King’s request and be allowed to return home. King Bali consented and the two formed a strong bond, like that of a brother and sister.

It is believed that in the 18th century, Sikh Khalsa armies introduced the term Rakhi as a promise of protection to peasant farmers from Afghan invaders, often in exchange for sharing a small cut of their farm produce. Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the founding ruler of the Sikh Empire, observed the festival. After some years, his wife Maharani Jindan sent a Rakhi to the ruler of Nepal, who accepted her as sister and gave her refuge in the Hindu kingdom of Nepal in 1849 after the collapse of the Sikh Empire and annexation of its territories by the British.

Rabindranath Tagore, the Indian Nobel Laureate for literature, felt that it was the concepts such as Rakhi that inspired love, respect and a vow of mutual protection between mankind. He felt that these concepts could bring together Hindus and Muslims during India’s freedom struggle. Especially when the British were on the verge of dividing Bengal on the basis of religion.  In 1905, when the British divided Bengal, he arranged a ceremony to celebrate Raksha Bandhan. He felt that this could be instrumental in strengthening the bond of love and togetherness between Hindus and Muslims of Bengal, and would urge them to together protest the British Empire. He used the idea of Raksha Bandhan to spread the feeling of brotherhood.

Throughout tales and facts of past and today, something that has always been is related with Rakhi has been the sacred bond between a brother and sister. A beautiful bond that is made of love, respect and protection. Even though this festival might just be represented by a simple thread; we all know that it stands for so much more. Most importantly it stands for the promise of protection made by every brother to his sister. Even our late former President: Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam agrees with me (in  more beautiful words perhaps) when he penned these words-

This full moon day our hearts are in brim

Feeling of faith and serenity in mind.

We light the lamps and our hearts glow

Radiance of happiness and peace are in flow.

Harmonious homes are like streams of joy

Flowing and flourishing the landscape en route.

Nobility in heart and character in deed

Righteous homes alone make a beautiful State.

Sisters will tie the thread on the brothers

Abiding them to do only what is right and clean.

Put the Kumkum and blessed rice on the head

Where will dwell right thoughts and noble action.

In the olden times, brothers would promise to protect their sister’s honor and their dignity. But I feel that after so much time, women are perfectly capable to protecting their honor and dignity on their own. Nonetheless, there is something that every women should be protected from- UTIs, i.e. Urinary Tract Infections, the new and rising form of evil.A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection that affects part of the urinary tract.Statistics show that more than 10 Million women, in India alone have to face UTIs, every year. To paint a clearer picture, one in every three women in India suffers from some form of Urinary Tract Infection, at least once in their lifetime. The tragedy remains, that due to lack of awareness, negligence and most importantly, social stigmas that surround the issue of women’s personal hygiene, these infections may or may not be diagnosed and treated. And being of the most dangerous nature, Urinary Tract Infections have a rather treacherous habit of being recurring. And unlike contracting such an infection, it is incredibly difficult, painful and expensive to get rid of it.

There are many causes behind UTIs and the most common among them is (no surprise there) unhygienic toilets. According a report by Action Aid India, over seventy percent of toilets in India are not in a useable condition because of being so unhygienic. The situation is indeed grim.

In India, we have come to paint a pretty picture of the modern woman- strong, confident and self reliant. But what happens when this confident woman has to answer nature’s call when she is away from the comforts of her home? If she has to use a public washroom, she has to choose between contracting a rather nasty infection or taking up a position that requires the muscles of an Olympic gymnast, i.e. she has to hover or semi-squat above the toilet seat.

While this might just be a painful possibility for many, it is a downright impossible task for many. The aged or those with rather fragile joints or arthritis might find it more than just painful to attempt to use public washrooms with the alternatives like semi-squatting.

 

The other popular alternative that was found being used by many women was withholding from urinating, often for long durations, in an attempt to find a clean and useable washroom. This solution is not only uncomfortable but also extremely unhealthy. This is because withholding from urinating from long hours weakens bladder muscles and also forces the toxins to remain inside the body for longer than necessary duration.

 

The solution lies in a rather new entry to the shelves of medical stores and pharmacies. Female Urinary Devices. These unique products belong to two categories; disposable and reusable. The basic idea behind both is to act as a funnel that allows women to stand and urinate, so as to avoid any physical contact with the filthy surface of public washrooms. This ensures minimum risk of infections.

The disposable funnels are usually manufactured with a certain kind of paper or related material and can easily be discarded post use.

The re-useable products are usually made of plastic or other lasting material. The funnel should be washed post every use thoroughly and then dried and stored properly to ensure than there isn’t any growth of bacteria or other germ bodies on the device. It is a rather cumbersome and messy activity to be undertakes post every use, especially since it is close to impossible to clean a surface thoroughly without disinfectant and rather Impractical to carry disinfectant every where.

So when we come down to the gist of the issue, the threats of the modern man ( or rather, woman) have changed drastically. It is no longer about elaborate battles to protect the honor of thy woman, though we are not very far from it.  It is now much much worse, while playing the part of modern and civilized society, we started taking the necessity of women as a luxury. A clean and hygienic washroom is not a urban luxury that we can discard with the excuse of being ‘developing’. It is the necessity every woman to ensure that they get equal access to public spaces and opportunities that are linked to these spaces.

So this Raksha Bandhan, when brothers across the sub continent collectively scratch their heads, amused by their own inability to choose a gift for their sisters, they need not worry. They need not worry about empowering their sisters with gifts to uplift her, just opportunities to unlock her potential. Every woman is a storehouse of power, grace, talent and potential with a padded front lock. All she needs to do is take charge and Stand Up For Yourself.

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