Meena Toor visits the Raksha Bandhan festival
Many residents in Southall recently observed Rakhi - a festival celebrating the relationship between brother and sister - with a number of shops on the Southall Broadway and local King Street taking part.
In the days leading up to rakhi, women poured over tables of brightly coloured threads, in preparation for the event. For brothers abroad, sisters send rakhis in a card so they can be tied on in person.
Raksha Bandhan (the ‘bond of protection’ in Hindi) is a celebration in Sikh and Hindu religions, which occurs on the full moon of the month of Shraavana (‘Lunar mansion’).
Traditionally, the sister will prepare a pooja thali, which will consist of offerings that are blessed in the temple. The offerings include:
• a lighted oil lamp, made of wick and ghee (‘diya’)
• a red paste made from turmeric and lemon juice, which is applied to the forehead as s red dot (‘roli’)
• rice, which is applied to the forehead after the roli.(‘chawal’)
• The decorated threads to be placed on the brother’s hands (‘rakhis’)
After the sister ties the rakhi to the brother’s hand and applies the roli and chawal, the brother will provide a gift in exchange for the token of love. This is sometimes a small present of clothing or money.
Symbolically, the action of tying the rakhi from sister to brother is symbolic of the protection that that brother gives to the sister and her gratitude and love in return.
Local resident, DJ Sunny Singh, 28, says that it is important for the bond between brothers and sisters.
“You know that your sisters will always be there for you in good times and bad times. Rakhi is a chance to tell them that you’ll be there back for them.”
Mr. Jasbir Obhrai, owner of Obhrai Store in Southall, has been selling Rakhris for over 17 years. He says that Southall remains a popular destination for people to purchase their rakhis.
“Most of the Indian community – Hindus and Sikhs – celebrate rakhi, so that’s why everyone comes to Southall to get rakhis. They call it ‘rakhi point’.”
The collection of rakhis on sale include plain threads, threads with religious emblems or words on. In recent years, he’s seen a change in the type of rakhis that younger generations are buying.
“Since the last two three years, all the youngsters want fancy stuff, so we also sell some silver ones. They call it the ‘bling ones’.”
August 27th 2013