This is a sentimental Hindu custom within the family marking the love and affection between brothers and sisters, celebrated mostly in India. It comes from an ancient story referring to a battle between the gods and the demons. The King of the Gods, Indra, was unhappy with the battles. His wife, Sachi took a piece of thread and blessed it with sacred verses, known as mantras, for protection against harm and evil. She tied the thread around the wrist of Indra who went on to defeat his enemies. This thread became known as rakhi, which comes from the word raksha meaning ’to protect’.
The festival is a symbol of the love between a brother and sister. The sister says special prayers for the long life and happiness of her brother and then ties the rakhi around his wrist to remind him of the special role he has as protector of the family. The brother then gives a gift to the sister as a symbol of recognizing his role. After the ceremony, sweets made of coconut are served.
Sometimes, this gesture is conducted between strangers. If a woman feels unsafe, she may tie a rakhi around the wrist of a man she trusts, who will then be bound to protect her. They do not always have to be brother and sister.