Rituals and practices are followed and passed on to generations. But many a times, what is not passed on, are the reasons, the significance and their meaning. Some rituals carry on, some don’t and gradually they either remain symbolic or lose their significance.
In a few days, most of India will celebrate the annual festival, Raksha Bandhan. It is one of those festivals that has no complexity about it. The sister tying a thread on the brother’s wrist as an expression of solidarity between them.
Do we need these festivals to remind us of these relationships? Do such symbolic exercises have any relevance in the modern world?
Most festivals or customs have their roots in an incident or practice and Raksha Bandhan is no exception. It is to its credit that fresh inspirations in various forms have kept this festival alive and fresh hues keep getting added to its colourful past.
More than the sibling relationships, what has contributed to its stature and popularity has been the thread of relationships this practice has been able to bind with others in the same spirit.
I am taken aback reading a legend that in 326 BC, when Alexander the Great invaded India, Roxana, his wife sent a sacred thread to Porus, the king of India, asking him not to harm Alexander in battle. On the battlefield, when Porus was about to deliver the final blow to Alexander, he was reminded by the thread on his wrist and respected her wish by refraining from attacking him personally.
So can such symbols of relationship be alive in today’s virtual world. Yes and no.
Yes, festivals and customs do serve as a healthy reminder of our culture, our customs, our responsibilities, and help us recollect the glorious past, and refresh our relationships. They offer opportunities to repair strained relationships, and a ready excuse to those looking to rebuild relations.
No, it is of no use if festivals are used as a once-a-year ritual which one recollects at a particular time of the year and slips back to the comfort of complacency after the passing of the festival.
Most festivals make only an annual appearance. They come for a purpose – to remind, repair, refresh and rejuvenate their significance. But they will serve their purpose only when these threads get woven into the fabric of our lives.
The threads that bond are those that will remain strong and carry the weight of relationships. And it is these relationships, you realize, is what bond you to life.