Raksha Purnima or Rakhi Purnima is one of the many festivals which falls on the full moon day of the Shravan month but by far it is the most important one as well. A sentimental festival, it seeks to go to the roots of the values that are quintessentially Indian. A Rakhi or an amulet is tied around the wrist of brothers by their sisters as a charm protecting them from evil or harm and, consequently in return seeking their help when in trouble. It may be of silk thread, or of more costly make like gold or silver, depending on one's means.
The Rakhi derives its name from the word 'Raksha' which means 'to protect'. It symbolizes the abiding and chaste bond of love between the brothers and the sisters. There are abounding episodes of women seeking protection for their husbands' lives even from rival heroes through Rakhi. It is said Alexander's wife tied Rakhi on the wrist of his mighty adversary King Puruvas seeking assurance of her husband's life. The great King, true to the Kshatriya tradition and word, restrained from striking the fatal blow when he saw the Rakhi on his hand.
Raksha-bandhan symbolizes the unique love between siblings. The sanctity and importance of this festival has been acknowledged right from the Vedic times to this modern time. Even if a girl ties Rakhi around the wrist of a stranger, both of them by virtue of the auspicious gesture, look upon each other as brother and sister and become closer in this pure relationship than other blood relations. The festival plays its role in the social psychology of a community as well where a girl can display to a prospective suitor that she is not interested in him without hurting his feelings!
Rakhi has its own role to play during India's tumultuous Freedom struggle as well where many a young women tied Flower Rakhis or Sandalwood Rakhis around the wrists of many young men, and made them pledge their lives, careers, ambitions and even dreams to the struggle for the freedom of their beloved motherland from the shackles of British Imperialism. It is for this reason that Surendranath Bannerji, the great leader of Bengal, endeavored to elevate this important festival of Raksha-Bhandhan to the status of a National Festival.
Even the great Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore recognized the power of the sentiments behind this festival and promoted it as Rakhi Utsav at his sanctuary Shantiniketan. He believed that the Rakhi Utsav would help forge feelings of love and brotherhood.