KARACHI: With the changing times the need for different traditions is also changing, or so some of us believe, as Bindia, a college student, says that during the recent times of terrorism she entrusts the Raksha Bandhan ritual with the protection of both her brothers.
She has not only splurged extra on the rakhis she bought this time but has also offered special prayers before tying the rakhis on her beloved brothers’ wrists.
Like all other parts of the world, Raksha Bandhan was also celebrated by the 0.45 million Hindus living in Karachi, which is a colorful religious festival during which sisters tie a piece of thread around their brothers’ wrist while also offering special prayers for their protection. Local Hindus gathered in more than four dozens temples in the city from early morning to offer the special prayers. Pakistan Hindu Foundation (PHF) set camps in different temples to highlight the importance of the festival and distributed free rakhis to poor Hindu girls so that they could also be a part of the celebrations.
The central gathering was held at Hanuman Temple under the Native Jetty Bridge, which is located at the edge of the Arabian Sea, where women of all ages gathered to offer coconuts, milk and different grains to the sea as a part of their prayers. Hindu girls believe that the rakhi protects their brothers from all sorts of dangers till the next Raksha Bandhan.
“I am in a constant state of mental distress due to the increase in terrorist activities and am only satisfied after tying a rakhi on my brother,” said Pooja, a tenth grade student and resident of Gizri.
The tradition of Raksha Bandhan also comes as a gift to those without siblings, as even women who have no brothers can come to the temple during the festival and tie a rakhi to a complete stranger, making them their brother.
What is amazing about this particular part of the festival is the fact that the strangers who opt to brother the women do not just do so for the day the rakhi is tied but in fact look after their sisters throughout the year, sometimes even taking care of their marriage and return the next year to renew their pledge to their new found sister, as well as attain the protection of the rakhi. Radha is one of the girls who found a brother at the temple, Ganesh, three years ago. “Tying a rakhi to Ganesh not only gave me a loving, caring brother but also gave me a new family, as his family now treats me like their daughter,” she said while adding that this festival further strengthens the bond between siblings.
Rakhis range from simple cotton threads to colourful silk threads that have been decorated with beads and sequins, which are either bought or handmade by devoted sisters.
As Hindus are a minority in Pakistan, there are no factories producing rakhis and shopkeepers import them from India along with bindias and statues of gods and goddesses.
Some shopkeepers sitting outside the Swami Narain Temple, located on Bundar Road, were not happy with the turnout of the rakhi sales, citing the price hikes and the deteriorating law and order situation to be the cause behind the slow sale.
“Usually girls start buying rakhis a week or two before the festival starts, but this year not many girls opted to buy rakhis from us, despite the fact that we imported new designs from India,” said a shopkeeper.