Rakshabandhan, popularly called Rakhi, is a festival that is celebrated with tremendous enthusiasm by all sects of the Hindu community in every part of Mewar. Like some other events on this occasion, people are in a joyful mood to enjoy the bounties of the monsoon- the cool environment and the greenery all around. While Karva Chauth mainly symbolizes husband-wife relationship, Rakhi is the festival of brother-sister bonding.
So important is the festival for people, that those living in different parts of the state and even ones from Gujarat, M.P., Maharastra, etc. rush home to be with their kin on this occasion. No wonder all modes of travel are crowded and reservations have to be made well in advance.
While ladies in Udaipur can be seen busy buying the choicest ‘rakhis’ that would adorn the wrists of their dear brothers, male members search every nook and corner of Lake City to choose the gifts that would surprise their sisters on the auspicious and much-awaited Raksha Bandhan. The already crowded markets in the festival town become more so as they are thronged also by people from neighboring, especially rural areas, who
come here for festival shopping. Shopkeepers extend their shops to display their wares and limit the space making shopping all the more difficult.
‘Rakhi’ which has its origin in the Sanskrit word ‘Rakshita’ is celebrated with great fervor by Udaipurites on Purnima in the month of Shravan following the traditions established long ago. In Puranic times King Bali got the land of ‘Patal’ from Lord Vishnu’s Vaman incarnation. Pleased with the king the Lord asked him to ask for any boon. The King requested him to safeguard his kingdom. When the Lord left Vaikuntha and began to serve the king in ‘Patal’, Goddess Laxmi got very angry. Then she thought of a way out. She went to the king and gained his confidence. She was able to persuade the king to let her tie a ‘rakhi’ on his wrist. The king agreed to do so and thus the Goddess became his sister. Then it was not difficult for her to take back Vishnu to her home.
In Mewar is prevalent a custom called ‘phuli’ that is not a tradition in other parts of the state. On the Sunday preceding Rakhi, sisters tie a yellow thread around their ‘kangan’ at their husband’s home. They fast for the welfare of their brother and in a song ask their dear brother to bring a ‘chunar’ and a ‘peelo’ cloth fo them.
Rakhi is considered to be a highly auspicious day. There is palpable excitement in the air. Getting up early people dress themselves up in their best clothes. It is very a common practice to fast till the tying of ‘rakhis’. Their heads covered with ‘sari’ or ‘dupatta’, ladies put ‘roli’ and rice grains on their brother’s forehead, tie ‘rakhi’ on their wrist, offer coconut, and put sweets in their mouth. They get the choicest gifts. The simple ritual, symbolizes the sisters asking for the brother’s blessing and in turn getting assurance for protection thus strengthening the unique bond between the two.
An interesting feature of Raksha Bandhan in Udaipur is that it is celebrated for two days. The day after Rakhi falling on the first day of the month of Bhadwa is called Thandi Rakhi. The tribals of Udaipur call it Thandi Takdo.
During the reign of Maharana Bhupal Singh of Mewar, there used to be a big fair on the Bansdara hill where the famous Sajjangarh fort is situated. Rural folk especially, tribals from neighboring areas like Nandeshwar, Oondari, Gorela, Kundala, Kaya, Badi, Hawala, Alsigarh, and Paee participated in this fair. They enjoyed the fair the whole day long
singing, dancing, and getting tattoos on their body and returned home in the evening. With the passing away of the Maharana, the fair was discontinued.
Now Thandi Rakhi fair is held at Amrakh Mahadeo about 15 km. from Udaipur on Nathdwara road. It has the distinction of being the second biggest ‘mela’ in Udaipur after Hariyali Amawas fair. A big market is set up and brisk business is done. There are swings, ‘dolars’ and other means of entertainment. Villagers, especially tribals of scores of villages, visit it for enjoyment. Gaily dressed, they come singing and dancing with their families. Ladies get tattoos of peacocks, parrots, scorpions, ‘panihari’, leaves, flowers, and even names of their parents and brothers on their bodies.
According to a belief among Bhils, on this very day of Thandi Rakhi they took Gavri from Brahmins. Even to this day Bhils from Bora Ka Guda, Nal Ka Guda, Lakhawali, Bedla, Chota Bedla, Partapura, Meron Ka Guda, Bhuwana, etc. come to Amrakh Mahadeo. From here these Bhils start the traditional Gavri dance which continues for the next five weeks and ends after Ghadavan-Balavan,. The panchas, patels and chiefs of the
above mentioned villages dress up some characters of the play like Rai Boodia, Bhopa here at a predetermined auspicious time. Some parts of the dance are performed here for some time on this day and then for the next three days, almost all the ‘Khayals’ of Gavri are presented in the villages.
On the occasion of Thandi Rakhi Bhil, ladies sing songs to please Amrakh Mahadeo. One of which says that his ringlets are making a loud sound. This makes Parvati very happy, and she begins to sing “O Mahadeo”, the ringlets on your fingers and toes produce a sweet note. There is a lot of dancing, “O Mahadeo”.
Thandi Rakhi marks the end of the month of Sawan but it heralds the beginning of the season of another round of festivals which had come to a close in summer after Gangaur. The next eight months are full of festivities and celebrations. A tribal song with a hopeful note says that a lady tells her brother’s wife that they would celebrate Rakhi again in the next Sawan!