It is hard to say exactly who began the tradition of celebrating Raksha Bandhan as there are many legends and mythical stories associated with the festival. If we flip through the pages of sacred Hindu texts, then the word about Ashok Sundari (Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati’s daughter) tying rakhi on her brothers` (Ganesha and Kartikeya) wrists can be found. This means that the tradition dates back to that era when the three divine siblings were all grown up.
Now, if we move ahead to the Dwapar Yuga, there occurred an incident when Queen Draupadi (wife of the mighty Pandavas), tore a strip of her silk garment and tied it around Lord Krishna’s bleeding finger left by his ‘Sudarshan Chakra’ that he had conjured to kill his vile cousin Shishupal. Moved by her affectionate gesture, Krishna declared Draupadi to be his sister and promised to repay the debt by protecting her whenever the need would arise.
Another legend says that a long time ago, it was the river Yamuna, who tied a rakhi on the wrist of her brother, Yama (the Lord of Death), to bestow him with immortality. On his part, Yama gladly announced a boon to the mankind that whoever will get a rakhi tied from his sister and promise her unflinching protection, will be gifted with immortality.
If we talk about the modern time events that gave a new meaning to the practice of Rakhi celebrations, then Rabindranath Tagore’s name surfaces very vividly as the one who viewed this festival in a different context. When the British were spreading disparity amongst Hindu and Muslims, it was Tagore who came ahead and tried his best to make Raksha Bandhan a mode of dealing with the ill effects of the divide and rule policy, by celebrating the occasion on a mass scale. Tagore’s idea was to propagate the feeling of oneness and brotherhood between the Hindus and Muslims of Bengal through Raksha Bandhan.
Whichever legend you may choose to believe as far as the Rakhi celebrations go, the message is clear – there is nothing as pure as the bond between a brother and sister, whether they are related by blood or by word of mouth.