x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Indians celebrate bond of siblings

Thousands of expatriate Indians welcome Raksha Bandhan, a festival that celebrates the relationship between brothers and sisters.

Raji Nair of Sharjah, left, and Sandhya Upreti of Dubai purchase bracelets for their brothers during Raksha Bandhan at a stall in Dubai's Meena Bazaar.
Raji Nair of Sharjah, left, and Sandhya Upreti of Dubai purchase bracelets for their brothers during Raksha Bandhan at a stall in Dubai's Meena Bazaar.

DUBAI // Thousands of expatriate Indians welcomed Raksha Bandhan yesterday, a festival that celebrates the relationship between brothers and sisters. In India, the day is a public holiday celebrated with great enthusiasm. Dressed in their best clothes, families spent most of the day shopping, watching films or just catching up with one another.

Here, the festival generated equal enthusiasm. Shops in Bur Dubai were packed with Indian women selecting their favourite rakhi designs. The colourful bracelets, made with gold and red strings and often studded with stones and beads, were seen hanging from most shops close to the area's Hindu temple. Priced from Dh2 to Dh5, these bracelets were selling fast, as were Indian sweets and other items needed for the rituals.

"These products are brought in specifically for the festival and we hope to sell them all," said Ali Bhai, a trader in Bur Dubai. "The business is quite good every year, as lot of women buy them." In Hindi, "Raksha" means protect, while "Bandhan" stands for the bond between a brother and a sister. The Hindu festival is celebrated every year on the full moon in the lunar month of Shravana. Traditionally the sister ties a silk bracelet, known as a "rakhi," on the wrist of her brother or any man she considers to be like a brother; he then promises to protect her from all dangers for the rest of his life.

Sweets and gifts are exchanged, and the day is seen as an opportunity for family gatherings. "We have not yet tied rakhis for our brothers. Being a working day, we have postponed the ritual to the evening," said Haseena Begum. While some preferred flashy rakhis, others bought simple silk threads. "It depends a lot on the taste of your brother too. Besides, if he is in Dubai he will find it difficult to walk around with a big, shiny bracelet," joked Aruna Pai, another shopper.

Meanwhile, several others who are living away from their families in India found other ways of celebrating, and of remembering those back home. "I am buying these for myself since my sister is not here. She made me promise that I will buy a rakhi and tie it on my hand. I really miss her today," said Anil Dhar, an expatriate Indian in Dubai. Large crowds also gather each year at the temple in Bur Dubai to pray for the protection and prosperity of their siblings.

Many others posted gifts and bracelets overseas. "Like every year, I have bought and sent two rakhis for my brothers in Singapore," said Neetu Gupta, who accompanied her friends to shop yesterday. "I am very sure I'll be soon getting a courier with gifts from them." Meanwhile, there were celebrations across the Hindi-speaking northern belt of India. The president, Pratibha Patil, marked the occasion by meeting 105 children from 17 organisations and schools at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in Delhi, including some children who were mentally and physically disabled.

The president gave sweets and gifts to the children, who also had a tour of his residence and the Mughal Gardens. pmenon@thenational.ae