Celebrating Raksha Bandhan: Our OG Siblings Day!

Having a blended cultural identity can have its pros and cons. For me, as a South Asian American, born and raised in the Midwest but with a strongly North Indian Hindu cultural upbringing, the biggest day to day con is almost certainly the difficulty of having an “ethnic” name. However, there truly are a lot of plusses. For me, one of the best is having two sets of holidays from which to choose. As a mom, trying to translate my and my husband’s childhood experiences with these festivities represents an opportunity to look at each occasion with fresh eyes, to see how the celebration fits into our contemporary lives. Whether Holi, Diwali or other smaller festivities, given how ancient some of these traditions are, the mythology and rituals surrounding South Asian holidays often vary from region to region, and family to family. Yet every summer, millions of us celebrate Raksha Bandhan, sometimes called Rakhi, to commemorate the bond between {historically} brother and sister. 

Most traditionally, Raksha Bandhan is an OG Siblings’ Day, whereby sisters will usually try a festive thread (rakhi) on their brothers’ wrists, signifying their love, prayers and well-wishes. Hindus typically use similar rakhis, or a thread tied on the wrist, for other religious ceremonies and it signifies a sense of protection to the wearer. Sisters may also prepare sweets for their brothers, who in turn will present a gift to symbolize their lifelong commitment to protecting and caring for their sisters. Many families have neutralized the gendered component by having their children participate identically regardless of their sex, but as my husband and I both came from one-boy, one-girl families, we grew up with fairly traditional celebrations. I have great memories celebrating Raksha Bandhan with my younger brother during our childhood, the earliest being during his youngest years, when he would protest a handkerchief held atop his head while he received my blessing. My memories of that age are few and far between, but I imagine this one stuck because it likely felt very empowering to my 4-year-old self to have the “big sister responsibility” of blessing my baby brother! As you might be able to tell from this old family photo, I was very protective of and obsessed with him from the get-go! 

Celebrating Raksha Bandhan:: Our OG Siblings Day!

In all the interim years, I have managed to get a rakhi his way pretty much every time, but given the geographical distance between us, our celebratory traditions vary quite a bit year to year. Now that my sister-in-law no longer lives in Houston either, we don’t have any local sibling pairs to role model this relationship for my daughter, but it’s a tradition I want to pass along. In the days of social media, I often see posts questioning Raksha Bandhan and others that celebrate social connectedness via a strong emphasis on traditional gender roles, querying or sometimes shaming those who uphold these supposedly-antiquated rituals. Like most family traditions, depending on how these holidays are celebrated, they have the potential to rub salt in bitter wounds. For us, to say the least, it’s a very sad chain of events leading to the reality that my daughter won’t grow up tying a rakhi for my nephew. And, as I talked about last month, a human sibling is still TBD for her. 

But improvisation and innovation help keeps these rituals fresh for me, and at the risk of being somewhat heretical, we have wanted our daughter to understand the responsibilities and joys of siblingdom from the moment she arrived home and her big fur-brother sniffed {and licked, to my mom’s everlasting dismay!} her sweet little face. So, last year on Raksha Bandhan our 11-month old tied a rakhi for Bowser, and I hoped, watching the scene unfold, that she would learn love, sharing and sacrifice through their relationship as she grew. 

Celebrating Raksha Bandhan:: Our OG Siblings Day!Though she did try to eat his treat herself at last year’s Raksha Bandhan celebration, a lot has changed over the past 12 months, and sometimes my sweet girl amazes me with her kindness. She might try to get my goat sometimes by threatening to eat a piece of his kibble, but she is pure fervent toddler love when it comes to him. She goes running to check on his every bark at the front door, shares her stuffed animals with him even on the rare occasions he snatches them out of her hand {sometimes there are tears, and not to fret, she is definitely the alpha between the two of them, but she frequently tries to offer him “monkey” or “lion” in case he wants to play}, pats him as gently as she knows how while observing time and again that his fur is “soft, soft”, and puts up with my reminders that even on days she wants to dive right into breakfast, “sometimes we have to put our siblings first, and Bowser really needs to go on a walk right now”. 

Celebrating Raksha Bandhan:: Our OG Siblings Day!So, until she has a baby brother or sister to celebrate – and we will celebrate a sibling of any gender in whichever way the Raksha Bandhan rituals feel authentic to us! – I look forward to this year’s celebration hoping that she is learning what I think siblings are truly meant to teach us:: how to love another being unconditionally, growing and changing alongside one another, squabbling and quibbling and playing, but most of all, caring deeply for each other. My brother and I were raised to believe that we should be each other’s “person”, and how well those values worked out for us is largely what inspires me to want my daughter to have a chance for the same. But staying in this moment, I am happy knowing that for my almost-2-year-old in 2021, the life lessons she’s learning from loving our pup are more than enough. Happy Raksha Bandhan!


Pin this post and be sure to follow
Houston Moms
on Pinterest!

Previous articleDon’t Be Left in the Dark This Hurricane Season
Next articleHow You Can Welcome Refugees to Houston
Rashmi Kudesia, MD MSc is a board-certified OB/GYN and Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility specialist who is passionate about improving women's access to evidence-based, honest reproductive health information and care. Aside from her clinical practice seeing patients in Houston and Sugar Land, Rashmi frequently speaks at conferences and community events, and advocates for women's health via media interviews and social media. Originally a Midwesterner, she moved around the East Coast for school and training, including nearly a decade in NYC, where she met her husband, Ashish, a Houston native. After moving to Houston in 2018, she's continued searching for that perfect work-life balance as the family grew quickly, adding their first pup, Bowser {2018}, their first home, and now their first kiddo, Amara {2019}! Right now, she's learning the ropes of being a working mama, but still loves exploring Houston's amazing food scene, checking out the newest museum exhibits, or planning the family's next trip. She's always on the hunt for the city's best iced latte or glass of wine to be savored with a good book. Find her on Facebook and Instagram {@rkudesia}.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here