Sunday, August 10, 2014

Raksha-bandhan (for tots and trees)

....credit for Taru Bandhan festival goes to Mahadev Mahato from Dudhmatia village......Mahato has helped restore 25,000 acres of forestland.....“for natives of Jharkhand, forest is a part of life...why not include trees as part of our family and rituals”.... 
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Of the many traditions that cut across communities in India, Raksha-bandhan or Rakhi is probably the most popular and one with the longest historical record (unfortunately that does not protect such traditions in Pakistan...for example).  There is the story of (Rajput Queen) Karnavati sending a rakhi to (Mughal Emperor) Humayun seeking protection against Bahadur Shah (Muslim ruler of Gujarat). The rakhi legends extend even further back to Alexander the Great (see below).

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As part of an unique movement for conservation in the eastern, tribal dominated state of Jharkhand, even the trees get a rakhi (see below). If it works, it has our blessings. 
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Are girls (especially didi-s or elder sisters, even little girls of those sisters) born to be matriarchs? It may be a stereotype, but it certainly holds true in our extended family. Many a time we restore our oppressed spirits by mumbling "hitler" sotto voce, but if the lady is perceptive, she will come back with a ki bolle? (what did you say?).
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Regardless, sisters are very precious and getting a band from a sister is a privilege. Sad to say, these traditions are dying out, however, we did update the practice so that in our home brothers tie a band on the sisters as well. Wishing all the brothers and sisters out there all the best. Everyone have lots of fun and stay safe. 
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The Taru Bandhan ritual being practised in the tribal heartland of Jharkhand has helped restore and conserve hundreds of acres of forestland in the state


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The tribal heartland of Jharkhand in eastern India has evolved a unique tradition of forest conservation -- tying rakhis to trees. Rakhi is an Indian festival for siblings where the sister ties an auspicious thread of love on her brother’s wrist, amidst great revelry and feasting. The latter, in turn, promises her protection throughout his life.

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Jharkhand’s indigenous people harbour such strong feelings towards the forests and trees that villagers tie the same auspicious rakhi thread around the trunks of trees. The ritual, called Taru Bandhan or Vriksh Raksha Bandhan, is aimed at preserving trees from the axe and the saw. In return, the forest offers people a sustainable way of life.

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Hundreds of villages in Jharkhand practise this unique ritual on the eve of the state’s foundation day fortnight, starting November 15. And, thanks to the villagers’ enthusiasm, the celebrations continue right up to the New Year.

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In the tradition of the Rakhi festival, this ritual too starts on an elaborate note as the women of the village, dressed in their colourful best, gather in the forest. A bedi (altar) is erected on an elevated patch of land, at the forest entrance. It is decked with flowers and embellished with motifs created out of coloured rice paste and other grains. It is here that the Van Devi (Goddess of the Forest) is invoked with offerings of fruit, incense sticks and holy threads that are later wound around the trees.

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“For them (the villagers) the event is also an occasion to celebrate and rejoice,” says Amarnath Bhagat, Ranger, Hazaribagh. Amidst the sounding of the nagara, dhol and mandar (tribal musical instruments), vermillion is applied on the trunk of the tree. A garland of hibiscus or marigold is suspended from the tree and an aarti (ceremony done with incense sticks and earthen lamps)performed in much the same way as that which takes place during the Rakhi festival.

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The festival is incomplete without children who take part in large numbers, not only for the continuance of the tradition but also to spread awareness. They enact small plays at the venue, and design posters and banners that are displayed at the site.


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The ritual is most commonly practised on a sal or sakhua tree (Shorea robusta) or the mahua (Madhuca latifolia), karaunj (Pongamia pinnata), kathal (Hallocarpus indicus), neem (Azadiracta indica), etc. “Sal is regarded as the ‘king of the forest’. It greatly promotes conservation and proliferation of various types of plant species, thereby improving biodiversity and conservation of nature,” says Kanhai Mahato from Tuktuko village, Bagodar block in Giridih. “Our village forest management and protection committee has restored 800 acres of forestland,” he adds with pride.

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The villagers choose a patch in the forest where the rakhis will be tied to trees. “Once a tree is ‘ritualised’ we do not pluck even a leaf from it,” says Anju Devi from Mangro village, Vishugarh block, Hazaribagh.

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The credit for initiating the Taru Bandhan festival, nearly a decade ago, goes to a local villager by the name of Mahadev Mahato from Dudhmatia village in Jharkhand’s Hazaribagh district. A schoolteacher by profession, Mahato has helped restore nearly 25,000 acres of forestland. “For the natives of Jharkhand, the forest is an inseparable part of their life; why not include trees as part of our family and rituals,” he asks. 
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Mahato expresses satisfaction that his passion has not only spread to his fellow villagers but also to the forest department that has acknowledged his efforts. Palamau, Dhanbad, Chatra, Koderma and Hazaribagh are some of the districts that have taken the initiative in propagating this unique “green tradition”.

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Chief Conservator of Forests B R Rallan, from Hazaribagh where the practice is most common, says: “The concept is basically the brainchild of Mahato, which we are carrying forward in other districts too.” It has proved very effective in bringing about villagers’ participation in forest conservation, which forms the basis of joint forestry management.

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Raksha Bandhan means “Knot of Protection,” and the festival ceremonies include the sister tying a rakhi bracelet around her brother's wrist, which symbolizes the sister's love and the brother's lifelong duty to protect his sibling. The festival is often simply referred to as “Rakhi” after the name of this ceremonial bracelet.
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Saturday, the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, and the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, issued a greeting for tomorrow’s celebration, focusing on women: “May the festival be an occasion for re-dedication to the well being of women, particularly the girl child.”
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Raksha Bandhan is an ancient celebration and its history is inter-woven with various stories and myths. One story tells the tale of Mughal emperor Humayun and widowed queen Rani Karnavati of Chittor. In the 16th century AD, Sultan Bahadur Shah of Gujarat rode with a conquering army into Chittor, prompting Rani Karnavati to sent a rakhi to Emperor Humayun in a request for help. 
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Touched by her plea, the Mughal emperor rode to her defense but was too late, as the princess and all the other women of the fortress had committed suicide and the fortress had been captured. Humayun defeated and expelled Sultan Bahadur and placed Rani's son on the throne, and the rakhi subsequently became a symbol of brotherly protection.
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Another legend even involves the West, invoking the figure of Alexander the Great. When Alexander invaded India in the 4th century BC, the story holds that his wife Roxana sent a rakhi to King Porus of Paurava. Roxana implored the king not to harm Alexander in battle, and Porus respected her request, staying a killing blow to Alexander on the battlefield while wearing the rakhi. Historically, the Greeks won the battle and Porus continued to rule Paurava in service to Alexander.
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During the festival, participants wear fine Indian clothing and prepare many traditional Indian foods and snacks. During the rakhi ritual, the sister will first tie the bracelet around her brother's wrist, then bless him and pray over him. She will then feed him, usually with some sweets that have been prepared. The two will then hug and exchange gifts, thus ending the ritual. The brother will keep the rakhi and wear it for the rest of the day as a reminder of his duty to protect his sister.
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Not only Hindus, but Sikhs, Jains, and even some Indian Muslims celebrate Raksha Bandhan as well. In recent decades, Raksha Bandhan has spread to other parts of South Asia, developing different regional and cultural variants and practices. For many, it has extended beyond the traditional brother-sister relationship and is used to celebrate the love of ones cousins or even very close friends. 
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The festival takes place in the Hindu calendar month of Shraavana, and falls on August 10 this year.

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Link (1): http://hindus-prepare-raksha-bandhan-annual-celebration-brother-sister-love

Link (2): http://infochangeindia.org/environment/stories-of-change/a-rakhi-for-trees.html
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regards