Confusing rituals with religion

Back in the day aka in my early childhood I remember my parents would suggest performing a Tikka ritual just near the period of Diwali. Interestingly it does have its origins in another faith.

The following suggests:

After the high voltage celebrations of Diwali, the festival of lights and fire-crackers, sisters all over India get ready for ‘Bhai Dooj’ – when sisters ceremonize their love by putting an auspicious tilak or a vermilion mark on the forehead of their brothers and perform an aarti of him by showing him the light of the holy flame as a mark of love and protection from evil forces. Sisters are lavished with gifts, goodies and blessings from their brothers.

Bhai Dooj comes every year on the fifth and last day of Diwali, which falls on a new moon night. The name ‘Dooj’ means the second day after the new moon, the day of the festival, and ‘Bhai’ means brother.

Bhai Dooj is also called ‘Yama Dwiteeya’ as it’s believed that on this day, Yamaraj, the Lord of Death and the Custodian of Hell, visits his sister Yami, who puts the auspicious mark on his forehead and prays for his well being. So it’s held that anyone who receives a tilak from his sister on this day would never be hurled into hell.

According to one legend, on this day, Lord Krishna, after slaying the Narakasura demon, goes to his sister Subhadra who welcomes him the lamp, flowers and sweets, and puts the holy protective spot on her brother’s forehead.

During a recent trip to Southall in the UK I was amazed to see the number of Rakhri’s on display. I managed to take a couple of pictures. One from a shop window display and the other after asking permission from the shop owner from an array of decorative threads on sale inside her shop. The images suggest a religious context..?



I found this article from

It suggests:

According to historic tradition, the Rakhi or Rakhri was a magic thread tied by a Tantric Yogi, a holy person, or a fakir, to protect the wearer from evil happenings. Later, the Rakhri took the form of the present colorful bangle like thread with flowers and other decorations tied to it.

The Indian festival of Raksha Bandhan prominently know as rakhi once again approaches. The sight of Sikhs purchasing thread to tie on wrists of their brothers and fathers, in return for blessings and gifts has become far to common. Originally a Hindu festival has ignorantly been bought into and accepted in Sikh culture, without a single thought to what it is all about and why our Gurus would never support it. The ritualistic festival, which is against the basic tents of the Sikh faith, has been justified with the explanation that it is a day dedicated to the bond of a brother and sister, and an excuse to pamper each other.

I also considered an article I wrote last year about not judging others. Ultimately it is a choice that people make to either participate, accept in silence or reject. However, I do believe that we all consider carefully the impact of our actions. For example, question participation in the spirit of fun. NB From a Sikh belief perspective participating in  rituals can contradict our values of practicing equality.

Part of the reason for the resurgence of rituals is related to the popularity of Indian based soap operas. Typical story lines centre around a common theme of families in turmoil. Family weddings are also increasingly becoming embroiled with activities that base themselves on the suggestion that they are regional traditions.

Sadly, FGM is a more extreme ritual – ‘The practice is rooted in gender inequality, ideas about purity, modesty and aesthetics, and attempts to control women’s sexuality’.

All I ask is that every family considers the purity of the bond and equality between men and women rather than the superfluous activities of superstitions and in some cases implied suppression. We need to respect other religions and consider the potential compromise of our own.

Categories: 2014, Anti-Fascism, Sikhs, Spirtuality

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