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A Divine Sibling Bond: Celebrating Rakhi with Puri Jagannath, Balbhadra and Subhadra



The festival of Raksha Bandhan, popularly known as Rakhi, is a celebration of the unique bond between siblings. This cherished Indian tradition revolves around the sister tying a sacred thread (rakhi) on her brother's wrist, symbolising her love and protection for him, while he promises to protect her. On this auspicious occasion, let's delve into the heartwarming story of Lord Puri Jagannath and his sister Subhadra, exploring their divine sibling bond and drawing inspiration from their relationship.


In Indian culture and rituals, the sibling bond is of great significance and is valued and celebrated in various rituals and festivals, the most prominent of which are Raksa Bandana & Bhai Dooj. In the holy city of Puri, Odisha stands the famous Jagannath Temple, dedicated to Lord Jagannath (a form of Lord Krishna), his elder brother Lord Balabhadra and his sister Subhadra in the centre. It is the only temple dedicated to the siblings. The sacred bond between Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra is a religious story and embodies the spirit of Raksha Bandhan. This temple is also a Purushottam Kshetra (commonly known as a Dham), the holiest of places.


Another major sibling festival in India is Puri Rathyatra, which is only associated with this temple. During the Rathyatra, these 3 deities are taken in a procession on 3 different handmade wooden chariots to a nearby Gundicha temple where they stay for 7 days and return. It is said that before the yatra, Goddess Subhadra ties a rakhi to her brothers, symbolising her wish for their safety and well-being during the journey. This practice mirrors the Rakhi festival where sisters pray for the protection of their brothers and brothers vow to protect the honour of their sisters.


Another interesting fact is that all these festivals celebrating sibling bonds are observed during Dakshinayana, which is considered a darker or negative state of mind. In Chaturmas the mind is considered to be more violent or irritable. So you will see more festivals celebrating the purity of relationships during this time of the year.


According to Hindu scriptures, Lord Jagannath (Krishna) and his siblings Subhadra and Balabhadra (Balram) are believed to be the incarnations of Lord Vishnu, Yogamaya & Seshnag respectively. Subhadra Devi is Lord Krishna's inner Shakti, Yogamaya. She is the facilitator of devotional service and makes all the arrangements for the devotees to serve Lord Krishna. Sri Balbadra is the predominator of Sandhini-Shakti (spiritual existence). In short, Lord Balarama is the custodian of the spiritual realm and Subhadra Devi is the facilitator of devotional service.


Lessons of Jagannath and Subhadra:


The story of Jagannath and Subhadra exemplifies the ideals that Raksha Bandhan stands for:


Unconditional love: Subhadra's love for her brothers transcended their divine origins. Similarly, siblings share a bond that transcends material possessions and provides support, love and understanding.


Protection and care: Just as Subhadra expressed her concern for her brothers' safety during the Rath Yatra, siblings always look out for each other and ensure their well-being in every aspect of life.


Sacrifice: All 3 deities, Jagannath, Subhadra & Balbhadra incarnations of Devta, signify the willingness to give up one's divine form for the sake of family unity. This reflects the selflessness and sacrifice that often accompanies sibling relationships.


Unity: All these 3 deities are rarely depicted alone and always have a fixed place in the depiction. It signifies unity and respect for each other's position in sibling relationships.


As we celebrate Raksha Bandhan, let us be inspired by the divine bond between Puri Jagannath and his sister Subhadra. Their story reminds us of the values underlying this festival - love, protection, unity and selflessness. Let's embrace these principles as we celebrate the beautiful relationship shared by siblings around the world. Just as Subhadra tied the rakhi to her brothers, let us tie our rakhis of love, respect and affection to our own brothers, cherishing the sacred bond that unites us.


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