Rakhi

December 5, 2012 ☞ Personal inventory

Rakhi

Raksha Bandhan (or rakhi) is one of the few Hindu traditions (besides frugality) that I actually practice. The others are either too boring or arcane, and there are about a million of them.

On raksha bandan, women tie a sacred decorative string (itself a rakhi) around their brother’s (or male cousin’s) wrist. There is an exchange of sweets and presents and of course choreographed dancing.

Rakhis come in many necessarily gaudy and flashy styles. That this one has a swastika is not because Indians are anti-semites. The swastika is an ancient symbol (older than your mom), that is used by many cultures to promote luck or “auspicious” happenings. (Indians are particularly into auspiciousness.)

It has enjoyed a career spanning millennia as a symbol of peace and harmony. Semiotically speaking it is rather elegant too. It contains both symmetry and chirality. It is both a whorl and yet it’s nothing but right-angles.

But for the middle chunk of the 20th century the swastika meant nothin’ but Nazis. My old man might call this another example of white-people-stealing-something-from-brown-people-and-perverting-it, c.f., curry, yoga, karma, tantric anything, henna tattoos, malaria, etc., but he doesn’t write these posts.

I will express only my hope that recency bias doesn’t tarnish this symbol forever.