For the past 40 years, Shamim, a Muslim woman from Mirpurkhas, has been making red-coloured threads for the Hindu festival of Raksha Bandhan.
“There is no such thing as Hindus and Muslims back home. No one has ever stopped us from making Rakhis or asked why we make it. We all live together,” smiled the 47-year-old woman, whose family has been in the business of making rakhis for three generations.
As the Hindu community kicked off their annual festival which celebrates the bond between brothers and sisters on Tuesday, Muslim men and women from Mirpurkhas sat outside the Laxmi Narayan Mandir, selling beads and stone studded Rakhis.
Showing off red-coloured threads with beads dangling from it, Shamim proudly stated that she and her four daughters made thousands of them at home. “It took us two months to complete them.”
Another entrepreneur, Asmat Begum, who had come to the Mandir with her grandson, said that dozens of Muslim families in Mirpurkhas became involved in the rakhi-making business as the festival arrived. “It is good business for us. Moreover, it feels good to know that we are adding to others’ happiness.”
Begum, who has spent her entire life making threads and then turning up every year to Karachi to sell them, buys colourful threads from the city’s Bolton Market and beads from Juna Market. “Though we have orange, yellow and pink rakhis, red is the most popular.” This year, she has bought a supply of threads worth Rs50,000 and hopes to sell it all by the time the festival ends.”They cost as high as Rs60 for each thread, but see, they are beautiful,” she said while picking one up.
Right across her sat Muhammad Ashfaq, a neighbour, who sold bindyas along with the rakhis. He believes that the symbolic act of tying a thread and the gift from the brother to his sister increases love. “For just a Rs10 rakhi, a sister will get expensive gifts,” he winked.
The Hindu ritual involves a sister tying a thread around her brother’s wrist while the latter reciprocates the gesture by giving gifts or cash in return. The ritual can be traced back to several Hindu myths - one of them about Lakshmi tying a thread to King Bali. According to tradition, Lord Vishnu, Lakshmi’s husband left his home to guard another kingdom. The woman, who wanted to be united with her husband, tied a thread to the King, who was so touched that he requested the Lord to let her accompany him on the quest.
In the Raksha Bandhan festival, a sister will pray for her brother’s safety and economic success while the brother vows to safeguard her. Both of them treat each other to mitthai and other sweets.
Conflict over date of festival
Confusion over the date of the festival arose between the Hindu community in Pakistan, and even other parts of the world, as some temples celebrated the festival on Tuesday, while others will celebrate it today.
Bani, a caretaker of the Lakhsmi Narayan Mandir said that some people had celebrated the festival on Tuesday, as did many people in India. “We can’t stop anyone from celebrating the festival so we’ll be celebrating on both days.”
A devotee, Avinash, said that their Pakistan calendar marks Wednesday as the date of Raksha Bandhan but because of Hindus celebrating the festival in India, they were celebrating it on Tuesday as well.
However, Ramesh Kumar of the Pakistan Hindu Council said that the festival was officially being celebrated in Pakistan on Tuesday.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 21st, 2013.
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