Rakshabandhan is a festival that is celebrated with great enthusiasm in Maharashtra. As part of the celebrations, the sister ties a rakhi (a colourful decorated thread) around her brother’s wrist, and gives him sweets. The brother, in turn, gives his sister a gift, and a promise to protect her always, to be there for her. However, the idea of women depending on men to protect them seems awkward today. Women have travelled a great distance from the times when they were considered weak and inferior. Currently, India has a woman as Defence Minister, besides which ordinary women citizens are often seen to bravely face whatever calamity befalls them. These women might easily be the protectors of men!
Madam’ Trupti Andhare, BEO (Block Education Officer) of Latur district, ‘says, “This was the thought behind celebrating Rakshabandhan in a different way, under the ‘Kanya Suraksha Kavach’ (Protection Shield for Young Girls) programme in Latur. Some The ZP schools here celebrate the festival not only by having the girls tie rakhis on the boys’ wrists, but also having the boys tie rakhis on the girls’ wrists. Male and female teachers tie rakhis on one another’s wrists. If I happen to visit any of the schools on that day, the teachers there tie me a rakhi too. The underlying idea is to respect each other, look out for one another, and live together harmoniously.”
In 2017, Andhare ‘Madam’ introduced the Harangul and Jewli ZP Schools in the Latur tehsil of the district to this manner of celebrating the festival. They began by lighting a lamp before of a portrait of Savitribai Phule. Boys and girls tied rakhis on each other’s wrists. Some students tied their teachers rakhis, while the male and female teachers tied each other rakhis. Even Andhare ‘Madam’ and the teachers exchanged rakhis. The school committee, village council members and other villagers all participated whole-heartedly in the festivities. Rakshabandhan was celebrated in this manner at several schools in Latur. At the ZP School of Matephal, the Principal tied all his subordinate teachers rakhis.
The girls proudly displayed the rakhis they wore, that used to adorn only their brothers’ wrists. Andhare ‘Madam’, who began this alternative tradition, says, “ Rakhi is just a symbol. What it does is boost the girls’ confidence, making them feel more self-assured, strong and capable, rather than weak and dependent. Through the Kanya Suraksha Kavach programme we teach them that it is not necessary to depend on a man for one’s safety. We also encourage them to learn karate and taekwondo as methods of self-defence. Rakshabandhan was just another occasion to emphasise the fact that women have to be self- reliant, and able to defend their selves.”
Blog: Snehal Bandsode-Sheludkar
Photos: Trupti Andhare
Translation &editing: samata.shiksha team