At the end of August when I was a teenager, I met a boy from the only Sikh family in town (at that point). He wore a bracelet made of twisted threads and he explained that it was a gift from his sister; she gave him such a gift every year. I am reminded of this because I recently read about it in the annual ritual within the Sikh/Hindu/Jain festival Rakhi or Raksha Bandhan in Soni and Rishi’s Raksha Bandhan.
It’s a short book that describes the different rituals performed to strengthen protectiveness between brothers and sisters on a Raksha Bandhan morning. However, the story is creatively shown, with the youngest character, Rishi, having childlike impatience for what he considers to be the climax of events – exhibiting his new bracelet to neighbours. Also, the beginning of the story captures interest and ties in satisfactorily with the ending. I can easily imagine enjoying this book year after year.
In contrast to the rituals, there is sibling unkindness shown in the book which is normalised in conversation between the victim, Soni, and an adult. My children hadn’t experienced this behaviour before, and unfortunately I have subsequently witnessed similar behaviour being played out. If the book is ever revised so that the adult addresses the bullying behaviour rather than dismissing it at as part of childhood that he went through himself (as the bully), I would much prefer to have that copy.
But, back to the positives…. Inspired by the book, my children used embroidery threads and beads to make bracelets and decorate sticks they’d collected. Although they didn’t exchange gifts among themselves, they shared and helped each other with resources and they are keen to do more crafting with threads. I enjoyed witnessing a craft session built on sibling cooperation, as a direct result of reading about Hindu/Sikh/Jain sibling cooperation.
Currently, the only Hindu family we are acquainted with is full of grown-ups, so I imagine we are unlikely to see Raksha Bandhan bracelets on their wrists. I have no intention of staring at strangers to try and point out bracelets to my children. Perhaps, in time, they will meet with Sikh/Hindu/Jain children or teenagers after the full moon of the month of Shravana. And perhaps, by then, they will have the knowledge and confidence to simply compliment their friends’ bracelets and ask if they had a good Rakhi/Raksha Bandhan. I hope, if you are celebrating this weekend, that you and your siblings have a good festival.
Elizabeth Lymer writes rhymes and stories to support informal, playful learning for children aged 0–7 years old. She blogs about using Muslim and other religious children’s literature to foster a strong Muslim identity, interfaith harmony, and multi-faith respect. She is the author of four Muslim nursery rhymes books: Islamic Nursery Rhymes, Muslim Lullabies, Ramadan Rhymes, and Hajj Harmonies; one Abrahamic interfaith book Religious Rhyme Time; and one black-and-white baby book Baby Traveller Bismillah. Elizabeth loves rainbows and insha’Allah you can look out for more of them in her forthcoming work.