KARACHI: With the thali of coconut, sweetmeats, incense sticks and kumkum all ready, there was just one important thing left to add — the rakhi — and of course the brother.

Hindu girls and women from all over the city gathered on Sunday at the Shree Lakshmi Narayan Mandir at the Natives Jetty for the sweet festival of Raksha Bandhan to celebrate the bond of love between a brother and sister.

“My own brother is at home but I just made a new brother, who is Muslim, and tied a rakhi around his wrist,” said Manisha Sham Lal.

A sister ties a ceremonial thread to the wrist of her brother.—Photo by writer
A sister ties a ceremonial thread to the wrist of her brother.—Photo by writer

Traditionally when a sister ties the thread around her brother’s wrist he reciprocates by also giving her a gift but Manisha said she was happy with just prayers from her new brother. “He will look out for me too, which is all I ask for in return,” she said.

A newly-wed woman ties a ceremonial thread to the wrist of a boy, the younger brother of her husband, to mark the Raksha Bandhan ceremony at the Shree Lakshmi Narayan Mandir on Sunday. — Photo by writer
A newly-wed woman ties a ceremonial thread to the wrist of a boy, the younger brother of her husband, to mark the Raksha Bandhan ceremony at the Shree Lakshmi Narayan Mandir on Sunday. — Photo by writer

But Natwar Dhanji, who is here on holiday from Dubai, came fully prepared for the festival. “I brought saris, make-up items and perfumes for my two sisters, Kaushaliya and Yashoda,” he said. “I know their choice,” he beamed saying that he was at the temple for pooja only and the rakhi-tying ceremony had already taken place at home in the morning.

 Some thali necessities.—Photo by writer
Some thali necessities.—Photo by writer

Amrit Devi, his mother, said: “After pooja, we first tie the thread around our Bhagwan be it Ghanesh or Lord Krishna and after that comes our worldly brother’s turn.”

Dev Ji, another brother at the pooja at the temple, pointed to the flowing waters under the Natives Jetty bridge where several women had gathered to pray and set afloat various fruits and other offerings.

The path leading to the Mandir.—Photo by writer
The path leading to the Mandir.—Photo by writer

"This day, of Raksha Bandhan, also comes after the passing of June and July, the two most rough monsoon months, and we offer these fruits and other prasad to the sea in the hope of calming it down,” he said.

“People from all over come to the Shree Lakshmi Narayan Mandir, especially for its presence near these flowing waters. Some even try to imagine that they are performing pooja by the Ganges River. And come to think of it, you never know, these waters may even connect with the Ganges at some point,” smiled the temple’s custodian, Arjun.

Muslim rakhi sellers from Mirpukhas

The narrow path leading to the temple was lined with vendors selling varieties of pretty rakhis. The sellers, who had travelled to Karachi from Mirpurkhas, introduced themselves as Muslims.

“We make not just rakhis but imam zamin, too,” said Mohammad Ayub, who said his most expensive rakhi was for Rs50 and the cheapest for Rs10.

Muslim rakhi sellers from Mirpurkhas.—Photo by writer
Muslim rakhi sellers from Mirpurkhas.—Photo by writer

Most rakhis were made of red or orange threads with pretty beads woven in the middle but Mohammad Ashfaq also had some white ones. “Well, red and orange are most popular but all colours, except for black are used in making rakhis,” he said.

Floating offerings in the water under the Netty Jetty.—Photo by writer
Floating offerings in the water under the Netty Jetty.—Photo by writer

Saeeda, another seller of the pretty thread bracelets, said she came here every year and was able to sell enough to take care of her travelling expenses besides making a meagre profit. “The ones that won’t sell this year, I’ll bring back next year,” she added smilingly.

Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2014

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