In the Bhavishyapurana, there is a story that goes like this:
It is the story of Satyuga. There was a war between the gods and the demons. In the war, initially, the gods were losing, but suddenly their strength increased and they won. All the defeated demons went to their king, Bali, along with their guru Shukracharya, and asked why this happened. Shukracharya said that the King of the gods, Lord Indra, had gone to seek protection from my guru, Brihaspati, during the war. To gain the upper hand in the battle, Indra’s wife, Shachi, had tied a protective thread at the recommended time given by Brihaspati. And that is why they were victorious. Now, we cannot do anything for a year. Wait for one year and then we will fight again. This protective thread, which ensured the victory of the gods, was tied on the full moon day of the month of Shravan. Since then, on the full moon day of Shravan, Raksha Sutra or Rakshabandhan is celebrated.
This story from the Bhavishya Purana is mentioned and further elaborated in the Bhagavata Purana: King Bali returns to engage in battle and emerges victorious this time. He also performs 100 Ashwamedha Yajnas (horse sacrifices) to maintain his reign over the heavens. When all the deities offer prayers, Lord Vishnu, the protector of the universe, assumes the form of Vamana Avatar (dwarf incarnation). As we all know, Vamana appears in King Bali’s sacrificial arena, and Bali asks him to request any desired boon.
He said, “Ask for whatever you desire, and I shall grant it unto you.”
Vamana says that a person should seek donations according to their abilities, so you can gift me as much land as I can cover in my three steps.
Let us see the verse from the Shrimad Bhagavat:
पदानि त्रीणि दैत्येन्द्र संमितानि पदा मम ।
– श्रीमद् भागवत
King Bali bursts into laughter. He says, “Is your intellect as small as your physical form, Vamana? Ask again.” Vamana then responds, “Even if you give me this much, it will be more than enough.” Sukracharya understands Vamana’s intentions and tries to explain them to King Bali. Despite being a demon and the grandson of Prahlada, King Bali was known for keeping his word. After many dramatic events, when the matter of giving three steps of land arises, the size of small man became big , vaman became Vishnu and measured all three worlds in just two steps. When it comes to the third step, Lord Vishnu asks, “Where should I place it?”
King Bali, showing his head, says, “Place your third step on my head.” Let’s see the verse from the Bhagavat Purana:
पदम् तृतीयम् कुरु शीर्ष्णि मे निजम् ।
– भागवत पुराण
In the Bhagavat Purana, after King Bali goes to the Sutala Loka, the story concludes. However, in other Puranas such as the Padma Purana, Skanda Purana, and various others, the story continues beyond that. After going to Sutala, I am always blessed with your divine presence in the form of a guardian at my doorstep. Lord Vishnu says, “So be it.” Let’s see a verse from Vyasa in the Puranas:
रक्षिष्ये सर्वतोहम् त्वाम् सानुगम् सपरिच्छिदम् ।
सदा सन्निहितम् वीरम् तत्र माम् दृश्यते भवान् ॥
“I shall protect you from all directions, accompanying you with my retinue. The valiant one always remains close to me, and I see you there.”
Now, to save her husband, Vishnu, Goddess Lakshmi assumes the form of a woman and goes to King Bali. She ties a sacred thread or rakhi around his wrist. King Bali says, “I have nothing to give you in return, sister. What can I offer you?” In response, Goddess Lakshmi says, “This servant of yours, Lord Vishnu, is my husband. Please release him.” King Bali laughingly sets Vishnu free.
The day on which Goddess Lakshmi tied the sacred thread was the full moon day of the month of Shravana. That is why the rakhi is tied on that day. This entire incident is described whenever we perform any worship, and the Brahmins or priests mention it in their auspicious chants.
In the Bhavishya Purana, Lord Shri Krishna himself speaks the following verse to Yudhishthira:
येन बद्धो बलिराजा दानवेन्द्रो महाबल:।
तेन त्वामभि बध्नामि रक्षे मा चल मा चल॥
“By whom the mighty King Bali, the king of demons, was bound,
By him, I shall bind you. Be protected, do not falter, do not falter.”
The significance of Raksha Bandhan is that on the full moon day of Shravana, constructive and positive energies that provide protection are easily available in the universe. With the tying of the protective thread, we can ward off negative events that may be part of our destiny or could be avoided. It is important to remember that on the day of Shravana Purnima, these protective energies are present in the cosmos and can be activated with good intentions. When the Rakhi is tied with good intentions on Shravana Purnima, it can create an invincible shield around us, preventing many negative and avoidable events from reaching us.
The uniqueness of Raksha Bandhan lies in the cosmic protective energies available on that day and the intentions of the one tying the thread. Moreover, it is essential for the one receiving the Rakhi to be receptive to its energies.
So, when the occasion of Raksha Bandhan arrives and you are tying a Rakhi, don’t forget to have good intentions. And if you are receiving a Rakhi, remember to be in a receptive mode.