Raksha Bandhan 2021: Famous tales of brother-sister duos in Hindu mythology

Back then, there might not have been any special festival to celebrate the bond, but we attribute Rakshabandhan to Draupadi’s gesture of tying a cloth on Krishna’s hand and, in turn, Krishna protecting her.

By Reya Mehrotra

The bond between siblings was as strong thousands of years ago as it is today. Back then, there might not have been any special festival to celebrate the bond, but we attribute Rakshabandhan to Draupadi’s gesture of tying a cloth on Krishna’s hand and, in turn, Krishna protecting her. As the country celebrates the bond between brothers and sisters today, we bring to you tales of some brother-sister duos in Hindu mythology.

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Ravan and Shurpanakha
The children of sage Vishrava and princess Kaikesi, Ravan and Shurpanakha were the key antagonists in the Hindu epic Ramayana. Demon king Ravana kidnapped Sita, who was in exile with her husband Lord Rama and brother-in-law Lakshmana, to avenge his sister Shurpanakha. Shurpanakha wanted to marry Rama. On his refusal, she attacked Sita, and Lakshmana pulled out his sword and chopped off her nose.

Draupadi and Krishna
The special relationship between Draupadi and Krishna is the reason we celebrate Rakshabandhan. It is said that when Krishna had hurt his wrist, Draupadi tore the corner of her sari and tied it to stop the bleeding from his wrist. Seeing this, Krishna vowed to protect her. Later, during Draupadi’s cheerharan at the hands of the Kauravas in full court, Draupadi prayed to Krishna to protect her honour. In return, Krishna increased the length of her sari such that it would never end even as Dushasana pulled it apart. It is said that Draupadi trusted Krishna more than anyone else and they called each other Sakhi and Sakha, meaning female friend and male friend, respectively. Draupadi’s father Drupad initially wanted to marry his daughter to Krishna. However, Krishna referred Arjuna as a prospective groom for her.

Ram and Shanta
King Dasharath had a daughter who is not as popularly known as her brothers. Shanta was born to the king, but was adopted by Kind Romapada of Anga Pradesh. She was married to sage Vibhandaka’s son Rishyasringa, who performed a ceremony so that King Dasharath could have sons to carry his legacy forward. As a result, Ram, Bharat, Lakshmana and Shatrughna were born. Shanta is also said to have nursed her father King Dasharath on his deathbed.

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Vishnu & Parvati
Vishnu is said to be the ‘preserver’ in the trimurti—Brahma (creator), Vishnu and Shiva (the destroyer), while Parvati is the mother of Hindu deities Ganesha and Kartikeya, and is known to be the goddess of harmony, marriage, children and fertility. Along with Saraswati and Lakshmi, she forms the tridevi of Hindu goddesses. Lord Shiva’s wife Parvati is said to be Lord Vishnu’s sister. The Kalyanasundara scene at the Ellora Caves shows Vishnu and his wife Lakshmi giving away Parvati in marriage to Shiva, while Lord Brahma is seen officiating the match.

Kansa and Devaki
Kansa and Devaki were cousins. While Kansa was the tyrant ruler of the Vrishni kingdom, who rose to power after overthrowing his father King Ugrasena, Devaki was married to Vasudev and mothered Balram and Krishna, known to be Lord Vishnu’s avatar. After her marriage to Vasudev, a heavenly voice prophesied that Devaki’s eighth child would kill Kansa, who then wanted to kill Devaki immediately. However, Vasudev promised to give all of their children to Kansa. Kansa imprisoned the couple and killed their children as soon as they were born. When Krishna, the eighth child was born, they secretly escorted him to Yashoda’s house. He survived and eventually killed Kansa. Devaki’s seventh child was Balram. Krishna was raised in Yashoda and Nanda’s care.

Yamuna and Yamraj
The Hindu festival of Bhai Dooj is associated with Yamraj, the god of death, and his sister Yamuna. The tale that pays tribute to the bond of siblings is usually narrated on Bhai Dooj. Both are said to be Surya’s children and, as per the legend, after their mother left them, unable to bear the heat of the sun, they both took care of each other as they grew up. One day, when Yamraj visited his sister to surprise her, she offered him a tilak, prepared delicacies and took good care of him. Hence, the day is celebrated as Bhai Dooj.

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Kripa and Kripi
In Mahabharata, Kripa was the council member of Kuru kingdom and taught Kauravas and Pandavas. Both Kripa and his twin sister Kripi were adopted by King Shantanu of Kuru kingdom. Kripa was trained and became an archer, and was considered an immortal being destined to live till the end of Kali Yuga. Kripi was married to Drona and had a son named Ashwatthama.

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