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Patna: More than 250 students from 21 schools in Patna gathered at a bio-reserve to celebrate the festival of siblings by tying “rakhi” (amulet) to trees. “Tying rakhi friendship bands on trees is a simple way of appreciating their role in our lives,” student leader Devopriya Dutta explained the rationale behind the observation of “Rakhi fortnight” at the Tarumitra Bio-reserve in Digha, a western suburb of the Bihar state capital.

Tarumitra (friends of trees) is a student green group started by Jesuit Father Robert Athickal nearly three decades ago with students of school children of Patna.

Dutta also said humans cannot live even of five minutes without the trees. “They are closer to us than our own blood brothers and sisters,” she asserted at the opening function on July 29.

She also noted that the need of the time is to get the human kind to appreciate the Earth and her blessings for our life.

Rakhi or “Raksha Bandhan” (bond of protection) is mainly Hindu festival celebrated in many parts of the Indian subcontinent, notably in northern India and Nepal. It is observed on the full moon day of the Hindu luni-solar calendar month of Shravana, which falls in August.

The festival, which falls on August 7 this year, celebrates the love and duty between brothers and sisters. It is also popularly used to celebrate any brother-sister type of relationship between men and women who may or may not be biologically related. On the festival, a sister ties a rakhi (sacred thread) on her brother’s wrist with a prayer for his prosperity and happiness. The brother gives her a token gift and a promise to protect her.

Dutta said the Tarumitra started the tradition of tying rakhi on trees in 1993. “Since then the custom has been picked up by students and even the Chief Minister of Bihar organizes the Rakhi with trees event every year,” she explained.

Those present at the opening program included Vivek Singh, principal secretary of the Forest Department, avid plant promoter Abhijit Kumar and student activist Ranjan Mistri. Principals, teachers, students, social activities, dignitaries and media personnel also attended along with Father Athickal.

The students also celebrated Rakhi as part of the traditional “Van Mahotsav” (forest festival). They tied handmade colorful rakhi around the trees and gifted the amulets to the forest department officials requesting them to bring Earth Movers to Patna to relocate grown up trees rather than cutting them down on the roadside.

Two students from the United States too joined the festivities tying the thread on the Fairy tree (Ficus retusa). Angie Rizzo, who represents Tarumitra at the United Nations, asserted the need to strengthen the bond. Robert Smith Smith said that he was touched by the devotion people have toward trees in India.

The two are students of Lehigh University, Pennsylvania, and spent months at Tarumitra bio-reserve as interns.

Rizzo also said her university in the United States has begun celebrating the festival with trees, inspired by the Indian students.

Tarumitra has a 27-year-old genetic nursery to promote vanishing plants and herbs. A Germination Room was added this year to the nursery when forest officer Singh commissioned it during the Rakhi celebrations.

Singh said such celebrations strengthen the familial bond between trees and human beings. He cited the example of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar who has insisted celebrating Rakhi with the trees as an essential ritual of the eastern Indian state.

P Vinod, principal of the Delhi Public School, said there was a great need to celebrate the few trees left in Patna before they disappear from the ancient city.

Anushka from Baldwin urged schools in Patna to organize rakhi celebration with tree brothers.

Published in Matters India. Article by: Jose Kavi

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