Indian schoolgirls give rakhi to a male classmate

Photo: Narinder Nanu/AFP/Getty Images

Putting aside sibling squabbles

Indian schoolgirls in Amritsar tie 'rakhi' — sacred colorful wristbands meant to symbolize a sister's love and prayers — on the forearm of a male classmate on Aug. 20, the eve of Raksha Bandhan.

Raksha Bandhan is an important Hindu festival that celebrates the bond of affection between brothers and sisters. The occasion is marked with a simple yet heartfelt ceremony in which the woman ties a rakhi around the wrist of a brother. In return, the brother may present gifts or money to the sister, and then the siblings will feed one another traditional Indian sweets.

The term "brother" is used loosely. It may refer to an actual biological brother, but it could also be a cousin or even an unrelated man like a police man or religious leader who has made a lifelong commitment to ensure the well-being of women.

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Rakhi is sold at a stall in Siliguri

Photo: Diptendu Dutta/AFP/Getty Images

An Indian merchant arranges rakhi for sale in preparation for Raksha Bandhan in Siliguri on July 31, 2009.

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A little girl offers her brother a sweet after giving him a rakhi

Photo: Prakash Singh/Getty Images

A little girl offers a sweet to her brother after tying a rakhi around his wrist on August 5, 2009 in New Delhi, India.

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A visually impaired woman makes rakhi for Raksha Bandhan

Photo: Sam Panthaky/AFP/Getty Images

A visually impaired student feels the textures of the rakhi designs prepared by her fellow students on July 1 for the forthcoming Raksha Bandhan festival at the Andh Kanya Prakash Gruh School for the Blind in Ahmedabad. The boarding school provides education, activities and living accomodations for some 200 visually-impaired girls.

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Catie Leary is a photo editor at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.