Expat Magazine

It’s a String Thing – Celebrating Janai Purnima and Rakhi

By Hanna

On Sunday 10th August we celebrated both Janai Purnima and Rakhi at home. It was a day of many sacred strings and threads but it was really good fun to be part of!

Janai is a sacred thread that Brahmin and Chettri Hindu men wear across their chests and Purnima means full moon. Hindu men can only wear the thread once they’ve had there ‘coming of age’ ceremony Bratabandha where a guru whispers a mantra in there ear. The ceremony marks the path of boyhood into manhood and the start of a period of learning. It is also a way to officially accept the man into the Hindu religion. From this day on, the Janai thread is supposed to be worn every day and only taken off to be changed on the day of Janai Purnima.

Changing of the Janai thread  Source: Google Images

Changing of the Janai thread
Source: Google Images

The day before Janai Purnima, the men sometimes fast from garlic, onion, and meat – sometimes from food all together! It is also common for the men to take long baths and shave in order to prepare themselves for the festival. On the auspicious day, a family priest or the brother-in-laws of the family come to the house in order to perform the ceremony. Many families also choose to visit a priest at a temple and celebrate the day on a larger scale. During the exchange, the old Janai threads are supposed to be broken when the new one is placed on. However, not all Hindu’s choose to follow all of the traditions on the day and in some households it can be quite a relaxed affair.

In the next part of the festival, the priest or brother-in-law also wrap an orange, yellow or red thread around every member of the family. It is wrapped around a minimum of seven complete times and the more wraps the thread has, the more protected the wearer is said to be from evil. Usually, the females wear the thread on their left wrist and the males on their right. The thread is meant to be kept on the wrist until October on the same day as Laxmi Puja when they are taken off and tied on to a cow’s tail.

M and I modelling our threads on different arms!

M and I modelling our threads on different arms!

The tradition is based on the Hindu belief that the Baitarni River will need to be crossed after death in order to reach heaven. By tying their threads on a cow’s tail as part of the puja the favour will be returned to the Hindu after death by the cow pulling them across the river to reach heaven.

On the same day we also celebrated Rakhi festival! It is traditionally an Indian festival that celebrates the love, duty and bond between a brother and sister. It started being celebrated in Nepal mostly in the Terai regions but has become a bit more common in Kathmandu in recent years. Due to this I was able to buy my best brother A dai a modest rakhi to tie on his wrist. Once the sister has tied the rakhi onto her brother she prays for his the well-being and expresses her love for her brother. In return the brother affirms he will take care and protect his sister no matter what. It is common after for the brother to gift his sister and then touch her hands or feet with his head.

M's wrist filled with the threads and rakhis.

M’s wrist filled with the threads and rakhis.

I was so happy that I got to tie Rakhi on A dai before I left Nepal. He really is my best brother who cares about me so much so I was so excited to be able to express my love back to him.

Tying Rakhi on A dai.

Tying Rakhi on A dai.

Readers -did you celebrate any of these festivals? Do they differ in your family in any way? Please share your experiences!

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog