Janai Purnima: A Festival of Sacred Thread

Janai Purnima: A Festival of Sacred Thread
Janai Purnima is a festival that carries the message of purity and brother-sister relations.

Nepal has natural beauty comprising diverse geography, unique topography, and rich biodiversity along with blessed rich culture and tradition. Nepal is home to several religious groups including Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, and Kiranti. These are just the major religious groups; 36 different ethnic groups in Nepal follow their distinctive customs and culture and speak the ethnic language.

In Nepal, the festivals are also celebrated by different ethnic groups of different religions in their own way. Janai Purnima is one of such festivals which is popularly known as a sacred thread festival observed by Hindus, Buddhists, and Jain.

Janai Purnima: A Festival of Sacred Thread
A Boy wearing a new Janai (Sacred Thread) in public

What is Janai Purnima

Janai Purnima is a Hindu festival celebrated by almost every family in Nepal. According to Bikram Calendar, this festival falls on the full moon day of Shrawan or Bhadra month. Different ethnic groups of the different regions celebrate these festivals in different ways and hold their own significance. Brahmins and Chhetri ethnic groups celebrate Janai Purnima. People mainly residing in the Terai region celebrate this festival as Raksha Bandhani or Rakhi. Similarly, the Newar Community of Nepal celebrates this day as Kwati Purnima.

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Janai Purnima: A Festival of Sacred Thread
A Priest ready with the material required in Janai Purnima to serve

Janai Purnima is a festival related to a sacred thread where the thread means the bond of purity or security. Hindu men of the Brahmin and Chhetri groups perform their annual ritual of changing Janai. After crossing the childhood stage and entering the pre-adolescent youth stage, when practicing ritualistic rituals, chanting mantras in the ears that others do not listen to the guru priest, they are prepared by the guru, with a firm resolve to follow the path of truth and right-handed fall on the left shoulder. 

Janai Purnima: A Festival of Sacred Thread
A Priest prepares Janai for Janai Purnima (Image Source: Hindustan Times)

Janai Purnima Brings Three More Festivals

Janai Purnima is one of those festivals that incorporates three other festivals in it each one having its own significance independently. The festivals are:

Janai Purnima: A Festival of Sacred Thread
Festivals incorporated in Janai Purnima (Image Source: Hamro Patro)

Raksha Bandhan:

The first one is Raksha Bandhan in which sisters of all ages tie a talisman, or amulet, called the Rakhi, around the wrists of their brothers, symbolically protecting them, receiving a gift in return, and traditionally investing the brothers with a share of the responsibility of their potential care. On this day priests also tie a sacred thread on the willing people to protect them from evil by chanting a special mantra during the process which is येन बद्धो वलीराजा दानवेन्द्रो महावलस् । तेन त्वां प्रतिबध्नामि रक्षे मा चल मा चल ।।” which means I will tie you with the same threat that protects (the colored thread) that was tied to Bali, the great king of the demon.

Kwati Purnima:

The second one is Kwati Purnima in which the Newar Community of Nepal celebrates Kwati Purnima. This day coincides with Shravan Poornima of the month Shravan in the Hindu lunisolar calendar which is celebrated as Janai Purnima.

Janai Purnima: A Festival of Sacred Thread
Kwati is made from seven different beans

On this day, a special dish called Kwati is prepared and is consumed as a feast with the rest of the family as a celebration. Kwati is a soup made from a mix of nine different types of sprouted beans. The nine different beans used while making Kwati commonly include black gram, chickpea, field bean, soybean, green gram, field pea, garden pea, cowpea, and rice bean. The beans are soaked for three to four days in water until the time they sprout. They are cooked with various spices to make a thick soup.

Janai Purnima: A Festival of Sacred Thread
A cooked kwati. Looks yummy!!! (Image Source: Wikipedia)

Gai Jatra:

The third one is Gai Jatra (Lit. mean.: Cow Festival) started by King Pratap Malla during his reign from 1641 to 1671 AD. His teenage son Chakravartendra Malla had died untimely. Queen’s mother was sad about her loss. King Pratap Malla started this tradition to both help ascend his son to the next life and also to cheer the grieving Queen and families of those whose loved ones had passed away.

In Gai Jatra, Gai (Cow) is sacred like a Lakshmi & viewed as a mother. The children of those whose loved ones in the family also had passed away come out to Hanuman Dhoka Palace the Newar priest performs the prayers for passes ones and the children usually wear long skirts and must have the tulle belt around their waist with ends hanging on both right & left sides that drags on the ground while walking. The drag is necessary for it touches the ground (Earth) for the loved ones who passed away to ascend from earth to Heaven.

Janai Purnima: A Festival of Sacred Thread
Children dressed for Gaijatra

Significance of Janai Purnima

Janai Purnima is a festival that connects to a person’s spirituality, well-being, brother-sister relation, and remembrance of loved ones that have just passed away and has a pretty high significance. Incorporating all these factors in it truly shows the nature of Hinduism which is spirituality. physical and mental well-being and worshiping of gods and ancestors.

Janai Purnima: A Festival of Sacred Thread
Sacred threads for Janai Purnima

Legends:

No Hindu festival is without its legend and the same goes for Janai Purnima as well:

There is a legend that after Lord Vishnu won all the three worlds from the demon, King Bali. After which Bali asked Lord Vishnu in his palace but Lord Vishnu’s wife Goddess Lakshmi did not like the palace. So Goddess Lakshmi went to Bali, ties a rakhi, and made him her brother. In return Bali asked what gift she wants, then she asked him to free Vishnu from the request that he lives in Bali’s palace. Bali granted Lakshmi’s wish and accepted her as his sister.

According to the second legend, in the war between Gods and Demons. The deity of the sky, rain, and thunderbolts, Lord Indra, was disgraced by the demon, King Bali. Then, Lord Indra’s wife Sachi went to Lord Vishnu and asked for his help. Lord Vishnu gave her a holy bracelet made of cotton thread. Sachi tied that holy thread around the wrist of Indra, blessed with her prayers for his victory. Then Lord Indra defeated the demon king Bali. This legend inspired the protective power of holy thread.

This legend is more earthly in nature and relates to India and goes back to a time when Alexander the Great invaded India in 326 BCE. During that time, the wife of Alexander the Great, Roxana sent a sacred thread to Porus, the king of the Kaikeya kingdom, asking him not to harm her husband in battle. Kind Porus respected the importance and significance of rakhi and wore the rakhi. In the Battle of Hydaspes, King Porus stopped himself from killing Alexander personally when he saw the rakhi on his wrist.

Read More:

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