I’ll make this a quick posting, since my lunch break is nearly over and work has been busy lately (my international students are back from summer break, and the office is teeming with people and questions!)
Today is Janai Purnima, the day when Brahmin and Chetri men are suppose to change their “janai” or holy thread that they are supposed to wear everyday (although most young men I know in the US don’t generally practice this tradition– but P’s grandfather wears a janai everyday, maybe even his father). Men usually first receive these threads during their Bratabandha ceremony.
Additionally on this day men, women, and children, regardless of caste, tie a sacred yellow thread around their wrist. Men tie the thread around their right hand while women tie it on their left. Raksha means ‘protection’ and Bandhan means a bond. The wearer believes that it will bring him or her good luck. It is believed that this thread should only be removed on Laxmi Puja, which falls three months later, and should be tied to the tail of a cow (or I’ve been told, in absence of a cow, one can throw the string into a fast moving river, or lacking that, onto a plant– I have last year’s thread tied to a plant in my office!). Supposedly when death comes to the wearer the cow will help him or her cross the river Bhaitarna, by allowing the dead to cling to her tail.
Similarly on this day sisters give brothers rakhi– decorative braclets– while the brother is supposed to give sweets in return. This helps to solidify bonds of friendship and kinship.