A festival at the beginning of the autumn trekking season in Nepal – plan your holiday to include this fascinating spectacle.
“Binding Sacred Thread” (or, as locals call it, Janai Purnima, Rakshyabandan, Kwati Purnima or Rakhi) is a Hindu festival which happens once a year. This is the festival of the male, when they change the sacred thread in a special ritual in the Shiva temples all around the world.
Picture: Pashupati, Shiva’s Temple at Kathmandu. Thousands of people come here on this special day. Also Known as Cremation temple in Kathmandu. The smoke is coming out from the ongoing cremation near the river side of the Temple.
Trekking to Lake Gosainkunda can be crowded in late August – not with tourists but with pilgrims, who trek towards the holy lake of Gosainkunda to change the string.
Generally Hindu males wear the sacred thread all the time whereas other ethnic groups might have the sacred thread but don’t always wear it. This festival is common to both Hindus and Buddhists and they each have their own religious beliefs for the festival.
Picture: the holy lake of Gosainkunda in Langtang trekking region: a sacred place for Buddhists and Hindus, the festival is observed here as well.
What do people do on this day ?
On this day, people go to the temple of the god Shiva, or the holy lakes of Lord Shiva; Gosainkunda in Langtang region & Panchpokhari in Numbur region respectively. Numbur and Kumbheshwor valleys are famous for the holy lakes. Locals and many Indians observe the festival and trek to these lakes to pay homage to their deity.
Picture: Panchpokhari, a section, lies at Numbur Cheese Circuit on lower Everest Region
On the same day people from Terai strengthen their brother-sister relationship by tying a thread around the wrist. People in Terai call this day Rakhi where brothers give gifts to their sisters and sisters feed their brothers with delicious food and chocolate. Sisters also bind a thread around their brother’s wrist, symbolising and strengthening their love and affection.
What do people eat on this day ?
The kitchens in Kathmandu valley emit the pleasant aroma of Kwati. Cooked with 9 different types of beans, this hot soup is famous among the Newar Tribe from Bhaktapur, Patan and Kirtipur.
The beans are soaked overnight for proper seasoning before being cooked under pressure and served in a bowl. Kwati soup is rich in vitamins, protein and calcium according to scientific research. Kwati soup was first brewed by the Newar community from Kathmandu Valley.
What is Sacred thread ?
There are multiple kind of threads: threads for the wrists, for the neck, and threads offered by a sister to a brother like Rakhi. Tying a sacred thread around the wrist is common among all cultures here; it is believed that the thread wards off danger in one’s life. During another festival (Tihar), on the specific day of worshipping the cow, people tie sacred thread around the cow’s ankle or tail. In Hindu mythology, people face different stages of life even after death so doing this makes the next incarnation of life after death much easier.
Janai, another type of sacred thread is tied around the neck diagonal to chest of a Bhramin man. Men who wear this string know a secret
mantra, known only to those who wear the thread, which is a 3-line mantra to be repeated 5 or 7 times every morning while washing the face and worshiping the janai. Janai string has three main Hindu gods – Bhrama, Bishnu and Maheshwora. If you are trekking ask your guide to show his thread; if he shows the janai that means he is a Brahmin.
Celebration spot on Janai Purnima, where to go ?
On this day the festival is observed at Lake Gosainkunda in Langtang, Lake Phoksundo near Dolpo, and Lake Panchpokhari near Everest. Thousands of people trek to these lakes of the god Shiva and millions of people worship their respective beliefs in the Shiva temple. This day is also famous as the day to renew the knowledge of Jhakri (witch doctors in Nepal). These Jhakri travel from their villages to these lakes and dance with their spiritual mantra and style, their dance is interesting and the way they dress is amazing.