Kathmandu: The festival of ‘Janai Purnima’ or ‘Rishi Tarpani’ is being celebrated across the country today. The festival is basically observed by the majority of Hindus in the country.
On the occasion of Janai Purnima, the tagadharis or those who wear the ‘Janai’ (the sacred thread) around their bodies from the left shoulder to right change the sacred thread today after having a haircut and a bath.
According to the time-honored tradition, Hindu people receive the ‘Raksha Bandhan’ thread, which is tied around the wrist as an amulet.
The yellow thread is purified through the chanting of mantras by Brahmin priests as a symbol of protection from fear and disease, said Prof Dr Ram Chandra Gautam, former chairperson of the Nepal Panchanga Nirnayak Samiti (Calendar Determination Committee). The occasion is also observed as ‘Kwanti Purnima’ by the Newar community.
Kwanti, a soup prepared from nine different beans, is a special delicacy added to the Nepali menu today.
In the Tarai region, there is a tradition in which sisters tie an attractive ‘Rakhi’ around the wrist of their brothers wishing them long life and prosperity.
Today, thousands of devotees worship lord Shiva at Pashupatinath in Kathmandu and at Kumbheswar in Lalitpur and other Shiva temples across the country, and take holy dips in ponds and lakes and rivers.
Religious fairs are held at Gosainkunda, an alpine area in Rasuwa District, and at Dansanghu, Triveni in Jumla district to observe the festival with offerings to Lord Shiva. A big religious fair takes place at the Gosainkunda Lake and pilgrims come from faraway places to take a holy dip in this lake and other lakes nearby.
Religious fairs are organized at Pashupati and Manichud of Kathmandu; Gosainkunda of Rasuwa; Kumbheshwar of Lalitpur; Panchpokhari of Sindhupalchok; Janakpurdham, Dhanush Sagar and Ganga Sagar of Dhanusha, Dansanghu of Jumla and Trivenidham of Nawalparasi.
The traditional festival of Gaijatra or the cow festival is also being observed in three cities of the Kathmandu Valley and some other places in the country amid various entertainment programs, fun, humor and satire.
The eight-day festival generally falls on the first day of the waning moon in the month of Bhadra (Bhadra Krishna Pratiprada) ending Astami as per the lunar calendar.
During this time-honored tradition, people of all ages in the guise of cows and lunatics go around the city, wearing odd costumes to commemorate those who died during the past one year. The bereaved families offer fruits, bread, beaten rice, curd and money to those participating in the procession including the cows.
As the saying goes, the festival derives its name from the religious belief that the deceased, during their journey to heaven, cross a legendary river by grabbing the tail of a cow.
This festival is believed to have started during the time of King Pratap Malla, who, in a bid to console his queen, much grieved at the death of her son in a smallpox epidemic, ordered his people to organize humor and satire programs in various comic postures.
This tradition remained continued in the form of the Gaijatra festival during which people also vent out their feelings towards social and political anomalies, human follies and other contemporary affairs through comic skits, cartoons and the like.
Apart from the Valley, the festival is also observed in Banepa, Dhulikhel, Trishuli, Dolakha, Khotang, Bhojpur, Chainpur, Ilam, Dharan, Biratnagar, Birgunj, Bahrabise, Hetauda and Pokhara.