The First ‘Collective’ Bratabandha for Young Nepalese in NYC

At the recent "collective" bratabandha in Queens. (Photo via Everest Times)

At the recent “collective” bratabandha in Queens. (Photo via Everest Times)

In Hindu culture, Bratabandha is considered a highly significant rite of passage for boys, usually thought to occur between the ages of 7 to 12. However, in the case of families living outside Nepal, a ceremony marking Bratabandha needs to be performed before a young man gets married.

To sustain this cultural marker for young men, the Ridgewood Nepalese Society organized a collective Bratabandha ceremony during which 11 Nepalese Hindu males, ages 18 to 26, underwent the ritual. The event was organized at Satya Narayan Temple located on Woodside Avenue in Queens.

“In Hindu culture, it is customary for a man to perform Bratabandha before he gets married,” explained Rabi Koirala, the president of the Ridgewood Nepalese Society. “If one has not done Bratabandha, he will not be allowed to do the rituals of his parents even at their death.” According to him, the materials required for the special worship performed during this event have been brought from Nepal. Bratabandha is considered of more importance than one’s marriage. “For those living outside Nepal, it is not easy to travel back home to perform this ritual.” Koirala added, “After the main worship, we have to invite relatives and serve a feast.”

For the worship during the Bratabandha, 13 kalash (pitchers made of metal, usually holding some water and leaves, used for ceremonial occasions in Hindu culture) are used. Before starting Bratabandha, a dedicated worship is done in memory of the participants’ dead family members. This is then followed by the worship of Hindu deities. After this, the main Bratabandha is performed.

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Pandit Uddhab Shashtri, and priests Hari Narayan Sapkota and Surya Paudel of the Ridgewood Nepalese Society, officiated at the function, which started at 7 in the morning and went on until 6 in the evening. Had it taken place in Nepal, the worship would have started a day earlier and taken a full two days to complete.

“Bratabandha is also called Upanayan, nayan meaning eyes; besides two eyes, humans have a third eye for knowledge. This eye opens the inner heart,” Guru Uddhab Shashtri said.

“According to Hindu tradition, in order to understand oneself, and to learn the relationship one’s soul shares, Bratabandha is organized,” Guru Shashtri said. “According to Hindu culture, one should do Bratabandha either at the age of 7 or before reaching the age of 12. However, given the circumstances for Nepalese living abroad, keeping in mind the availability of time and resources for the ceremony, these days people are open to doing Bratabandha at any age, at least before getting married.”

Despite being in a foreign land, the Bratabandha was organized in a style just like in Nepal. The worship started with offering Diyo Kalash to Lord Ganesh. Thereafter, the young men doing the Bratabandha were readied to have their hair shave. [Mothers and fathers were close by.] During this time, the sisters in the family held bronze plates and received the falling hair in them.

After their heads were shaved, they took showers.

After that, clad in yellow robes, they put on large garlands made of a combination of three strings onto their bodies and listened to the Gayatri hymn. It is believed that listening to this hymn gives one knowledge about the meaning of the soul and of god.

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