Cotton threads around tree trunks.


One of the most arresting sights while travelling in India are tree trunks, curiously bound by cotton threads.   Most tourists do not see how these threads come to be there and have no idea why they are there in the first place.

Let me try to explain.

On certain days of the year, Hindu women will fast and pray for their husband’s long life.  As part of the rituals, requesting health and well being of the husband, a married woman walks 108 times around a Pipal tree (the sacred fig tree - no ordinary tree will do !), tying an unbroken length of cotton thread around its trunk.  The women recite prayers as they walk around the tree. 

Why ? 
Why the cotton thread ?
Why the tree ?

The papal tree represents the tree of life.  For millenniums, it has supported life of all sorts and for this reason, it is considered to be sacred and must not be cut or harmed in any way.

The cotton thread represents the fragile nature of life, love, trust, faith – and all things that go on to make up a relationship.  A single thread may be weak, but, when it is wound 108 times around the trunk, it becomes strong.  It is no longer so fragile and no longer easy to break. 

By walking around the tree 108 times, the wife contemplates on these matters.  Love can only be strengthened by trust, faith and desire to make it work !  With each step, the woman strenghtens her relationship with her husband.  She prays not just for her husband’s long life, but an enduring relationship that will last beyond this life and into the next.

Of course there are many myths associated with this ritual.  The most popular being one where a princess called Savitry who saves the life of her husband by using reverse psychology on the God of Death himself.  Using her intelligence, and playing on words, she manages to charm Yama and wins back the life of her beloved husband Satyavan.

Myths aside, the central message of the ritual is, love is tantalisingly weak, yet it can be made strong if you are willing to work on it.

No, before feminist brigade email me, there are no similar rituals for the husbands to follow, or at least none that I am aware of !



� Bhagwat    [email protected]


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