A Photo Essay
A boy waits for his Bratabandha to begin. Bratabandha is a complex Hindu ceremony where boys, between 8 and 12, take the first steps in learning the traditional laws, ceremonial roles and rituals of their caste. In Nepal, it is considered the beginning of manhood. Before the ceremony boys wear a traditional orange headband pierced with a porcupine spine, for protection from evil.
The boys warm themselves in front of the fire, close by a priest prepares. The boys try to behave like young men until the urge to wrestle overwhelms them.
This Bratabandha is being performed by 6 Brahman priests, though only 2 are technically required. Red, white, yellow patterns, Swasti, were made around the fire for protection and to mark an elaborate place setting, indicating where each god should sit as they joined the ceremony. Pujas are performed to Ganesh, and light and water.
Female relatives watch anxiously. Even at a Bratabandha, Nepali boys are never men in the eyes of the women who raise them.