Patna: In a tradition that is more than four decades old, girls in a Bihar village wear the `janeu` or the sacred thread, which is otherwise the preserve of men or boys.
Suman Kumari, Priyanka Kumari, Pratima Kumari, Kunti Kumari - all Hindu girls - share one thing in common -- they started wearing the `janeu` after a ceremony in their village.
It is a rare thing to happen in a conservative and a semi-feudal society in rural Bihar.
"The girls are part of nine girls of Mania village, who were given the `janeu` amidst chanting of vedic mantras at yagyopavit sanskar at Dyanand Arya High School," said Hari Narayan Arya.
Usually, this sacred thread signifies the transition from boyhood to manhood in Hindu society.
According to Acharya Siddheswar Sharma, who conducted the rituals, the girls are between 13 and 15 years.
"There is no caste basis for girls to wear janeu in this village," he said.
Sharma said the tradition was being followed in the village for over forty years.
"We are committed to organising the yagyopavit sanskar every year for girls on the occasion of Basant Panchami," he said.
It began when Vishwanath Singh set up a girls school in Mania village in 1972 at a time when women were discouraged from joining school. Undaunted, he sent his four daughters to school, which encouraged and inspired others.
Singh then held the thread ceremony for his elder daughter. The practice was later adopted by others and it became a tradition in the village.
Singh`s daughter Meera Kumari, the girl with whom the practice started, said she and her three sisters still wear the sacred thread.
"Wearing the janeu is a symbol that we are no less important than men," Meera Kumari, a school teacher, said.
More than four dozen girls in the village wear the sacred thread.