Here I will describe my experience of making garlands on Pavitraropana Ekadasi from August 4th to August 6th, 2006.
Pavitraropana Ekadasi is the festival of offering Lord Krishna a garland made of threads. This festival occurs once per year on the Ekadasi during the waxing moon in July/August. The special significance of this festival is to generate purity, complete a year of worship, and atone for any incomplete worship. Here I will describe my experience.
I chose silk thread, although other types can be used. The thread should be 3 ply, with each ply made of exactly 3 filaments. The resulting silk thread is 3x3 organzine reeled (filament) silk. Note that if you try to use spun silk, there will be no exact number of filaments, because spun silk is made of individual pieces. The thread shouldn’t be too thick, because many threads need to go together to make each garland. The better thread is 3x3 organzine reeled (filament) silk. Here is a webpage which describes the difference between reeled silk and spun silk: www.silkewerk.com/rtsr.htm
The 3x3 organzine reeled silk thread may be not available in most stores, but it can be special ordered. If custom made, try to have a pure person make it. Also, before starting, one should purify the thread with milk, yogurt, ghee, gober and mutra. This year, I ordered a sample of handmade reeled silk from a home craftsman. Here is how he describes it:
In the singles, I used two white filaments and one golden one. The white filaments are from hybrid Chinese cocoons; the golden one is from a silk-worm raising friend of mine in Hawaii. They are all pure silk, and all Bombyx mori, just a different shade. It imparts a subtle golden sheen to the thread, which I think is very pleasing.
To the right is the thread after purifying. Make sure to chant a round of Japa also, for purification.
I made 5 garlands. Three are for Vishnu, one is for Srila Prabhupada, and one for myself. More garlands can be made for associate divinities, fire, vaisnavas, and “as far as possible for others as well”. One day I would like to make these garlands for an ISKCON Temple.
Since this was my first use of reeled silk, I started with a limited quantity. To keep from running out, I used only 3 threads of thickness for each garland. Ideally, the garlands should be made of 27, 54 or 108 threads each, and the garland worn by oneself should be made of 26. There should also be an even number of knots spaced about 1 inch apart or less (never an odd number). A special garland called Vanamala requires 1008 threads and 108 knots. Vanamala reaches to the feet.
Next the threads are dyed. I used saffron and aloe. The saffron imparts a reddish tinge, and the aloe greenish. Goracana and other dyes may be used as well. Finally, the garlands are placed in a bamboo basket and covered. There they wait until the evening of Ekadasi.
Fasting is required on Ekadasi day, and then the Vigil begins at eve. I started my Vigil with a Sarvatobhadra Mandala. The Vishnu deity is lying near the center. Around him are cups of water and grains. Vishnu is lying in bed because he sleeps during the rainy season (Caturmasya). In front of Vishnu I placed a vessel of water, along with the bamboo basket and garlands on top.
Mantras and mudras are used to invoke and worship entities into the mandala and garlands. Then the garlands are covered with a Nrsimha Kavaca. Then, one should keep Vigil at night, performing arotik and dance every 3 hours, as well as reading and other devotional activities.
After sunrise, the deity and garlands are worshipped. Finally, the garlands are offered to Vishnu, Srila Prabhupada, and lastly oneself. Then the fast should be broken. The picture to the right shows Vishnu lying with 3 garlands, and the next picture shows Srila Prabhupada with a garland.
As long as the garlands are worn (at least 1 day minimum), you must remain pure and devoted to worship. After a final worship, the garlands can then be removed.