Kanthi, a necklace of bead worn around the neck, is the symbol of our surrender to the creator of this universe, the supreme almighty. The kanthi is the best symbol of one's surrender, as it gives us the ultimate feeling of oneness with God.
How do we wear Kanthi?
Kanthi is to be worn at the hands of saints, who live life as per guidelines by Shreeji Maharaj. When a devotee wears a kanthi for the first time, a ceremony is performed. Saints give water in right palm of the person who accepts kanthi, simultaneously chanting the following Sharanagat Mantra
"Kal Maya papa karma yamdut Bhayadaham, Swaminarayanam sharanam prapannoasmi sapatumam" (I take refuge of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. May He deliver me from the fear of kal, maya, sin, karma, and evil. May He protect me.)
The water is then poured away and the kanthi is adorned. The principle underlying vartman involves purification of the soul before accepting the refuge of God. To be purified in mind, speech and action, water is held in the right palm. Water itself has the attribute of spiritual cleansing. Also, holding water in the right palm follows the tradition of always taking an oath or a vow with Varundev, the deity of water, as a witness in the ceremony.
With chanting of this powerful mantra, all the sins of our past life and present life would burn away. Essentially we would start to live a new life, and kanthi would inspire us to lead a very spiritual and moral life.
Not to consume alcohol, not to eat non-vegetarian foods, not to steal, not to commit adultery and not to accept food or water served by a person not approved by age old convention are the rules to be strictly followed when wearing a kanthi.
A Kanthi consists of two lines of beads made of tulasi (basil) wood. One string represents the soul and the other represent the supreme lord. The tying of the two strings to gather symbolises the union of the soul with the Supreme Lord. It has great spiritual value, with Ayurvadic virtues. There is an interesting history behind the custom of wearing a kanthi in our faith.
Many years ago, all the saints and devotees assembled in the court of king Dada Khachar at Gadhada. Shreeji Maharaj was holding religious discourse with them.
At that time, Khima Sutar, a decotee offered a beautiful Kanthi, made from the hard shell of a coconut. Shreeji Maharaj was very pleased to see such Kanthi. He expressed appreciation and offered him his shawl. The same Kanthi was also liked by Sadguru Shree Muktanand Swami, Brahmanand Swami, Gopalanand Swami and all other saints.
Shreeji Maharaj declared: "From today we should set a tradition in our Sampraday (sect) to wear such a Kanthi, but it should be made of holy basil or sandalwood." All the Paramahans and devotees welcomed the advice, but sandalwood was not available in any nearby villages or town.
Khima Sutar expressed his concern and requested Maharaj what to do if sandalwood is not available in nearby places. Shreeji Maharaj said he should go to Surat where it is available in plenty. Khima Sutar gladly accepted the advice and brought sandalwood from there. He made several Kanthi of two strings and offered first one to Shreeji Maharaj and then to all the saints and devotees. Since then, the tradition of wearing Kanthi has become an integral part of our faith.
Glory of Kanthi
Khima Sutar followed the order of Shreeji Maharaj and boarded a boat from Mahuva port, en route to Surat. Coincidentally, a wicked person boarded the same boat for Surat. He was jealous of Shreeji Maharaj and was notorious for dirty tricks. He saw Khima Sutar, a devotee of Shreeji Maharaj and was very annoyed. He played black magic, chanted dirty spell on Khima Sutar, exercised evil spirit, and threw black beans at him. Khima Sutar was a true devotee. He had a Kanthi round his neck, Tilak and Chandlo on his forhead, a Mala in his right hand and has divine name of Shreeji Maharaj on his tongue. The evil spirit of wicked person could not harm him. Khima Sutar clearly understood that the wicked person was exercising dirty practices on him.
In the morning Khima Sutar collected all the black beans thrown at him, made a packet and left Surat port. He proceeded to the city and stayed at a Dharamshala. The wicked person came to the same Dharmashala where Khima Sutar stayed. Khima Sutar finished his morning routine of bathing and performing morning Puja. He then opened the packet of black beans, thoroughly washed them and prepared khichadi. By seeing this, the wicked man was shocked. His dirty tricks, black magic, wicked spells and black beans could not cast an evil spell on him, and to his dismay all his actions proved ineffective.
On the contrary Khima Sutar prepared khicadi of beans and had a sumptuous meal. The wicked person contemplated that when a mere devotee is so powerful, how powerful would his lord be? He then apologised to Khima Sutar and later came to have darshan of Shreeji Maharaj. He fell at Shreeji Maharaj's feet, accepted initiation and became a saint. He was later known as Shunyantitanand Swami.