Upanayanam ceremony is a very important tradition among the Brahmins. A sacred thread, called Yagnopavitam is placed around the left shoulder of the boy. This thread is a composite of 3 threads, signifying Goddesses Gayatri (thought), Saraswati (word) and Savitri (deed) respectively. There is also a knot in the middle that signifies the unending Brahman.
According to source, in Hinduism, Upanayana (Sacred Thread ceremony) is performed on boys of at least 7 years of age from the Brahmin varna, of at least 13 years from the Kshatriya varna, and of at least 17 years from the Vaishya varna. The youngster is taught during the ceremony the secret of life through Brahmopadesam (revealing the nature of Brahman, the Ultimate Reality) or the Gayatri mantra. Everyone has a first, biological birth, but when a young man seeks his spiritual identity he symbolically accepts a spiritual teacher as father and the Vedas as mother. At the ceremony, he receives the sacred-thread, usually worn for his entire lifetime. It is replaced at intervals, but never removed until the new one has been put on.
Typically women do not wear the yajnopavita (although they may wear other sacred threads). Girls also have upanyanam according to Yajur Veda. Girls wear the threads around the neck.
Where to Conduct?
Upanayanam is an asset of a Brahmin boy. Parents should not postpone it according to their own wishes and convenience. Upanayanam of a son should not be conducted along with the marriage of his sister. It should be conducted in a Mandapam or in some similar place. It is preferable to conduct Upanayanam at one’s own house.
Upanayanam should be conducted in ‘Utharayana’. We should not adamant that Upanayanam can be conducted only during vacation of the boy after his exams. We should not postpone the upanayanam on lame excuses as the boy’s age is an odd number or even number. It is against ‘dharmasasthra’ to say the boy’s period is ‘ahtamasani’, ‘ezharasani’ or effortless GURU on referring horoscope. There is no connection between the time of Upanayanam and the present position of planets. Any position of the planet will stand in the way of conducting Upanayanam at the age of 8. In fact Upanayanam destroy a boy’s bad period. ‘Sandhya Vandanam’ performed at young age will bring him bright future. Upanayanam can keep at distance all the ill effects of the planets.
How to wear the thread?
The sacred thread is made up of nine fibers.
One deity as per scriptures is established in each fiber as follows.
2. Agni (deity of fire),
3. Nag (serpent),
4. Som (moon),
5. Pitar (ancestors),
6. Prajapati (deity of procreation),
7. Vayu (air),
8. Yama (deity of death) and
9. Vishvadevata (deity of the universe).
Three strands are created by twisting three of the nine fibers in each strand. The three Vedas – Rig-Veda, Yajurveda and Samaveda are established on each of these strands.
Three fibers are woven into one strand and the three strands are then knotted together. This knot is called the Brahmagatha (gatha means a knot) or the Brahmagranthi (granthi means a gland). [The knot of sacred grass (darbha) tied to a gold ring (pavitrak) is also called a Brahmagranthi.] It is the site of establishing the Atharvaveda. This knot is extremely important and one requires skill to tie it.
The three strands represent the three stages (ashrams) – celibate student (brahmacharya), the married householder (gruhastha) and retired householder (vanaprastha); the three fires, the fire worshipped in the home (garhapatya), the fire placed in the south (dakshinagni) and the sacred fire lit for a specific spiritual purpose (ahvaniya) as well as spiritual knowledge (dnyan), devotion (bhakti) and action (karma).
The one who possesses all these three qualities gets the spiritual experience of Brahman. Based on 96 items listed below, the length of the sacred thread should be 96 times the breadth of a finger (angul).
Meaning: 15 auspicious dates (tithis) + 7 days of the week + 27 lunar asterisms + 25 principles + 4 Vedas + 3 components (gunas) + 3 time periods (kals) + 12 months = 96. Thus, the length of the sacred thread (yadnyopavit) is 96 times the breadth of a finger (angul).
Mantra for Sacred Thread:
Yagnopaveetham paramam pavithram
Meaning: God has ordained that Yagnopavitha should be donned along with the great deeds. Person with Yagnopavitha should lead a clean and progressive life. Only then Yagnopavitha becomes strong and radiant.
It is a scientifically proven fact that a vein passing through the ear regulates the flow of urine. Therefore, when the boy wears the sacred thread around his ear while passing urine, he is unconsciously helping his urinary system to regulate the urine flow, thus keeping his urinary system, bladder, etc. healthy and free of problems.
Further, we should take into account the fact that the Brahmins of olden days did not lead a very active lifestyle (i.e.) they were mostly conducting Pujas, where their primary role was to be seated and chant Mantras. In this scenario, it would have been difficult to keep their kidneys in top-shape. This is why this alternative system of Yagnopavitam (sacred thread) has been formulated. This practice is not something that is to be done away with, as there are chances of this problem being carried on down the generations.
The sacred thread used for the ceremony consists of three strands, joined by a knot known as Brahmagranthi or the knot of Brahma. The three strands symbolise the Hindu trinity – Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. There are various interpretations of the three strands to represent many of the other triads like Mahasarasvati, Mahalakshmi and Mahakali. Or the three qualities known as sattva, rajas and tamas; past, present and the future; the three states – wakefulness, dream and deep sleep. Some even say that it represents the three dimensions known as heaven (swarga), earth (martyaloka) and netherworld (patala). The twist of the thread must be upwards to ensure that the Sattwaguna or the good quality of truth predominates.
The most important meaning of the three strands is ida, pingala and susumna nadi, through which the kundalini energy manifests as prana and consciousness. Yajno-pavita means ‘thread of sacrifice.’ That is so called because it symbolises the sacrifice
It was meant for reminder of God . When a person watches it or a tilak on forehead, it gives him a reminder of religion and customs. The person who was wearing it, was supposed to act as a role model.
The thread is changed once a year on the occasion of Shravani Purnima, the full moon day in the month of Shravan. This is also known as Avaani Avittam in Tamil, and coincides with the Raksha Bandhan
- The sacred thread should never be removed from one’s body.
- If for some reason, the sacred thread is lost or slips off, it should not be reused. A new sacred thread should be worn.
- Bachelors should wear sacred threads with 3 strands. Married men should wear sacred threads with 6 strands. Men whose parents have passed on should wear sacred threads with 9 strands.
- The Gayatri Mantra should be chanted before wearing sacred thread.
- It is the person’s responsibility to keep the thread clean