Friday, August 17, 2012

Upanayanam - The Sacred Thread

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.

Cultural Importance:
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 is established in each fiber as follows.
1. Omkar,
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 ofBrahman. 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
Prajapatheryasahajam purasthadAayushyamagryam
prathimuncha shubramYagnopaveetham
balamasthu thejah

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.

Scientific Reason:
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.

Interesting Facts:
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


nag bhaskara said...

sir very useful information given here for the new generation to read briefly and concisely v gd

Krishnamurthy said...

parents if not alive should wear 9 threads is a wrong information. Person who does pooja without upper towel can consider this last 3 thread as an substitute for an upper garment to continue the pooja.

Avinash Rao said...


what happens if a person wearing the sacred thread removes the thread & weares it ocassonally?

Madras Shaker said...

The Sacred Thread(Poonal in Tamil)
is a Brahmin String. Only Brahmin Males (and Chatriyaas) wear this Thread from the day the Brahmin Boys had the Upanayanam (Sacread Thread Ceremony). If a male wears Three Strands (strings) it indicates he is a Bachelor (Brahmachaari). If a male wears SIX strands (strings) it means he is a married man. If the married brahmin man has children, then he should wear NINE strands (strings)
Sometimes there are interpretations that the three strings worn besides SIX strings is considered the Upper Cloth. That is not exactly right. The Three, Six, and Nine strings denote the status of the Male Member in the family. Three signifies Bachelor, Six strings indicates that man is married. And Nine strings indicate that married man also has children.
In our Indian Epic, Ramayanam, Lord Rama was not a Brahmin but a Chathriyaa but he too wore Sacred Thread and performed religious things. Similarly in Mahabharat, Lord Krishna was not a Brahmin but Edayaa (Yadhu Kulam). Because of Kaanthaari's Curse, (King Dhirdhiraastra's wife), entire yadhukulam did not survive after the Pancha Paandava War. Even though Rama and Krishna were not Brahmins, they respected and protected Brahmins. All Hindus (including Brahmins) worship both Rama and Krishna as Reincarnation of Lord Maha Vishnu- MC

S Rajan said...

Quote///Three signifies Bachelor, Six strings indicates that man is married. And Nine strings indicate that married man also has children./// This is the correct explanation. Many interpret it wrongly. Some say that one should not wear while parents are alive. This is also not correct. After marriage one wares two strands( jadai) and the third one is added when seemandam is performed.

Anonymous said...

Could you please cite the scientific reasons. If there are no citations then please do not spread false information and claim it is scientific.

Anonymous said...

What if a man is not married, and do not have his parents? Should he wear six or nine threads? Kindly let us know. Thanks.

Shantanu Sanyal said...

described in profound way - - thanks

Unknown said...

I have doubt regarding conducting upanayanam for my son who was born in July(aadi)2007.W hat is the appropriate age?We are staying abroad.Can we conduct upanayanam for.him in may/June(vaikasi/aadi)of 2017?

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Indira Subraveti said...

We really appreciate the person who provided good information here about upanayanam.We would be more appreciate and thankful If it is given for children born abroad and parents to conduct upanayanam in India how to take the muhurath dates etc it would be helpful to parents abroad.