Saturday, February 23, 2008


Upanayanam - Sacred Thread ceremony of a brahmin boy

Yesterday i got an invitation for upanayanam for neighbour boy.So I thought to write about upanayanam. a little about the symbolism behind the thread ceremony. when I began to study. Indian rituals and their meanings,I understood the deep beauty and significance of the thread ceremony known in sanskrit as upanayanam and poonal in tamil. Among all sanskara rituals There are two distinct Dharmas prescribed– theVaideeka Dharma and the Bhagavata Dharma The most sacred sound in Vaideeka Dharma is ‘Om’.‘Rama’ is the equivalent in Bhagavata Dharma. While Vaideeka Dharma talks about rituals and rites,Bhagavata Dharma talks about love for God. The former is for a few to follow, while the latter is meant for everyone. Gayatri Mantra is a very powerful Mantra in theVaideeka Dharma.

Those who study the Vedas consider that the initiation rituals of Upanayanam as the most important. In the ancient times, it is said to have been available to both men and women of all communities desiring to study the Vedas. Some of the Brahma gnanis like Parasara, Vyasa, Sathyakama and Padmapada are not born in the 'high castes' but organized the Vedas and compiled all the karmas for the upanayanam. As the traditions changed after the eighth century AD, it was restricted to person born in some families of the 'upper' classes only and was denied for women. Upanayanam is usually performed at the age of seven or eight, because, that is the age when a child stops getting the benefits of the karmas of their parents and will have to learn and perform their own karmas. Upa means near and nayanam means going; that is the act of going to a teacher to learn. ), making for the interpretative meaning: bringing (the ultimate truth nearer in sight).

All sanskara rituals, the initiation rituals of Upanayanam are the most important. Upanayanam, also known as the sacred thread The sacred thread consists of three strings, each representing various qualities or gunas. Some contend that the threads represent, Satya (Truth) Rajas (action) and Tamas (inertia) .The brahmachari is supposed to be in a sort of vrata for the following three days, doing all the nityakarmas of the brahmachari but not going out. On the fourth day, a Pranava Sradha Medha Puja and homa is done, when the kuttai is removed and given to the Acharya and the moujibandanam, krishanjinam and palasha danda are also taken from the bramachari. In the olden days, new palashadanada, moujibanda and krishanajina were given to the brahmachari.

The Upanayanm function starts with Punyahavachanam followed by Yagnopaveethadharanam. The Muhurtham is the time of Brahmopadesam.After yajnopaveethadhaarnam is Kumarabhojanam. Kumarabhojanam is common both for Upanayanam and choulam. According to the vedic karmas, the vatu (the boy whose upanayanam is being performed is commonly referred to as vatu) should be served with rice, ghee and milk without salt or spices. During Kumarabhojanam, another kumara (boy)who is not yet a brahmachari is made to sit with the vatu and served food. At some places, another brahmachari is seated along with the vatu and also the food served is rice cooked with turmeric powder and dal, along with fried rice pappads.

After Kumarabhojanam is the vapanam, or shaving of the hair for the vatu. The first locks are cut by the father and then by the barber. Usually, this is a noisy scene during choulam, as this is the first time the boy gets a hair cut. After the vapanam, the boys are given bath, dressed in new clothes and taken to the temple.The rituals of Choula karma is almost over after the boy comes back from the temple and the homa and ashirvadam.Agnimukham is performed and the boy is given all the symbols of a brahmachari. It is an earnest prayer from the father, having brought the child up to his adolescent age, to all powers in this universe, the earth, the water, the sky, the ether, the fire, all the stars, all the deities who are the devatas of all the eight directions (ashtadigpalakas), all the vedic scholars and elders of the community and all the pitrus to take good care of the boy from then onwards. A First the boy made to stand on a stone and the father says, “You should be as strong-willed as this stone”.

The main function of Yagnopavitha Dhaaranam [putting on the Holy thread] is then performed. From this time onwards, the student starts wearing the sacred thread. It consists of three threads with a knot called Brahmagranthi symbolizing Brahma, Vishnu and Siva. The three threads reminds him of the triple debts that men have, i. Pithru runam -- towards forefathers, ii. Rishi runam -- towards the acharyas, sages and saints, and iii. Deva runam -- towards the Deities and natural forces. Then the father ties a long cloth (known as kuttai) around the brahmachari’s waist and prays, “May the Gods give you long life, strength, health and wealth” (In the olden days, the brahmachari was supposed to wear this cloth for 3 days). A cord made of three strings of Durva (Moujibandhanam) is also tied around the brahmachari’s waist, symbolizing the three sections of Vedas which will protect him from all evils A piece of deer skin (krishnajinam) is also tied around bramachari’s waist, which will make him bright in intellect as the blazing sun. He will be endowed with health, wealth and prosperity. He will become strong spiritually and intellectually.

He also wears a dear skin symbolizing spiritual and intellectual pre-eminence and tied a girdle of 'munja' grass symbolizing the three sections of Vedas. Then the student is taught the Gãyathri Manthra by his father or teacher. This is followed by 'the student' symbolically asking for alms of rice from his mother and other women. From then on the student is considered "Dwija" or twice born and is qualified to learn the Vedas. He is expected to recite the Gayatri Mantra and perform Sandhya rituals three times every day*. Gayathri Mantra Follows

Om ! Bhoor Bhuva Suvah: Thath Savithur Vare'nyam |

Bhargo' Dhevasya Dheemahi Dhiyo Yo nah: Pracho'dhayath ||

Then the brahmachari is taught the most sacred Gayatri mantra by the father. He is taught all the rules of Brahmacharya vratha. He is also given Palasha Danda (a small twig of the peepul tree) as a symbol of brahmachari. According to Aapasthambha Maharshi, a brahmachari should not Sleep during the day,Use cosmetics or perfumes,Have close contact with girls,Engage in gossip,Indulge in entertainment,Indulge in boasting.He should be disciplined, quiet, self confident, tireless, soft spoken and without ego or jealousy. Chanting of Gayatri Mantra regularly gives him the strength to follow the above rules.The brahmachari is supposed to live on the food he receives as alms by going from house to house. As a symbolic representation of this now forgotten system, the brahmachari asks for alms from his mother and all the other ladies of the congregation.

Followed by Ashirvadam and aarathi, the upanayana karma comes to a happy end. The Upanayanam is the most sacred ritual in the life of a boy as all through the ceremony This karma has a very powerful influence on the boy and the family, if the purpose and meaning of each ritual is properly understood and followedIt is one ritual no one should avoid or postpone as it gives the boy great strength of mind. Practicing the Gayatri mantra everyday makes him strong willed, confident, intelligent and pure in his thoughts and deeds.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Valentine's Day

Every February,. Across the country Valentine's Day on February 14 on which lovers express their love for each other; sending Valentine's ...card candy, flowers, and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. But who is this mysterious saint and why do we celebrate? The history of Valentine's Day -- and its patron saint is shrouded in mystery. But we do know that February has long been a month of romance. It's no surprise that by the Middle Ages, St. Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France. Valentine's Day, as we know it today, so, Who was Saint Valentine and how did he become associated with this ancient rite?

One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men -- his crop of potential soldiers. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death

According to one legend, Valentine actually sent the first 'valentine' greeting himself. While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl -- who may have been his jailor's daughter -- who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed 'From your Valentine,' an expression that is still in use today. I believe that note started the custom of exchanging love messages on Valentine's Day. It was written on the day he died, February 14, 269 A.D. Now, every year on this day, people remember. But most importantly, they think about love and friendship

While some believe that Valentine's Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine's death or burial -- which probably occurred around 270 A.D -- others claim that the Christian church may have decided to celebrate Valentine's feast day in the middle of February in an effort to 'Christianize' celebrations of the pagan Lupercalia festival. Then Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine's Day around 498 A.D. The Roman 'lottery' system for romantic pairing was deemed un-Christian and outlawed. Later, during the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds' mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of February -- Valentine's Day -- should be a day for romance.

The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. The greeting, which was written in 1415, is part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London. In Great Britain, Valentine's Day began to be popularly celebrated around the seventeenth century. Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In addition to the United States, Valentine's Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia..

In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began to sell the first mass-produced valentines in America. Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages (written Valentine's didn't begin to appear until after 1400), and the oldest known Valentine card is on display at the British Museum. The first commercial Valentine's Day greeting cards produced in the U.S. were created in the 1840s by Esther A. Howland. Howland, known as the Mother of the Valentine, made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as "scrap".

By the middle of the eighteenth century, it was common for friends and lovers in all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. By the end of the century, printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology. Ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one's feelings was discouraged. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine's Day greetings.
. One verse they sang was:
Good morning to you, valentine;
Curl your locks as I do mine ---
Two before and three behind.
Good morning to you, valentine.
On February 14th. Hearts, keys and keyholes were given as gifts” You unlock my heart!"
Every year on this day, people remember St. Valentine. But most importantly, they think about love and friendship. They know that love can't be beaten!
" Love is pure and sacred,Love is truth and everything good
Love is selfless and undemanding; giving and not expecting in return"

(Collection from History Of Valentine)