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.
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
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.