Thread Ceremony is otherwise known as ‘Upanayan’. Upa means near and nayan means to take towards. The Sanskrit name itself depicts the reason for this ritual that is rebirth towards seeking spiritual identity. Nowadays maximum of the Upanayan are done by the Brahmins and that too at any random age. According to mythology the appropriate age for the ritual is 8 for Brahmins, 11 for Kshathriyas and 12 for Vaishyas. The one on whom the rite is being performed is called a batu, munjamani, brahmachari, etc. The one on whom the rite has already been performed is called an upanit.
Earlier times when Hindu boys belonging to Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, and Vysyas used to reach the appropriate age, they were made to leave home and sent to a Guru to learn the Vedic studies. This was done to make the child ready to accept a spiritual teacher as father and the Vedas as mother. They returned back home only after acquiring all the necessary knowledge and Shastras.
It is believed that every man is born a Shudra and needs to perform rites or Karma to clean himself physically. Hence thread ceremony is the medium to clean him by chanting many powerful mantras and performing holy rites. It is said that after Upanayan the child gets a rebirth which makes him spiritually powerful. He is then eligible to chant Gayatri Mantra and perform spiritual practices.
Upanayan for women
In ancient times girls belonging to the Brahmin Varna also underwent this ritual of purification. They were taught Vedic studies by their father, brother or paternal uncle. There were two types of women having a thread ceremony
1. Brahmavadini – the girl desires to study the Brahman principle and hence is allowed to study the Vedas.
2. Sadyovadhu – the girl who prefers a worldly life should be made ready for marriage and then the process of purification is done during the Panigrahan Sanskar in marriage.
Rituals to be followed during Thread ceremony
• On the day prior to Upanayana, worship of Ganesh should be done and the boy should remain on a milk diet, enabling him to increase the Satva qualities. At some places Brahmins also follow some of the child birth rituals again, constituting Annaprashana, Nishkraman and Karnavedha.
• On the day of the thread ceremony the boy and his mother eat from the same leaf. Reason being after being a brahmacharya he cannot eat any stale food (jhutta). After this he needs to leave behind his childish demands and act in a socio-religious conduct.
• The boy then has to get his head shaven, leaving behind a tuft of hair on the top of the head. The tuft acts like an antenna to collect all the positive vibes from the surrounding.
• He then takes bath and wears a new set of dress comprising Koupĭna (loin-cloth), Dhothi and Uttariyam (Upper cloth).
• Mounjibandhana – a ring around the waist made of grass is also worn which initiates self control.
• Next comes the wearing of the sacred thread i.e Yajnopavita. Many hymns and mantras are chanted by the priest and then the thread is worn around the boy which hangs from the left shoulder to right loin. This is to be worn permanently till his last breath.
This sacred thread is made of three strands of strings and a knot is tied. The knot resembles a cow in the sitting posture. Certain pieces of Krishņajina (skin of a black antelope) are also tied to this sacred thread. The three strands signify the three Vedas. They also represent purity and control of body, speech and mind.
• The next step is making him hold the staff made of Palasa wood. It is believed that the boy must keep this throughout his student life to bring him success and stability. It stands for the control of the sense-organs at the psychological level.
• The Vatu then circumblanes the hawan and offers ghee to it by taking certain vows. They are: performing achamana (ceremonial sipping of water with certain Mantras) before any religious rite which is the most important, control of speech, avoiding sleep during the day and offering fuel sticks into the sacred fire and so on.
• Then the child is made to learn and recite the sacred Gayatri Mantra.
• Then sandalwood sticks dipped in ghee are offered to the fire in order to get the blessing of obtaining good offsprings.
• At the end the boy begs for food and offerings by saying “vikshyam dehi”. His own parents, relatives, friends and acquaintances offer money, food, clothes, jewellery as well as blessings.
Things to be done after the Thread Ceremony on a regular basis.
• Sandhyavandanam must be done every day three times.
• Gayatri mantra should be recited daily
• Perform achamana everytime before consuming food.
• Never take out the sacred thread until and unless it gets damaged. And again wear a new one after doing certain pujas and vidhis.
• Never eat anyone’s already eaten food or stale food.