The sacred thread: Upanayanam

If you have Brahmin friends you would definitely be familiar with the word Upanayanam. Upanayanam which means ‘leading to’ or ‘near’ ,is performed on young boy between the age of 7 and 12. It is one of the vital Samskaras performed where a young boy is taken towards knowledge. This is also considered as a second birth where he gains intellect through a guru’s care. This ceremonial rite is also performed to help purifying one self, to make one physically and mentally strong to resist an evil from entering and is also considered as a process of protection

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Those days Upanayanam was a ceremony that marks the acceptance of a young boy as a student by a teacher. It was performed as a tradition before the boy starts his study of Vedas or Vidyarambham. This is considered as a stepping stone for undergoing a life of Bramachary in the service of a teacher, studying the Vedas and other subjects. The life of a student initiates with the Upanayanam ceremony and the boy is dedicated to the care of a teacher with whom he lives as long his education continues. The purity, chastity and cleanliness are stressed during this period as the strength of manhood, protection from disease, health and longer life depends more on this one and only virtue of complete continence than anything. The Upanayanam means bringing near, to whom?  To the guru or Acharya who introduces the boy by giving him the sacred mantra which is called Gayatri.

The First birth is marked through the Jatakarma ceremony and the second birth which is also called scholarly birth is manifested through the Upanayanam ritual. Dwija means to be born twice. No distinction is seen between one child and another during the time of birth as they are all born out of mother’s womb. This is the first stage in birth and is called physical birth. The upadesam of Gayati is obtained at the time of Upanayanam and the boy is considered twice born (Dwija).This is the second stage. He is believed to be purified after taking up this ceremony. The third stage is called Vipra where on becomes a master in all the Vedas. The final stage is called Brahamana where one realizes the strength and knowledge of self through the Brahman. One doesn’t easily become Brahmana but only through the realization of Ultimate Brahman. One attains the role of Brahmana by action and not just by birth.

The custom of Upanayanam and the introduction to the Gayatri are believed to stable the thought process, soothe the mind, give it the right quality of energy to absorb everything which is to be learnt paving way for academic growth. It brings focus and concentration to the boy which is much needed for a child to pursue his education. The Knowledge the child attains by learning the scriptures gives him the capability to see things in a better outlook.

The main events of the ceremony include the father of the boy undergoing the ritual of passage. The pooja is initiated by paying respects to various gods at a stipulated auspicious time chosen. The father of the boy initiates his son to Gayatri by reciting some slokas in his ears. The important steps in the ceremony are Uthakasanthi, Nandhimukha ceremony, Aajyabhagaantha homam, Yagnopavetha Dharanam, Kumarabhojhanam, Brammopadesham, Soorya Dharshanam, Bhikshakaranam and Abhivathan.