Sacred Thread Ceremony

Sacred Thread Ceremony
The sacred time in a boy’s life, comes three times in his lifetime. The first time, the boy is becoming a man. This auspicious time is the Sacred Thread Ceremony or the Upanayanam Samskar. It is time for the boy to leave the comfort of his mother’s lap and go on to receive his education from his guru. This ceremony is usually performed between the ages of seven and thirteen.

The ceremony is performed in great gusto. Traditionally, an auspicious time and date was chosen to shave the boy's head completely, leaving only a small tuft in the center of the scalp, called bodi. This right has been made optional, for modern times. The sacred thread used for the ceremony consists of three strands which are joined by a knot known as Brahmagranthi or the knot of Brahma. The three strands symbolize Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma, the Hindu trinity. There are many interpretations of the strands of the thread such as the three qualities known as sattva, rajas and tamas; past, present and the future or the three states, wakefulness, dream and deep sleep. The most important meaning of the thread is Yajnopavita, meaning “thread of sacrifice,” as in, sacrificing ego. This ceremony is very symbolic. As mentioned before, this is the last time a boy sits in his mother’s lap to be spoon-fed by her. This symbolically means that the parents are passing the child care into the hands of the guru. The boy then sits on his guru's left side and promises to obey all the orders that he will be given. Both their hands are then covered with a long cloth and among the beating of the drums and the sounds of the conches being blow, the guru whispers into the right ear of the boy the Gayathri mantra and words of wisdom, which are never repeated to anyone else. After this the boy is supposed to beg alms from his mother and the other ladies present at the ceremony. The alms are more like blessings and usually consist of wheat, rice, sweets, small tokens of gold and silver and money. He hands these alms over to his guru, who proceeds to place the janeo thread (a thread spun by Brahmin girl and twisted by a Brahmin) across the boy's shoulder, which is henceforth to be worn for life.

This enables the boy to study the Vedas. It also signifies a spiritual rebirth. This ceremony is an introduction to the first of the four stages of life, Brahmacharya Ashrama. (period of studentship) Having the sacred thread ceremony is essential for the future life. It is a prerequisite for marriage. It is considered important because a person with the Thread of Sacrifice must have undergone all the oaths associated with wearing it and should have led an unmarried life and should have completed a major portion of his education.

Although this ceremony has been predominately for boys, they are scriptural and also epic references to women scholars receiving the Upanayanam Samskar. There is specific evidence in the Ramayan, of Sita having performed the Sandhya puja (similar sacred thread ceremony) and also reciting the Gayathri mantra. Due to the patriarchal system exceeded in the Hindu culture, women have since lost the right to this special sacrament.