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Hindus follow many age-old traditions and day to day practices that reflect their beliefs.  Each tradition has a significance and importance attached to it.  Starting with Punyojanam or Namakran( Naming a baby) it continues with Upanayana(thread ceremony), Nichiyadartham (Marriage engagement) Kalyanam (Marriage ceremony), Sastiapthapurthi(Re-Marriage ritual of a man to his wife when he turns 60 years), Bhimaratha Shanthi(Re-marriage 70 years) and Sadabhisekam(Re-marriage at 80).

Grahapravesham(housewarming) and Seemandatham(Baby shower) are some other family functions and traditions following in concurrence with the scriptures. For every function and practice, the elders of the family, extended family members, relatives, and friends are invited and their blessings sought.

What is Upanayana

As you can see different traditions(samskaras) and ceremonies are followed at different stages of a man.  Upanayana is a coming of age tradition where a Guru or teacher accept a boy as a student.  This ceremony is conducted by some varnas of the Hindu society. The boy is made to wear a cotton thread on this date and he is now eligible to study the holy Vedas.

Rituals performed during Upanayana

Some of the rituals performed in Upanayana (also called Upanayanam) by Brahmins in Tamil Nadu and Kerala belt:

  1. Nandhimukha

Nandimukha Ceremony is performed to seek the blessing of forefathers.

  1. Udaka Shanti

All deities are invoked into a pot holding water and this holy water is poured on the child for purification of body and soul of a child.  This is done early in the morning

  1. Ajyabhagatntha Homam
    upanayana photo

    Photo by dksesh

Fire God,  Agni is invoked to bless the child with a long life, courage, and intelligence.

  1. Yagnopaveetham

The father places the sacred thread across the child’s left shoulder.  The guru monitors the process while chanting the sacred Vedas/mantras.  The wearer should henceforth be pure in thought, word and deed.

  1. Kmara Bhojaam
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The child has a satvic meal of rice dhal and ghee sans salt and spices as a sign of entering the Brahmachari parva.  He partakes this meal along with another child.

  1. Brahmopadesam

The father recites and teaches the Gayatri Mantra to the child.  This mantra has a special significance in the life of a Hindu individual. This mantra invokes Savitr, the Sun God, who enlightens our mind.

brahmin photo

Photo by nevil zaveri

  1. Soorya Darsanam

The boy has a glimpse of the sun and seeks his blessings.

  1. Bhikshakrnam

Asks for alms from all the women in the family.  The first right to give alms is given to his mother.  Begging humbles and this ritual humbles one’s ego,  Controlling senses which is pertinent for acquiring Vedic knowledge, is the next step in Brahmacharya.

  1. Abivathanam

After the Upanayanam the boy seeks the blessing of all the elder male members by first introducing himself, his rishi, Parampara, Gothram(family lineage)  Suthram and name.  This is called Abhivandanam. The first Abhivathanam after upanayana is reserved for the mother. Thus, a mother and women at large have important roles to perform during the Upanayana.

Photo by anandrr

After the boy wears the sacred thread, he is eligible to study and understand the Vedas and other holy scriptures.   He will be taught the Gayatri mantra and may recite it daily.

The child also has to perform Sandhyavandanam a small ritual, three times a day, from now on.

Every year on the Avani Avittam day, which falls on a full moon day between August September, all individuals initiated into Brahmacharya should perform rituals and change wear a new sacred thread discarding the old one.

Nowadays rituals like Sandhyavandam are not practiced daily due to hectic life schedules.  Even so, people living in the rural area are still following these customs and keeping age-old traditions alive.

See Also -   Mehendi

Featured Photo by mckaysavage

Upanayana – The Sacred Thread Ceremony

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