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       =======  Understanding Hinduism  =======

Yajnopavita - Janoi - Sacred Thread

Without the Upanayana none could call himself a twice-born.

Brahma-granthi
The three cords are tied together by
a knot called Brahma-granthi,

______________

Yajnopavita - Janoi

The "Twice-Born" (Dwija)
From Manusmrti(Laws of Manu)

According to the injunctions of the revealed texts, the first birth of an Aryan is from his natural mother, the second (happens) on the tying of the girdle of Munja grass, and the third on the initiation to (the performance of) a (Srauta) sacrifice. II.169

Among those (three) the birth which is symbolised by the investiture with the girdle of Munja grass, is his birth for the sake of the Veda; they declare that in that (birth) the Savitri (Goddess of knowledge) is his mother and the teacher is his father. II.170

They call the teacher (the pupil’s) father because he gives the Veda (knowledge); for no body can perform a sacred rite before the investiture with the girdle of Munja grass. II.170

He who has not been initiated should not pronounce any Vedic text excepting those required for the performance of funeral rites, since he is on a level with a Sudra before his birth from the Veda. II.172

The student who has been initiated must be instructed in the performance of the vows, and gradually learn the Veda, observing the prescribed rules. II.173

In the eighth year after conception, one should perform the initiation (Upanayana ceremonies of sacred thread) of a Brahmana, in the eleventh year after conception (that) of a Kshatriya, but in the twelfth year that of a Vaisya. II.36

The initiation of a Brahmana who desires proficiency in sacred learning should take place in the fifth year after conception, that of a Kshatriya who wishes to become powerful in the sixth, and that of a Vaisya who longs for success in his business in the eighth. II.37

The time for the Savitri initiation of a Brahmana does not pass until the completion of the sixteenth year (after conception), of a Kshatriya until the completion of the twenty-second, and of a Vaisya until the completion of the twenty-fourth. II.38

After those (periods men of) these three (castes) who have not received the sacrament at the proper time, become Vratyas (outcastes), excluded from the Savitri (initiation) and despised by the Aryans. II.39

With such men, if they have not been purified according to the rule, let no Brahmana ever, even in times of distress, form a connection either through the Veda or by marriage. II.40

Let students, according to the order (of their castes), wear (as upper dresses) the skins of black antelopes, spotted deer, and he-goats, and (lower garments) made of hemp, flax or wool. II.41

The sacrificial string of a Brahmana shall be made of cotton, (shall be) twisted to the right and consist of three threads; that of a Kshatriya of hempen threads; and that of a Vaisya of woollen threads. II.44

A Brahmana shall carry, according to the sacred law, a staff of Bilwa or Palasa; a Kshatriya, of Vata or Khadira; and a Vaisya, of Pilu or Udumbara. II.45

Having taken a staff according to his choice, having worshipped the sun and walked round the fire, turning his right hand towards it, the pupil should beg alms according to the prescribed rule. II.48

His girdle, the skin (which serves as his upper garment), his staff, his sacrificial thread, and his water-pot he must throw into water, when they have been damaged, and take others, reciting sacred formulas. II.64

The ceremony called Kesanta (clipping the hair) is ordained for a Brahmana in the sixteenth year from conception; for a Kshatriya, in the twenty-second; and for a Vaisya, two years later than that. II.65

This whole series of ceremonies must be performed for females also, in order to sanctify the body, at the proper time and in the proper order, but without the recitation of sacred texts. II.66

The nuptial ceremony is stated to be the Vedic sacrament for women (and to be equal to the initiation). Serving the husband (equivalent to) the residence in the house of the teacher, and the household duties (the same) as the daily worship of the sacred fire. II.67

Thus has been described the rule for the initiation of the twice-born, which indicates a (new) birth, and sanctifies. II. 68
______________

Further explanations by Sri Rajbali Pandey, M.A., D.Litt.

Without the Upanayana none could call himself a twice-born.

One who would not undergo these ceremonies (Samskara) was excommunicated and debarred from all the privileges of the race. The initiation was a passport to the literary treasures of the Hindus. It was also a means of communion with the society, because without it none could marry an Aryan girl. Thus the Hindu ideal made universal education the indispensable test and insignia of their community. The most striking fact in connection with the Upanayana is that by virtue of its performance the initiated ranked as Dvija or twice-born.

This transformation compares well with the Christian rite of baptism, which is regarded as a sacrament and carries with it a spiritual effect to reform the life of man. If we look beneath the surface of the ceremonies, we cannot but recognise in it the expression of a deep human conviction that man, due to his contact with the world, loses his native purity, and that he must be born again to enter the spiritual kingdom again.

The Acharya (teacher) tied round the waist of the youth the girdle with the verse, "Here has come to me, keeping away evil words, purifying mankind as a purifier, clothing herself by power of inhalation and exhalation, with strength, this sisterly goddess, the blessed girdle." The girdle was made of triple cord, which symbolised that the student was always encircled by the three Vedas.

After the tying of the girdle came the most important item of the samskara, the investing the student with the Sacred Thread. The very name of the Sacred Thread, "Yajnopavita" supplies a clue to its original nature.

The Sacred Thread is spun by a virgin Brahmana girl and twisted by a Brahmana. The composition of the Sacred Thread is full of symbolism and significance. Its length is ninetysix times as the breadth of the four fingers of a man, which is equal to his height. Each of the four fingers represents one of the four states the soul of a man experiences from time to time, namely, waking, dreaming, dreamless sleep and absolute Brahmanhood (Turiya or the fourth state). The three folds of the cord are also symbolical. They represent the three Gunas (Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas) reality, passion and darkness, out of which the whole universe is evolved. It was done, so that the Sattwaguna or the good quality of reality may predominate in a man, and so he may attain spiritual merits.

The three cords remind the wearer that he has to pay off the Three Debts he owes:

1.To the Rishis (ancient seers), 2.To the ancestors and 3.To the gods.

Brahma-granthi

The three cords are tied together by a knot called Brahma-granthi, which symbolises Brahma, Vishnu and Siva (the trinity of gods, Creator, Sustainer and Destroyer). Besides, extra knots are made in the cords to indicate the various Pravaras of a particular family.

The Acharya (teacher), while investing the student with the Sacred Thread repeats an appropriate Mantra, asking for strength, long-life and illumination for the boy, the boy looking, in the meanwhile, towards the sun. A Brahmachari (student) can put on only one set of the Sacred Thread. A householder is given privilege to wear two, one for himself and one for his wife. There are different methods of wearing the Sacred Thread at different occasions. While performing an auspicious ceremony one should be Upaviti, that is, the Sacred Thread should hang from his left shoulder. At the performance of some inauspicious ceremony one should be Prachnaviti, that is, the Sacred Thread should hang from the right shoulder; and at times he is called Niviti when the Sacred Thread is worn round the neck like a garland.
==============
Related article
Sacraments Samskaras
Janeo (Pre-Marriage Ceremonies)

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