Talk:Saṃskāra- Upanayanaṃ

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Saṃskāra- Upanayanaṃ

By Jammalamadaka Suryanarayana

Sometimes transliterated as: Upanayanam,vadugu,poonal,upāyanaṃ, upayanam, Maunjī bandhanaṃ, maunji bandhanam, vaṭukaraṇaṃ, vatukaranam, vratabandhaḥ, vratabandha, sāvitrīvacanaṃ, savitrivachanam.

Jāyamānō ha vai, tribhir ṛṇaiḥ ṛṇvān jāyatē

Upanayanaṃ as a Saṃskāra is considered as the most important ritual for a boy in a traditional family. It is the ritual which is meant to change the perception towards life. It starts a new routine, which is meant to imbibe Anuṣṭhānaṃ/ an action done for inner purification, Obedience towards teacher and Learning. This Saṃskāra can also be seen as taking dīkṣā/action which reminds the goal until it is achieved. In the tradition, it is understood that a person takes birth along with three duties/ obligations towards our ancestors, our teachers[1], and our gods. These are fulfilled by giving birth to the next generation, making them well versed in the traditional studies and performing rituals according to Dharma śāstraṃ respectively. In a broader sense, every individual is supposed to find his own goal of his life by fulfilling these duties. In this context, Upanayanaṃ is a ritualistic instrument which is used to fulfil parents duties towards their ancestors and students duties towards teachers. Upanayanaṃ plays a vital role in shaping his mind toward realization.

The term 'Upanayanaṃ' is derived from the root verb 'Niiñ- Prāpaṇē', which generally means 'to send'. Here the prefix 'upa' is added by which it derives the meaning 'Going near to'. Whom does he go near to, He is going to start learning 'tradition' from his teacher. So going near to the teacher is 'Upanayanaṃ'. Other names for this are Upāyanaṃ, Maunjī bandhanaṃ, vaṭukaraṇaṃ, vratabandhaḥ, sāvitrīvacanaṃ.

Choosing an Ācārya/ Teacher

Tamasō vā eṣa tamaḥ praviśati, yamavidvānupanayatē[2]

As the main purpose of upanayanaṃ is to make the pupil knowledgable and wise by following an idealistic routine in a gurukulaṃ. Choosing a good teacher for his traditional training is very essential. If the teacher is ignorant, he might not make a scholar out of his student. Almost every gṛhyasūtraṃ suggested some qualities of the idealistic teacher.

  • Characteristics of a teacher
Vēdaikaniṣṭaṃ dharmajñaṃ kulīnaṃ śrōtriyaṃ śuciṃ| Svaśākhāyāṃ anālasyaṃ vipraṃ kartāraṃ īpsitaṃ||[3]

In a traditional background, a student is sent to a gurukulaṃ to acquire Vedic knowledge. He is expected to stay with his teacher for about a decade. The pupil - after returning to the real world - uses the knowledge he acquired not only for a living but to mould his life. The teacher is having a greater responsibility to mould the student's mind and also to act as a father whenever needed. A person with greater maturity, training and decency only can make this possible. So to guide the family, to chose an ideal teacher gṛhya sūtraṃ explains his qualities. Important qualities are:

  • The teacher is expected to have a profound belief on the concepts taught in the Vedic tradition.
  • He is expected to have his brought up in a decent family, by which he can naturally know the essence of our philosophy, and might have healthy habits.
  • He is expected to have profound training in the subjects like veda, shastra etc., which he is going to teach.


This ritual consists of some actions/kriyākalāpaḥ[4] which signify a mission for the students. For example, a police officer is given a uniform, a badge, a cap and different object exclusively for him. These are used by him in his duty, and also these always help him remember his mission. In the same way, the boy is given certain objects, dress and attire which always help him remember his mission.

Giving a mission/ task and making someone devoted to it is giving dīkṣā. In the tradition, while performing any bigger ritual a dīkṣā is given to the performers, by tying a sacred thread/kaṇkaṇaṃ around his wrist and giving a separate dress etc. These are to be used until the end of the ritual. This is done to improve the performer's attention towards the ritual and its aims. In the same way here the boy is given a sacred thread, which is called 'yaṇñōpavītaṃ'

  • Śikhā
  • Yaṇñōpavītaṃ
  • mauñjī
  • Daṇḍaḥ

Sāvitri Upadēśaḥ

  • Meaning

Brahmacāri vrataṃ

The gospel of Ācāraḥ

What is the correct age to perform upanayanaṃ

Gurōrvratānāṃ vēdasya yamasya niyamasya ca, Dēvatānāṃ samīpaṃ vā yēnāsau nīyatē asau.[5]

Upanayanaṃ is performed mainly to mend a students mind and manners, which would suit the traditional learning system. According to vīramitrōdayaḥ the objectives are:

  • Making the student suitable for the teacher.
  • Mending his mind according to the vedic learning system.
  • Make him follow yamaḥ[6]and


  • Make him suitable for karmānuṣṭānaṃ.

Mending a child's mind is easier than a grown up's mind. So almost all gṛhya sūtraṃ suggest a minimum age of 5 and a maximum of 16. They also make a different suggestion for students from different backgrounds, like if the student is from kṣatriya varṇaṃ the maximum limit is extended till 22years and if he belongs to vaiśya varṇaṃ the age limit is 24years. According to

Why upanayanaṃ not required for others

  1. Ṛṣi, Generally compiler of traditional works.
  2. vīramitrōdayaṃ
  3. bhāratīya saṃskāramulu p:158
  4. the set of different actions which occur in rituals
  5. vīramitrōdayaḥ
  6. ahiṃsā= not hurting anybody without a valid reason, satyaṃ= not uttering false word without a valid reason, astēyaṃ= not stealing anything without a valid reason, brahmacharyaṃ= not having extramarital relations, aparigrahaḥ= not taking anything for free
  7. śaucaḥ= keeping one's body and mind clean, saṃtōṣaḥ= being happy, svādhyāyaḥ= always have a regular study of the traditional scriptures, īśvarapraṇidhānaṃ= always contemplating about the creator