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 the life. It starts a new routine, which is meant to imbibe Anuṣṭhānaṃ, obedience towards teacher and learning. This Saṃskāra is also considered i the parity of act of taking dīkṣā which reminds the goal until it is achieved.
Traditionally it is believed that a person takes birth along with the three duties/obligations towards our ancestors, our teachers 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 Dharmaśāstraṃ. In a broader sense, every individual is supposed to find the goal of his life by fulfilling these duties. In this context, Upanayanaṃ is a ritualistic instrument which is used to fulfill parents duties towards their ancestors and students duties towards teachers. Upanayanaṃ plays a vital role in shaping his mind toward realization.
Origin of Term Upanayanaṃ
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'.
Gurōrvratānāṃ vēdasya yamasya niyamasya ca, Dēvatānāṃ samīpaṃ vā yēnāsau nīyatē asau.
This concept is further enhanced by some scholars of dharma śāstraṃ. According to it 'Upanayanaṃ' takes us nearer to not only the teacher but also introduces us to the vedic tradition, Rituals, gods and so on. Here in Vīramitrōdayaḥ the author emphasizes on yamaḥ and niyamaḥ.
In Yōga sūtraṃ mahaṛṣi patañjaliḥ states that yamaḥ are a set of qualities which are to be followed for an entire life at any cost. Which are:
- ahiṃsā - non-violence in thought and action.
- satyaṃ - truthful in thought and words.
- astēyaḥ - non-stealing others thoughts or things.
- brahmacaryaṃ - not indulging in sexual relationships without proper cause.
- aparigrahaḥ - not taking anything to fulfil one's pleasure.
Generally, niyamaḥ means a rule, which should be obeyed. But in the yōga sūtraṃ niyamaḥ are set of qualities:
- śaucaṃ - observing cleanliness of thought and body.
- santōṣaḥ - being happy.
- tapaḥ - following certain rituals, being tolerant, following silence etc.
- svādhyāyaḥ - studying about the eternal truth.
- īsvarapraṇidhānaṃ - offering everything one has to the creator.
If a person imbibes the above-said qualities into his life, he would lead it wonderfully. Eventually, upanayanaṃ would lead a person to these qualities and gives a greater purpose to his life.
Choosing an Ācārya/ Teacher
Tamasō vā eṣa tamaḥ praviśati, yamavidvānupanayatē
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||
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.
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, the boy is given certain objects, dress and attire which always help him complete his task and remember his mission. This ritual consists of some actions/kriyākalāpaḥ 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 to fulfil his duty, and also these always help him remember his mission. Here the boy is dressed with a śikhā on his head, a yaṇñōpavītaṃ around his neck, a daṇḍaḥ in his hand and a mauñjī around his waist. After upanayanaṃ the boy is called brahmacārī.
- Śikhā - (Actually śikhā is first initiated in caulaṃ/ cūḍākarma, but if that saṃskāraḥ is not performed at the age of three it is done at the time of upanayanaṃ) śikhā means lock of hair mostly in the center part of the head, which is known as Chūḍā also. Having a Śikhā signifies his willingness for anuṣṭānaṃ, which would eventually lead him to adhyanaṃ. See: http://www.hindupedia.com/en/Talk:Dharma_sastra-Sa%E1%B9%83sk%C4%81ra-Chaula%E1%B9%83/Ch%C5%AB%E1%B8%8D%C4%81karma
- Yaṇñōpavītaṃ - Is a sacred thread woven by hand chanting sacred vedic verses. The brahmacārī will wear this sacred thread around his neck. Starting from the left side of the neck to the right waist. In the whole upanayanṃ ritual making the boy wear this sacred thread is considered very special. Wearing a yaṇñōpavītaṃ signifies that the boy is ready to perform rituals prescribed to him.
- mauñjī - The brahmacārī must wear some part of the dried skin of the black antelope (krsnājina) and must not wear any upper cloth. As there are certain rules for the electrician for his safety like he must stand on a wooden plank or wear rubber gloves during work. Similarly, there are some rules prescribed by our great men of the past to protect the energy related to ātmā.
- Daṇḍaḥ - Daṇḍaḥ is nothing but a long stick held in the hand. Generally, gurukulaṃ or the place where the teacher lives and teaches is situated away from cities. And also a traditional student is expected to help his teacher running the pāṭhaśālā or school. So always having staff in his hand helps him in his travel and work. There is also another inner significant use of staff. According to tradition, it helps the pupil to retain his learning. It is similar to the lightning conductor or the aerial. It absorbs the faults and retains all the vedic mantras in the student's memory. If he is a brāhmaṇaḥ he must keep a staff (danda) of palāsaḥ/ Butea monosperma, if he is a kṣatriyaḥ a staff of aśvathaḥ/ Ficus religiosa and if a vaiśyaḥ he is expected to have a staff of auduṃbaraḥ/ Ficus racemosa.
Every saṃskāraḥ has the main karma and many upāṇgāni. In upanayanṃ gāyatrī mantrōpadēśaḥ is considered to be the main karma. The entire ritual is developed around this karma. Gāyatrī is the chaṇdaḥ/ meter in which the mantraḥ is composed. The god who is praised in this mantraḥ is savitā/ the sun god, so it is also often called Savitṛ Upadēśaḥ. According to the etymology 'gāyaṇtaṃ trāyatē yasmāt' people who chant the gāyatrī mantraḥ with affection and devotion are protected.
Tribhya eva tu Vedebhyah padam pādamaduduham
It has twenty-four akṣarāṇi (letters or syllables) and three parts, each part of eight syllables. That is why the mantraḥ is called "Tripadā Gayatrī". Each part is the essence of a Veda. Thus Gāyatrī is the essence of the Rgvedaḥ, Yajurvedaḥ and Sămavedaḥ. The Atharvavedaḥ has its own Gayatrī. It means that each pada of Gayatrī is taken from one of the (three) Vedas. That is why gāyatrī japaḥ is essential to all rites performed according to the śāstras.
Smaraṇaṃ kīrtanaṃ kēliḥ prēkṣaṇaṃ guhyabhāṣaṇaṃ
Saṇkalpōdhyavasāyaśca kriyanirvṛttirēva caĒnanmaithunaṃ aṣṭāṇgaṃ pravadanti manīṣiṇaḥ
There are eight types of mythunaṃ/ some sort of relations and not having those relations is brahmacharyaṃ. After upanayanaṃ a student is expected to follow brahmacharyaṃ, that is why he is called brahmacārī. The relation which is not encouraged is with the opposite sex. These eight types of mythunaṃ/ relations are:
- Smaraṇaṃ - Remembering without any valid reason.
- kīrtanaṃ - Praising without any valid reason.
- kēliḥ - Flirting.
- prēkṣaṇaṃ - Staring.
- guhyabhāṣaṇaṃ - Talking in secret.
- Saṇkalpaḥ - Wanting a physical relation.
- adhyavasāyaḥ - Planning a physical relation.
- kriyanirvṛttiḥ - Executing a physical relation.
In order to avoid the above-said relations and lead a smooth studenthood, he is expected to follow rules regard to food, the performance of rites etc. Following these rules make him humble. The spirit behind these rules is not hurting the boy, but to nourish him in a correct fashion. In this training, he learns to develop sāttvic/ subtle qualities by serving his teacher. A student is expected to complete his traditional training within twelve years. During these twelve years, the student must learn Vedas and also the caturdaśa-vidya. On completion of his training in the gurukulaṃ he performs the samăvartanas, returns home and marries.
What is the correct age to perform upanayanaṃ
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 yamaḥand
- 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.
- Why Early Upanayana
The most important thing is that before Kāmaḥ/ pleasure takes hold of a boy he must be inspired by tradition. That is why the age of upanayana is fixed at eight for brahmaṇaḥ and so on. When one is possessed by Kāmaḥ/ pleasure one would be dragged away from one's ideal, that of acquiring the knowledge and power to understand life. That is why the upanayana ceremony is performed early. After 16, he cannot be able to do the same. That is the reason why the upanayana samskāra must be performed early.
Why upanayanaṃ not required for others
Generally, we get a doubt if upanayanaṃ is so essential in a traditional lifestyle, then why it is not prescribed to a woman. Why is the dharma śāstraṃ partial to boys. This should be answered only with an overall view.
According to the tradition :
Pūrvakalpē tu nārīṇāṃ mauṇjī bandhanamiṣyatē
Adhyāpanaṇca vēdānāṃ sāvitrī vacanaṃ tathā pitā pitṛvyō bhrātā vā nainamadhyāpayēt paraḥ svagṛhē caiva kanyāyāḥ bhaikṣacaryaṃ vidhīyatēvarjayēdajinaṃ cīraṃ jaṭādhāraṇamēva ca
In the previous generations, girls were also having this ritual done but with some exceptions and necessary inclusions. They used study Veda only near their father, father's brother or own brother.
So initially this saṃskāraḥ was also for girls, But after some time marriage/ vivāhaḥ was considered as upanayanaṃ for girls, where her husband (an elder in age and experience) is considered her teacher. This is not because of the partiality, but because of some practical reasons. Those who complain that women have no right to perform sacrifices on their own must remember that men too have no right to the same without a wife. If they knew this truth they would not make the allegation that the tradition look down upon women. A man can perform sacrifices only with his wife. It is for this purpose that, following the completion of his student bachelorhood, he gets married.
- It is an action done for inner purification.
- Ṛṣi, Generally compiler of traditional works.
- bhāratīya saṃskāramulu p:158
- the set of different actions which occur in rituals
- brahmavaivarta purāṇaṃ - gaṇapati khaṇḍaḥ - 4 adhyāyaḥ
- a study of 14 different disciplines related to tradition
- 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= celibacy, aparigrahaḥ= not taking anything to fulfil pleasure
- 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