‘Yajnopaveet’ or the sacred thread is one of the main signs of Vedic culture. Today, we have forgotten about this extremely holy sign.
Yajnopaveet means the taking on your shoulders the sacred thread for Yajna , for becoming an authority on the teachings of the Vedas. It is also called ‘Brahm-Sutra’. The meaning of ‘Brahm’ is Ved, knowledge and God. This thread is worn for the purpose of acquiring knowledge and reaching God.
This sacrament is the tenth sacrament. It is performed so that after this the child will commence the study of Vedas. The meaning of study of Vedas in this day and age is the commencement of the education of the child. This sacrament is the doorway to the temple of education. The entry through this doorway and the learning process is called ‘Vedarambh Sansk1ar’.
The significance of Yajnopaveet
There are three threads in the Yajnopaveet which are the signifiers of three debts i.e, as soon as a person is born there are three debts that fall on his/her shoulders- the fulfilment of which become his/her duty. These debts are-indebtedness to a) the seers or ‘rishis ‘ b) parents and c) ‘Devas’ or other persons who have done good to us.
a) Debt to seers- The seers have made us knowledgeable by acquiring knowledge and passing it on to the society. If they did not have such knowledge then we would be completely deprived of it. Just as they have acquired knowledge and passed it on to us, so should we acquire knowledge and arrange that it flows on to others in the future. One of the three threads of Yajnopaveet reminds us of this obligation.
b) Debt to parents- Our parents completed their ‘brahmacharya ashram’ (celibacy) and entered into stage of married life and gave birth to us. I f they had not entered the stage of married life, then how would we have been born? In the same way, after completing the celibacy stage we enter into the stage of married life and produce good children for the society so that the society continues from father to son, son to grandson etc. When we complete the celibacy stage and enter into married life, then we appreciate all the good done to us by our parents. When we experience the amount of sacrifice that is involved in looking after our children and the number of obstacles that have to be overcome, then we realise that our parents would have also sacrificed so much for us. This reminds us that we should serve our parents and become free from this indebtedness. The second thread of Yajnopaveet draws our attention to this.
c) Debt to ‘Devas’ or noble people - We are so engrossed in the affairs of the world that their attraction ties us down. In the end all such affection /attraction will not remain. Therefore when one is relieved from the stage of married life (‘grihasth ashram’) i.e, after educating and having sons and daughters married off, the couple should enter the next stage of life - ‘vanprasth ashram’ (life of learning and service to society) for the good of society. The third thread of Yajnopaveet reminds us of this obligation and the good done to society by noble people.
Upnayan sacrament is called ‘up nayan’ because ‘up’ means near and ‘nayan’ means to take. In ancient times when parents took their children for admission to Gurukuls (schools), they used to take them to the teacher at Gurukul who used to perform the child’s ‘upnayan’ sacrament first. What is understood by going to school in current times, in ancient days the same meaning was attached to ‘upnayan’. The teacher used to start the child’s education by giving a special place to the child in his mind. The three threads of Yajnopaveet also direct attention to these three qualities namely- knowledge, strength and good conduct.
The living habits, speech and eating habits etc of the person wearing Yajnopaveet should be pure. In particular the person must not consume meat and liquor.
The mantra for wearing Yajnopaveet
Om Yajnopaveetam paramam pavitram prajapateyatsahajam purastat. Ayushyamagrayam pratimunch shubhra Yajnopaveetam balamastu tejah.
Yajnopaveetamasi yajyasya twa yajnopaveete-nopanhyami. Paraskar Grihasutra 2,2,11.
Meaning - This ‘Yajnopaveet’ or ‘Brahma Sutra’ is very pure. I am wearing this in front of the learned teacher. I wear this Yajnopaveet which gives a long life, is the promoter of spiritual progress and is a sign of purity. I wear this pure ‘Brahma Sutra’ for receiving knowledge.
Reciting this mantra the teacher should place the Yajnopaveet on the left shoulder near the neck, and take it over the head placing it under the right hand and ending at the waist. Thereafter the yajna prescribed for this sacrament in the Sanskar Vidhi should be performed.