Monday, July 10, 2017

Rules about Upanayanam and wearing of the sacred thread - Yajgyopavitam

What is Upanayanam?
The sacred thread wearing ceremony that is performed to grant the male child with the right to attend the Vedic schools and also the right to wear the thread called yajnopavita for the first time is known as Upanayanam. It is a ceremony performed by Hindus as per some guidelines issued in the Vedas.

Who is entitled to Upanayanam?
The males from the upper three castes of the Hindu religion are entitled to Upanayanam or with the right of wearing the sacred thread called as Janevu. But, some Vedic scholars treated the Shudras also as entitled to Upanayanam and to obtain the Vedic education.

We found that women were also allowed to go through Upanayana and get the Vedic knowledge prior to their marriage in some cases.

When to perform the Upanayanam or the sacred thread ceremony?
As per majority opinion that prevailed from ancient periods, the following ages have been prescribed as the minimum entitlement to receive the sacred thread (yajnopavita) and to receive the formal education.

  • Brahmins at the age of 8 years.
  • Kshatriyas at the age of 11.
  • Vaishyas at the age of 12.
  • The upper age limit was set as 24 years in most cases and as unlimited in other cases. But, it should be done before the marriage in either of the cases.

Rules for wearing the sacred thread or Janevu

  • The sacred thread is to be worn from the left shoulder towards the right side of right thigh crossing the chest so that it rests on your right shoulder and hangs towards your right.
  • It should be worn like that always ever after the Upanayanam ceremony till your death.
  • It should be treated as a holy and divine possession and kept pure always by washing the sacred thread also while taking your daily bath.
  • To maintain its purity, you need to protect it always from contamination and from getting contact with impure objects or substances.
  • Whenever you go to the urinal or toilet, you should tie it around your right ear to prevent it from hanging and getting polluted.
  • In case you happen to visit any house during their impure period (maila days) due to somebody's death, you should take a complete bath immediately after returning from there without touching any objects or people in your house.
  • In the case of death in your family, you should change the sacred thread with a new one chanting the Gayatri after the completion of the performance of the death rites.
  • If the sacred thread becomes worn and dirty or any strand of it gets broken, it should be changed with a new one chanting the Gayatri mantra.
  • In case the Janevu gets lost by slipping from your body or otherwise, you should wear a new one immediately after you realize that it is lost.
  • Whenever you wear a new sacred thread to replace the lost one or impure one, you should apply turmeric paste around it and the tilak lightly.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Yajgyopavitam - The sacred thread- Significance and Importance

What is the sacred thread or Janevu or Yajgyopavitam?

The sacred thread is a thread that is worn by Brahmins as well as Kshatriyas and Vaishyas after it is bestowed upon them amidst chanting of the Vedic hymns by pundits at a ceremony called the Upanayanam ceremony. It is made of three lines of pure cotton thread strands tied together with a single knot to form one sacred thread amidst the chanting of the Vedic mantras glorifying it. Thereafter, the person is required to perform the worship of Sun and Gayatri by performing a ritual known as Sandhyavandanam (three times a day), daily without fail, which I have discussed in two previous articles already.

The knot signifies the Brahma Granthi which should be passed by the soul or mind to attain self-realization or knowledge. It can also be interpreted as a stage where one is held up in doubts and in a very difficult situation unable to solve it.

Brahma Granthi is the first knot or obstruction in our spinal chord located at the base which prevents us from gaining knowledge. It tends to make you self-protective and afraid of accomplishing new tasks. Once you cross that barrier, you can attain knowledge.

Significance of Yajgyopavitam

Yajgyopavitam is to be spelled as "YajgnOpaveetam" the letter 't' spelled as in the word "......"
It signifies as a qualification sanctioned to the person certifying his ability or capability to acquire self-realization and to perform the Sandhyavandanam reciting the Gayatri mantra. A Brahmin boy possesses this ability at the age of 8 whereas the Kshatriya gets it at the age of 11 and a Vaishya at the age of 12 years as per norms set by Vedas.

Significance of the three strands in Yajgyopavitam

You might be wondering what do the three strands of the sacred thread represent.
The three strands of the sacred thread or Janevu refer to the three primary duties and responsibilities of a person in his life.

  1. His duty towards his teachers who lead him towards enlightenment.
  2. His responsibility towards his parents and ancestors who gave birth to him and took utmost care of him and handed over their invaluable culture and traditions to him.
  3. His duty towards the great Sages and Rishis who got enlightened through severe penance and devoted their lives to spreading their knowledge and services for the upliftment of the innocent people. It becomes the duty of a person to carry forward this incomplete mission of those great souls.
The three strands further signify the existence of three Nadis or passages of energy in our body. They are named as Ida, Pingala, and Shusumna in the Vedas. They are said to be existing in our spinal cord. They carry the vital powers of the energy of our life.

Ida Nadi and Pingala Nadi are referred to as Shiva and Shakti or Purusha and Prakriti without which there can be no life. Sushumna Nadi represents a stage of enlightenment which is above all physical attachments. So, the sacred thread or Yajgyopavitam signifies the reality and essential structure of the growth of knowledge in human life.

Variations in the thread count at different stages of life

There are some variations and stages of wearing the Yajgyopavitam as set by the Vedas.
  1. A bachelor boy can wear only one thread that consists of a knot and three strands.
  2. A married person is to wear two threads of the Yajgyopavitam that is made by combining two sets of threads. (Total six strands).
  3. A person, after possessing children, reaching the age of old age is endowed with three threads that are made with three individual sets of Yajgyopavitam. Thus he wears a total of nine strands.

Monday, June 19, 2017

How to Do Sandhyavandanam in a Simple Manner

In the previous post, I have explained the meaning and importance of performing SandhyAvandanam. Now, I am going to tell you about the method of performing Sandhyavanadanam in a very simple manner. The whole process of doing it may take 10 minutes approximately through these steps which I came to know through an elder member of our relatives family.

The article may be long as I am trying to explain it in a clear manner. But, once you understand the method, it will become very easy for you to perform it quickly within a week's time.

This SandhyAvandanam is to be performed only by men after they become eligible for it by way of undergoing the sacred thread ceremony (Upanayana). This sacred thread will be always on your body after once it is worn to you till your death. When it becomes old and torn, it needs to be replaced from time to time chanting the Gayatri mantra as prescribed by the Vedas.You need to wear the traditional men's dhoti and kanduva after having your bath in the morning and wear tilak on your forehead before performing the early morning session of Sandhyavandanam.

Items required for Sandhyavandan

  • Dhoti and Kanduva
  • One vessel (rounded pot either of steel, bronze, copper, etc.) or even a tumbler for holding water
  • One empty plate for dropping water
  • Another deep plate or wide bowl containing water for 'TarpaNam' purpose

While performing this SandhyAvandanam, face towards the east at the morning and mid-day times and towards the north at the evening time.

Step 1
Take a vessel (of rounded pot shape, generally) filled with water and a spoon in it for doing the Achamana. Also, take another shallow, deep plate for dropping the water into it while performing the SandhyAvandanam particularly if you are doing it inside the room so as to not wet the room.

Step 2
Purify yourself chanting this hymn and sprinkling some drops of water on your head with your right thumb.

"Apavitra pavitrOva sarvAvasthAngatOpiva, yah smarEt PundareekAksham sa bAhyAbhyantara suchihi". 
Otherwise, you may simply say "PundareekAkshAya Namah" 3 times and drop water on your head 3 times.

Step 3

Sip water 3 times chanting these 3 names of God. You will take a little water each time into your palm with the spoon and sip it from the rear end of the palm.
The three names are "achyutAya Namah, anantAya Namah, and govindAya Namah".
Then, recite another 12 names of God knwon as the dwAdasha nAma of Lord Vishnu as below:

Om kEsavAya namah, Om nArAyanAya namah, Om mAdhavAya namah, Om gOvindAya namah, Om vishnavE namah, Om madhusUdanAya namah, Om trivikramAya namah, Om vAmanAya namah, Om sreedharAya namah, Om hrisheekEshAya namah, Om padmanAbhAya namah, Om dAmOdarAya namah.

Step 4 
PrANAyAmam (the breathing exercise)

Perform this exercise of prAnAyAmam chanting the below-mentioned mantra of Gayatri while inhaling and exhaling the air at each break of the mantra.

"Om bhooh, Om bhuvah, Om suvah, Om mahah,
Om janah, Om tapah, Om satyam,
Om tat savitru varENyam, bhargO dEvasya dheemahi
dhiyO yOnah prachOdayAt"

Recite this one also: "Om aapO jyOti rasOmrutam Brahma bhoor bhuva suvarOm"

Step 5
Sankalpam (the act of determining to perform something)

This step states the location of your place, year, season, time, and your name etc.
"Hari Om, Sri MahaVishnO rajyayA  pravarta mAnasya adyah BrahmaNah dwiteeya parArdhE,
swEta varAha kalpE, vaivasvata manvantarE kaliyugE, prathama pAdE, jamboo dweepE, bharatavarshE, bharatakhandE, mErOh dakshiNa dik bhAgE, gangaakAvErOr madhya dEshE,
Sreerangasya uttara pradEsE, asmin grihE, asya vyavahArika chAndramAsEna, SaShtee savatsarAnAm madhyE, ..........(tell the year,s name here), ......... (tell whether it is UttarAyan or dakshiNAyan), ............. (tell the season name), ....... (month's name), ......... (name of the fortnight), ........... (day's name), sree bhagavadAgNAyA bhagavat kainkarya roopam prAtah sandhyA upAshiSyE.
(This prAtah sandhyA word is applicable at morning sandhyAvandanam only. At midday, you will tell madhyAhna sandhyA upAshiSyE and at evening time, you need to tell sAyam sandhyA upAshiSyE)

Step 6
SamprOkshaNam and Surya namaskAram

Sprinkle water on your head with your right thumb reciting the following:
"AapOhistA mayO bhuvah, tAna oorjE dadhAtana, mahE raNAya chakshasE yOvashshivatamOrasah,
tasya bhAjayatE hanah, ushateeriva mAtarah, tasyAm arangamAmavO, yasyakshayAya jinvadhA, AapOjanayadhAchanah".

Folding your hands to Sun God,
"sooryascha mAmanyuscha, manyu patayascha, manyu krutEbhyah, pApEbhyO rakshamtAm,
yadrAtryAt pApamakArSam, manasA, vAchA, hastAbhyAm, padbhyAm, udarENa, shishnA,
rAtri stadavalumpatu, yatkincha duritam mayi, idam aham mAm amruta younau,
soorye jyOtiSi juhOmi swAhA"

Take water with your both hands and drop through your fingers towards Sun.

Step 7
Repeat the Aachamana process as mentioned at step 3 and do prAnAyAmam also.

Step 8
Arghya PradAnam

This is the process of welcoming Sun God offering water.

Recite "Sri bhagavadAjnayA, sri bhagavad kaimkaryArtham, sandhyAm uddishya, arghya pradAnam kariSyE".

Take water into your hands and recite this "Om bhoorbhuvassuvah, Om tatsavitruvarENyam, bhargO dEvasya dheemahi, dhiyOyOnah prachOdayAt". Now drop the water through your fingers.

Perform this act of offering water another two times.

Now welcoming the GAyatri:
Recite "Sri bhagavadAjnayA sri bhagavad Kaimkary roopam GAyatri mahAmantra japam kariSyE.

Touch water with your middle finger and fold your hands to Goddess while reciting these lines:

"praNavasya parabrahma rishihi, dEvi GAyatri chandah, paramAtmA srimannArAyaNO dEvatA,
aayaatu varadA dEvi, akSaram brahmasammitam, GAyatrim, chhandasAm, mAtEdam brahma rishah svamE OzOsi, sahOsi, balamasi, bhrAjOsi, dEvAnAmnAma nAmAsi, visvamasi, vishvAyuh, sarvamasi, sarvAyuh abhibhoorOm".

Pointing your hands towards your heart, recite the following:
"Om gAyatreem AvAhayAmi, Om sAvitreem AvAhayAmi, Om saraswateem AvAhayAmi,
daivee gaayatree chhandah prANAyAmE viniyOgah".

Step 9

Recite this mantra 10 times:
"Om bhoorbhuvassuvah Om tatsavitruvarENyam, bhargOdEvasya dheemahi, dhiyOyOna prachOdayAt".

After 10 times, do the prAnAyAmam again.

Step 10
Tarpanam (offering water with both hands)

"sri bhagavadAjnayA bhagavatkaimkarya roopam dEvatA tarpaNam kariSyE"

Touch the water with your middle finger. Then take water each time with your both hands and offer it to the Gods after each name while chanting the below-mentioned names.
Om kEshavam tarpayAmi
Om nArAyaNam tarpayAmi
Om mAdhavam tarpayAmi
Om gOvindam tarpayAmi
Om vishNum tarpayAmi
Om madhusoodanam tarpayAmi
Om trivikramam tarpayAmi
Om vAmanam tarpayAmi
Om sreedharam tarpayAmi
Om hrisheekesham tarpayAmi
Om padmanAbham tarpayAmi
Om daamOdaram tarpayAmi
Om sarvE dEvAnAm tarpayAmi
Om pitru dEvatAm tarpayAmi

Step 11
SandhyOpasthAnam (Requesting Goddess GAyatri to return to her abode after blessing us)

Recite the following with folded hands:
"uttamE shikharee dEvi, bhoomyAm parvata moordhani
brAhmaNEbhyO anujnAtA gachcha dEvi yAdAsukham
chatussAgara paryamtam gObrAhmaNEbhyah subham bhavatu"

This ending sloka is about the affirmation of performing everything with a pure heart and dedication to God expecting no results
"kAyEna vAchA manasEndriyairvA bhudhyAtmanAvA prakritE svabhAvAt
karOmi yadyat sakalam parasmai nArAyaNEti samarpayAmi".

So, this is the procedure of doing the sandhyavandanam in a simple manner which takes only 10 minutes of your time when you become habituated by performing it continuously for 4, 5 days.