Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Those who study the Vedas consider that among all sanskara rituals, the initiation rituals of Upanayanam are the most important.
Upanayanam, also known as the sacred thread ceremony. is usually performed at the age of seven or eight because that is the age when a child stops getting the benefits of the karmas of his parents and will have to learn and perform his own karmas. Upa means near and nayanam means going; that is the act of going to a teacher to learn.
The meaning of the word upanayanam can also be interpreted as nayanam meaning eye prefixed with upa- (auxiliary), making for the interpretative meaning: bringing (the ultimate truth nearer in sight).
There is plenty about Upanayanams on Wikipedia.
According to Aapasthambha Maharshi, a brahmachari should not

  • Sleep during the day

  • Use cosmetics or perfumes

  • Have close contact with girls

  • Engage in gossip

  • Indulge in entertainment

  • Indulge in boasting

He should be disciplined, quiet, self confident, tireless, soft spoken and without ego or jealousy. Chanting of Gayatri Mantra regularly gives him the strength to follow the above rules. This gayatri mantra is taught to the brahmachari by the father taking the position of guru, which is known as Brahmopadesam.
The Upanayanm function starts with Punyahavachanam followed by Yagnopaveethadharanam. The Muhurtham is the time of Brahmopadesam.

After yajnopaveethadhaarnam is Kumarabhojanam. Kumarabhojanam is common both for Upanayanam and choulam. According to the vedic karmas, the vatu (the boy whose upanayanam is being performed is commonly referred to as vatu) should be served with rice, ghee and milk without salt or spices. The vatu (disciple) is supposed to eat bland food throughout his brahmacharya (the period during which he is supposed to do vedadhyana) and taste good food only when he enters Grihasthashrama with the vratha ritual of his marriage. At this time he is blindfolded and when he opens his eyes, he is fed neiyappam (from when he starts eating tasty food) and shown the mirror, from when he starts beautifying himself.
During Kumarabhojanam, another kumara who is not yet a brahmachari is made to sit with the vatu and served food. At some places, another brahmachari is seated along with the vatu and also the food served is rice cooked with turmeric powder and dal, along with fried rice pappads.

After Kumarabhojanam is the vapanam, or shaving of the hair for the vatu. The first locks are cut by the father and then by the barber. Usually, this is a noisy scene during choulam, as this is the first time the boy gets a hair cut.

After the vapanam, the boys are given bath, dressed in new clothes and taken to the temple. In the olden days, this bath was given at the stream and the ladies would all accompany them and dress up the boys at the stream side. From there, they come in a procession to the temple. The maternal uncle of the boy is supposed to carry the vatu during this procession. Aarati is done to the boys in all the houses and also they are given a small gift, usually a piece of jaggery, sugar candy or banana. In return, a packet containing a murukku and laddu is given to all the houses. The aarati water is poured on the dhoti of the uncle. This procession goes upto the temple and returns to complete the rituals.

The rituals of Choula karma is almost over after the boy comes back from the temple and the homa and ashirvadam.

Agnimukham is performed and the boy is given all the symbols of a brahmachari. First the boy made to stand on a stone and the father says, “You should be as strong-willed as this stone”.

Then the father ties a long cloth (known as kuttai) around the brahmachari’s waist and prays, “May the Gods give you long life, strength, health and wealth” (In the olden days, the brahmachari was supposed to wear this cloth for 3 days). A cord made of three strings of Durva (Moujibandhanam) is also tied around the brahmachari’s waist, symbolizing the three sections of Vedas which will protect him from all evils. A piece of deer skin (krishnajinam) is also tied around bramachari’s waist, which will make him bright in intellect as the blazing sun. He will be endowed with health, wealth and prosperity. He will become strong spiritually and intellectually.

Then the brahmachari is taught the most sacred Gayatri mantra by the father. He is taught all the rules of Brahmacharya vratha. He is also given Palasha Danda (a small twig of the peepul tree) as a symbol of brahmachari.

The brahmachari is supposed to live on the food he receives as alms by going from house to house. As a symbolic representation of this now forgotten system, the brahmachari asks for alms from his mother and all the other ladies of the congregation.

Followed by Ashirvadam and aarathi, the upanayana karma comes to a happy end.

The brahmachari is supposed to be in a sort of vrata for the following three days, doing all the nityakarmas of the brahmachari but not going out. On the fourth day, a Pranava Sradha Medha Puja and homa is done, when the kuttai is removed and given to the Acharya and the moujibandanam, krishanjinam and palasha danda are also taken from the bramachari. In the olden days, new palashadanada, moujibanda and krishanajina were given to the brahmachari.
The Upanayanam is the most sacred ritual in the life of a boy as all through the ceremony the Guru (father) appeals to the Supreme beings to take care of the boy and give him long life, health, happiness, intellect and lead him through the right path and give him strength to face all odds in life and also mental strength to lead good life and turn back from all evils. It is an earnest prayer from the father, having brought the child up to his adolescent age, to all powers in this universe, the earth, the water, the sky, the ether, the fire, all the stars, all the deities who are the devatas of all the eight directions (ashtadigpalakas), all the vedic scholars and elders of the community and all the pitrus to take good care of the boy from then onwards. And also by teaching him the Gayatri Mantra he makes the boy responsible for his well being and also advises him on the various dos and don’ts of the life, when he is going to be away in the Gurukula in pursuit of knowledge.
This karma has a very powerful influence on the boy and the family, if the purpose and meaning of each ritual is properly understood and followed.
It is one ritual no one should avoid or postpone as it gives the boy great strength of mind. Practicing the Gayatri mantra everyday makes him strong willed, confident, intelligent and pure in his thoughts and deeds.
Explaining the meaning of all rituals will take lot more space and time; perhaps, I should be able to give the meanings of some of the rituals more elaborately some other time.


easycrafts said...

wow, the kolam in the first snap is superb

Latha Narasimhan said...

Nice post1 good information about upanayanam. Just discovered your blog and found it very useful!:)

timepass said...

very informative post

Anonymous said...

Dear Mami,
I loved your post on upanayanam. I have two boys and am planning on their upanayanam this summer, in Silicon Valley. It would be great to hear from you about how you plan for upanayanam (if you had to do this in the U.S)
for example info on items needed for the upanayanam (i.e. items for the children, like pancha paatra utharini etc, would be great to wear kura podavai, etc), as well as what a typical upanayanam samaiyal should be? It would really help me with my planning here...

Ammupatti said...

Hi anonymous

You can send me detailed email regarding what exactly you would like to know. I shall try to help as much as possible.

Padmaja said...

Dear Maami,

I really appreciate you for the account on Upanayanam ceremony, its importance and all. I found it very valuable as I am planning Upanayanam ceremony for my son in India in April. Can you please guide me? I would like to know what give aways will be most suitable, what silver and gold items should be purchased for the ceremony for my son. What is the role of his sister, my daughter and what all should be bought for her? Can you also suggest me on appropriate cards as I am not getting much help from the internet. We are from Andhra and I think it is not much different. I am thankful to you and God that I found this blogspot and read so much information.


bhattathiri said...

Indian Vedic contribution is a reservoir of Vibrant Information and Harmonious Creativity. May the Womb of Nature Embrace all with Tranquil Blessings from this day forward. Let this attract one's attention affecting them Positively. It is a Sanctuary of the Self , a Creative Venue which serves as an Enduring Expression of Lightness, where a peaceful Atmosphere with Sunlight Flows and serene atmosphere prevail.

In the storm of life we struggle through myriads of stimuli of pressure, stress, and muti-problems that seek for a solution and answer. We are so suppressed by the routine of this every life style that most of us seem helpless. However, if we look closely to ancient techniques we shall discover the magnificent way to understand and realize the ones around us and mostly ourselves. If only we could stop for a moment and allow this to happen. May all beings be happy (Loka Samastha Sukhino Bhavanthu)

The ancient Hindu philosophy of keepiing mind and body for the well being, has entered the managerial, medical and judicial domain of the world. Today it has found its place as an alternative to the theory of modern management and also as a means to bring back the right path of peace and prosperity for the human beings. Let me bow to Indian Maharishi Veda Vysa with folded hands who helped in removing the impurities of the mind through his writings on Vedas, impurities of speech through his writings on puranas, and impurities of body through his writings on other sacred texts.

Anonymous said...

How important is to consider "Guru-Balam" for the boy for this ceremony ?
Is it absolutely essential to have guru-balam, or is it OK to relax this constraint ?
Thanks so much for the informative and inspirational post.

Ammupatti said...

Hi Anonymous

It all depends on one's belief.

Best wishes

deepa venkitesh said...

Hi ammu mami, I think I am familiar with this location, is it puthucode? even if it isnt, the snaps are super. my son's upanayanam was conductd in kalady. do you know about Adishankara's upanayanam snd where exactly was it conducted and in which year? Thank you mami for writing about upanayanam.

Ammupatti said...

Hi Deepa

Ofcourse, the location is Puthucode. Have you ever been there? I did some research into Adishankara's Upanayanam. Though it has been mentioned that Shankara's father passed away before his upanayanam and his mother with the help of other members of the family conducted his upanayanam, nowhere could I find a mention about the place where it was conducted. Since they were living in Kaladi, one has to assume that the upanayanam was also conducted there.

Best wishes

Ashwath said...

quite informative and useful. thanks a lot.

Praseeja said...

Hi mam, was Shakaracharya, Parusheya Brahmin or Arsheya Brahmin?

Manian said...

I loved your article on upanayanami have some querry.When it is to be done Is it to done in odd years of the boy.If it is to be done in 9th year then is it 9th year running.Also in which months it can be done.

Seetha Lakshmi R. Srinivasan said...

Thanks Amma. My son will soon be initiated into Brahmacharyam! I find this post really informative! :-)

Anonymous said...

Amma... I am in trouble to do rituals for my mother. I born in arya vaishya community and married 10 years back without having upanayanam ceremony. For me is there any solution to do rituals for my mother.

Sundara Raman said...

feed the poor on your mother's remembrance day. That is the best way to remember her memories. Dont bother you have a sacred thread or not. It all boils down to one's belief.

Anonymous said...

I am also planning to do upanayanam for my son.He was born in July 2007.I am also confused on the appropriate age for upanayanam.we also stay abroad.Please suggest if upanayanm for him can be done in vaikasi/aani2017?

वेन्कट श्रीराम said...

Kindly note that palasha danda is not "twig of peepal tree". There is divinity associated with the origin of this palAsha vrikSa, patra & puSpa and is mentioned in taittiriya brAhmaNa mantra bhAga.

It is also called tri-patra (having 3 leaves). If palAsha is symbolically associated with gAyatri then it's three leaves are symbolically associated with 3 pAda-s of gAyatri mantra.

Hence, the brAhmaNa vaTu is given this palAsha daNDa.

Ammupatti said...

Thanks for the information

Ajeetha Kumari said...

Hi Patti,
Please share the same info to

Anonymous said...

Hello Patti,
Please let me know which side of grand parents are responsible for the Upanayanam of a grandson and in what way.

Anonymous said...

Hello Patti,
Please let me know which side of grand parents are responsible for the Upanayanam of a grandson and in what way.