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    UPANAYANAM


The Samskara or ceremonial rite in which a young Brahmin boy is endowed with the sacred thread and initiated to the Gayathri mantra is referred to as Upanayanam

The Upanayanam makes the boy eligible for the study of the Vedas. The Vatu or the young Brahmachari becomes a Dvija or "Twice Born" after the Upanayanam. This is because the Samskara signifies spiritual rebirth. Literally, the word means, taking (NAYANAM) near (UPA). In the Vedic period, when the codes of conduct laid down by the scriptures were strictly followed, the father took his son near the Gayathri Mantra. After which the boy was taken near a Guru and left under his care soon after the Upanayanam. The Guru taught him to chant the Vedas in the traditional way, which ultimately took him near God. Thus, the ceremony leads the young Brahmachari through successive steps to the realization of God, which is the ultimate goal of this human existence. Of the four ashramas prescribed for the individual, namely Brahmacharya, Grihasta, Vanaprasta and Sanyasa, the Upanayanam Ceremony signifies the boy's entry into Brahmacharya.


The Investiture

This ritual is to be performed after the age of seven. One should be initiated to the Gayathri mantra before the onset of adolescence or before the innate biological tendencies start expressing themselves. The investiture with the sacred thread should be done preferably before the sixteenth year.


The Gayathri Mantra

Literally, Gayathri means that which protects him, who chants it. It is the mother of all mantras, and when chanted with devotion, concentration and purity, takes the chanter to the ultimate bliss through knowledge of the Supreme Truth, called the Brahman. The mantra prays for divine guidance to inspire and illumine the intellect and reveal the Atman the Jiva may know his real self - the Atman. It does not seek any personal benefit for the chanter as it is universal in its approach. In the Mahabharata, Bhisma extols the greatness of the Gayathri from his bed of arrows saying that Where the Gayathri is chanted, untimely deaths, involving the performance of obsequies for children by their elders will not occur. Thus it is a prayer for universal welfare which the Brahmin must perform.


Method to chant the Gayathri Mantra

The Gayathri, must be chanted in the prescribed manner, thrice a day, as a part of the religious duty called the Sandhyavandanam. The Sandhyavandanam helps in quieting down the mind and rendering it fit for meditation on the highest truth. It has to be definitely performed thrice daily, throughout one's life. All the good things a Brahmin may do are of no avail, if he fails to perform his Sandhyavandanam and Gayathri Japa regularly.


The Sacred Thread

The sacred thread with which the Vatu is invested on the holy occasion of Upanayanam must be kept free from association with any other object.
Any object, like a key or a coin, tied to the sacred thread, can deplete the carefully accumulated spiritual power of the Gayathri.The sacred thread with which the Vatu is invested on the holy occasion of Upanayanam must be kept free from association with any other object. Any object, like a key or a coin, tied to the sacred thread, can deplete the carefully accumulated spiritual power of the Gayathri.


Bhikshakaranam

Earlier, the Brahmachari used to go out into the streets and beg for alms from various houses. This is called Bhikshakaranam and is done symbolically today. It is very difficult to practise Bhikshakaranam in today's world but we should at least keep in mind the virtues underlying this practice and try to cultivate them. Bhikshakaranam was done to make one humble and control the ego. It enables the young Vatu to control the senses, which is absolutely essential for receiving Vedic Knowledge.






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