Hindu Samskaras – The Upanayana

When I bought this book I was primarily moved by one motive only. Motivation was needed only because I am familiar with all Hindu Samskaras. But what was the motive?

It was to know better the Upanayana or Thread Ceremony performed on a male child of about 7-8 years. This samskara signifies the child’s entre’ into Vedic studies in a gurukula under a teacher of worth.

In our age it would ideally signify a child’s first step into school. (“Vedic studies” need not then become merely symbolic and but be part of a wider syllabus.)

Since we modern folk tend to be so careless with tradition, my own Upanayana was performed just before my marriage and this to signify my crossing into the role of a householder; which I could not have without showing proof that I had completed my studies or in any case had been a student.

Nostalgia aside – I must now speak about why I needed to know the Upanayana better. Recall I spoke of the male child. I have daughters.

On another occasion during the performance of my uncle’s death ceremony, in which I presided; I had the opportunity to enquire of the purohita – would he perform my elder daughter’s thread ceremony? He refused citing reasons of pollution that females could not ward off try as hard as they might. Since I do not argue against traditional notions of pollution, it got me thinking otherwise.

Upanayana is performed prior to a child getting (starting) an education. Our society educated both girls and boys. This was at least the case before (i’m speculating here – open to correction) notions of varnasankara (cross-mingling of Varnas) found acceptance in society and was rejected by it’s keepers; and daughters were married off at an early age primarily to control and stop such cross-mingling. My guess is this was also the time Upanayana for females was stopped and replaced by the ceremony of marriage – This stopped the female’s education too since it was deemed unnecessary post nuptials.

So I see the point of “pollution” my purohita cited.

But there are no girls being married off on puberty these days. In my view this is so because education has again become universal. Both males and females are it’s beneficiaries. Our notions of Varna have evolved. For instance, we no longer frown upon a female doctor marrying a male businessman.

So there is no reason why girls must be denied the Upanayana samskara. After all, this is something they were entitled to, same as male children, before early marriages took their place.

– Namaste

–Varta–

Palahalli S writes – I also feel that Hindu schools in general should conduct the Upanayana for all students (with parents or guardians) across all Varnas at the beginning of first grade or 1st Std.

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6 Responses

  1. Interesting analysis. Yes we need to let women also wear the thread if all that the thread means is signifying education.
    But I remember someone telling that women undergo periods every month and so they are usually not allowed to wear the thread, nor do they have the right to perform the samskaras. I dunno if its a logical statement to make though.

  2. As per the stage of this Samskara, Yagnopavita or the Thread is worn prior to commencement of vedic studies. This can be translated to the beginning of schooling.

    On ‘pollution’, I guess I should have been clearer. I did mean the menstrual cycle. Your right, it’s not logical to deny the female the Thread for this reason.

    Restrictions stipulated during menstrual cycles owe mainly and only to the facts of loss of energy and harmonal imbalances causing irritability. All that’s required is rest during such times.

  3. Palahalli,

    Nice writeup. Try and listen to Shodashasamskaragalu discourse by Dr.Ra Ganesh where he has shed more light on the various hindu samskara’s. You can buy a CD for around Rs.125 from Gokhale institute of Public Affairs on Bull Temple Road.

    Regards,

    Kavitha

  4. Excellent Kavitha! Thanks very much!

  5. Thank you…

  6. namaste

    tradition fo my sanathan dharma parampara is dieing and for this humanity is loss.

    in the understanding of our unique sanskars.
    i put the blame to the generation that was before our time.

    so to add to this topic from the little of my studies and knowledge that i was so fortunately bless with.

    according to the older ones of family/guru, the many esteem pandit/purohits and the hindu community of trinidad and tobago their answer to upanayan (tread ceromony) for a girl at the age of 8 an onward before the menstrual cycle is the brahma kumari kanthi as it name gives the locative it is worn around the neck tighten by a tulsi bead at the start of menstrual cycle/vivah samskar it is removed during menstrual/grehasti way of life- it is then rein vesture at the end of menopause at the beginning of the third stage in life vanprahast, after death of the husband (if husband dies before menstrual cycle seizes, it is worn but changed after the five day period with proper fasting and cleansing) this is called the bhaktin vanpahast and sanyasin kanthi

    hope this little info will help
    p.s some of the word maybe misspell
    and also very important only a person invested with kanthi can invest the girl with it and also it is also worn by men who are in the part of god supreme only not grehasties

    rakesh

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