11 - Upanayanam Samskara

One of the most important aspects of human life is education. Before stepping in the field of education one needs to take some commitments, and Upanayanam is one such commitment. Upanayanam means being close to the teacher. When the child is ready to go to the Gurukul, or start schooling in today’s world, child’s parents along with the teacher impart the first teaching. This ceremony is called Upanayanam. Upanayanam is also called Brahmopadesham - means “the instruction about the Brahman”. The highest knowledge that “you are the Brahman (divinity)” is to be child’s first learning.

It is a general tendency to want to know more about what

To experience this knowledge one needs to go through a process.

The word nayan in Upanayanam means leading. The child is first shown the truth, “you are the Brahman.” And then the Guru teaches how to make that truth child’s reality. The vision is very important. Without a vision, the life can get scattered and wasted in many unnecessary things.  The Guru gives this vision and by extension a direction to the child.

One major aspect in Upanayanam is to give the child Janeu also called Yagnopavitam or sacred thread. This thread made by connecting three threads, it has one knot and is worn across the torso on one shoulder. Three threads signify three major responsibilities a child has to carry out in this life. These three responsibilities are towards one’s parents, towards the knowledge that one acquires and towards the society.

Once one completes these duties, one can remove the Janeu. That is when one enters the next phase of life called Sanyas, renouncing all the duties because one has completed them all.

In Upanayanam, the child is also initiated into the Gayatri Mantra. Gayatri Mantra is a mantra praying for sharp intellect. Intelligence that not just knows how to process information but also has intuitive abilities. Just gathering information may lead one to confusion, however intuition is something that is ever accurate and shows the clear direction. The prayer for the sharp intellect beaming with intuition is Gayatri Mantra.

Contrary to common belief, girls and women can chant Gayatri Mantra. Vaidic tradition has never forbidden women from this practice. In fact, Upanayanam was a common practice for girls as well in the ancient times. There is no bar of age, gender, cast, color or creed for getting initiated into Upanayanam and learn Gayatri Mantra.