Yagnopavit :-

What we in Gujarat call "Janoi" is derived from the Sanskrit words "Upnayan" or "Yagnopavit".

Yagnopavit is a joint word made of two fragments - Yagna and Upvitam. Yagna means a sacrificial ceremony and Upvitam means sacred thread. Therefore, Yagnopavit is a ceremony where sacrifices are pledged and a sacred thread is worn as a reminder of that pledge.

Upnayan is also a joint word made from Upa and Nayan. Upnayan means first step towards the guidance to knowledge which includes spiritual knowledge.

Yagnopavit is symbolic of the initiation of a house holder into performing his threefold duties to the household, the devtas and to his pitrus hence, the three stand with the brahmaganth or divine knot wearing over the left shoulder as a necessary ritual tool when performing these three duties.

On his marriage the householder gets 3 more strands on behalf of his wife.

A Brahmin is born once from the womb of his mother and again during the Upanayanam when he learns the Gayatri Mantra. Hence, Brahmins are referred to as Dwija meaning twice born.

When a child goes through this Sacred thread Sanskar, he gets ready to start getting knowledge at the hands of a Guru (a learned man). The ceremony guides the child into taking a pledge of undertaking an eternal pursuit of knowledge - secular and spiritual.

The hallmark of having gone through the Upanayana ceremony is the wearing of the Yajnopavitam (Sacred Thread) on the body. The thread is circular being tied end-to-end (only one knot is permissible); it is normally supported on the left shoulder (savya) and wrapped around the body, falling underneath the right arm. The length of the thread is generally 96 times the breadth of four fingers of a man which is believed to be equal to his height. Each of the four fingers represents one of the four states that the soul of a man experiences: waking, dreaming, dreamless sleep and knowledge of the absolute.

Yajnopavitam has three threads (actually only one thread, folded three times and tied together) each consisting of three strands. These threads represent

Goddess Gayatri (Goddess of mind)

Goddess Saraswati (Goddess of word) and

Goddess Savitri (Goddess of deed)

It denotes that one who wears the sacred thread should be pure in his thought, word and deed. The sacred thread reminds a Brahmachari to lead a regulated life with purity in his thought, word and deed. These threads also represent the debt that is owed to the guru, parents and society.

The knot in the middle represents the formless Brahman, the pure form of energy which pervades all. The three threads again represent the manifestation of Brahman as Srishti, Sthithi and Vinasa. The sacred thread illustrates the fact that everything in the universe emerges from and then merges with Brahman.

Ancient texts refer to the wearing of the Yajnopavitam in three forms :

One is Upavitam, where the Yajnopavitam is worn over the left shoulder and under the right arm. This is for Gods. Upavitam is also called savya.

The Second is Nivitam, where the Yajnopavitam is worn around the neck and over the chest or worn on left shoulder and some part of it is wrapped around the left ear. Nivita form is to be used during answering the calls of nature (going to toilet), etc.

The Third is Prachinavitam where the Yajnopavitam is worn above the right shoulder and under the left arm. This is for Spirits and is used by men when performing the death ceremonies of an elder.