YAGNOPAVITAM

yajnopavitam paramam pavitram prajapateryat-sahajam purastat I ayushyamagryam pratimuncha shubhram I yajnopavitam balamastu tejah ||

Above shlok describes the sanctity, spirituality and sacredness of yagnopavitam and its benefits. It says that, yagnopavitam is "the best among those that purify; the one that has emerged along with Brahma (Prajapati) at the time of creation; that which bestows life (longevity) and prominence; the one that is sacred clean and unsoiled; and the one which confers on to the wearer both knowledge and power."

Dwij :

Dwij mean twice born. There is no difference between one child and another at the time of birth. All are born out of the mother's womb only. This is the first stage of life (Sudra). Second stage is getting updesh of Gayatri at the time of Upnayanam when the boy becomes Dwij or twice-born. He is then purified. The third stage is Vipra when one has mastered the study of the Vedas. The fourth stage is Brahman when he actually realizes the Brahman through the knowledge of the Self.

Why should one wear Yagnopavit? :

Wearing Yagnopavit would increase the longevity of a person who wears, gives physical and mental strength through the worship of Sun God (Savitha) using Gayatri Mantra initiated during his Upanayanam. By wearing Yagnopavit one gets purified both externally and internally. By wearing Yagnopavit one gets the eligibility to perform spiritual and sacred rituals (Srouth / Smarth Karmas) as prescribed in Veds for his Varna. Sacred rituals performed by wearing Yagnopavit give good results.

One should not attend to nature calls, eat food, and participate in sensual pleasures without Yagnopavit. It is a prerequisite for learning Ved. It is a passport to obtain Vedic education. Yagnopavit is a mark of formal entry into Brahminhood. It gives power and authority to pursue one's spiritual path.

Anthareeyam and Utthareeyam :

Yagnopavit is a word consisting of two words, yagna and upavit. Vit means that which is woven, that is cloth and Upavit means the upper garment. One is born naked. Then the baby is kept wrapped in one garment. Till the thread ceremony is performed the boy can remain clad in one garment. The use of the upper garment begins after the thread ceremony. After the thread ceremony one garment refers to the loin cloth (langoti) and the second (upper) garment to the sacred thread (janave) which is in a way a condensed form of the shawl on the shoulder (uparne).

In early times, clothing was of two kinds, "Anthareeyam", a piece of covering cloth, and "Utthareeyam", a cloth or hide to cover the chest to keep the lungs warm and strong during Ved recital. Yajnopavit got the name as it is to be specially worn during sacred rituals such as yajnam. Yajnam means Vishnu, while Upavit connotes a covering, and thus, together the word could mean a cover for the god that dwells in the heart. Since the soul is supposed to dwell in the heart, Upavit got the other name, Yajnasoothram. Yagnopavit is called "Poonool" in Tamil (Poo = Flower, Nool = Thread), meaning thread made of cotton flower.

How many Yagnopavitas one should wear? :

The cords of the sacred thread are made up of three strands. The celibate (brahmachari) and ascetic (yati) should wear one and the married householder (gruhastha) should wear two. One cord indicates that an ascetic and a celibate are concerned only with their own spiritual progress while two cords in the married householder indicate that they are also responsible for the spiritual progress of their wives besides their own. The third cord is to be worn by all gruhasths. People in the early days used to cover their upper body only with a cloth - uttariyam (angvastram). If the upper cloth is missing during a ceremony, the third cord of the yagnopavit takes its place.

Posture of Yagnopavit (Savya, Praachinavita, Nivit) :

Generally we come across three postures of wearing Yagnopavit. One is Upavita where the Yagnopavit is worn over the left shoulder and under the right arm. This posture is used for performing auspicious ceremonies and sacred rituals related to Gods. This is called Savya position. Under normal circumstances Yagnopavit should always be in Savya position.

The thread is worn on the left shoulder and falls on the right side below the waist. The thread is worn on the left shoulder crossing the 3 naadis (pingala / sushumna / ida) for the centering effect.

The second one is Praachinavit where, Yagnopavit is worn above the right shoulder and under the left arm. This position is used while performing sacred rites to the Forefathers (Pitru Karya). This is called Apsavya position.

When Yagnopavit is worn around the neck and over the chest in maalakar (like a garland) and is held with both thumbs in the region of the heart and above the naval, it is Nivit. This form is used during Rishi tarpan, sexual intercourse, answering nature calls, while carrying a corpse etc.

When to Change the Yagnopavit? :

When once a person starts wearing Yagnopavit in normal circumstances it should not be removed and should be worn always (24 hours-365 days). It is like a woman wearing a Mangal-Sutra forever. But in practice it is not possible to wear the same Yagnopavit permanently. Due to wear and tear, it may get soiled or worn out or gets broken and needs to be changed. One should not wear a broken or worn out Yagnopavit. Apart from this it should be changed under the following circumstances.

- Once in a year on the day of Upkarma,

- After performing Shraddh,

- After completion of the stipulated period of asouch (birth / death in the family),

- Whenever one visits the Cremation Ground or touches a Corpse,

- Whenever one happen to touch a woman during menstruation,

- Whenever the threads of Yagnopavit are severed or it is soiled or worn out,

- Whenever one attends 10th day ceremony and gives Dharmodak.

Whenever there is a need to change Yagnopavit it should not be removed recklessly. First wear the new one and then remove the worn out as per the laid down procedure.

When to Perform Upanayan :

A Brahmin child's upanayan must be performed when he is eight years old from conception, that is when he is seven years and two months old from birth. A Kshatriya's is to be performed at the age of twelve. Krishna Parmatma who belonged to the clan of Yadus (Yadavs) was invested with the sacred thread at that age. The corresponding age for a Vaisya is sixteen.

According to the sastras, the lower limit of Brahmin youngsters is eight years and the upper limit is sixteen which means a grace of eight years. It is sinful not to have performed upnaya of a Brahmin boy before his passing the upper age limit.