Hinduism declares that moksa or liberation from the cycle of birth and death is the final goal of life. It is the same as creating God Realization, resulting in the enjoyment of eternal bliss. The effort that is put forth in that direction is called ‘SADHANA’. The first step towards getting ready for the Sadhana is to have the right SAMSKARA. The word ‘SAMSKARA’ is made of two words: ‘SAM’ meaning good way and ‘KARA’ meaning doing. Our body and our mind are the main instruments in this Endeavour of obtaining the right Samskara. The act of obtaining the right Samskara is the act of purifying and refining our body and our mind, to get ready for the ‘SADHANA’.
The word ‘SAMSKARA’ also means ‘to do well’. Like for instance gold coins when subjected to ‘samskara’ by an expert goldsmith becomes a lovely ornament. Basic material(like the gold coin in the example) upon which the action (Samskara) is performed is called ‘prakrathi’ and the resultant material after Samskara is called “Vikrathi”.
There totally SHODASHA – sixteen types of Samskara. These Samskara also called ‘SACRAMENTS’ purify and refine a human being making him fit for the different stages of life at different ages. In Vedic Dharma, samskara will be conducted to both men and women.
It starts with GARBHADAN TO VIVAHA SAMSKARA out of which UPANAYAN SAMSKARA is the 10th samskara. According to smruthi, every one is born a SHOODRA (meaning someone who has no discipline in daily life), and after undergoing samskara, he becomes a “DVIJA”. He thus has a second birth. The first birth is from the mother’s womb and the second is after undergoing samskara.
Upanayana means leading the disciple to the guru or Vedic teacher (upa means near Nayana means leading, taking). It also means providing him with an additional eye: the eye of knowledge and wisdom(upa means additional, nayana means eye). In addition to the two physical eyes he already has, it gives him a third eye– that of knowledge and wisdom through proper education. Consequently, the sacrament of the beginning of formal education too, has been called by the same name ‘UPANAYANA’.
It is also called by other terms such as ‘MAUNJIBANDHANA’ & BRAHMOPADESHA’. Since a girdle made of the munja grass (Dharbha, or Kusha) is tied round the waist of the VATU (boy) undergoing the upanayana ceremony, to support the kaupina or loin-cloth, the ceremony, itself is termed ‘Maunji bandana.
The word ‘BRAHMA ‘ stands for the Vedas as also for the Gayatrimantra which contains their quintessence. Since, in this samskara, the Gayatrimantra is taught to the vatu the word ‘BRAHMOPADESA’ is quite an appropriate expression for the rite also. The Vatu’s prescribed age limit for the upanayana is between 7 & 11 years.
Upanayana Ceremony Steps:
The Vatu and his parents should pray to the family deity and take the blessings from the elders.
Five married women should fill water in to a big pot and immerse a bowl to measure the auspicious time. This is mostly a symbolic ritual.
Ganapthi Puja & Punyahvachan
Prayers should be offered to Lord Ganesha, the remover of obstacles, the Kuladevatha, and the Navagrahas for conducting a successful ceremony. Punyavachan – the purification ritual should be done.
It will be conducted by vatu and married senior women of the family. It is a practice for the Vatu’s sister to join this ceremony. After this the vatu will be sent to the barber for a haircut. The Vatu is given a traditional haircut with a “Shikha” (A traditional form of hair cut where the head is shaved bald except for a lock of hair at the back). After the haircut, the vatu is given a head bath by his mother for one last time.
Mother will be going to feed TAKKA POVE (yogurt puffed rice) along with four other children. It is for the last time in his life would the vatu be fed by the mother. This practice has variants based on the region in which the Upanayana is performed. It is also known as KUMARA BHOJANA. And in these regions the vatu sits for the Kumara Bhojana with his mother and other children who have already undergone the Upanayana Samskara.
Parents of the vatu go to the mantap, perform sankalp and do the Agni pratishtapana. Then Agni samskar Homa has to be performed. The cloth (ANTARPATA) to be held between father and vatu is brought to the mantap. The priest then starts chanting the rhymes and Mangalashtaka. Munji Vatu now having a shikha (tuft of hair), will take bath, wear a new set of dress. He will be decorated and brought to Mandap by his maternal uncle. Vatu has to come holding a coconut in his hand.
Vatu will place the coconut in front of his father and take his blessings, he will do the same with his mother and give
that coconut to the priest. Priest will bless the Vatu by chanting the Rhymes.
Vastrajin Upaveet Mekhaladi Puja
Cloth etc to be blessed by all elders, Small piece of tread to be tied to the waist for wearing the KAUPEENA (Loin cloth). This cloth will be given by the mother. The vatu has to change over to clothes colored in kavi (saffron). It is a symbol of re-birth.
This sacred thread comprises three strands of string and the knot resembles a cow in the sitting posture. At the time of the upanayana a small piece of krishnajina is also tied to this sacred thread. In the ancient days people used to wear the krishnajina or an upper cloth during yajnas or sacrifices. The yajnopavita is a remnant of that practice
Sacred thread comprises three stands of string and the knot resembles a cow in the sitting posture. Once the vatu wears it, he is expected to look at his life as yajna or sacrifice – to be dedicated to the welfare and service of the society. The three stands of the sacred thread stand for the three Vedas reminding him that he has to study them and incorporate their message in his life. The strands also represent purity and control of body, speech and mind, which again should be dedicated to the service of the society.
Main homa to be performed along with vatu.
Vatu to be taken outside and shown the sun The assumption here is that he will be protected by the sun – Soorya deva.
Vatu will do the homa guided by the priest. The vatu circum-ambulates the sacred fire and offers sacrificial fuel into it. The priest administers him certain vows. They are: performing achamana (ceremonial sipping of water with mantras) before any religious rite, control of speech, avoiding sleep during the day and offering fuel sticks in to the sacred fire and so on. Vatu prays for long life, brilliance, intellectual acumen, general competence, name and fame.
Savitri Upadesha (Gayatri Upadesha)
The heart of the whole sacrament is the savitri upadesha. It means imparting the Gayatrimantra. Savitr or Savita means God or creator. He is identified with the sun. He is the Supreme Lord residing in the heart of the sun. Hence the real name of the mantra is ‘Savitrimantra’. Since it was revaled to the sage Vishvamitra, for the first time in the Vedic metre known as Gayatri, the mantra itself has been identified with it and has popularly come to be known as the GAYATRIMANTRA. The Acharya(priest) has to teach it to the vatu little by little with proper intonation until he picks it up completely.
A griddle made of munja grass (Dharbha or Kusha) should be worn round the waist. It is thus technically called maunjibandhana. This indicates the beginning of life of brahmacharya or self control of which celibacy is the most important aspect.
The next step is holding the danda or the staff made of palasha wood Actually the vatu is expected to keep it throughout his student-life as an inseparable companion. It stands for DAMA means control of the sense-organs at the psychological level. In his day-to-day life at the gurukula, it helps him to take care of the cows of the household and also comes in handy in times of dangers as weapon for self protection.
Last comes the begging of food by the vatu from his own mother and other elderly ladies of the family. Since he has to beg his food as long as he lives in the gurukula.
Vatu will be taught the duties to be performed daily by the priest. Medhajanana and anupravachaniya homa will be concluded. The priest and all the other attendant elders will bless the vatu.