Hindus wear a new holy thread and offer libations of water to the ancient Rishis on this day. The day is auspicious because as per Indian mythology Vishnu was incarnated as Hayagriva, the god of knowledge, the one who restored the Vedas to Brahma.
The “yajno pavitam” (the sacred thread) of the Hindu, is the outward and visible mark that the wearer is a Dvija, or twice-born. It is a very much prized and a very sacred badge and commands respect and even adoration. The Sutra (Sutta) (another name for the sacred thread) is worn on the shoulder, usually hanging over the left shoulder and down across the chest around the right hip. This is given to an individual after the sacrament or initiation of upnayana or thread-ceremony.
Contrary to popular misconception, the sacred thread is not confined to Brahmins. So every wearer of the sacred thread must not necessarily be a Brahmin. Kshatriyas and Vysyas wear it. The goldsmiths, the weavers, certain classes of fishermen and others wear it.
Ancient scriptures say: “The sacrificial thread of a Brahmin must be made of cotton, so as to be put on over his head in three strings; that of a Kshatriya of sana thread only; that of a Vaisya of woollen thread.”
Being a Brahmin (Brahmana) was not a birth right upper caste in ancient days. Anyone could be a Brahmana if he or she knew the reality (Brahman). The one who knows the Brahman and the one with Brahmagyanam (realization of the Ultimate Truth) is the Brahmana. (What’s happening in politics and cinema and all other sections of the society today? Son or daughter becomes political leader just because the father/mother was one. A position becomes birth right)
The married will have two janwas (one for his wife) and the unmarried will have one with three threads. In ancient times women also wore such sacred threads and performed sandhya rites (ritual for the realization of the divinity of the Self).
The composition of the sacred thread has lot of symbolism in it. Its length is ninety-six times as the breadth of the four fingers of a man, which is equal to his height. Each of the four fingers represents one of the four states the consciousness of a man experiences from time to time, namely, waking, dreaming, dreamless sleep and absolute Brahmanism (Turiya or the fourth state).
There are different versions as to what the three represent:
2. Satwa-Rajo-Thamo Gunas
3. Deva runa, Pitra runa and Acharya runa
4. Brahmaavu-Vishnu- Maheswara
6. Bhur-Bhuva-Swar Lokas etc.
On this Shravan full moon day, our community (GSB) men also worship and change the sacred thread. In northern India, this day is celebrated as Raksha bandhan.
For me, being a Brahmin means upholding tolerance and non-violence. And I do love all the rituals and prasadams (eatables). Rituals are entertaining, educating, soothing and creating harmony.
© Uday Lal Pai. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing at firstname.lastname@example.org