What is the significance of the janeva (sacred thread)?


The term "upa" means near and "nayanam" means leading. So Upanayam means "leading near". It's one of the 13 samskara prescribed by the Vedas.

What does the Sacred Thread signify?

The Janeu or yajñopavītam symbolizes the ability of the wearer to perform Sandhyavandanam and recite the Gayatri Mantra.

There is a variation in the thread count of yajñopavītam. Bachelors wear a single thread, married men wear 2, and married men with children wear 3. Each thread contains 3 strands as well.

The three strands signify three debts,

  1. Debt to one's teacher(s).
  2. Debt to one's parents and ancestors.
  3. Debts to sages and Rishis.

Significance of Rituals

Upanayanam was performed traditionally before the boy starts his study of Veda i.e Vidyarambham. It acts as a stepping stone for leading a life of Brahmachari in the service of Guru studying Veda and other subjects. Ages are specified in Manu-smriti as 8 for Brahmins, 11 for Kshathriyas, 12 for Vaishyas (Manu Smriti sloka 2:36).

Quoting Upanayam from wiki,

The main point of having gone through the Upanayana ceremony is the wearing of the Yajñopavītam on the body. The Yajñopavītam 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 Yajñopavītam is generally 96 times the breadth of four fingers of a man, which is believed to be equal to his height. Each of the fingers represents one of the four states that the soul of a man experiences: waking, dreaming, dreamless sleep and knowledge of the absolute.

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

Refs: Vaidika Samskara

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