Janeu Ceremony or the ‘Sacred Thread Ceremony’
By Jass Narang
Also known as the ‘sacred thread ceremony’, the Janeu Ceremony is the traditional ceremony in which the consecrated thread is worn by the highest rank of the society, the Brahmins of India. Janeu is the holy thread worn by a male Brahmin. Some of the other caste’s males also wear this thread like the vaishyas as well as the Kshatriya clans. Different castes have different ways of performing this ceremony. The main aim of this thread ceremony is to suggest that the complete development of a man from his younger age. This is a very auspicious ceremony celebrated with a lot of pomp and show.
The janeu thread is a very thin and consecrated thread and is made up of a number of distinct and separate cotton threads and each of them symbolizes that the person is growing up. The different sects of the society have different types of janeu threads worn around them. The one which is meant for only the Brahmins is the Brahmgandh janeu which consists of either five or three knots.
The Vishnugandh janeu is meant for all the other classes of the society. It consists of only a single knot. The Brahmin who takes a decision of becoming a scholar must wear this thread from a very early age of five. The Kshatiyas are the warrior class and they are known for their valor and strength. So if a Kshatriya wants to wear a janeu thread, he must wear it from the early age of six.
This sacred thread is said to give strength to the Kshatriya. The vaishyas are the business clans and they strive for success in their lives. They were this consecrated thread to get success in their business lives. The vaishyas should wear it from the age of eight. The normal janeu thread is usually made of the cotton fiber especially made for the Brahmins but janeu threads made out of wool and hempen are also worn by the Vaishyas and the Kshatriyas.
The traditional name for the Janeu ceremony is ‘Upanayanam Samskara’ which is grandly celebrated by the Brahmins and the right age for this ceremony to take place is from anywhere between seven and fourteen. In some cases if this ceremony has not taken place because of some reasons then it is compulsory to perform this ritual before the wedding ceremony of that person.
When the thread is worn by a man, a group of people chant the sacred verse, the ‘Gayatri mantra’. The thread is turned and twisted in such a way that it points towards the upward direction. This is done to make sure that the positive quality of truth is still prevalent in this world.
The significance of this sacred janeu thread is very great. It signifies that the young man is ready to carry all the burden of his family responsibilities from then onwards. He also has to share the other responsibilities with the elders of his family. It also makes him eligible to participate in all the family traditions and rituals after this ceremony. This shows the social significance that this sacred thread portrays.
The three strands worn by the Brahmins have different significance. Some people say that they stand for the three Hindu Gods or the Trinity who are Lord Mahesh, Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma respectively. Some people refer it as the present, past and the future of one’s life. Some others believe it that they stand for the three goddesses or the Devis while many take it as three debts that one owes to one’s teacher, parents and the sages respectively. For some it also represents the earth, the heaven and the Nether regions.
Thus we can see that the janeu thread is so sacred that it has to be worn after cleaning and purifying oneself and when some impure tasks are done, the janeu thread is to be raised and put behind the ears. Some females also wear them around their neck. In case of a death in the family, the janeu thread has to be removed and then worn a new one again after a few days.
A broken or a torn thread is regarded as inauspicious; so it should be replaced as soon as possible. Janeus should be worn in such a way that its sanctity and purity should not be broken. It should not be taken just as an ordinary thread. Some traditions have to be followed by maintaining their sacredness. The Janeu Ceremony, the traditional ceremony worn by the Brahmins of India is one of those sacred ceremonies.
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