to our scriptures our lives were supposed to have been divided into four
ashramas (Classifications) -
the Brahmacharya, the Grahastha,
the vanaprastha and the Sanyasa.
Brahmacharya was the early period of life when man was supposed to devote his
time to education.
Grahastha was when he would make a home; i.e. get married, have children,
support himself and the family and follow whatever profession was best suited to
vanaprastha was the age of retirement. During that time he was to leave the
management of the family business to his sons and the running of the house to
this time all their responsibilities would be over and they were to practice
detachment and prepare for the sanyasa ashram.
the Sanyasa ashram, the elders would finally leave their homes to practice
meditation in the woods and prepare for their union with the Almighty.
olden days they led a full life but were always preparing for the next stage
with full awareness; and when it was time to leave either their attachment or
the home they were fully prepared, not only physically, but mentally and
spiritually as well.
most of our ceremonies-Wedding, Janeu ceremony etc., the Havan Kund (the sacrificial fire) is lit. The fire is an element, we
believe, symbolising God, or the power of the universe.
light the Havan Kund or sacrificial fire, two dry pieces of wood are
brought into friction. The two pieces of wood symbolise the body and the soul
(the true spirit In man) and the lighting of the fire symbolises that the
physical body should start a quest for spiritual life. Just like that very fire
devours the wood, so when you are spiritually enlightened you would be beyond
the identification of yourself with the body.
is the offering of 9 types of grain. ghee etc. that you put into the fire,
amidst the chanting of special mantras which according to the Vedas have got
special vibrations to create a certain atmosphere or to grant your particular
wish. The aahuti used to be formerly brought by the neighbours and friends: it
was mixed and offered to the fire by everyone present. This induced camaraderie
and sense of equality between high and low and rich and poor. All present would
chant “Swaha” In unison after the particular mantra has been recited by the
priest. Swaha means “Arpan” which means in English “we offer”
aahuti Into the “fire kund” is symbolic of putting our abilities into a
field of activity in a spirit of Yagna, i.e. in a spirit of dedication. For
instance, if you would like to become a doctor, you would have to go through
your studies, and put in your utmost effort. Then you would leave the fruits to
the Almighty. If you have done the above in the right spirit God would most
probably bless you by making your efforts a success.
Pujan or Planet worship is also common to most of our ceremonies. I have already
explained earlier that we believe that the radiation from the different planets
has an effect on our emotions & character and therefore our destiny.
before a ceremony, Graha Pujan symbolises an actual invitation to the different
planets and different Gods to grace the occasion.
different planets are symbolised in a nut form placed in a certain order.
prayers to the Gods residing in different planets is similar to the mode of behavior
we mete out to our honoured guests.
bathe the Gods, apply tika (Vermilion powder) garland them, offer them prasad
(an offering in the form of food) and allot them their place for the duration of
is done as we are aware of the gravitational influence of the planets on the
subconscious of man. By worshipping them man is attuned to their influences,
thereby helping him to get a control over his mental activity and over the
auspicious occasion that is about to commence.
before leaving for their formal education the Hindu boys would go through the
Janeu or Upanayana ceremony, which is popularly known as the Sacred Thread
or Janeu: Ceremonies performed in connection with the arrival of adolescence
are universally preva1ent in all religions. The Parsis, the Christians. tie
Mohammedans etc. all have rites specially meant for this purpose. Their object
is to prepare the young man to shoulder the burden of the elders. The most
striking point about the Upanayana is that by virtue of its performance the
initiated is ranked as a Dvija or twice-born. This transformation of man’s
personality by means of religious
ceremonies and the initiation into the Gayatri mantra compares well with the
Christian rite of baptism which is regarded as a sacrament and carries with it a
spiritual effect to reform the life of man. If we look beneath the surface of
the ceremony, we cannot but recognise in it the expression of a deep human
conviction that man, due to his contact with the world, loses his native purity
and that he must be born again to enter the spiritual kingdom again. This
ceremony should be performed before puberty.
meaning of the term Upanayana The
conception of Upanayana has undergone many changes in course of time. In the
Artharva Veda it meant the initiation of the child by a teacher into sacred
lore. Later on when the mystic significance of the Upanayana increased the idea
of the second birth through the Gayatri mantra overshadowed the original idea of
initiation for education. Manu says: “In the Vedic birth of the student,
symbolised by wearing girdle made of Manja grass, Savitri (the goddess of
learning) is, the mother and the guru the father.” It is the rite through
which a child is initiated into the vows of the guru, the Vedas, the restraints,
observances and the vicinity of God. Later the ceremony is called “Janeu”,
that is the ceremony in which a boy is invested with the sacred thread.
Significance of the ceremony: In
the beginning the Upanayana ceremony must have been very simple. In the
early times when the sacred Vedic lore was handed down from generation to
generation, the father himself was the guru. The Upanayana ceremony is
selected for performance when the sun is in the northern hemisphere
(Uttarayana). A day before the ceremony, the most auspicious gods and goddesses
such as Ganesha, Sri Lakshmi, Dhrti, Medha, Pusti, Sraddha and Saraswati are
worshipped. The previous night, the child is smeared all over with a yellowish
powder (Turmeric powder) and he is commanded to spend the whole night in
absolute silence. This is a mystic rite to prepare the child for the second
birth. The turmeric powder is symbolic of embryonic atmosphere and absolute
silence made the boy a speechless embryo anew.
next morning the child Is given a ceremonial bath and shave. After the bath the
boy is given ‘Kaupina’ (Loin-cloth) to cover his private parts. Though
social consciousness has already dawned upon the mind of the boy, from now he
has to observe social decorum and maintain his own dignity and self-respect. The
boy then goes to the Acharya and announces his intention to become a
Brahmachari. Accepting his request the Acharya offers him clothes. The Hindu
idea of decorum requires that when engaged in a religious ceremony, the upper
part of the body should be covered with a piece of cloth. On the occasion of the
Upanayana, therefore, the young scholar is offered an upper garment because now
his proper religious life has begun.
Originally the upper garment used to
be a piece of deerskin, which symbolized spiritual and intellectual
pre-eminence. By putting on the upper garment the student is enjoined to become
a youth of ideal character and deep scholarship.
the Acharya ties a girdle round the waist of the youth. This Is made of triple
strands, which symbolises that the student is always encircled by the three Vedas
and to inform him that his belt is “a daughter of faith and a sister of the
sages, possessing the power of protecting his purity and chastity and keeping
him, away from evil”.