Dal Sabzi for the Aatman Dal Sabzi for the Aatman Dal Sabzi for the Aatman Dal Sabzi for the Aatman Dal Sabzi for the Aatman  
  ‼  Aum, Asato maa sadgamaya, Tamaso maa jyotirgamaya  ‼  
     

 

RITUALS, PRACTICES AND 
THEIR SIGNIFICANCE
Page Two

The Sacred thread: After the tying of the girdle is the most Important item of the ceremony, namely investing the student with the sacred thread. It is spun by a virgin Brahmin girl and twisted by a Brahmin. Its length is ninety-six times 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 soul of a man experiences from time to time, namely waking, dreaming, dreamless sleep and abso­lute Brahmanhood. The three strands of the thread are also symbolical. They represent the three Gunas (qualities) namely reality (Sattva) , passion (Rajas) and inertia (Tamas). The twist of the thread must be upward, to ensure that the Sattva guna or the good quality of reality may predominate in a man and he may attain spiritual merits. The three strands remind the wearer that he has to pay off his debt to the ancient seers, his ancestors and the gods. He is to honour his parents and elders and is now in a position to participate in the family rituals and prayers.

The three strands are tied together by a knot called “Brahmagranthi”, which symbolises Brahma, Vishnu and Siva (the Creator, Preserver and Destroyer.).

A Brahmachari can put on only one set of the sacred thread. A householder is given the privilege to wear two, one for himself and one for his wife. While performing the auspicious ceremony one should wear the sacred thread hanging from his left shoulder, but while performing an inauspicious ceremony it should be hung from right shoul­der. To the three strands of the sacred thread is tied a piece of deerskin which is symbolical of holy lustre and intellec­tual and spiritual pre-eminence. The student, while putting it on is reminded that he should attain the spiritual and intellectual position of a Rishi (Sage).

The Acharya then presents a staff to remind the student that he is a traveler on the long road of knowledge. While accepting it, the student prays that he may reach safely the end of his long and arduous journey.

After the student is equipped as above, the teacher pours water in the cupped hands of the student. It is symbolical of purifying the student, to sanctify him, before he could legitimately learn the Gayatri mantra. The student is then asked to look at the sun to remind him that like the sun he should observe his duties and disciplines unswervingly. He is reminded that the sun is witness to all actions, he is the Lord of all vows, time, action and virtues, and therefore, he should be properly worshipped.

After this, the teacher touches the heart of the pupil reaching over his right shoulder with the words: ‘into my heart will I take thy heart” This is intended to emphasise that the relation between the teacher and the taught is not formal and mercenary but real and sacred. There should be complete harmony, a deep sympathy and whole-hearted communion between the guru (Teacher) and the initiated.

The student is then asked to mount the stone to remind him that he should be firm and strong in physique and character like the stone. This is a sermon to the student that the firmness of determination and strength of character are the most essential needs for a successful career.

The Gayatri mantra: Next the most sacred Gayatri mantra is taught to the student. The teacher, looking at the face of the child, utters the Gayatri mantra: “Let us meditate on the most excellent light of the creator (the sun). May he guide our Intellect.” The mantra is recited pada by pada, (word by word): then by hemistich by hemistich and the third time the whole verse. The teaching of the sacred Gayatri mantra signalises the second birth of the child, as the teacher is regarded the father and Gayatri the mother of the child.

After the investiture of the sacred thread, the student secures the qualification to perform the rite of enkindling and feeding the sacred fire. The student wipes with his hand the ground where the fire is built with the formula: “Agni (fire) glorious one, make me glorious. As thou glorious Agni, art glorious, thus, O! glorious one, bring me to glory. As thou Agni are the preserver of the treasure of sacrifice for the gods thus may I become the preserver of the treasure of the Vedas for men.” Then he puts fuels in the fire with the prayer: “To Agni (fire) I have brought a piece of wood, to the great Jata Vedas. As thou, Agni, are inflamed by wood, thus I am inflamed by life, insight, vigor, offspring, cattle, holy lustre. May my teacher be the father of living sons: May I be full of insight, not forgetful of what I have learnt; May I become full of glory and splendor of holy lustre and enjoyer of food.” The sacred fire is the symbol of life and light, for which the student strives.

The ceremony of going round for alms is the next item. On the day of the Upanayana, the Brahmachari begs food from only those who would not refuse, e.g. his mother and other relatives. The decorum requires that a Brahmin student should beg alms with the following words: ”Bhavati bhiksham dehi” (Lady, give me alms).

Triratra vrata: After the initiation ceremonies, the student Is required to observe three days’ continence, which is called “Triratra Vrata.”. It is the beginning of a rigorous training. He is not to eat saline food, he has to sleep on the ground, he is forbidden to take meat and to sleep in the daytime. At the end of the vrata, the Medhajanana ritual is performed to evoke divine help in the sharpening of the intellect, memory and retentive power. It is called medhajanana because by performing it one could get intellect fit to grasp the Vedic knowledge. If the student acts up to the symbol­isms and suggestions of the ritual, he is bound to be a successful scholar and full-fledged man, fit to share the responsibilities of the world.

The Samavartana or Snana (End of Studentship) : The ritual is performed at the close of the Brahmacharya period and it marks the termination of the student life. Samavartana means, “returning home from the house of the guru”. It is also called Snana because bathing formed the most prominent item of the Samskara.

In our ancient literature, learning is compared to an ocean, and one who possessed great learning is supposed to have crossed that ocean. Naturally, the student who has completed his course of studies is regarded as a person who has crossed the ocean of learning. He is called Vidyasnataka (one who has bathed in vows). Thus the ceremonial bath at the end of the student career symbolises the crossing of the ocean of learning by the student.

The Upanayana marks the dawn of a new era in the life of the initiate. He is no more a child and is introduced to the life of perfect and stern discipline. The ceremony symbolizes the fact that the student is a traveler, starting for the boundless realm of knowledge. To reach his destination, he is asked to be firm and steadfast like a stone in his determination. Complete harmony between him and his teacher is essential. In his mission the student is assured the help of all gods and creatures. The ideals before him are Indra, the lord of all gods, and Agni, the most brilliant element in the world, the one suggestive of power and position and the other indicative of life & light.

The close of one’s student life is very momentous period in ones life. One has to make a choice between the two paths of life-either to get married and plunge into the busy life of the world, sharing its full responsibilities or to keep off from the turmoil of the world and to lead a life of detachment, both physical and mental. Those students who choose the first path are called “Upakurvana”, and those who select the second path are known as Naisthika. The upakurvanas returned from their gurukulas and be­come householders. The Naisthikas did not leave their teachers and lived in the services of their masters in quest of supreme knowledge.

After the formal education is complete, man enters the second stage or the second Ashram, namely the Grahastha Ashram where he gets married, protects and looks after the family’s means of livelihood.

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