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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Yajñopavītam - the "Sacred Thread"

Yajñopavītam - the "Sacred Thread"

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

Ancient texts refer to the wearing of the Yajñopavītam in three forms:

One is Upavītam, where the Yajñopavītam is worn over the left shoulder and under the right arm। This is for Gods. Upavītam is also called savya (Katyayana Shrauta Sutra &c.).

The Second is Nivītam, where the Yajñopavītam is worn around the neck and over the chest। Nivīta form is to be used during Rishi Tharpana, sexual intercourse, answering the calls of nature etc. (-Shadvimsha Brahmana, Latyayana, etc.).

The third, Prachīnavītam is where the Yajñopavītam is worn above the right shoulder and under the left arm. This is for Spirits. Prachīnavītam is also called apsavya (Katyayana Shrauta Sutra, Manusmriti, &c.).

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