Preparations for the Upanayana[1] A śālā (canopy, pavilion) was built under which the saṃskāra would be conducted.[2] On the eve of the upanayana, Purāṇic performances took place. Gaṇeśa was invoked and the various goddesses Śrī, Lakṣmī, Dhṛtī, Medhā, Puṣṭi, Śraddhā, and Sarasvatī were worshipped.[3] Often this is accompanied by the recitation of the udaka-śānti mantras. In some provinces, there is a custom of smearing the vaṭu with a yellow...
 
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The Right Age for Conducting Upanayana[1] There are several varying rules and prescriptions about the age of the boy who is to undergo the upanayana (the boy is referred to as the ‘vaṭu’). What is interesting to note is that the age was counted from conception.[2] From the earliest times we see in ancient India the notion that the age of a child must be counted. It is prescribed for a brāhmaṇa boy to have his upanayana at age 8 (and not later...
 
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Most of our ancient thinkers were of the opinion that only the male members of the brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, and vaiśya varṇas were eligible to study the Vedas.[1] And since the upanayana saṃskāra was primarily meant as an entry to the study of the Vedas, it was not applicable to women of all varṇas and to śūdras.[2] There are, however, exceptions to this rule. For instance, one of the ancient teachers, Ācārya Bādarī mentions[3] that everyone,...
 
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It was in the Sūtra period that the upanayana saṃskāra seems to have been fully established.[1] Most of the details of the ceremony are laid out in the gṛhya-sūtras. The Dharma-sūtras and Smṛtis have nothing new to say about the ritualistic aspects apart from what has already been said earlier; they primarily develop the social side of the saṃskāra. It was also perhaps during this period that the Upanayana became compulsory for men from the...
 
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Upanayana in the Saṃhitās Some of the characteristics of the upanayana described in the gṛhya-sūtras are seen in the Ṛgveda-saṃhitā itself.[1] The sacrificial post (yūpa-stambha) is praised as a young person – “Here comes the youth, well-dressed and encircled (the boy by his mekhalā and the post by its rasana); he, when born, attains eminence; ṛṣis, full of devotion to the deities in their hearts and entertaining happy thoughts, raise him up.”[2...
 
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Before we embark on a study of our traditional literature—what we call śruti and smṛti—with our modern conception of history, seeking the absolute chronology of a certain treatise and the relative chronologies of a set of treatises, we must acquaint ourselves with both the Indian conception of history as well as the traditional accounts of our history. The Indian view of history was to emphasize value over fact. Since the ancient Indians...
 
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The word ‘upanayana’ means ‘leading closer’ or ‘taking nearer.’ It could mean ‘leading closer to wisdom’ or ‘taking near the ācārya for the sake of learning.’[1] Another meaning of the word ‘upanayana’ is ‘additional eye’ or ‘the eye of knowledge.’ It is variously called ‘upayana,’[2] ‘brahmopadeśa,’ ‘upānaya,’ ‘mauñjī-bandhana,’ and ‘baṭu-karaṇa,’ ‘vrata-bandha.’[3] In any case, it refers to taking a young boy formally into student-hood.[4] The...
 
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The word ‘saṃskāra’ has no single-word equivalent in English; it has many meanings including ‘refinement,’ ‘cultivation,’ ‘perfection,’ ‘embellishment,’ ‘consecration,’ ‘education,’ ‘positive transformation,’ ‘effect of past deeds,’ etc. In general, it refers to ‘doing something well’ or ‘improving upon something while removing what is undesirable.’ Swami Harshananda says, “The word ‘saṃskāra’ literally means ‘to do well.’ A block of stone when...
 
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Every society will have its own view of what is a significant event in the life of a person living in that geographical region and in that period in time. What remains true for all time and for all people is the fact that our life spreads from before our physical birth all the way to the future after our physical death. When a couple feel the need to have offspring, that very moment a child is born, as an idea. After conception, the tiny embryo...
 
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You and I are constantly changing. Throughout our lives, we change in many ways: at the level of the body, in the emotional sphere, in the mental realm, in our various relationships with people, the roles that we play in society, and in many other ways. This change is continuous and unstoppable, yet we recognize certain ‘phases’ in our life. Let us consider education as an example. We learn new things every day but there are definite phases such...
 
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