Upanayana in the Sūtras and the Smṛtis

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 first three varṇas.

Upanayana – Definition of the Word

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.’[

Upanayana – The Meaning of Saṃskāra

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.’