Upanayana – Conclusion

This article is part 15 of 15 in the series Upanayana

Education and Code of Conduct[1]

The study of Veda did not merely consist in learning the mantras by heart. The students had to also understand the meaning. Many ancient thinkers have condemned the blind memorization of the Vedic mantras and have emphasized on learning the meaning (and meditating upon it). In spite of this, however, it appears that for several centuries the Veda was only committed to memory and most people who learned the Vedas never cared to know its meaning. This continues even today.

Details rules are laid out in the texts about certain codes of conduct of the brahmacārī. A few practises are listed below:

Pratyutthāna – rising from one’s seat to receive a person
Abhivādana – saluting a person, particularly one who is older
Upasaṅgrahaṇa – clasping the feet of the guru (or another) with one’s hands
Pratyabhivāda – returning a salutation
Namaskāra – bowing with the word ‘namaḥ

In the upasaṅgrahaṇa, one announces his gotra and name with the words, “I salute!” touching his ears, clasping the feet of the guru, and bending his head while so doing. In the abhivādana there is no clasping of the feet (of the other person) with the hands; one may or may not touch the feet of the person to be honoured. Abhivādana is always be preceded by pratyutthāna.

While performing the abhivādana, the boy announces his name (the one he uses for rituals and spiritual purposes)[2], gotra (lineage), pravaras (names of eminent ancestors; typically three, or five, or seven), sūtra (the dharma- and gṛhya-sūtras followed by his family, i.e. on his father’s side), and śākhā (the specific branch of the Veda studied by his father, grandfather, etc.) – e.g. Abhivādaye, Aṅgirasa-Bṛhaspati-Bhāradvāja trayārṣeya pravarānvita, Bhāradvājagotraḥ, Āpastambasūtraḥ, Yajuśśākhādhyāyī, Śrī Śrīnivāsarāghavaśarman nāmaham asmi bhoḥ.

Upākarma – Reopening of the Academic Year

The word ‘upākarma’ means ‘upakrama’ or ‘prārambha,’ or beginning. It is an annual event, akin to the reopening of school at the start of a new academic year. Typically, it is performed every time one came back to Vedic studies after a break. The yajñopavīta is typically replaced, as is the daṇḍa. A ceremony called ‘utsarjana’ is performed at the end of the academic year, after which no studies are to be undertaken until the upākarma.


The Upanayana saṃskāra marked the start of a new phase of life for the boy. He was no longer a child and would embark on a life of discipline and focussed study. One of the suggestions of the ritual was that the young boy was a traveller, getting ready for an arduous journey on the road to wisdom. In order to reach his destination, he had to be determined like a stone. He needed to be in harmony with the mind and heart of his teacher. In this long and lonely journey, he was promised the support of all the deities and the forces of nature. The great ideals held before him were Indra and Agni – the former representing kṣātra and power, the latter representing brāhma and brilliance.[3] If the student walked the path correctly, he emerged as a noble, learned, wise citizen of the land, fully fit to contribute to the world.


Thanks to Pradeep Chakravarthy for getting me to write this essay. Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh and Dr. Koti Sreekrishna, who have always supported and encouraged me, were kind enough to go through the essay and give their detailed feedback. Shashi Kiran B N, a young scholar-poet went through the essay and offered valuable suggestions. Yet another scholar-poet, Arjun Bharadwaj, helped me with getting some of the reference books needed for this essay. My heartfelt gratitude to all of them.


Achari, Sri Rama Ramanuja. Saskāras: The Hindu Sacraments. Srimatham, 2015 <http://www.srimatham.com/uploads/5/5/4/9/5549439/hindu_samskaras.pdf>

Devuḍu. Mahādarśana. Bangalore: Devuḍu Pratiṣṭhāna, 2009

H H Sri Rangapriya Swami’s lecture on the Gāyatrī mantra

Harshananda, Swami. Upanayana: Sandhyāvandana and Gāyatrīmantrajapa. Chennai: Sri Ramakrishna Math.

Harshananda, Swami. A Concise Encyclopaedia of Hinduism. Volume 3. R-Z. Bangalore: Ramakrishna Math, 2008

Kane, Pandurang Vaman. History of Dharmaśāstra. Vol. II, Part I. Poona: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 1941

Pandey, Rajbali. Hindu Saskāras: Socio-Religious Study of the Hindu Sacraments. New Delhi: Motilal Banarasidass, 1969

Ṛgvedasaṃhitā. Vol. 17. Ed. Rao, H. P. Venkata. Mysore: Sri Jayachamarajendra Vedaratnamala, 1948-62

Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh’s seven-part lecture series in Kannada titled Ṣoḍaśa-saṃskāragaḻu at Gokhale Institute of Public Affairs (GIPA) in December 2005

The Sixteen Samskaras <http://cincinnatitemple.com/articles/SixteenSamskaras.pdf>



[1] HDS, pp. 334-35

[2] During the Nāmakaraṇa saṃskāra, typically the child is given three names – one is the formal name to be used by the world, one is a name used by family and close friends, and the third is reserved for rituals and spiritual purposes

[3] Also, Indra was a representation of strength, valour, and determination; Āditya (in the celestial realm) and Agni (in the terrestrial realm) were representatives of light, warmth, and brilliance; Varuṇa represented the cosmic order and reminded us of the great debt that we have to repay to the universe



Hari is a writer, translator, violinist, and designer with a deep interest in Vedanta, Carnatic music, education pedagogy design, and literature. He has worked on books like The New Bhagavad-Gita, Your Dharma and Mine, Srishti, and Foggy Fool's Farrago.