[Advaita-l] Yagnyopaveetam

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Fri Aug 5 22:42:18 CDT 2005

On Fri, 5 Aug 2005, U.K Anumula wrote:

> What is the significance of "yagnyopaveetam (sacred thread)?

yajna + upavita.  Yajna is a sacrifice or Vedic karma in general.  Upavita 
means it is worn draped over the left shoulder.  This is for Deva karya. 
For Pitr karya it is worn prachinavit (over the right shoulder.)

It is the triple thread worn by a person who has undergone the 
symbolic rebirth of upanayana samskara and is dvija (twice-born) qualified to
perform Vedic karma.

>  Why is it worn 
> by some castes and not by others?

Because only Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, and Vaishyas and furthermore only 
the boys among them have the adhikara to perform Upanayana samskara.  And 
for the most part Kshatriyas and Vaishyas have abandoned the practice or 
only wear it perfunctorily.  (See Gandhiji -- a Gujarati Vaishyas -- 
autobiography for one example.)  So it is basically only Brahmanas who 
wear it.

Furthermore in the Advaita tradition, sannyasis even if they have the 
right, do not wear yajnopavit because as I said it is a symbol of karma. 
But in e.g. Vaishnava traditions which believe in jnana-karma samuccaya, 
even the sannyasis wear it.

> Is there any significance to the number of 
> threads a 'brahmachari' can wear as contrasted with the number worn by 
> married persons?

A married man wears two yajnopavits one for himself and one on his wifes 
behalf.  It is the same as if any ordinary person hired a purohit to 
perform some puja for them.  The yajamana has to go through a priest as he 
cannot actually perform the ritual himself but he gets the "credit" 
(punya) not the priest.  In the same way women are equally capable of 
performing karma and earn punya but they have no right to upanayana so 
they go through their husbands.

>  Is there a uniform code for wearing the yagyopaveetam for 
> all Hindus?

No the exact details will depend on the grhya sutra of the Vedic Shakha 
the person belongs to.  But its pretty similiar for all.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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