(Some important things worth knowing about the Upanayan Samskar or Thread Ceremony)
There are 16 Samskaras in the ancient Hindu religion, in which the Samskar of Yajnopavit is of special importance:
�The meaning of Yajnopavit: The word is a combination of two words - Yajna + Upavit, which means something which is to be worn while performing a Yajna, without which a Yajna cannot be performed. After the Yajnopavit Samskar (Upanayan) is performed, a Brahmin boy can be called a ‘Dwij’.
�The meaning of Upanayan: Upa + Nayan = something which can take one to his Guru. It is only after the Yajnopavit Samskar is performed that the boy can go to a Guru to study the Veds. Yajnopavit is also called "Janeu" in the common parlance. In the AtharvaVed, Upanayan is mentioned in connection with bachelorhood.
�Manu has said in the Manu-Smruti (2-170) that Upanayan is the birth of the boy for a second time - called Brahma-Janma, in token of which the girdle made in the Moonj is to be worn, and in this birth, Savitri is the boy’s mother, while his Guru is his father.
�Bharuchi has mentioned in ‘Veeramitroday’ that Upanayan is that Samskar through which the boy can be taken to his Guru, i.e., the performance of which enables the person gets dedicated for learning the Vedic rules and nearness to the deities from his Guru.
�The objective of Upanayan: Rishi Aapastamba and Bharadwaj consider education to be the objective of Upanayan Samskar.
�Upanayan is the Samskar performed according to the Shrutis on the person willing to learn.
�Originally, Upanayan was only a conceptual performance of Samskar, and the actual instruction of accepting the celibacy for learning by the Acharya was of secondary importance, but later, as the actual performance of this Samskar became more and more important, the ritual part of it has now become the most important.
�The appropriate age for the Upanayan: The stipulated rule according to the ‘Gruhyasutras’, which was also approved by the Acharyas was that the Upanayan of a Brahmin boy is to be performed during the eighth year of his life, and that of a Kshatriya boy is to be performed during the eleventh year of his life. This was interpreted to mean that the Gayatri Mantra for the Brahmins was of eight alphabets, that for the Kshatriyas was of eleven alphabets, and for Vaishyas it was twelve alphabets.
�Manu says: Upanayan of a Brahmin boy willing to learn should be performed during the fifth year, that of a Kshatriya boy should be performed during the sixth year, and for the Vaishya boy, it should be performed during the eighth year.
�Later: The final limit for a Brahmin boy became sixteen, for a Kshatriya boy it became twenty two, and for a Vaishya boy it became twenty four (Parashar Guhyasutra 2-3-36-38).
�The Upanayan being mandatory: Upanayan was made mandatory during the Upanishad period. Initially, the reason for this was cultural, as it was made so to spread education, because every Aryan boy was required to spend some part of his life in a school or Gurukul. This also created the belief that Upanayan has the power to make one pious and sacred.
�How a Yajnopavit is made: A Yajnopavit is made of three threads, each of which again contains three yarns. Thus, there are nine yarns in all. The total length of these yarns is 96 chouwa (one chouwa length is the length of a yarn when it is tied once around all the four fingers of a hand put together, excluding the thumb).
�One chouwa is said to be of 1000 Mantras, which means all of them together are 96000 Mantras. A Janeu of 96 chouwa length is made only for a Brahmin. According to one opinion, Lord Brahma made a yarn, which Lord Vishnu tripled. A Janeu has three threads, which denote three Guns - Satva, Raja, Tama.
�A Yajnopavit is occupied by nine deities, each yarn by one deity - 1. Omkar Pranav, 2. Agni, the Fire God, 3. The Serpent God, 4. The Moon God, 5. The Father God, 6. Lord Prajapati Brahma, 7. Anil, the Wind God, 8. Lord Yama, 9. All the deities.
�The knot of a Yajnopavit: Lord Shiva put a knot into a Yajnopavit for the first time. A Brahma Knot is tied initially, and then more knots are added according to Pravars, a total of either three or five knots are put, because those are mainly the numbers of Pravars.
�The theological importance of the 96 chouwa of a Yajnopavit: The close connection of the 96 chouwa of a Yajnopavit with important things of our life is as follows:
�Tithi - 15
Days - 7
Constellations - 27+1==28
Tatvas - 24
Ved - 4
Months - 12
Sandhyas - 3
Gods - 3
�The qualities of a Brahmin wearing a Yajnopavit: A Brahmin wearing a Yajnopavit is supposed to possess nine qualities:
1. Control over anger
2. Control over all organs
5. Physical and mental piety
6. Humility and tenderness of mind
7. Knowledge (Worldly knowledge)
8. Spiritual and philosophical knowledge
9. Confidence and belief in the final goal
�The Gayatri Mantra taught by the Acharya during a Yajnopavit: Om Bhurbhuva Swah, Om tatsaviturvarenyam Bhargo Devasya Dheemahi Dhiyoyonah Prachodayat.
�Wearing a Yajnopavit: Before wearing a Janeu, a Viniyog is performed in respect of three Deities, Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra. During the Viniyog, one Achaman water is released on to the earth, and then the deity is invoked.
�After this, concentrating on one’s preferred deity, the Janeu should be held by the thumbs of both hands and shown to the Sun God, and then it should be worn, chanting the specific Mantra for this ritual. A married man should wear two Janeus instead of one.
�After wearing the Janeu, one should chant the Gayatri Mantra according to one’s capacity.
�The Janeu should be tied thrice around the right ear while answering a call of the nature.
�Contamination of a Yajnopavit: Forgetting to tie the Janeu around the right ear while answering a call of the nature, severing any of its threads, dropping a Janeu, attending a funeral during an eclipse, etc. contaminate a Janeu. In such a case, one must first wear a new Janeu before discarding the old one, and chanting the special Mantra given below, take out the contaminated one over the head. Then the contaminated Janeu should be immersed into a body of water.
�The Mantra to be said while taking off a Yajnopavit: Om Etavaddin paryantam brahmatvam dharitam maya, jeernatvat parttyago gachcha sutra yatha sukham.
�The rituals related to a Yajnopavit and their importance: In this ritual, blessings of the parents, Acharya and other elder persons are sought after 1.time, 2. arrangements, 3. lunch for all, 4. bath, 5. wearing the Koupin, 6. the thread, 7. wearing the Yajnopavit, 8. wearing the skin, 9. taking the holy stick, 10. token performance, 11. touching the heart, 12. sitting on the stone seat, 13. acceptance of the pupil by the Acharya, 14. instructions, 15. chanting the Savitri Mantra, 16. invoking the Fire God, 17. Asking alms, 18. learning the new principles, 19. Triratra Vrutta etc., and then the Acharya is to be presented with clothing, food and a token payment.
�The purpose of the Upanayan Samskar: According to Shounak Rishi, Goddess Savitri who holds the universe is herself a form of the intellect, and in order to obtain her divine blessings for having the education, the person desirous of doing so should worship her. Even today, the Samskar of Upanayan is regarded very important for making the pupil intelligent, powerful, talented and civilized.
�The changed concepts and principles of Upanayan, its changed atmosphere and social problems with reference to it: In the times when Upanayan was a lively Samskar performed at the beginning of the learning period of a student, it certainly created a suitable and conducive atmosphere. It was indicative of the beginning of a new chapter in a man’s life, and the boy began a strictly disciplined life. It was an indication that the boy had started a journey on the endless pursuit of knowledge. He was expected to be very tough and determined in his efforts to meet his objectives. There was required to be a complete oneness between him and the Guru. The idols that were placed before him were Indra who was the most powerful, and the Sun God and Fire God who were the givers of life and light. When he followed these ideals and used what he learned in his practical life, he was certain to be a complete human being, a capable man and a successful and wise person.
�But now in present times, a lot of contradictions and defects have got in this Samskar, which have out a question mark before it.