Saturday, October 18, 2008

Janehu/Upanayanam - The Sacred Thread ceremony

Hello there,

The Janehu/Upanayanam ceremony is a very important tradition among the Brahmins. After the Namkaran (naming) ceremony, it is probably the next biggest occasion for the Brahmin boy. This ceremony marks the boy's entry into studies.

The Upanayanam ceremony takes place when the boy is around 7-8 years old. A sacred thread, called Yagnopavitam is placed around the left shouder of the boy. This thread is a composite of 3 threads, signifying Goddesses Gayatri (thought), Saraswati (word) and Savitri (deed) respectively. There is also a knot in the middle that signifies the unending Brahman.
A head priest whispers the Gayatri Mantra into the boy's ears, and he is formally initiated into education.

After this, the boy is supposed to tie the thread around his ear whenever he passes urine, so as to avoid getting it into contact with the excretory organs and thus getting contaminated. The thread is also changed once a year on the occasion of Shravani Purnima, the full moon day in the month of Shravan. This is also known as Avaani Avittam in Tamil, and coincides with the Raksha Bandhan or Rakhi festival of North India.

The below photo shows Brahmins taking part in the thread changing ceremony.

Well, so much so for the religious part of it. But what is the factual meaning behind this Janehu/Upanayanam ceremony? Let us explore.

Though the fact about keeping the thread pure by avoiding contact with the excretory organs is understandable, there is a hidden meaning in this practice.

It is a scientifically proven fact that a vein passing through the ear regulates the flow of urine. Therefore, when the boy wears the sacred thread around his ear while passing urine, he is unconciously helping his urinary system to regulate the urine flow, thus keeping his urinary system, bladder, etc. healthy and free of problems.

Further, we should take into account the fact that the Brahmins of olden days did not lead a very active lifestyle (i.e.) they were mostly conducting Pujas, where their primary role was to be seated and chant Mantras. In this scenario, it would have been difficult to keep their kidneys in top-shape. This is why this alternative system of Yagnopavitam (sacred thread) has been formulated.

This practice is not something that is to be done away with, as there are chances of this problem being carried on down the generations. This practice of Yagnopavitam can also be carried out in other castes - after all, keeping our urinary system healthy is not caste specific, right?

So why is this Janehu/Upanayanam ceremony not done for girls? Well, they have other ways of regulating their urine flow. More about that in the next post...
Nikhil Mundra



manju said...

Hi Nikhil, I like your well researched posts. Good explanation of the 'upanayanam' ceremony.:)

Nikhil Mundra said...

Hello Ms.Manju,

Thanks a lot for your continued patronage and appreciation.

Nikhil Mundra

Hindu Atheist said...

I'm amazed by your explanation.

It is a scientifically proven fact that a vein passing through the ear regulates the flow of urine.

Can you provide the relevant reference for your statement?

Therefore, when the boy wears the sacred thread around his ear while passing urine, he is unconciously helping his urinary system to regulate the urine flow, thus keeping his urinary system, bladder, etc. healthy and free of problems.

So let me get this straight. So brahmins do the thread ceremony to urinate better???

Also, how exactly does keeping a thread on your ear affect the veins inside the ears??????

I'm not being judgementals. Can you really help me out here. Please??

Nikhil Mundra said...

Dear HinduAtheist,

Thanks a lot for your comments about my explanation of the Janehu/Upanayanam (Sacred thread) ceremony performed on Brahmins. As I was in the midst of my 5th semester Elec Engg exams, I could not reply any sooner.

Firstly, this scientific background of the Sacred Thread ceremony is a knowledge that has been silently passed down generations. I have heard it from my Grandfather, while he must have heard it from his.

I was also similarly shocked by this explanation. That's why I decided to do some research on this topic. And I hope to justify my views by giving the relevant references below.

As you will be aware, the pituitary gland is responsible for generating hormones that aid in the functioning of our urinary system and reproductive organs. Please refer below link:

Now please refer another link which establishes the connection that applying pressure on the ear affects the pituitary gland, which in turn affects our urinary system:

Please see below link that shows how urinary retention can be cured by applying pressure on the ears:

Apart from this, various studies have been conducted confirming the link of the ears to the effective working of the urinary system, and also in helping patients getting relief from urinary stones/colics. In fact, there are various books based on Auricular therapy:

I hope all the above references will satisfy your skepticism.

It might be that the scientific practices have been woven around Gods and religion only so that they are performed correctly, and also because explaining the scientific background to everyone might not be feasible. This is why medicinal plants like Tulsi are worshipped and Temples have temple tanks to bring up the water table.

Further, during the past millenium, we have been invaded several times. Temples and places of learning have been ransacked, which leaves very little written proof of these findings by our ancient civilization.

If I, still a student less than 20 years of age can put forth such facts, I am sure that with deep research, we can collectively bring to surface many such gems in our tradition.

As I have been saying time and again through all my posts, all our ancient Hindu beliefs and practices have a deep scientific background. In fact, according to me, Hinduism is more of a "Way of Life", rather than a religion. This has been the common thread of all my posts. I talk more about science rather than focussing on the religious aspect.

Nikhil Mundra

Hindu Atheist said...

I hope all the above references will satisfy your skepticism.

No it does not. And you have proven another thing though. It just shows how ridiculously DANGEROUS Pseudo-science(

You my friend are a perfect victim. You are young. You are educated. How can it be wrong?

all our ancient Hindu beliefs and practices have a deep scientific background.

You have drawn up your conclusions even before you analyzed the evidence. A fatal mistake.

Further, if you do not believe in the Dasavathars being a scientific process of evolution, no problem. After all, its my observation, and if anyone even glances through the stages, he/she will have no doubt that Hinduism had stated the process of evolution much, much before Darwin...

Again, just shows your knowledge of Evolution (or lack their of) and how little you know about what Darwin actually did. DO you know what was darwins contribution? And do you know how much evidence (fossil, DNA to name some) exists which proved Darwin's hypothesis? Sure, you see animals of all types around you and its easy to produce incarnations of Gods around animals. The only question is: Did any one explain what is evolution? And how EXACTLY it works? Do have ANY idea how much work is being done in evolutionary biology?It took me a long time to understand these things and marvel at the contributions of modern scienc. My suggestion read atleast 5 books on evolutionary biology by respected authors before making a claim about dashavatars being *proof* of evolution. A possible list of books:

And, last but not the least, I'll be waiting for the Nobel prize for sure...

Again, I beg you, please please read some REAL science books. Don't rely on web pages from here and there. Don't fall victim to pseudo science. Read my other comment. We need young motivated people like you for science. And I sincerely and honestly wish you good luck for the Nobel Prize. I really hope you get it and make India proud. For starters, you would have to get past pseudo-science and your emotions getting in the way of reasoning though. :)

And if you do win the Nobel prize (and I sincerely wish you do), I am sure you would have traveled enough on your quest to see though random claims. Please listen to me. Keep your emotions and prejudices (about temples/islam/east/west) aside and start on a journey of true discovery.

For the sake of India's future, I hope you don't misjudge my good intentions. Good luck and best wishes.

tellmoti said...

I am so glad someone has taken this practice to task. I had my sacred thread ceremony many years ago. I'm 71 now. I can urinate just as well without the thread anywhere on my body as I urinated on the day when I followed that unnecessary and useless ritual of wrapping that thread around my ear. I am surprised that people are still defending such practices with junk "scientific" data in the 21st century. I challenge anyone, anywhere, to prove that Hindus are better urinators than any non-Hindu population around the world. Now, that would be earth-shaking science. You believers have every right to believe in anything. But, please, if you believe in such nonsense, don't try to connect Hinduism, that is still stuck in its caste system, idol worship, and cow reverence, with modern science. Your assertions are laughable and embarrassing to the non-Hindu world community.

Anonymous said...

hey everyone there.i just was browsing this blog.interesting.fellas around there might feel that just a janehu can or cant regulate urination!why is any 70 year old not interested in explain a practice which a 20year old tried too.....even aristotle the father of biology felt fishes bud from mud and flies from rotten meat.i feel you people trying to criticise hinduism better you know indians practised quarantine 3500years you understand why people were put ouside the house when someone close in their family died?think.......think before you comment..... Neednt accept.....please respect your fellow being.........biggest me....its only hinduism which teaches respects such critics,half knowledges,what not and let live