Imatges de pÓgina

the sacred thread; but, although their custom is not interfered with, no value is set upon it by orthodox Hindus. They cannot, for example, read the Vedas, or even hear them read. Authority to do this, in the case of lawful thread wearers, is conveyed by the ceremony of Upanayanam, or second spiritual birth, of which the thread is the outward symbol. In these modern days, some other classes of Sudras have also adopted the yajnopavītam merely to add to their own importance; but, in all such cases, it is of no true religious value and is merely aping at a condition to which tbe wearers have no true title. I have heard of a case in the Orissa country where a certain Raja of the Sudra caste, some time ago made himself important by assuming authority to invest people of his own caste with the thread. Some of them, to please him, appear to have submitted to the investiture, and adopt the thread-thus adding to the number of the unlawful wearers of this coveted mark of distinction. It is said that one unlucky wight who, on a visit to that country, was presented with this badge of honour, was, on his return home, deprived of the same, and well beaten for his presumption by his indignant neighbours—thus meeting with something like the fate of the ass in the fable who was dressed in the skin of a lion. I am given to understand that, in other parts of India, there are other castes who, though neither Brahmins nor Vaisyas, have some title to the thread and its accompanying privileges, as in the case of the Goldsmith caste above alluded to. For instance, the Vaidyas, the native doctor caste of Bengal, appear to enjoy this honour. They are said to have sprung from the union of a Brahmin with a female Vaisya and hence this privilege. It must however be borne in mind that, in these sketches, we are looking at things chiefly from the point of view of South India in general and the Circars in particular.

Having thus seen who are entitled to wear the sacred thread, it may be well to mention particulars of the thing itself and also of the mode of investiture. Originally there appears to have been some difference in the kind of thread worn, according to the class of the wearer.


The sacrificial thread of a Brahman must be made of cotton, so as to be put on over his head, in three strings; that of a Kshatriya, of sana thread only; that of a Vaisya of woollen thread. (Manu II. 44.)

This is the law; and probably in ancient times the material of which the thread was made did thus differ, according to the caste of the wearer; but, certainly, in the present day no such difference is seen. The cord is universally made of cotton. A peculiar kind of very fine cotton is what ought to be employed; but, ordinarily, the common cotton is used. The threads are supposed to be prepared by Brahmins. Perhaps other than the Brahmins, and Vaisyas are not so particular as to the manufacture ; but these two castes, certainly, are very careful in this respect. They are generally to be obtained in any ordinary bazar; but the very orthodox will frequently procure their supply from the house of the Brahmins who may happen to be engaged in the manufacture, and thus ensure purity. We say the Brahmins and Vaisyas or merchant caste, are thus particular; as for the Kshatriyas, unless we allow the claim of the Rājputs to be of this ancient warrior caste, they are practically extinct. Parasurāma, one of the incarnations of Vishnu, is said to have annihilated the Kshatriyas. The cost of a thread is very insignificant a few pice sufficing to purchase a complete one.

The yajnopavītam consists of several skeins of cotton thread; each thread consists of three strands, each skein has three threads, and a married man's cord must consist of not less than three skeins. Thus it will be seen that the number three enters very largely into the structure of the cord itself, and the ceremony of investiture. This is said to represent the three gods, Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva; the three sacrificial fires; three divisions of time-morn, noon, and night; and the three worlds-heaven, earth and hell. Each skein is tied with a peculiar knot called Brahma's knot. It is made by making three turns with the threads and so tying the knot that the ends do not appear on the outside. In making each knot the following incantation is repeated by the maker :

ओं कांरमुच्चरन् ब्रह्मसूत्रं बध्वाथ धारयेत् । कर्मशुद्धित्वमाप्नोति सर्वदेवात्मकत्वतः ॥

Pronouncing the word Om, the Brahma
Sutram must be tied, and afterwards worn
(The wearer) will receive purity in all his rites,

It being the personification of all the gods. The youth when first invested with the cord being only a bachelor, receives only a single skein, and he cannot wear more than a single skein until he is married, when he must wear at least, three skeins, although he may wear five. Usually, young married men wear three skeins, and the elders five. It is not lawful to wear more than five; at least it is not customary. The Brahmin youth as we have seen, must be invested with his cord at about seven or eight years of age ; he cannot be married until thus invested, but he may, and in fact often does, marry within a day or two, of the ceremony. Amongst some of the Banians or Vaisyas, it is customary to defer the Upanayanam until immediately before marriage; so that if a young man does not marry until he is twenty or thirty years of age, he is not invested with the cord until that time.

The ceremony of investiture may be briefly described as follows. On the appointed day a fire is lighted, round which are seated the relatives and friends of the novice. This fire is a very important feature of the Upanayanam; indeed the whole ceremony is called the Agni Karyam or fire worship. It is kept alight during the whole four days during which the ceremony lasts; and it is the proper thing to feed it, as far as possible, with the twigs of certain kinds of trees--principally those of the Indian fig tribe. At the repeating of the various mantrams which form part of the ritual, ghee is poured on to the fire as an offering. The father of the youth to be invested takes a thread of nine strands, and puts it upon his son. This is not the true Yajnopavitam nor has it the Brahma knot, neither are mantrams said over it. After some time, during which various rites are performed, and the ears of the boy are bored for ear rings, the ears being then adorned with thin rings of gold, the true cord is produced—a single skein of three threads. To this is attached a bit of the skin of a male deer; or if procurable, a long strip of this skin is used to be worn as a sash, together with the cord. Deer skin is considered to be very pure and also to be capable of imparting purity; for this reason untanned deer skin is much employed for covering the boxes, and other receptacles, in which are kept the household gods, and things pertaining therets. It is also much used as a mat to sit upon when performing the daily rites, and at other like periods. Mention is made in the smritis (the teaching of the Sages) of the purity acquired by wearing deer skin; and there are several injunctions on the matter in the laws of Manu for instance. For example

Let the student in theology wear for their mantles, the hides of black antelopes, of common deer or of goats, with lower vests of woven sana of cshumā and of wool, in the direct order of their classes. (II. 41.)

It may be here mentioned that the bit of deer skin is. kept attached to and worn with the thread for several months, when it is taken off, with some short ceremony, at a temple.

On the father putting on the true cord, he repeats the Yajnopavitam mantram-the novice saying it after him. This mantram is as follows:

यज्ञोपवीतं परमं पवित्र
प्रजापतेर्यत्सहजं पुरस्तात् ।

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This most hallowed yajnopavītam,
In former times with Brahma born,
Author of longevity; wear it, it is pure,
May this yajnopavítam become my strength and glory.

As the new and true cord is put on, the imitation one, which was first used is taken off. This completes the investiture; and the father, at once, proceeds to teach the novice the Gāyatri prayer. This is done with great care and secrecy. À cloth is thrown over the beads of both father and son, and, thus covered up, the sacred words are whispered into the ears, in as low a whisper as possible, so that the holy words may not fall upon the ears of any uninitiated one, who might possibly be within hearing distance. The Upanayanam is now complete ; and the newly received is a true dvija, duly entitled to read the Vedas, and to perform any of the religious rites of his caste.

Immediately following this investiture the youth proceeds to ask alms of those present, beginning with his mother, and then his father, and afterwards the other relatives or friends; this act is supposed to intimate a readiness, on the part of the supplicant, to provide for himself and his religious preceptor. All this takes place on the first day, and the true religious act is by this completed; but for three more days the festival is kept up, during which the novice is instructed in the morning, midday, and evening prayers, and other ceremonials; and also various sacrifices are performed at stated times. There is always much feasting and rejoicing upon these occasions-musicians are hired to enliven the company; and friends and relatives are entertained according to the ability of the host.

A new cord must be put on every year on the occasion of a certain festival. This festival is called Srāvanālapаurnavami—the full moon in the month of Srāvana (July-August). Should the cord be broken

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