Upanayanam is one of the most important Samskaras. “Upa” means ‘close’ and “Nayanam” means ‘to bring’. Upanayanam means to bring closer to the Guru or Divine. Upanayanam also known as the ‘sacred thread ceremony’ and is performed to mark the commencement of formal education in the Vaidic tradition. It is an initiation process to learn the sacred Gayatri Mantra. Upanayanam ceremony includes the wearing of Yajnopavitam (sacred thread) on the body.
The Gayatri mantra is one of the greatest prayers mankind has. Gayathri is same form as Durga, Lalitha, Kamakshi etc. It is said repeatedly that once Upanayanam is done Gayathri manthra must be chanted three times a day at sunrise, mid-day, and sunset till death of the person. Even if any other prayer is postponed/delayed/not chanted, it is a must that one chants Gayathri Manthra after Upanayanam.
Manthra is defined as – manana thrayethe ithi manthra – meaning one must chant inside him without moving lips. We should never ever recite manthra – especially Gayathri Manthra for any other to listen. In olden times Gayathri Manthra used to be chanted by women also but now-a-days only men who have gone through Upanayanam are supposed to chant.
As Sri Sri Ravishankar said Gayatri Japa means – let my intellect be inspired by the Divine. It is our intellect which blocks the vast Divinity from expressing itself fully in life. So, the prayer is – may the Divine inspire my intellect; may the Supreme Energy manifest in my life and in my intellect.” During Upanayanam three threads are placed across the shoulder and the threads signify that one has the responsibility towards knowledge, parents and society. It signifies carrying our responsibilities.