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Premnath Kudva, Mangalore, India
What is a thread ceremony? 
13th-May-2006 04:57 pm
It is known as Brahmopadesam, Upanayanam, Munji, Munja, or thread ceremony. At the age of about 10 to 14 every brahmin boy has to undergo this ceremony. In old times this ceremony was essential in the life of a brahmin since without it he could not proceed to studies of the vedas. Soon after this ceremony you become a brahmachary or bachelor, I suppose this was were the Bachelor degree name originates, hah! hah! So here without much ado are the details and since Carolyn asked after seeing this post.

I might and will be out of sync here, so correct me if you remember it from your munji.

It is performed by the father to his son, and in case the father is deceased then an uncle or someother male relative will do the ceremony. Some of the things you have seen in my album are common to any hindu konkani ceremony, like the sister applying kajal to her brothers eyes, the mother and aunts showing the arthi (you have seen this at our girls b'day album too). Then there is loads of stuff that the bhatmam (priest/pandit) does during the course of the morning. All of it flies over our head since none of us really go to study the vedas after this ceremony is over (Heh! Heh! Heh!) and so are clueless and just nod our heads when he chants the mantras. He will keep asking us to say muh-muh from time to time. That is to say ditto to whatever he has said. This could be a Manglorean short cut.

Then somewere during the ceremony all of your hair (save a tuft at the back of the head called a shenddy in konkani) is to be shaved off. That practice in Mangalore (and around) had stopped much before I was born. But is still practiced else where. Mangloreans probably stopped it because some kid somewere must have bawled his lungs out when his precious hair was shorn off. Heh! Heh! I salute him:-) And the elders must have thought, anyway the kid is not going to learn the vedas, so why shave his head and hear his tantrums. So instead of leaving a lock of hair on his head, they remove a lock of hair instead. In my case even that wasn't done, and I didn't bawl or anything.

After this you change clothes to those very ordinary looking saffron coloured lungi and mundass (head gear.) This is to say that you are now renouncing your Guccis, Armanis and proceeding for a very austere life in an ashram to study the holy texts with a Guru.

You are then thought the basic manthra which you are supposed to say everyday thereafter. One of the most important is the top secret Gayathri mantra. It is spread from father to son only. If you have seen me sitting on my father's lap with a shroud around both of us that is when the mantra is narrated in my ears by my dad. We are fully covered by the shroud, to prevent anyone including my mother from overhearding and maybe to prevent anyone from lip reading. Heh! Heh! Heh! He narrates it thrice in my ears with the vain hope that I will remember it forever. He of course had relearned it from my grandfather (mom's dad) the previous day.

Then we get to wear the holy thread, which is why it is called a thread ceremony or noola madamey in tulu the local language. Literally it means thread marriage. This is a waist length thread of three strands which worn around one side of our neck, ie by passing the right hand through the loop. After marriage we have to wear two of these.

How were the old ones to know that soon Gayathri mantra CDs would be sold on the road side, if they knew they would have deleted this part long back. If at all someone will delete it, it will be a Manglorean;-) But it looks so cute that it will never be removed. Ah! And since it is anyhow on the CDs and since Amitabh Bachchan so beautifully rendered it in the movie Mohabathein here is the Gayatri mantra. I learned it when konkani seniors were ragging in Manipal during my engineering days.

Om ! Bhoor Bhuva Suvah: Thath Savithur Vare'nyam|
Bhargo' Dhevasya Dheemahi Dhiyo Yo nah: Pracho'dhayath||

Which translates
AUM, O' triple wonder of creation, continuence, and dispersion, Splendour of the three inter-linked worlds here, and around, and beyond!
[Physical, the subtle and the potential]
O' adorable immaculate One, May You, that Supreme Divine being, stimulate our intellegence for our self awakening, so that we may realize the Supreme Truth!!

There after they also teach us the Sandya Vandana, this is a prayer you have to say first thing in the morning, and last thing in the evening. Also thought is applying sandalwood paste on your body using silver seals (the seals are called Shimudru) soon after taking you morning bath. A few Manglorean konkani boys still go around wearing this sandal marks (actually one or two to my knowledge.) They are soundly mocked behind their backs, by even the most religious of konkanis. I don't know why, I mean if he likes to follow it, he should. Just like he doesn't mock me for NOT wearing it. The chaps in religion ie the priesta and their sons will of course be following this and will actually be learning the vedas. I see young kids from the priest's house holds chanting the vedas in our temples. Also Mangalore has about the only school for teaching the vedas for konkani priests mostly. Quite ironic considering we don't shave our hair and all.

Upanayanam Wiki entry
Brahmopadesam & Upanayanam This is a very technical link
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