“Yajnasoothram” technically known as or “Yajnopaveetham” is worn by the Braahmanan and certain other communities, around the trunk of their body over the left shoulder and under the right arm, and represents clothing. In early times, clothing was of two kinds, “Anthareeyam“, a piece of covering cloth, and “Uthareeyam“, a cloth or hide to cover the chest to keep the lungs warm and strong during Vedam recital. Yajnopaveetham got the name Yajnopaveetham as it is to be specially worn during sacred rituals such as yajnam. Yajnam means Vishnu, while Upaveetham connotes a covering, and thus, together the word could mean a cover for the god that dwells in the heart. Since the soul is supposed to dwell in the heart, Upaveetham got the other name , Soothram.
It is made of cotton thread or cloth or of Kusa grass wound around three times with the ends formed into a knot. There are different versions as to what the three represent – Sat-Chit-Aanandam; Sathwa-Rajas-Thamo Gunams; Brahmaavu-Vishnu- Maheswaran; Jnaana-Itchha-Kriyas; Bhoor-Bhuva-Swar Lokams, etc. Each of the three has nine strands representing nine Devans : 1. Pranavam (Omkaaram), 2. Agni, 3. Naagam ( sarpam ), 4. Soman, 5. Pithru, 6. Prajaapathi, 7. Vasu, 8. Yaman, and 9. Vishve devtas,the rest of the Devathas.
Wearers of Yajnopaveetham shall have control over their mind, word and body. It is worn to make one eligible to perform sacred rituals, for improving Brahma-Thejas, to receive God’s blessings through destruction of all troubles, and to enable one to perform all the daily rites and rituals prescribed in the Sruthi and Smrthi texts. It is to be worn while serving teachers, the elderly and guests, and while performing Homam, Japam, consumption of food, Aachamanam, Vedam-learning, etc. which have led to wearing it all the time.
In olden times, women also wore Yajnasoothram. The husband brings her to the Homasaala with Yajnasoothram worn around her. During later periods, wearing of women was considered unnecessary perhaps because unmarried women were a rarity in ancient Hindu families, and the husband and wife were considered as one entity, and the yagnopavitam worn by the husband was considered to represent that of the wife too. This might later have led to the present stricture that women shall not wear it.
Boys begin wearing Yajnopaveetham with Upanayanam, which is the initiation into Brahmacharyam. It is made on an auspicious day and the maker is clean (Sudhham), and in the prescribed manner with “Pavithram” knot representing Brahmam, and symbolises the three “Gunams” that emerge from, and then merge with Brahmam. Though no Manthram is needed, first, a prayer is offered to Ganapathy and then Gaayathri may be chanted while making it. However, the prescribed Manthram is to be chanted while wearing a new yagyopavitam. It is worn over the left shoulder and under the right arm, reaching down almost to the right hip.
It is not to be touched with unclean hands. Bramhans hang the lower part of it after removing through the right arm, over the right ear lobe while in the urinal or latrine. It prevents polluting it ,both literally and also due to the belief that Braahmanan’s right ear is blessed with the spirit of the sacred “Ganga”, thereby preventing pollution. It is to be reversed to the right shoulder and under the left arm during some ceremonies like “Sraaddham”, “Pindam”, etc., and is called “prachina viti” (wearing towards left).
A broken and mended or lost yagyopavita should be replaced at the earliest opportunity. It is to be worn while in an open space facing east and looking at the sun, accompanied by the chanting of prescribed Manthrams, after the morning bath and Sandhyaavandanam. The old sutra is broken, removed, tied around a small stone and thrown into the tank.
The strands of the sacred thread have symbolic meaning that varies by community and region. The sacred thread has three strands. A bachelor wears only one sacred thread; a married man wears two of them making it six strands. If the man has married and has fathered a child, he wears three, which makes nine strands. Ancient texts refer to the wearing of the Yajñopavītam in three forms:
where the Yajñopavītam is worn over the left shoulder and under the right arm. This is for Gods. Upavītam is also called savya (Katyayana Shrauta Sutra, etc.).
where the Yajñopavītam is worn around the neck and over the chest. Nivīta form is to be used during Rishi Tharpana, sexual intercourse, answering the calls of nature, etc., and during ancestor worship/funeral rites (Shadvimsha Brahmana, Latyayana, etc.).
is where the Yajñopavītam is worn above the right shoulder and under the left arm. This is for Spirits and is used by men when performing the death ceremonies of an elder. Prachīnavītam is also called apsavya (Katyayana Shrauta Sutra, Manusmriti, etc.).
In some communities, later, at the occasion of wedding, a further three strands of Yajñopavītam are added to make for a six-strand bunch. In some communities, the custom is of one thread more being added at the birth of every child. In some interpretations, these strands of Yajñopavītam are intended to constantly remind the man of his worldly responsibilities. Three original strands of Yajñopavītam (each consisting of three) make up nine strands of Yajñopavītam, to which three are added for wife and one for children, making a total of 13 individual strands of Yajñopavītam in some communities.
Yagnopaveeta dharanaa Vidhi:
After Ganesha Prathana of Suklaambaradharam Vishnum Shashi Varnam Chaturbhujam prasanna vadanam dhyaayet sarva Vighnopashaantaye/
there should be Sankalpa: Mamopaathaa Samasta duritaksaya dwaaraa Shri Paraneshwara Preetyartham Shrouta Smaarta vihita sadaachaara nityakarmaanushthaana yogyataa siddhyartham Brahma tejobhi vriddhartham yagnopa dhaaranam karishye/
After the Sankalpa: Yagnopaveeta dhaarana Mahaa Mantrasya, Parabrahma Rishih, Trishthup chhandaya Paramatma Devataa, Yagnopaveeta dharanye viniyogah/
Then while wearing each of the three threads separately each time reciting the Mantra as follows: Yagnopaeetam paramam pavitram Prajaapateryat sahajam purastaat, Ayushyamagriam pratimuscha shubhram yagnopapeetam balamastu tejah/
There-after, prokshana Mantras be recited as follows: Om Aapohishthaa mayo bhuvah, Taana Urjey dadhaatana Maheranaaya chaksasey/ Yovisshavatamo rasah tasyabhaajayateha nah, Usiteeriva Maatarah tasma arangamaavah/ Yasya Kshayaaya jinvatha Aapo janayathaa nah, Bhurbhuvassuvah/
Then the Sacred Thread is touched thrice by way of Abhimantrana of the Three Brahma Granthis pra-
ying to Brahma-Vishnu- Maheshwaras. Some pray to nine Devatas holding the nine threads. This would be followed by ten times Gayatri and Jala prakshalana of the Upaveeta and its exposure to Surya Deva reciting the Ruchas viz. Uddhutyam Tamasaspari pashyanto Jyotiruttamam, Devam Devatraa Suryamaganma Jyotiruttamam/ Uddhtyam Jaatavedasam Devam Vahanti Ketavah , Drushey Vishgvaaya Suryam/ Finally after showing the Upaveeta to Surya, wear it reciting the ‘Yagnopaveetyam Paramam Pavitram’ Mantra again from the left shoulder around the neck down to the right side of the back. This posture is called ‘Upaveeta’, while the revese is ‘Praacheenaa veeti’ and wearing it around the neck as a Maala or garland is callewd ‘Niveeta’. The Yagnopaveeta Dhaari is required to bathe and change it as per the Vidhi prescribed above in case of touching :Chiti kaashtaa, Chiti Dhuma, Chandaala, Rajaswalaa, Shava, Sutikaa/( Burnt wood, Chandala, Rajaswala, dead body and Garbhini). At the time of performing ablutions, one should observe Kantha limbana or circling one’s neck and circling the right ear. Every four months the Sacred Thread should be changed as per the afore mentioned procedure. Also some persons change the old Thread in the eventality of births and deaths of the near ones. At the time of Visarjana or removal of the old or torn or otherwise impure Yagnopaveeta, the Visarjana Mantra states: Upaveetam Bhinna tantum Jeernam kashmala dushitam, Visrujaamki punarbrahma varcho Deerghaayarastumey! So saying the Sacred Thread is discarded. If the same has come out or slided off by mistake, then without Mantra wear a replacement and by reciting Manojyotih and Aagney Vratapate Vratam charishyaami taccha-keyam tanmeraadhyataam, Vaayo vratapatey Aditya Vratapatey/ ,
perform Aajyaahutis and wear a new Yagopaveeta as per the procedure laid as above.
In case of non-wearing of Yagopaveeta and non-observance of minimum duties expected of a Brahmana, there is a Prayaschittha Vidhi prescribed. The Sankalpa for this Vidhi is: Yagnopaveeta naasha janya dosha niraasaartham Prayaschittam karishye/ As per the instructions of Acharya, the Kartha has to perform homaas to Savitra Devata / Surya of thousand eight times or of minimum hundred eight times with Tila and Aajya. On wearing the newYagnopaveeta as per procedure, the Kartha should intensify the Gayatri Japa to atone for the lost time of Sandhyaa -vandanaadi Vidhis. In the case of the non wearing of Upaveeta, then hundred Gayatri Japa is required; if without the Sacred Thread one performs Bhojana, then he has to perform eight thousand Gayatri; if the Upaveeta falls from the left shoulder to mid-arm or fore arm then three or six Pranaayamaas are to be done and a new Upaveeta is required to be worn. To ‘Brahmachaari’ only one Yagnopaveeta is required but to a Snaataka Vratastha two or three required. Those who desire to live long should wear more than many Sacred threads.