Janeu is a consecrated thread that is worn by each and every Hindu Brahmin of India. This holy thread of 'Janeo' suggests the development of a male, from a young boy to a man. It is believed that a boy cannot be surmised as "Dvija" (twice born) until he wears the janeu. Besides the Brahmins, Janeo thread is also worn by the Kshatriyas and Vaishyas. The type of Janeu is different for different caste groups or sects of people of the Indian subcontinent.
One is Brahmgandh Janeu (with 5 knots or 3 knots), which is meant for Brahmins and the other is Vishnugandh Janeu (with one knot), meant for other classes. In case a Brahmin desires to become scholarly in the Vedas, he must wear janeu at 5 years of age. If a Kshatriya desires to gain strength, he should wear janeo at 6 and if a Vaishya desires for success, he must wear the Janeu at 8 years of age. Janeu is generally made of cotton thread; however Kshatriya and Vaishya wear threads made out of hempen and wool respectively.
Janeu (Thread) Ceremony
Brahmins celebrate the development of a boy through "Upanayanam Samskara" (sacred thread ceremony). The ceremony is generally observed between the ages of seven and fourteen. In case the ceremony could not take place due to any reason all through this age period, then it is required to be done before the marriage. The purpose of thread ceremony is to prepare a young man to share the responsibilities of elders. The thread is worn by the man in the company of a group chant of 'Gayatri' mantra. The thread is twisted in upward direction to make certain that 'Sattwaguna' (good quality of truth) prevails. The ceremony also suggests that the wearer of 'Janeu' can participate in the family rituals, from now onwards.
Significance of three strands in Janeu
Brahmins use 'Janeu' thread with three strands. These three strands of 'Janeo' have been studied many a times and different personalities gave several opinions regarding this tradition. To some people, the three strands stand for the Hindu Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. Others interpreted it as symbolical of Mahasarasvati, Mahalakshmi and Mahakali. Many people believed it to be related with past, present and future.
A number of persons stated it to be representative of three qualities - sattva, rajas and tamas. A few considered the three strands as sign of three states-wakefulness, dream and deep sleep. Some of them mentioned it to signify three dimensions of Heaven (swarga), Earth (mrityuloka) and Nether Regions (pataloka). Out of all opinions, the most logical is janeu's account with Ida, pingala and susumna nadi, through which the 'kundalini' (hidden) energy reveals in 'prana' and realization.
How to wear Janeu at different occasions
Janeu is a not an ordinary thread, its sanctity is regarded to get disturbed if it is not worn properly. Here are given different methods to wear Janeu at different occasions.
· To attend or perform any auspicious ceremony, one should wear 'janeu' hanging from the left shoulder (Upaviti).
· For attending or performing inauspicious event, one should wear 'janeu' hanging from the right shoulder (Prachnaviti).
· In case the person wears 'janeu' round the neck like a garland, then, he is called as 'Niviti'.
· While going for daily ablutions or doing impure tasks, the holy thread must be raised and its upper part ought to be put behind ear.
· Males and females both can wear 'janeu', yet females should wear it around the neck.
· Following a birth or death in the family, 'janeu' should be removed, again a new thread ought to be worn after 15 days of event.
· One must replace the old or broken thread with a new thread.