sacred thread
   The sacred thread is a cord worn by upper-caste Hindu males over the right shoulder, running across the chest and around the left side of the body. It consists of three strands before mar-riage and six or more thereafter. This thread can be worn by any of the three upper castes (jatis), BRAHMIN (priestly), KSHATRIYA (warrior), or VAISHYA (merchant). In practice, Brahmins (the priestly caste) commonly wear the thread, while Kshatriya (warriors) and Vaishya (merchants) wear it less often.
   For Brahmins the investiture of the thread traditionally marks the beginning of the “student life” and is a very important ceremony. It is usu-ally done at a young age (eight–12 years) and is considered a “second birth.”
   Further reading: Klaus K. Klostermaier, A Survey of Hinduism (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989); Abbé J. A. Dubois, Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies. Translated from the French and edited by Henry K. Beauchamp, 3d ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1959); V. Pandian, Upanayana in Social Perspective (Madras: Vijaya Vanamahdevi, 1980).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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