Folk Ceremony – Hindu

The Hindu ceremony known as Upanayanam, is performed as a coming of age ceremony only for boys that traditionally relates to the time in India when children were sent to school to learn with a Spiritual Master. With the Spiritual Master they learn the arts, sciences, math, mental strength etc. A priest and family members attend the ceremony where they all watch and celebrate. From the ceremony on out the boy wears a thread across his chest, and will receive a second when he marries.

During the ceremony the boy sits down while the priest sets up types of rice, oils, and makes a fire. The priest begins chanting prayers and makes offerings symbolic of sacrifices-offering foods water/liquids with the intent of humbling yourself before God. The prayer and offerings last about two hours. After that the father of the child and the priest tie the string around the child. Which is believed to bring the child strength and luck in the future. Throughout the entire ceremony the boy keeps his eyes closed.

Kunaal recently had this ceremony performed for him. He said that in modern society Hindu boys have the ceremony when they go off to college or before they leave the home for an extended period of time. After the ceremony you are no longer regarded as a boy but as a man. The ceremony is only for men because traditionally, Hindu women did not leave the home to be educated.

It is obvious that this tradition has very close religious ties with the presence of a priest, prayers, and offerings. Typically a strong-believing Hindu family would have this ceremony vs. a Hindu family that does not practice their claimed religion very closely. This ceremony can also be categorized as a form of initiation. The ceremony initiates a boy into the outside world and recognizes him as a learner of the world. The liminal period is signified by the time the boy must keep his eyes closed, from the beginning to the end of the ceremony. At the end of the ceremony the boy’s eyes open to represent being opened to the outside world and to manhood.

This ceremony appeals only to a specific group and serves to establish an identity for the Hindu man. The man constantly wears the white string across his heart. Kunaal wears his under his shirt every day and rarely takes it off. When he is marred he will receive a second string that he will also wear at all times. The practice of humbling oneself before God with offerings is also a rite of passage. The boy must be recognized not only by his family and community as a man but also by his God and the priest serves as the middleman in this transaction.

For Kunaal the ceremony was very important. It is difficult to leave home and an environment that constantly reminds him of his background/beliefs. With the Upanayanam ceremony Kunaal said that he feels as though he has his family and priest’s blessing to leave the household and become an honorable man.