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Wearing the sacred thread or the ‘Janeu’ is one of the most important rites de passage for Hindus. This ceremony of wearing the sacred thread or the ‘Yagnopavitra’ is also known as Upanayanam.
The Upanayanam ceremony is generally associated with the higher caste Hindus. It is mandatory for the Brahmin and the Kshatriya boys to wear the sacred thread. The Upanayanam ceremony is usually performed at the age of 7 when the child is ready for schooling.
The thread is given to the child as a reminder to the commitment that the child would stay completely committed to learning and education, avoiding all distractions.
During the Upanayanam the child receives his first lesson of reciting the ‘Gayatri Mantra’ from his father who becomes his first ‘Guru’ or teacher.
How is the ritual conducted? Well, looking at the word Yagnopavit, Yagno or in other words Yagya is the sacred fire in which all major Hindu ceremonies are conducted.
Lord Agni or the God of Fire is always given great importance and in all major prayers Lord Agni is worshipped first and is asked to make himself accept any offering that will be provided at the beginning of the ritual.
Since he is the God that accepts sacrifices he is a messenger who can send messages to all the other deities of which the universe is composed of. Lord Agni is known as the ever young as fires are lit every day and is immortal.
In the Rig Veda which is the first out of the four Vedas Lord Agni being an extremely important god is worshipped first since he accepts all sacrifices and purifies with the help of fire and samagri (Samagri is a very purifying and aromatic mixture of items which when put together make any surrounding very pure without any trace of pollution).