U is for Upanayanam – The word upanayana means ‘taking near’ or ‘leading to’. The upanayanam itself is a traditional rite of passage typically performed at seven years of age. It traditionally marked the end of childhood free of rules and the start of being a student by taking certain vows. At this time, the child is initiated into another phase of life. He is taught the ‘Gayatri Mantra’ from the guru (the child’s father is considered as the first guru/teacher) – this mantra/chant is considered to be powerful and will help protect the child by keeping the mind and body in positive spirits. Once the ceremony is completed, the initiate is referred to as ‘dvija’ or twice-born (by gaining the knowledge of the Gayatri). I found a couple of informative descriptions and details here and here.
There are similar rites of passage in other cultures/religions as well.
So how does this fit into my theme? (My theme – Favorite Childhood Memories, be it games or books or food or movies or
just random somethings – with one additional twist – these are memories I
would like to build for the future as well – with my kids!)
This ceremony is one I have been a part of many times over in my childhood – the most important one being my brother’s thread ceremony, and that of cousins, and friends. Now we have, as a family, already fit it into my theme, when we performed this sacred rite of passage for my son in July 2012 in India with family and friends taking part in the celebrations. It was a wonderful time, especially emotional my father-in-law passed away a couple of months after this ceremony, and the memories of his being a part of this from planning to enjoying his grandson’s upanayanam made it all the more special. My son is now 14 and recites the Gayatri as part of this initiation regularly (well, as regularly as he can!).
Here are a few photos from the ceremony – 1. My brother (the boy’s uncle) holds a ceremonial cloth over the child and his guru (dad) while the Gayatri mantra is recited to him; 2. He is brought into the hall on the shoulders of his maternal uncles with much fanfare (can you see the shower of flower petals); 3. Part of the items needed for the ceremony (coconuts, sweets, other offerings); 4. Before we proceed to the venue of the ceremony, an oil bath is needed and the child’s paternal aunt does a symbolic massage of oil on his head; 5. A little after the main part of the ceremony is over, joy in being the center of everything 🙂 6. Various aunts, cousins, and family friends wait in line as my son performs the Bikshakaranam (where the boy seeks alms from his mother and other ladies (and with most of our family members, aunts, uncles, cousins on both sides; as well many friends attending – he had this going for some time!)
|Image attribution: wikipedia|
And one more for U – it also stands for urgai (the Tamil word for pickle, pronounced oorgaai). Why is this part of my theme? Pickles in India are made from various vegetables and fruits by chopping/grating them and marinating in spices infused edible oils or brine. These pickles are found in most Indian homes (home-made or store-brought) and we grew up eating them with many meals; in many forms and many ways. And now my DD (11 years of age who loves spicy foods) loves pickles, especially the ones both her grandmoms make!!
Her favorite one – the quick cut mango pickle. (Note: You could always substitute Granny Smith Apples where you cannot find mangoes)