crude, as it is associated with animality: but rebirth through discipline and
learning is considered exalted and holy.
     The meaning and purpose of the upanayana has changed in the course of
time. In the Atharva Veda the term upanayana is used in the sense of ‘taking
charge of a student’, while later it meant the initiation of a child by a teacher
into sacred lore. It had the Vedic connotation in the Brahmana and the Sutra
periods also; but when its mystic significance increased, the idea of the
second birth through religious ceremonies overshadowed the original idea of
initiation for education. Thus originally, education was the main purpose of
this samskara, and ritual was an ancillary item. But in course of time the
performance of the ritual and the vratadesa or the undertaking of the vow
became the chief object and education secondary.
     The first thing connected with this sacrament is the age of the recipient;
and it is decided on the basis of the social status and the professional
requirements of the child. A Brahmin is to be initiated at the age of eight, a
Kshatriya at eleven, and a Vaishya at twelve. The last permitted limit of age
for the performance of the upanayana of a Brahmin is sixteen, of a Kshatriya
twenty-two, and of a Vaishya twenty-four.
     Investiture of the student yajnopavita (sacred thread) has become, in
course of time, the most important item of this sacrament. The teacher
performs this ceremony with an appropriate mantra, asking for the recipient’s
long life, purity, strength, and illumination, while the latter remains looking
towards the sun. The constant wearing of the yajnopavita suggests that the
life of the twice-born is a continuous sacrifice necessitated by the socio-
religious duties. Similarly, ajina (deer skin) and danda (staff) are also
presented to the student, who has to lead a strict life of discipline almost like
an ascetic.
     Vedarambha (beginning of Vedic study) forms the thirteenth samskara in
the list. This sacrament as also the next one are not mentioned in the earliest
lists of the samskaras preserved in the Dharmasutras. It seems that though
the upanayana marked the beginning of secondary education, it did not
synchronise with Vedic study, when the non-Vedic studies grew in extent.
Therefore a separate samskara was felt necessary to initiate Vedic study
independently: the vedarambha-samskara thus came into existence. Every
student has to master his own branch     of the Vedas as settled by his parentage,