[Advaita-l] Sandhyavandana procedure doubt

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Fri Jul 6 07:51:16 CDT 2012

Dear Abhishek,
The basic procedure is that for deva- and manushya- rites, the mode of wearing is
upavIta,  i.e. over the left shoulder and for pitR related rites, it is prAcInAvIta, over
the right shoulder. There are also some occasions when it is worn nivIta, around the
neck like a mAlA. These rules are universal in brAhmaNa ritual practice. But one of
the most wonderful features of our religion is that it accommodates a wide amount
of variation in practice, so that the same rules are interpreted quite variously from
Badrinath to Kanyakumari. This is as it should be, given the drastically different
local conditions.
The reasons for all the variations in practice will be clear when you consider that the
taittirIya AraNyaka citation made by Ramakrishnan about wearing upavIta is the basic
Sruti pramANa for wearing the yajnopavIta itself. There is a Sruti vAkya for the grass
cord (maunjI bhavati) and maunjIbandhana is another word used for the upanayana
rite, but not for cotton threads. To my knowledge, there is no other separate Sruti
vAkya that says one must wear the sUtra AND another vastra over it. 
The yajnopavIta made of three cotton threads knotted together is itself a permanent
substitute for the vastra mentioned in the AraNyaka. And the small piece of deerskin
that is tied on it at the time of upanayana and annual upAkarmA (for students) stands
for the ajina mentioned in the Sruti. Again, as there is an option of ajina or vastra,
there is no insistence on always having a piece of deerskin tied on the sUtra. It easily
gets worn out with regular bathing and does not stay on till the next year's upAkarmA.

In Kerala practice, you will see that on some rutual occasions, the vastra is twisted
around itself to make a thick cord and then worn upavIta style. It is not draped over
the shoulder as otherwise expected. 
e.g. http://sandeepvarma.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Ramanujan-Akkithiripad.jpg
and http://www.flickr.com/photos/kovilanstudygroup/5621363957/in/photostream
- images from last year's atirAtra yajna conducted in Panjal, Kerala. The yajamAna
wears the cord twisted together from a cloth, but as far as I can make out, he is not
wearing another regular sUtra under it. In the second image above, none of the other
priests involved in that ritual is wearing a Salya. 
However, this is not just a west coast (paraSurAma kshetra) viSesha. In Tamil Nadu
as well, there is much variation in practice over the use of a vastra and you will often
see the uttarIya cloth not worn in the upavIta mode, but tied like a belt on top of the
dhoti around the waist or along the mid-section, leaving the upper torso bare, except
for the usually worn yajnopavIta. Each community's practice has its own integrity and
I see no reason to impose a uniform dress code on all.
All in all, as Ramakrishnan suggested, there is no reason to change the practice that
you have been taught. Consult your family elders, both men and women and find out
what your grandfather, his father and the priests who conducted your family rituals
used to do. The only reason to change would be if you get self-conscious about it in
order to account for other people's sensibilities.

ps. Similarly for women's dress too. In Kerala, wearing white clothes with a simple
colored border is common for women of all ages and life statuses. In other parts of
our country, the traditional expectation is that only widows should wear white.

> Date: Fri, 6 Jul 2012 14:35:40 +0530
> From: abhishek046 at gmail.com
> To: advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org
> Subject: Re: [Advaita-l] Sandhyavandana procedure doubt
> Dear Vidyasankar,
> Much thanks for your clarification sir. But the other replies on this
> thread and the threads bifurcated from this one are all critical I
> must say. On top of this they are giving citations as well. Could you
> kindly tell me if there is any reason for this difference in the
> practice? Is it against the shastras like other members are telling?
> The places that you cited, including udupi(my hometown) all belong to
> the Parasurama kshetra. Does this have something to do with the
> practice?
> Regards,
> Abhishek Madhyastha
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