[Advaita-l] A question on 'shikhai'

Venkata sriram P venkatasriramp at yahoo.in
Sat Jul 7 12:50:46 CDT 2012

The smriti says "agni chiHnaM shikhA karma" ie., 
the shikha (tuft of hair) that a brahmin maintains is 
the symbolic representation of Agni and hence such a 
brahmin (having a shikha) is called "AgnEya" 
(vide reference shatapatha brAhmaNa “AgnEyO vai brAHmaNaH”).    
Since, all the devatAs reside in Agni (vide shatapatha brAhmaNa 
“agnirvE sarvA dEvatAH”), in shikhA all the devatAs are said to reside.
shikhA also denotes the Urdhva gati which a brAhmaNa should aspire of.
A Brahmin is supposed to imbibe all the qualities of Agni.  
To imbibe all those qualities of Agni, he worships Agni in the 
form of agni kArya, agni hOtra, trEtAgni upAsana etc. 
With the upAsana of Agni, the Brahmin imbibes the guNAs of 
agni and hence the Brahmin is termed as “brAhmaNAHagnidEvAstu”
“AgnEyO vai brAhmaNaH” etc. So, to imbibe all those agni guNAs, 
he maintains shikhA.   shikhA maintenance also implies the brAhmaNA's 
*vaidika mArga niSTA* and performance of shrauta / smArta karmas.  
Which is why a sadAchAri sports with baddha shikhA, yajnOpavita, 
kaTi sUtra, shubhra vastra & uttareeya.  
"upavItI baddhashikhO dhIrO mounI dhriDavrataH
dhautavAsAH panchakacchO dvirAchAmaH krutAHnikaH"
The above defines the code of conduct of brAhmaNa:
upavIti = having yajnOpavIta
baddhashikhO = the shikhA should not left loose (should be tied with knot)
dhIraH = one with controlled senses
dhautavAsa = should don neat, clean & washed clothes 
panchakacchaH = should wear panchakaccha
dvirAchamanaH = should perform 2 types of achamanas
krutAHnikaH = should perform Ahnika karmas like sandhya etc.
Among these, *baddha shikhA* (tied & knotted shikhA) is the 
niyama of the sadAchAra brAhmaNa.  
shikhA bandhana also indicates that the Brahmin is maintaining 
trEtAgni upAsana.
That is the reason that when the brAhmaNa takes up sanyAsa, 
he has to remove his yajnOpavIta, kaTisUtra & shikhA.  
With the removal of shikhA, he has to do away with his 
agni upAsana and he has to perform *pravilApana prakriya*
which is a procedure of invoking the external agni into himself.  
Since, sanyAsi doesn’t have agni upAsana, he is called *niragni*.  
Which is why, he has to shave off his head and remove 
shikhA to show that he is no more attached with 
bAha agni upAsana and vaidika pravrutti mArga. 
So, the shikha represents the adhikara for karma kanda.  
Shikha (tuft of hair), kaupina (loin cloth), kaTi sUtra, 
yajnopavita are the important aspects for a brAhmaNa to 
perform karmAnuShTAna. And hence, the sanyasi who wants 
to tread the jnana marga, has to remove the shikha, kaTi sUtra & 
yajnopavita as these represent the karma marga.  
The moment shikha is removed; one should not touch the agni &
perform agni kANDa.  
Moreover, during the mantra japa also, shaD-Anga-nyasa is 
performed and as a part of that the upasaka performs the 
"shikha nyasa" with the mantra "shikhayai vaShaT". 
With this mantra, the shikha is to be touched.  So, without proper nyasas, 
mantra japa is incomplete and doesn't yield any result.  
So, in a nutshell, this is the importance of shikhA.
A grihasthA should never remove his shikhA.  Sporting with shaven head 
for grihasthA is a dOSa.  Even, yatis, unless they are 
paramahaMsAs, should never display their shaven head which is why
they cover their shaven heads with ocre robes.

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