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Upanayana. Sometimes called ‘the thread ceremony’, or ‘sacred thread’ ceremony, this is one of the most important rites of passage in Hinduism. It is a ceremony that marks a boy's transition from childhood to his student life, when traditionally he would come under the authority of his guru, or teacher, and be instructed in sacred lore and Skt. He becomes dvija (‘twice-born’) and assumes the duties and responsibilities of his caste. He eats for the last time with his mother; he will now join the men of the family, eat with them, and be served by the womenfolk. Brahman boys receive the thread, which is usually of cotton, though it may vary from caste to caste, at the age of 8, Kṣatriyas at 11, and Vaiśyas at 14. Śūdras do not go through the ceremony.

Nowadays the receiving of the thread (yajñopavītā) is the most important part of this ceremony; its connection with the commencement of religious education is usually forgotten. The thread runs over the left shoulder and under the right arm, except during funerary rites, when it is reversed. It is renewed annually, and the old thread is burnt on the sacred fire.

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