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Hindu Sacred Thread Ceremony (Upanayan) for Girl Child – Breaking Traditions for Good

The very mentioning of Hindu sacred thread ceremony (Upanayan), a Vedic practice, for a girl or woman will cause a flutter among orthodox Hindus and traditionalists. For the conservatives, sacred thread ceremony is only for boys and men. But Sejal Amod Ketkar, eight-year-old girl from Thane, went through the sacred initiation rite and the ceremony was performed by a female priest as male priests were not ready to perform the ritual on a girl.

The sacred thread ceremony is no doubt part of orthodoxy and there are many Hindus who don’t perform it or rather ignore it. But millions of Hindus also perform the sacred thread ceremony but is limited only to the male members of the community.

Why are girls or women kept out of the Hindu sacred thread ceremony? There is no answer to this. It is the practice that is being followed. The only reason for this is that rituals and ceremonies were decided by male members of the society and they just simply kept women out of it for power.

The Upanayan ceremony symbolically suggests that the child is ready to study Hindu scriptures. It is a sort of coming of age. Now women studying scriptures and demanding equal rights was unthinkable for a male-dominated society. So they shut the doors of knowledge on women. It must be noted that the only source of knowledge in ancient India was from a Guru. So the denial of knowledge was to keep women in dark.

Now it is time to dig the Hindu scriptures to see whether there is any evidence of Upanayan being performed on girls in ancient society. We all return to the scriptures when ever there is a controversy or someone breaks the tradition.

Amod Ketkar, the father of Sejal Amod Ketkar who underwent the sacred thread ceremony, states that his sister had undergone the ceremony as a child. He also states that a scripture titled Harita Smriti sanctions the ceremony for girls. But sadly he is not able to locate the scripture.

Vaishali Kale, the Hindu priestess, who performed the ceremony, was confident and sure that during Vedic period the ceremony was performed on girls. She states that Gargi and Maitreyi, who are mentioned in the Upanishads, had undergone the ceremony.

The protests against the scared ceremony on a girl child were not strong. In fact the ceremony got support from various quarters.

Times of India reports

The chief priest of Siddhivinayak Temple, Guruji Gajanan Modak, says, while each household devises its own spiritual barcode, there is nothing in the scriptures that prevents girls from undergoing the thread ceremony. The upanayan signifies that a child is now mature enough to follow a guru and learn the scriptures. In the olden days, it was performed when children left home to join the gurukul.

Sanatana Dharma believes in the equality of all living beings and this is mentioned many times in various Hindu scriptures. But sadly majority of the people do not follow it. Keeping girls or women out a Hindu ceremony is nothing but discrimination.

People like Amod Ketkar are a minority in Hindu society and the courage shown by him to break the tradition should be followed in various other spheres.

Killing of girl child and abandoning of female babies is a common practice by a section of Hindu society as they desire for a male child. This needs to stop and one of the reasons for this is that only male members are allowed to perform rituals after the death of the parents. Women too should be allowed to perform the rituals for the dead.