Brahman, also spelled Brahmin, Sanskrit Brāhmaṇa (“Possessor of Brahma”), highest ranking of the four varnas, or social classes, in Hindu India. The elevated position of the Brahmans goes back to the late Vedic period, when the Indo-European-speaking settlers in northern India were already divided into Brahmans (or priests), warriors (of the Kshatriya class), traders (of the Vaishya class), and labourers (of the Shudra class).
Know About Brahmins
Since then there has been no fundamental change in their relative position, and therefore the Brahmans still enjoy great prestige and lots of advantages, though their claim to tangible privileges is not any longer officially admitted. the idea of the age-old veneration of Brahmans is that the belief that they're inherently of greater ritual purity than members of other castes which they alone are capable of performing certain vital religious tasks. The study and recitation of the sacred scriptures was traditionally reserved for this spiritual elite, and for hundreds of years all Indian scholarship was in their hands.
Because of their high prestige and tradition of education, Brahmans influenced even secular affairs. Although political power lay normally with members of the warrior class, Brahmans often acted as advisers and ministers of ruling chiefs. During the British raj, Brahmans largely retained their role as intellectual leaders—at first within the service of presidency and later within the nationalist movement. After India achieved independence in 1947, Brahmans continued to steer the Congress Party and to dominate the central government, but in many nations a reaction developed. In southern India, where Brahmans were particularly firmly entrenched, an anti-Brahman movement gathered considerable strength. This failed to, however, affect their traditional position as priests, ministering both in temples and at domestic rites. The Brahman family priest (purohita) officiates at weddings, funerals, and other ceremonial occasions.
Reason behind Wearing White Thread by Brahmins
In addition to the already beautifully penned answer of Alakshendra Tripathi..allow me to add my own humble one as well:
Hindu Santana Dharma is marked by 16 rites of passages called "Sanskars" (Sanskrit: संस्कार saṃskāra). They are namely :
1. Garbhaadhan: The Conception
2. Punsavana: The Fetus protection
3. Simanta: The Protection of the pregnant Mother
4. Jaat-Karmaa(Shasthi):The Natal rite for development of child's intellect
5. Naamkarma: The Naming the Child
6. Nishkramana:The Taking the child outdoors
7. Annaprashana: The Giving the child solid food.
8. Mundan or Choula: The Hair cutting.
9. Karnavedh: The Ear piercing
10. Yagyopaveet: The Sacred thread
11. Vedarambh: The Study of Vedas and Scriptures
12. Samaavartana: The Completing education
13. Vivaah: The Marriage
14. Sarvasanskaar: The Preparing for Renouncing
15. Sanyas (Awasthadhyan): The Renouncing
16. Antyeshti: The Last rite, or funeral rites
The sacred white thread called Janaeu or Yagyopaveet (Sanskrit: यज्ञोपवीतम्,yajñopavītam ) is a thin consecrated cord, composed of distinct cotton strands, donned during the "Upanayan Sanskar" ( Sanskrit: उपनयनम्, upanayanam)- the 10th sanskar of santana Hindu Dharma. The word "Upanayan"symbolises , 'the sacred vision' or 'new vision', the vision to see things in a proper way & to discern 'wrong' & 'right' .
A yagyopaveet has three vritas (threads). Every thread has three cords twining it and one knot. The word "yagvopaveet" is made up of "yagya"+ "up"+"paveet". "Yagyo vai Shreshthatam karma". Not the best but the best of best action is called "yagya". 'Up' means 'near'. 'veet' means obtained, spread, desired, cherished.
Thus, Yagyopaveet is worn with a desire to do the best. It always kindles in one a strong motivation to follow the very pious and sacred of ideals. Knot indiates the pledge. Wearing yagyopaveet means a pledge to go doing the best always.
The length of the Yajñopavītam is generally 96 times the breadth of four fingers of a man, which is believed to be equal to his height. Each of the four fingers represents one of the four states that the soul of a man experiences: waking, dreaming, dreamless sleep and knowledge of the absolute.
The thread is donned upon with the recitation of the following mantra:
"Shraut smaart vihit nitya-karmaa anushthaan sadaachar yogyataa siddhyaartham, Brahm-tejas abhivrittyaartham, yagyopaveet dhaaranam karishye."
Wearing vagyopaveet is a holy sadhana. Sādhanā (Sanskrit: साधना) literally "a means of accomplishing something", is an ego transcending spiritual practice. Therefore, yagvopaveet is worn starting from left shoulder, passing over the heart and goes backwards on the right ending in a knot.
Left shoulder is the base for carrying the load of life with tolerance. Heart is the point of determination and faith. Back is a symbol of commitment, Thus yagvyyopaveet represents the sadhana of the purest of pure with determination, courage, faith, commitment and a spirit of toleration.
" Sa suryasya rashmibhih parivyat tantum tanvanas trivritam yatha vide
Nayannritasya prashisho baviyaseeh patir janinam up yate niskkritam."
"One who wears the three threads for gaining knowledge, shines with brightness like the rays of the sun, wearing yagyopaveet and spreading it over his body. He carries along the new and fine instruments of learning, becomes the master where knowledge is being created and attains expertise and salvation for himself."
As has accurately been pointed out in the aforementioned answer, the three threads of Yajyopavit (holy thread) signify the three rins(debts) that must never be forgotten:
- the debt to one's teachers (गुरु ऋण, guru rin), i.e. those who have taught the wearer;
- the debt to one's parents and ancestors (पितृ ऋण, pitr rin), i.e. those who have nurtured the wearer and made possible his existence;
- the debt to the sages/scholars (ऋषि ऋण, rishi rin), i.e. those who discovered knowledge, both spiritual and secular, over the ages, which now enriches the wearer's life.
In some versions, the debt to the sages is replaced with debt to God (देव ऋण, dev rin). Upon marriage, sometimes the number of strands increases to six, because the man is expected to assume the debts of his wife as well.
In brief, Yagyopaveet indicates that the child is qualified to perform all the traditional vedic rites including Pitra Kriya & Tarpan for his forefathers.
In addition the three strands also called Kaayaa Dand, Vaag Dand, and Mano Dand - also represent control over body, speech and mind.
The threads are also said to stand for the Holy Trinity of Hindu Dharma-
- Lord Brahma( The Creator )
- Lord Vishnu( The Preserver)
- Lord Shiva (The Destroyer) Alternatively some consider them to be the representative of the three goddesses:
- Goddess Gayatri Ji (Goddess of mind);
- Goddess Saraswati Ji (Goddess of word);
- Goddess Savitri Ji (Goddess of deed).