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Occult Science in India, by Louis Jacoilliot, [1919], at

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The Ceremony of Oupanayana.

[Taken from the Nitia-Carma, the first part of the Agrouchada-Parikchai, or book of the occult sciences of the Brahmins.]

The word Oupanayana signifies introduction to the study of the sciences. We give this passage of the Agrouchada in the form of verses, as it was written:

It is now time for the virtuous father, who possesses a son over whose head has rolled three times three years, the figure of the tutelary spirits, to perform the ceremony of the Oupanayana.

He should procure vessels of gold, silver, bronze, or earthenware, according to his means, which are to be distributed to the Brahmins after the repast.

He should lay in an abundant supply of rice, seeds, fruit, oil, butter, sugar, vegetables, and milk, for he has not only to entertain his guests, but the larger part should be offered as an oblation to the Pitris, or set apart for the poor and orphans.

When the father of a family gives food to the suffering,

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to returning travellers, to pilgrims, and to little children who look in curiously at the feast with envious eyes as they pass, when, like a sower, he scatters outdoors handfuls of seeds for the little birds, the spirits and his ancestral shades are content.

The festival should last four days, and new vessels and fresh and pure provisions should be used daily.

He should prepare powdered vermilion, sandal-wood, and saffron, in order that the women may trace magic circles around the house to drive away evil spirits and attract good spirits.

These preparations being completed, the father should ask the Pourohita to name a day of auspicious omen. It should never be at the commencement nor at the end of the moon. It should never either be an odd day.

The pandal should then be erected with consecrated flowers and foliage, among which the lotus flower should predominate. He should then spread upon the ground a thick layer of cousa grass, and he should invite his relatives, commencing with those in the ascending line on the father's side, after which he should bid his friends and all Brahmins who have reached the age of one hundred years.

The women should sumptuously decorate the pandal with hanging garlands and bouquets of flowers so as to form alternate bands of red and white.

All the guests before going to the place where the ceremony

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is to be held, should perform the usual purifications in the sacred tank of the pagoda.

When the parents and friends are all assembled the Pourohita should be introduced with all due marks of respect. He should bring with him a girdle and the skin of a gazelle. A gazelle's skin is always pure, and he who sits thereon does not contract any uncleanness.

The Pourohita should then perform the san-colpa, or preparation of the soul, in which he is absorbed in the contemplation of Vischnou, who is represented as the author and preserver of the universe.

He should regard him as a distributor of every favor, and as one who crowns with success all our enterprises. With this view he should pronounce his name three times and offer him adoration.

He should then contemplate the infinite perfection of Brahma. He should ponder over the three triads, 1 which have sprung from him, and have created the eight million four hundred thousand kinds of living creatures, at the head of which is man.

He should then ponder over the existence of the universe, which is to last a hundred years of the gods, 2 which are divided into four periods, of which the first, second, and half of the third have already elapsed. He should then perform an oblation to the universe.

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He should think of the different incarnations of Vischnou, and of that of the boar under whose form the god vanquished the giant Hirannia.

He should prostrate himself before the fourteen categories of celestial (Pitris) and inferior spirits by which the universe is filled.

He should perform an oblation to the pure fluid which is called Agasa, and which is the essence of life.

He should pronounce the mysterious monosyllable which was to be kept from the knowledge of the multitude, by merely moving his lips.

He should offer sacrifice to Swayambhouva, the self-existent being.

He should evoke the spirits of his ancestors and ask them to be present at the ceremony.

He should drive away all evil spirits whose presence might otherwise disturb the sacrifices.

He should propitiate the superior spirit Poulear, who presides over obstacles and brings enterprises to a successful issue.

All the guests should repair again to the sacred tank of ablution, where they purify themselves according to their method prescribed.

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Upon their return the Brahmatchary, or neophyte, should take his place beneath the pandal of flowers, and all the married women present should chant consecrated psalms and at the same time anoint his limbs with perfumed oil and saffron and rub his eyelids with antimony.

When his toilet is finished the father and mother of the neophyte should take their place by his side beneath the pandal, and the women should perform upon their heads the ceremony of the aratty, in order to remove evil omens.

The Poudja, or sacrifice, is then offered to all the tutelary spirits of the family, as well as the firstlings of all the dishes prepared for the repast.

All the men and women should then sit down on cocoanut leaves covered with lotus leaves, and should turn their backs so that they may not see each other eat.

Rice, clarified butter, oil, sugar, fruits, and vegetables are then brought in for the feast, and at the close of the repast the father distributes betel and gives a present to the Pourohita, after which everybody retires.

Such was the first day of the Oupanayana.

The next day was called Mouhourta, or the great day, for it was that on which the neophyte was to be invested with the girdle.

The Brahmatchary should take his place beneath the

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pandal, between his father and mother, and all three should turn their faces toward the East.

The Brahmatchary should have his loins girt around with new linen of pure material, and the women should gently rub his chest and arms with the powdered saffron and sandal-wood mingled, and should sing consecrated psalms.

The Pourohita should then advance with a silver furnace filled with burning coals: he should perform the sacrifice to the spirits, by evoking them around the fire, and should throw incense and powdered sandal-wood upon the fire, to gratify their sense of smell.

This fire should be carefully kept until the end of the festival Oupanayana, for if it should happen to be extinguished, great harm might ensue, and the familiar spirits might desert the house.

The preservation of this fire should be given in charge to nine Brahmins and their wives.

All the Married women who happen to be among the guests should go in great pomp to the consecrated tank, preceded by musical instruments, and bearing a copper vessel, which they are to fill with water.

Upon their return to the house they should cover the mouth of the vessel with mango leaves, and hang above it a branch of a banana tree, freshly cut, with all its fruits.

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They should all then go together to the neighboring forest, where, having found a nest of white ants, they should fill ten earthen pots with earth beaten and sifted by these animals.

Returning then to the other guests, they should plant in these pots ten different kinds of seeds, which they should sprinkle with water taken from the sacred tank.

When this has been done, the Pourohita should bring all the pots together and stretch over them a fine cloth; he should recite the invocation to the tutelary spirits and ask them to manifest their power by auspicious omens.

Imposing his hands above the cloth, he should then pronounce in a low voice, unheard by those present, the following magic words:




These are Sanscrit words, signifying:

Agnim—sacred fire,

—holy water,

Pâtra—purified vessel,

Paryâya—magic vegetation,


The Pourohita should utter these words nine times nine times. The tutelary spirits will then manifest themselves and the cloth is gradually raised during the continuance of the invocation.

The Pourohita should then remove the cloth, and he will find that the ten seeds have appeared above the earth

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in the ten pots, and ten shrubs have grown as high as the Pourohita's forehead, bearing flowers and fruits each after its kind.

The Brahmatchary's mother should then weave a crown of flowers gathered from these trees, and should place it upon her son's head. The Pourohita should then distribute among all of those present the fruits which have grown beneath the cloth, which the guests should eat, repeating the following words three times:

The auspicious omen has manifested itself.

The auspicious omen has manifested itself.

The auspicious omen has manifested itself.

The Brahmatchary then receives the triple cord of the novitiate.

A new invocation was then made to the spirits of the planets and ancestors, thanking them for their protection and intervention, and a piece of consecrated saffron was attached about the young Brahmin's neck.

The barber should then shave the neophyte's head and cut the nails of his feet and hands to the sound of the women's songs, accompanied by the musician from the pagoda.

The young Brahmin is then required to take a bath in the tank of ablution, in order to remove any impurity which he may have contracted by being in contact with the barber, who is unclean, and the women attire him in new and pure linen garments.

The Pourohita then advances to his side and, by the imposition of hands, removes his ignorance and qualifies him

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for the study of the sciences, which will now occupy every moment of his time. He should then gird about his waist a triple girdle, woven from the sacred grass of the Darba.

Reciting the conjurations of the neck and bosom, the Pourohita then decorates the neophyte with the triple girdle of the Brahrninic initiation, and consecrates him Brahmatchary or candidate for initiation.

At this time a Guru, or master of the sacred science, is chosen for the young Brahmatchary. He must be more than sixty years old.

The Guru should take his new pupil aside, and turning his face toward the East, he should say to him, "Oh! my son, you have now taken your seat by the side of men, may your body be free from all impurity; may your thoughts always turn toward the good, for Brahma will now commence to know you by your actions.

"Know that the shades of your ancestors in an aerial form will attend you in all your studies, and will reveal to you hereafter, if you are worthy, the grand secret of being.

"Always bear in mind that what you will now learn should never be revealed to the vulgar herd, and that you will never arrive at the end of your initiation if you are unable to hide the secret of things in the deepest recesses of your heart."

Having uttered these words, the Guru for the first time calls the young Bramatchary, Donidja, which means twice born.

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The first birth is merely the advent into material life, the second birth is the entrance to a spiritual life.

So ends the second day.

On the third day the Brahmatchary for the first time offers a sacrifice to fire, and performs an oblation to the spirits and to his ancestral shades, in the presence of all the guests.

On the fourth day the father of the young Brahmin who has just received the investiture should make suitable presents to all the Brahmins who were present at the ceremony, and should not forget to give a cow and a hundred manganys of rice to his son's Guru.

Having repeated the san-colpa, the Pourohita should perform an oblation to all the spirits that he evoked to be present at the festival, and he should thank them for answering his summons.

All present should say as they separate, "The child is dead, a man is born."

We purposely refrain from accompanying this curious passage from the Agrouchada-Parikchai with any comments of our own. As we have said before, we merely propose to give an impartial account of these strange customs.

We will say, however, that in this ceremony of the Oupanayana or investiture of the sacred girdle, which makes a man of the boy, the Pitris, or spirits, and the ancestral shades take the most prominent part. They are evoked

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by a Pourohita, they are present during the whole festival, and they almost exclusively receive the sacrifice, oblations, and firstlings of all the dishes prepared for the repast which terminates the mysterious celebrations of each particular day.

Vischnou, as well as Brahma, the lord of all beings, and the master of gods and men, is only evoked by the Pourohita in order to prepare himself for the ceremony by the contemplation of the perfections of the creator and preserver of the universe.

The Brahmatchary continues his studies as novice until the time of his marriage, which takes place about the sixteenth or eighteenth year of his age. During this period he lives with his Guru, or director, and engages in the study of the sacred books, and of the mathematical and astronomical sciences.

He is not yet admitted to the study of the occult sciences, whose first principles he will only begin to learn when he has reached the degree of Grihasta, or head of a family, or of Pourohita, or officiating priest.

The following instructions are taken from Manu:

After the initiation of the Brahmatchary, the Guru teaches him the duty of purity and morality, the maintenance of the sacred fire, and the morning, noon, and evening sandyas, which are a kind of prayers.

After having performed the prescribed ablutions, and before opening the Veda, turning his face toward the East, the Brahmatchary should pay homage to the sovereign master of the universe.

During the reading of the Veda he should control his senses, and stand with clasped hands in an attitude of homage before the sacred scriptures. At the commencement

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and close of the reading, he should kiss the feet of his director, and not commence nor stop until he hears the Guru tell him to begin his studies or to desist.

Always, at the commencement or end of his reading, he should pronounce the sacred monosyllable, A, U, M, which contains the mystery of the Trinity. That will make him remember what he has learned, otherwise it will vanish like letters traced upon the waters.

He should pronounce this mysterious monosyllable, which is an invocation to the Trimourti and which expresses the substance of the Veda, according to Brahma himself, with face turned toward the East; he should be free from all impurity, should hold his breath, and have in his hands a stalk of sacred cousa grass.

The Brahmatchary should never cause the slightest trouble to the Guru who has undertaken to educate him and to instruct him in the knowledge of the sacred scriptures. He should venerate him like a father and mother.

It nowhere appears in the Agrouchada-Parikchai that it is lawful for the Brahmatchary to make use of the invocation of the mysterious monosyllable, A, U, M, as he is allowed to do by Manu, but the ancient legislator uses the word here in its vulgar sense, in which it represents the religious triad; as for the mystical signification of the three letters, he forbids its explanation, like the book of the Pitris.

The primitive holy syllable, composed of the three letters, in which the vedic trinity is comprised, should be kept secret. (Manu, book xi., sloca 265.)

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We shall not describe in the present work the Brahmatchary's marriage ceremony nor his funeral, in case of his death before his novitiate is completed. The restricted limits of a single volume will not allow us to dwell upon these matters except at the expense of the more interesting parts of our subject.

The real practice of the occult sciences did not commence until the second or third degree of initiation. It is mainly important that we should make ourselves acquainted with these, the novitiate and the first class of initiation being only preparatory to the higher degrees.

Suffice it to say that the evocation of the ancestral shades of the Pitris always formed a prominent feature, both of the marriage ceremony and of the funeral rites. They could not take place without their being present.


34:1 Nara-Nara-Viradj Ayni-Voya-Sourya * Brahma * Vischnou-Siva.

34:2 Each year of the gods is equal to several thousands of the lunar years.

Next: Chapter V. The First Degree of Initiation