I've seen this practice where the archaka or priest asks the person doing certain rituals like the Śrāddha to temporarily wear a yajñopavītam or something similar (quickly made out of a towel), I suppose, to make the kartā eligible for performing the rite.

Is there a scriptural guidance for such practice i.e., temporarily wearing a yajñopavītam and then removing it after you are done?

PS. This is not a duplicate of the more generic questions:
1. Is Janeva (Yajñopavītam or sacred thread) limited to Brahmins only?
2. Why don't Sudras wear a sacred thread?

1 Answer 1


As per scriptures, it is necessary to wear an upper-garment while participating in sacred rituals.

He shall carry a bamboo staff and a pot filled with water; wear a double sacrificial cord ( this verse is repeated in Apashthamba too) , a turban, a skin as an upper garment, and shoes; carry an umbrella; maintain the sacred domestic fire; and offer the new-moon and full-moon sacrifices.

BD 1.5.13

Note that, wearing the sacred thread (for those who are initiated) and an upper garment (for everyone) are both necessary.

He should wear an upper garment during these five activities: private vedic recitation, voiding urine and excrement, giving a gift, eating, and sipping water.

BD 2.7.11

And, the upper garment has to be worn in a particular fashion as stated in the following verse:

When he is paying his respects to elders , offering sacrifices and softly reciting prayers;* and when he is eating, sipping water, and doing his private vedic recitation, he should wear his upper garment over his left shoulder and under his right arm

AD 1.15.8

Ideally, the upper garments are made from skins of certain animals as stated below:

A Brahmin’s girdle should be made of Muñja grass, Ksatriya’s of a bowstring, and a Vaisya’s of hemp thread. Brahmin’s upper garment should be the skin of a black antelope, a Ksatriya’s the skin of the spotted Ruru antelope,

VD 11.79

However, as a substitute for the upper garment made from skin, using simply a cord (or any piece of cloth like a towel for example) is allowed as per the following verse:

He should always wear an upper garment or, in place of that garment, wear just a cord slung over his left shoulder and under his right arm.

AD 2.4.25

So, it is not that the shawl or the towel or any piece of cloth becomes the substitute for the sacred thread. It is simply playing the role of an upper-garment, wearing which in a particular manner is mandatory in religious rites.

Now, the persons who are not wearing sacred threads are also allowed to participate in religious rites. But the rule of wearing the upper garment in that particular fashion still remains the same for them.

Abbreviations used

AD- The Dharmasutras of Apasthambha
BD- The Dharmasutras of BaudhAyana
VD- The Dharmasutras of Vashishtha.

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