If you're a brahmin, you're probably familiar with the following mantra (see page 2):

Yajnopavitam, paramam pavitram

Prajapatim yatsahajam purastath |

Ayushyam agriyam pratimunja subhram

Yajnopavitam balam astu tejah ||

Put on the sacred thread, the supreme purifier, which was born along with Brahma long ago, which bestows long life, preeminence, and purity may the sacred thread bestow strength and light.

This is the mantra you say when you put on the sacred thread, variously called the Yagnopavita, Poonal, or Janayu. Brahmins change their sacred thread every year in a ritual called Avani Avittam or Upakarma, which took place this month.

My question is, what scripture does this mantra come from? The preamble you're supposed to say beforehand provides some detail about the mantra:

Yajnopavita dharana mahamantrasya, Brahmarishihi, Thrishtupchandaha, Trayi Vidyadevata, Yajnopavita dharana viniyogaha

Of the great mantra called the wearing of the sacred thread, the sage [who heard it from the gods] is Brahma, the meter is Trishtup, the deity [whom it's about] is the triple wisdom [i.e. the three Vedas], the purpose is the wearing of the sacred thread.

It might seem strange that the sage who heard this mantra from the gods is the god Brahma, but there are actually many verses in the Vedas which were heard by various gods. (See the Anukramani for Rig Veda Book 10 in my answer here; hymn 14, for instance, was heard from the gods by Yama the god of death, called Yama Vaivasvata in the Anukramani, and hymn 121 was heard by Brahma, called Hiranyagarbha Prajapatya.)

In any case, in what scripture does this mantra heard by Brahma occur? Also, on a side note are there any scriptures that describe how the sacred thread was originally "born along with Brahma", as the mantra says?

  • "i.e. the three Vedas" Somewhat unrelated, but what about the fourth?
    – Akshay
    Aug 20 '14 at 21:20
  • 1
    @Akshay There are many places in Hindu scriptures which refer to the "three Vedas" rather than the "four Vedas", because strictly speaking only three of the Vedas were compiled by Vyasa. How the Vedas originated is that from time immemorial, sages known as Dhrishtas heard verses directly from the gods, and then in the Dwapara Yuga (the age before this one), the sage Vyasa compiled these verses into a set of 3 books, the Rig Veda, the Yajur Veda, and the Sama Veda. Aug 21 '14 at 2:47
  • 1
    @Akshay The Atharvana Veda, on the other hand, was compiled seperately by the sages Atharva and Angiras, who also got their verses from the verses heard from the gods by Dhrishtas. Aug 21 '14 at 2:49

I don't know if there's an earlier source, or if there are any scriptures elucidating what prajāpateryat sahajaṃ refers to, but the verse is found in Pāraskara Gṛhyasūtra 2.2.11.

  • Thanks for your answer! A Grihya Sutra is exactly the kind of text I'd expect a verse like this to originate from. By the way, for some reason Oldenberg omits this sutra from his translation of the Paraskara Grihya Sutras: sacred-texts.com/hin/sbe29/sbe29175.htm Perhaps it's not found in all manuscripts. Also, do you have any idea where the information in the preamble, like "Brahma rishihi" and the like would have come from in this case? In the case of mantras found in the Vedic Samhitas, one would turn to Anukramanis, like I compiled here: hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/2430/36 Jun 30 '15 at 19:09
  • I'm afraid I don't know (apart from the fact that the meter is triṣṭubh, which can obviously be derived from the verse itself). That's a very impressive list of ṛṣis and devatās ­– thanks for compiling it.
    – Raghav
    Jul 1 '15 at 5:43
  • Thanks, it took a lot of effort to compile it, but it was worth it because it's allowed me to find out all sorts of interesting things. Like I found a hymn in the Rig Veda which describes the death of Trisiras at the hands of Indra, a hymn which was heard by Trisiras himself! See my question here. Jul 1 '15 at 6:09
  • I'm also interested in finding Anukramani information for other Vedas, but I can't seem to find much information on them. Like I asked a question here asking for the Anukramani information for the Shukla Yajur Veda, which I'm interested in because I want to know who the Isha Upanishad was heard by, as I discuss here. And I want to find Anukramani information for the Krishna Yajur Veda, in order to answer my question here about a Taittiriya Brahmana hymn. Jul 1 '15 at 6:16

It occurs in the Veda itself. In the Brahmopanishad of Krishna Yajur Veda I found it mentioned. Please look in the 3rd line just after where the 2nd verse ends in the attached file. The two complete lines go like below:

hṛdi caitanye tiṣṭhati yajñopavītaṃ paramaṃ pavitraṃ prajāpateryatsahajaṃ purastāt
āyuṣyamagrapaṃ pratimuñca śubhraṃ yajñopavītaṃ balamastu tejaḥ

I found this accidentally while browsing, so can't say the story how Prajapati was born with it. It is not present in that upanishad though.

  • Thanks for your answer! Unfortunately, I don't think that's where the mantra comes from. I already knew that the Yajnopavitam mantra is quoted in the Brahma Upanishad, but the context seems to clearly indicate that the Yajnopavitam mantra comes from some older text; it is saying people should stop using the Yajnopavitam mantra to put on physical sacred threads, and instead attain Brahman; see verses 5-6 here: advaita.it/library/brahmaup.htm Jan 16 '15 at 10:23
  • And in any case, the Brahma Upanishad is a Shloka Upanishad, not a Mantra Upanishad like the Isha Upanishad, so a Mahamantra cannot possibly originate in this Upanishad. By the way, thank you again for at least trying to answer this question. I've posted nearly a hundred questions on this site, and most of them have no answers, which is frustrating because I put in a lot of effort into asking them. Could you please look through my other unanswered questions and see if you're able to answer some of them? You're one of the few people on this site who may be able to. Jan 16 '15 at 10:27

The verse finds place in many copies of the Paraskara Grihya Sutra, but is not mentioned in early English translations of the Paraskara. This Grihya Sutra belongs to the Shukla Yajurveda school, but another contributor has found the mantra in a text of the Krishna Yajurveda school. Also, if you try to paraphrase the verse grammatically, you will find that its words can not be arranged in a meaningful and grammatically correct manner. You shouldn't really expect an independent verse in the sutras. They elaborate upon the ritual but always recommend the use of a Vedic verse at each step. The mantra in question is not in Vedic Sanskrit, nor can it be traced to any Veda.

In conclusion, I suspect that it is spurious.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .