April 15 2009

This final question in the CIS series is from Vyasa Shuno das:

“When you were personal servant of Srila Prabhupada most probably you had a chance to see how Srila Prabhupada changed his Brahmin thread. My question is how many lines it consisted of? I ask because there is an opinion that brahmacari should wear 3 line thread, grihastha should have 9 line thread (3 for his wife) or should we have regular 6 lines thread – the way they are available on the market?”


The whole time I was with Srila Prabhupada as far as I remember, he wore six threads on his upavita (sacred brahmin thread). I never heard him say that the number of threads was particularly important. The main thing is to chant the gayatri mantra correctly, it doesn’t matter how many threads are chanted on.

According to HH Sacinandan Swami in his book “The Gayatri Mantra” :

“At the time of second initiation, men receive from their guru a sacred thread called the yajnopavita (or simply upavita). Yajnopavita means literally “that which surrounds Visnu” (yajna=Visnu; upa-vi-ta means surrounding). The idea is that a brahmana wears a thread that surrounds Lord Visnu.

Srila Prabhupada writes: “The sacred thread is a sign of those who are competent to study the Vedas from the acarya or the bona fide spiritual master … The spiritual master accepts only the sincere inquirer as his disciple and gives him the sacred thread.”

Yadubara and his wife Vishakha are given second initiation:



Devotees often wonder how many single strands the upavita should have. The brahmanas in Indian culture usually wear nine threads.


According to some Vaisnavas, these nine threads symbolize the nine processes of bhakti (sravanam, kirtanam etc) Others say they refer to the nine islands of Sri Navadvipa-dhama, and yet others say they represent the nine stages from sraddha to prema, as explained in Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, (therefore some Vaisnavas have explained, these three ideas correspond to one another.)

Srila Prabhupada wore three times three threads when he was placed in Samadhi. Other Vaisnavas in the Gaudiya tradition wear six single threads to signify the six Goswamis. From this we can conclude that the exact number of threads is ultimately not so important.”
[end quote from TGM]

While Srila Prabhupada liked us to learn more about our Vaisnava culture he didn’t like it if we got too caught up in the fine details. The main point is to worship Krsna and acceptance of the sacred thread is a major step forward in that process.

Your humble servant,
Hari-sauri dasa

One Comment
1. mahat-tattva dasa
April 18th, 2009 at 7:33 pm

You may find this interesting.

Brahmacaris, Nara and Narayana, the two forms of Krishna who appeared before Markandeya Rishi, wore single upavita brahmin thread. One upavita is made of three strands. Here is sastra pramana:

upavitakam tri-vrt

One of Them was of a whitish complexion, the other blackish, and They both had four arms. Their eyes resembled the petals of blooming lotuses, and They wore garments of black deerskin and bark, along with the THREE-STRANDED SACRED THREAD. In Their hands, which were most purifying, They carried the mendicant’s waterpot, straight bamboo staff and lotus-seed prayer beads, as well as the all-purifying Vedas in the symbolic form of bundles of darbha grass. Their bearing was tall and Their yellow effulgence the color of radiant lightning. Appearing as austerity personified, They were being worshiped by the foremost demigods.

[SB 12.8.33-34]

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