Actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan has kicked up a controversy again. He recently attracted a lot of backlash from the Brahmin community over his statement on the "sacred thread" worn by male members of the community, which is also known as janeu in northern India. During an interaction with his fans, he was seen criticising the poonal for its ill-effects in his personal life.

Taking exception to Haasan's diatribe against the Brahmin practice, author and activist Rahul Easwar, in an exclusive interview with My Nation, said the three strings of janeu or poonal represent, thought, work and karma.

"Brahmanism is a way of life and is all about acquiring knowledge," Easwar opined.

On Kamal Haasan's controversial statement, he said that the actor, being an Iyengar, should not go against the most ancient ritual, rather he should progress towards Brahmanism to gain the greater good. 

While some others like him believe that going against this practice is turning against wisdom, Professor GK Govinda Rao counters the known belief.

Rao, sharing his own experience, says, "I have discarded the so-called white thread long back after I started believing humanity is above everything. Nature has created me as a human being and not as a Brahmin. In a country like India which is secular, caste and the hierarchy is the known enemy. Through the democratic way of learning and the secular way of thinking we should utterly get out from the clutches of such malpractices."

History and tradition



Upanayana, considered one of the most sacred rituals in Hinduism, has its roots deep in the tradition of this land. Every Brahmin boy who reaches an age of six is expected to wear this white thread to carry forward the legacy of ancient Brahmins.

The ceremony of donning of thread is popularly known as upanayana sanskara. Poonal, as it is called in Tamil, is believed to have several health and spiritual benefits. It consists of three strands that signify three goddesses: Parvati (strength), Lakshmi (wealth) and Saraswati (knowledge).

Another popular belief associated with the three strands of the sacred thread is that it symbolises three debts of a man, which he is bound to and which he should not forget in his lifetime. They are: indebtedness towards one's teachers, parents, ancestors and, lastly, scholars.