You are here: Sri Vaishnava Home Page : Bhakti List : Archives : July 1995

Poonal/Guru Nanak
Date: Wed Jul 19 1995 - 12:04:16 PDT

        RS quoted
        >Guru Nanak satirized the thread of the dvija
        >as an outward show, empty of meaning, when the
        >real thread is the thread of bhakti etc. 

This brings an issue, what exactly is the symbolism behind
the thread? By the way Upakarmam for Yajur vedis and
probably Rigvedis is on Agust 10 this year. Probably, this
is a god time to chat about this subject.

What I have been told is that the thread (Poonal), which is made of
three closed strands that eminate and merge  in a knot termed  
 Brahma Granthi represent our three obligations:
Deva Runam(Obligation to God)
: Have a spirit of service to fellowmen
Rishi Runam(Obligation to Rishis/Acharyas/learned/teacher)
: Study the works of Purvacharyas
 and Pitre Runam(Obligation to parents).
: To become a parent , ie., raise at least one progeny.

A Brahmacharin wears one poonal. 
Grihasta, wears an additional set of poonal on behalf of wife.
A third set is woren by some in place of Uttiriyam.

I have also heard that the three strands stand for
 Kaya, Vacha and Manasa servitude to God.

In the earlier time both men and women of
all varnas used to ware poonal. Later only men and then only
those  belonging to the upper castes. Nowadays few castes 
apart from brahmins ware poonal.  This is also rapidly

I don't think poonal is a representation of Bhakti or prapatti.
If that was true, then Srivaishnavas would not have to undergo
Prapatti, poonal alone will do. Poonal, which starts Brahmacharya
 is recommended prior to  Vedadhyanam. Looks like Guru Nanak 
was mixing up the issue OR he was implying that Vedadhyanam is
 unnecessary OR he was rebelling against the traditional
heirarchy of the Brahmins in general. Also he perhaps did not 
understand the true meaning of poonal.   It is in  the human nature
to redicule what we  donn't know  or care to understand.
For a long time I had little respect for the Tamil works of our
 Alzhwars and Acharyas because of my poor knowledge of Tamill 
 and my love for Sanskrit (not that I know Sanskrit well)! 

-K. Sreekrishna