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What is the purpose of a cord around the waist?
February 28, 2008 10:01 AM   Subscribe

(Hindu?) Question about the purpose of a cord around the waist of children.

My wife works for a preschool where a few children have this cord around their waist. There are several children with these, all of the families are originally from India. One of the young boys had never had his hair cut, one day he came in without the cord and a bald head. What is the significance of the cord? Is it related to the hair?
posted by TheDukeofLancaster to Society & Culture (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Are you sure they are hindu, or are they sikh? Ask your wife to look up the wikipedia on sikhism to find out if they are sikh or hindu. That should help.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:16 AM on February 28, 2008


hal_c_on, I thought it was Sikh too, but the closest thing I can find on wikipedia is about Upanayanam, the Hindu "sacred thread ceremony".
posted by Zarya at 10:20 AM on February 28, 2008


The children are both male and female if that matters.
posted by TheDukeofLancaster at 10:26 AM on February 28, 2008


Sikh (scroll down); also check the picture.
The sacred thread is a passport to obtain education.
posted by adamvasco at 10:29 AM on February 28, 2008


The scared thread ceremony is usually done when Brahmin kids are like 8-9 years old. (But I think the thread is usually warn diagonally across your chest and back though.) I don't think what you are describing is the same thing.
posted by chunking express at 10:32 AM on February 28, 2008


I don't think a Sikh would shave their head. They generally do not cut their hair.

Thread ceremonies are only for males as far as I can recall also. I'm basing this on the fact that I've never been to or heard of one for any of my friends that are girls.

So I have no clue.
posted by AaRdVarK at 10:35 AM on February 28, 2008


I did more searching. This time I found:

Navjote
Kushti

Both are from Zoroastrianism.

My god, this is like those fun little extra credit games we used to play in high school!
posted by Zarya at 10:38 AM on February 28, 2008


Can your wife not ask the kids' families what the significance of the cord is?
posted by clh at 10:39 AM on February 28, 2008


This link addresses the shaved head.
posted by chez shoes at 10:40 AM on February 28, 2008


Hell, can't your wife ask the kids??
posted by tristeza at 10:58 AM on February 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


I would ask the parents. As an Indian kid (not Sikh, and I don't know anything about this ceremony), I would have been mortified if I had to answer cultural questions from a teacher. Kids don't like to feel different.
posted by sweetkid at 12:19 PM on February 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


You're all wrong. They are Hindu, not Sikh or Zoroastrian and it's a coming of age ritual. All Hindu men wear the cord/string around them for the rest of their lives. I'll try to find a link that will better explain it to you. I don't have the energy at the moment.
posted by onepapertiger at 2:01 PM on February 28, 2008


Here's the link I promised: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Initiation_in_Hinduism

The "cord" is referred to as a "Janoy"

"In Hinduism young male members of the Brahmin and Kshatriya caste may perform a coming of age ceremony, however as the caste system has been disregarded and was not part of Hinduism, through birth as such, various members of other "castes" also perform this ceremony. The Upanayana commonly known as Janoy, or the Thread Ceremony. The Janoy, a three cotton threads/strings (approximately two arm lengths) rolled together represented the 'milky way', the wearer taking the role of 'Prajapati', the creative principle. It symbolises a New birth/ new eyes {Upa = Higher/new; Nayan = Eyes/birth} as a student. Hence, from this day onward he belongs to the Guru, who takes the place of mother and father in nurturing and training young male."

Also, they all shave their heads.
posted by onepapertiger at 2:04 PM on February 28, 2008


Wait. I didn't read your description carefully enough. The timing of the events seems weird to me and doesn't match the thread ceremony. Also, you mention that they are preschool aged.

Really weird. I don't know.
posted by onepapertiger at 2:06 PM on February 28, 2008


Janoi thread, they are brahmins.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Initiation_in_Hinduism
http://www.swaminarayan.org/vicharan/2002/01/01/photo/gadhada/5-14f.jpg
posted by senseigmg at 8:16 PM on February 28, 2008


"You're all wrong. They are Hindu, not Sikh or Zoroastrian and it's a coming of age ritual. All Hindu men wear the cord/string around them for the rest of their lives. I'll try to find a link that will better explain it to you. I don't have the energy at the moment."

Not ALL hindus; only those of certain castes as mentioned in the link.
posted by senseigmg at 8:18 PM on February 28, 2008


Thanks for asking the question TheDukeofLancaster!

My benchmate got one of these when he was in the ninth standard, so that means he must've been around 13 or 14 years old, and as onepapertiger says--it's to sanctify a boy's journey from childhood to adulthood. So you can imagine how big of a deal it is.

Although, your mentioning that the children were much younger led me to a little bit of investigation, and this is what I could find out: The Adoption String

I wonder if that has any bearing on it.
posted by hadjiboy at 4:09 AM on February 29, 2008


One of the young boys had never had his hair cut, one day he came in without the cord and a bald head.

Are people even reading the question? Or the answers thus far? If your wife is curious I second asking a parent what the deal is.
posted by chunking express at 6:50 AM on February 29, 2008


True Senseigmg. Thanks for clarifying.
posted by onepapertiger at 10:03 AM on February 29, 2008


To all of the comments about asking the parents.
The parents are first generation Americans, and have had some pretty severe problems communicating just to get enrolled. That is a good suggestion, but we would have taken that step if it were an option.

To hadjiboy
I can't seem to view that on my work PC, I'll check it out tonight.

To everyone else, thanks for the suggestions, none quite fit so far since these are preschoolers, but Hadjiboy may have something, any other thoughts are welcome!
posted by TheDukeofLancaster at 10:14 AM on February 29, 2008


one day he came in without the cord and a bald head

Good catch--I wonder what happened.
posted by hadjiboy at 11:05 PM on February 29, 2008


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