The upanayana is the rite of passage in which one “draws near” the guru (teacher) to begin learning the sacred Vedas. During the ceremony, each boy has his head shaved, receives the sacred Gayatri Mantra, and receives the “sacred thread,” a cord worn across the chest signifying one’s qualification for studying the Veda and performing the many rituals. The upanayana is reserved only for the upper three varnas or castes, which are sometimes called “twice-born” because of their eligibility for this rite of rebirth. In ancient India and to a modest degree in modern America, girls are also eligible for this rite.