Samskaras Of Hinduism
What Is The Meaning Of Samskaras
Samskaras, or Hindu rites of passage, according to the ancient sage Panini, are the ornaments that decorate one’s personality. In simple words, the rites that pertain to the stages of life are called Samskaras.
What Is The Importance Of Samskaras
Samskaras are meant for purification, sanctify one’s life and give a spiritual touch to the important events in his life, from conception to cremation. It is believed that the various Hindu Samskaras eventually lead to a purification of one’s sins, vices, and faults. Samskaras mark the important stages of one’s life. They pave the way for one’s physical and spiritual journey through the life. The Upanishads mention Samskaras as a means to grow and prosper in all four aspects of human pursuit viz.- Dharma (righteousness), Artha (wealth), Kama (work and pleasure), and Moksha (salvation).
How Many Samskaras Are In Hinduism
The detailed explanation about Samskaras can be found in the ancient Hindu scriptures – the Smritis and Grihasutras. Although different Grihasutras differ on both the names and numbers of Samskaras yet, the 16 Samskaras that Rishi Veda Vyas propounded are considered the most accepted ones in a Hindu’s life.
16 Samskaras In Hinduism
This is the first coming together of the husband & wife for bringing about conception. The Garbhadhana, conception or entering the womb, sanctifies the creative act. Reason for having progeny is given in the Taittiriya Upanishad. At the end of his Vedic studies, when the student seeks the permission to leave from his teacher, the teacher blesses him and give him some advice about his life. One of the advice is –
“Prajaatantu ma vyavyachchhetseehi…”
Which means – “Do not terminate one’s lineage – let it continue (by having children).”
Since the parents expecting a child need to purify their body and mind, the Garbhadhana Samskara is carried out by the mantra which means –
Oh, Goddess! You give power to this woman to bear a child. May the God Ashwinikumar and the deities such as Mitra, Varuna, Guru Brihaspati, Indra, Agni, Brahma fill the womb of this woman.
When the mind of parents is purified, good impressions are impressed in the brain cells of the embryo. If they have the image of Arjuna, they will have a chivalrous and wise son. If they have the image of Lord Buddha, they will bring forth a son with mercy and other virtues. If they have the image of Dhanvantari, they will get a son who will turn out to be a reputed ayurvedic doctor. If they think of Surya, the sun-god, they will bring forth a lustrous son with splendor and effulgence.
In the third month, the Pumsavana ritual is performed with mantras. The food sheath, Annamaya Kosha, and the vital sheath, Pranamaya Kosha, of the child are formed. It is the first time the child stirs in the womb. Thus for the purification of the child in the womb and for the mental development, this Samskara is undertaken. It is considered essential for the baby in the womb during the Shubh nakshatra time with a view to helping the parents get a healthy and bright child.
The Simantonnayana ritual is performed in the seventh month with the recitation of Vedic mantras. This protects the mother from negative influences and bestows health on the child.
This Samskara is performed on the birth of the child. It is said to be performed when cutting the navel string of the newborn baby from that of his mother. The father welcomes his newborn child. He prays for its long life, intelligence, and well-being, and feeds it with honey and butter.
Namakarana is the naming ceremony. The newborn child is given a name on the tenth, eleventh or twelfth day with the recitation of mantras.
In the third month, the child is allowed Agni (fire) and Chandra (moon) darshan. In the fourth month, he is taken out of the house for the first time, by the father or maternal uncle, to a temple for the Lord’s darshan and blessings.
In the sixth month, when the child is given solid food for the first time, the Annaprasana Samskara takes place. Mantras are recited and oblations are offered to the various deities. For a son this is done in even months – the 6th, 8th, 10th or 12th months. For a daughter this is done in odd months – 5th, 7th or 9th months. The food offered is cooked rice with ghee. Some sutras even advocate honey to be mixed with this.
The Chudakarana Samskara, the tonsure or shaving of the head, is performed in the first or third year.
The Karnavedha (piercing earlobes) ceremony is performed in the fifth or seventh year or at the end of the first year with the Chudakarma. By piercing ear at the bottom a specific vain gets pierced which helps to avoid diseases like Hernia. Karnendriya (senses of hearing) has direct contact with viryavahini of a child. The body of the child is protected and harmonized by these ceremonies. Any hereditary defect that arises from the defect of semen and embryo is removed.
The most important ritual which has a religious and scientific importance and marks the beginning stage of youth is upanayana. It is a landmark in the life of the child, his second or spiritual birth. The word upanayana means ‘bringing near’. The child is brought near his guru or spiritual teacher. The preceptor invests him with the sacred thread, Yajnopavita, and initiates him with the Gayatri mantra, and gives him a staff.
This is the beginning of brahmacharya ashrama, the period devoted to studying and learning, during which perfect celibacy is instructed to the child. The initiation makes him a Dwija, twice-born. The father and mother gave him physical birth. Initiation into Gayatri mantra is his true birth.
The children were initiated into three practices to help them in their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual growth: Surya Namaskar, Nadi Shodhana pranayama, and the Gayatri mantra.
This ritual involves cutting of hairs guru Dakshina is given.
This Samskara is performed at the end of the brahmacharya phase. It is the end of studentship and the person returns home.
This ritual means marriage ceremony.
As old age approaches and the person decide to retire for a life of austerity and studies. He leaves the city or town life.
The ritual of a person becoming ascetic much like attaining Nirvana and enlightenment.
These are the last rites done after the death. The first thing done is to place a few tulsi leaves and a few drops of water in the mouth of the dead person. The old clothes are removed and the body is bathed in sanctified water. The body is then covered with one piece of a new, unbleached, uncut cloth. It is then laid on a bier made of bamboo canes tied with jute strings.
Samskaras are the turning points of life and hence are celebrated. They involve our respected elders, scholars, near & dear ones. Everyone gets together to convey their best wishes & blessings to the person concerned and thus there is social & religious sanction for the act & ceremony. Samskaras are time-tested tools in our traditional systems which help carve out a great personality. Apart from scriptural validation, history also proves the great effectiveness of these methods.