शास्त्रीय शिक्षण कॆन्द्र

Hindu Samskaras (Sacraments)


The Samskāra are a series of Sacraments, Sacrifices and Rituals that serve as rites of passage and mark the various stages of the Human life and to signify entry to a particular Ashrama. All Human beings, especially the Dvija or twice-born are required to perform a number of sacrifices with oblations for gods, Ancestors and Guardians in accordance with the Vedic dictums for a Dharmic or righteous life.

Sanskar is a commonly used variant of the Sanskrit word 'Samskara' and signifies cultural heritage and upbringing in modern Hindi.

Apart from the practices, the word "Samskāra" is used in communication denoting the upbringing criteria of a Hindu. For example- It is said that a boy with good Samskāra does right and it is supposed that he will not fall in sin, i.e. Lust, Anger and Wine. It may be concluded that Samskāra is a word to denote the qualitative quality among Hindus.

Most Vedic rituals consist of Homa - fire scarifies of elaborate and intrinsic designs and complex methodology, accompanied by recitation of Vedas by qualified Priests in honor of a particular Demigod or god, fire offerings of various ingredients, gifts to be given in charity, presence of elders for blessings, amidst sanctified sacrificial grounds, sacred herbs and good omens. Each important milestone of a Human life is to be celebrated by undertaking a particular Samskara wherein the significance of that milestone is ritualistically conveyed.

The 16 Samskaras Most of the Brahmins used to follow complex rituals in connection with major events in their lives, such as pregnancy, childbirth, education, marriage, and death. Although, the number of major samskaras fluctuates between 12 and 18 in the Grhya Sutras, later, it became 16 in number,[1] generally known as "Shodasha Samskaras" . They are illustrated below:


Garbhadhana (IAST: Garbhādhāna) (literally, gifting the womb), is the act of conception. This is the first sacrament which followed immediately on every marimonial union. There are a number of rites performed before conception. The act of first sexual intercourse or insemination is known as Nishekam. (Garbhdhanasamskaram is cited in Manusmrti, 2.27) Garbhadhana (Sanskrit: गर्भाधान, Garbhādhāna) (literally: placing the seed in the womb) is the first of the 16 samskāras (sacraments) practiced by the Hindus. Ceremony According to the Grhya Sutras, at the beginning of the performance of this saṃskāra, the wife was decently decorated and the husband recited Vedic verses consisting similes of natural creation and invocations to gods for helping his wife in conception. Then embracing began with verses consisting metaphors of joint actions of male and female forces and the husband rubbed his own body with verses expressing his fertilizing capacity. After embracing, conception proper took place with prayers to Pushan. The husband then touched the chest of his wife, reclining over her right shoulder with the verse, "O, you, whose hair is well parted. Your heart which lives in heaven, in the moon, that I know, may it know me. May we see a hundred autumns."


Hinduism is essentially a spoken tradition, and sound is the primary means of spiritual expression. Speech is personified as Vak, a form of goddess Sarasvati. As the deity of scholarship and the arts, Sarasvati symbolises the intimate relationship within Hinduism between culture and religion, which until recently were practically inseparable.


The Sĭmantonnayana The third Samskara of the embryo was Simantonnayana. That rite was called Simanta, in which the hairs of pregnant woman were parted.

The purpose of this Samskara was partly superstitious and partly practical. People believed that a woman in her pregnancy was subject to attacks of evil spirits and some rite should be performed to ward them off. The Asvalayana - Smritis has preserved this belief. it says, Evil demons bent on sucking the blood, come to woman in the first pregnancy to devour the foetus. In order to remove them, the husband should be should invoke the goddess Sri, as the lurking spirit leave the woman protected by her. These invisible cruel flesh-eaters catch hold of the woman in her first pregnancy and trouble her. Therefore, the ceremony named Simantonayana is prescribed. The religious intention of the Samskara was to bring about prosperity to the mother and long life to the unborn child, as it is indicated by the verses recited. Physiological knowledge of hindu was also responsible for instituting this rite. From the fifth month of pregnancy the formation of the mind of the would be child begins. So the pregnant woman was required to take utmost care to facilitate this process, avoiding any physical shock to the foetus. This fact was symbolically emphasized by parting her hair. Another purpose of the Samskara was to keep the pregnant woman in good cheer. To address her as Raka or full moon night, "of beautiful limbs" and parting and dressing the hair by the husband himself were methods used for it.

The Gruhastras, the Smritis and the astrological works discuss the proper time of performing this Samskara. The Grahya Sutras favor the fourth or the fifth month of pregnancy. The Smritis and astrological books extend the period up to eighth month or up to the birth of the child. Some writers are even more liberal. According to them, if delivery took place before this Samskara was performed, it was celebrated after the birth of the child, placing it on the lap of the mother or putting it into a box. The later periods indicate that the original sense of the Samskara was being lost and it was becoming a farce.


The Jatakarma ceremony was performed before the serving of the navel cord. This seems to have been the original time, but later writers state that if the time expired it was performed at the end of the ceremonial impurity of ten days. Or, if the birth took place during the impurity caused by a death in the family, the ceremony was postponed until its expiry. in later times the moment of birth was noted with meticulous care for preparing horoscope, as it was thought to be a determining factor in the life of the child. Then the good news was brought to the father. Different sentiments were expressed at the birth if boy and a girl, as different prospects were depending on them. The first born was liked to be a boy, as he freed the father from all ancestral debts. But for a sensible man a girl was not less meritorious, because hr gift in marriage brought merits to the father. After this, the father went to the mother in order to see the face of the son if he was not born in sinful star. Because by looking at the face of the newborn son the father is absolved from all debts and attains immortality. Having seen the face of child, he bathed with his clothes on, invited the elders and performed the Nandi-Sradha and Jatakarma ceremonies. Generally speaking, Sradha is an inauspicious ceremony. But the one performed here was an auspicious Sradha. It was meant for entertaining the father. Harita says, Merits arise from the happiness of the fathers at the birth of a son. Therefore, one should offer Sradha to them with pots full of sesame and gold, after having invited.


Ever since men evolved a language, they have tried to give names to things of daily use in their life. Not only humans, gods also use to put names. with progress of social consciousness men were also named because without particular names of individuals it was impossible to carry on the business of a cultured society. Name is the primary means of social intercourse. From Name man attains fame. Therefore, Naming ceremony is very praiseworthy. दशम्यामुत्थितायाग्ं स्नातायां पुत्रस्यनामदधाति Names of objects and persons are found in the vedic literature. Other peculiar names suggested in the SUTRAS and The SMRITIS are also found in the Vedic and the BRAHMANA LITERATURES. The RIGVEDA Recognizes a secret name, and the AITAREYA and the SATAPATHA BRAHMANAS refer it. but the practice as given in the sutras, of giving name a secret name, and the after the Nakshatra Name, is nowhere instanced in the vedic literature. The adoption of a second Name is assumed for success and distinction in life. From the study of the BRAHMANAS it is evident that there was a system of naming in Vedas also.


Hinduism is essentially a spoken tradition, and sound is the primary means of spiritual expression. Speech is personified as Vak, a form of goddess Sarasvati. As the deity of scholarship and the arts, Sarasvati symbolises the intimate relationship within Hinduism between culture and religion, which until recently were practically inseparable.


The important stage in the life of the child is first feeding. It was fed on the mother's milk. But after six or seven months child body will develop and require and greater amount of and different types of foods. While the quantity of the mother's milk diminished. So for the benefit of the child and the both it was thought necessary that the child should be weaned away from the mother and some substitute for her milk should be given to the child. Thus this Samskara was connected with the satisfaction of the physical need of the child.


The purpose of the Samskara as given in the scripture was the achievement of long life for the recipient. Life is prolonged by tonsure; without it, it is shortened. Therefore, it should be performed by all means. According to Susruta, shaving and cutting the hair and nails remove impurities and give delight, lightness, prosperity, courage and happiness. At the basis of the tonsure ceremony the idea of health and beauty was prominent. In the opinion of some anthropologists, however, this ceremony had a dedicative purpose in its origin, that is hair was cut off and offered as a gift to some deity. But this supposition is not correct, at least so far as the hindu tonsure is concerned. The dedicative purpose was unknown to the Grihyasũtras and Smritis. No doubt at present, the tonsure ceremony is sometimes performed at the temple of a deity. But so are some other Samskaras like Upanayana. The Samskaras of only those children are performed at the place of a deity who are born after a long disappointment of the death of previous children. Moreover, this practice is not universal. Thus there is not an innate connection between the tonsure ceremony and its dedication to deity.


Karnavedha (IAST: Karṇavedha) (literally, ear-piercing) is piercing the ears. This is done with a particular thorn. Butter is applied to the wound. It is applicable to both male and female children. (MW cites Purāna-Sarvasva.) Karnavedha (Sanskrit: कर्णवेध, Karṇavedha) or Karnavedham is one of the Hindu Samskaras (sacraments) performed for a child. It is an ear piercing ceremony that occurs in the third or fifth year for some Hindu children. This can still be performed in later years. Brahmins perform Karnavedha, which is one of the sixteen major Samskaras (rites) during the course of their lifetime. Brahmins follow these complex rituals in connection with major events in their lives, such as pregnancy, childbirth, education, marriage, and death. The major Samskaras 16 in number are generally known as "Shodasha Samskaras". These samskara's are mentioned in the Veda's, Karnavedha is noted to be performed by male Hindu's as well (see picture). It is stated in the Veda's that Brahmin's male and female, adhere to all Samskara's as they are considered the highest class of the 4 varna's, said to occupy the first position among the four varnas of Hinduism.


When the mind of the child was prepared to receive education, the Vidyarambha Samsk?ra was performed to mark it's beginning, and alphabets were taught. The Samsk?ra is variously named, it is called Vidyarambha, Akshar?rambha, Aksharasvĭkarana and Aksharalĕkhana by different writers. As it's very name suggests, it was more cultural than natural. It originated at a very high stage of civilization, when alphabets were evolved and utilized for writing purposes This Samskara originated earlier than it's mention in the Smritis. This late recognition of "the learning of alphabets" as a Samskara was, probably, due to the fact that for a very long time this Samsk?ra was performed with the Chowla or tonsure ceremony. This supposition is supported by the hindu epics. According to which the education of a price began at the time of the Chowla Samskara. It is evidenced by the Uttara Ramayana also. Where the sage Valmiki started the education of Lava-Kusa after their tonsure ceremonies and they had learnt many sciences before they commenced their Vedic studies after the Upanayana. There was one more factor which facilitated the performance of the Vidyarambha with the Chudakarana. The later was performed between the fourth and the seventh year of the child. This was the proper time for commencing the primary education also. So both the Samskaras were combined and performed together. The number tufts of hair to be kept at the time of the tonsure ceremony was determined by the number of celebrated sages ( pravaras) in the family. This was a convenient time suggestion that the primary education of the child should commence at the time when it's tonsure ceremony was performed.


In the life of a Hindu boy of belonging to Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, and Vysyas, Upanayana marks the beginning of Brahmacharya Ashrama which is set apart for the study of Vĕdas and this stage is said to be the second birth for him. Mere wearing of a sacred thread initiated on the Upanayana day does not make him a real Brahmacharin. It is rather the study of Vĕdas, learning and chanting Vĕdic Mantras including Gayatri and Sandhyavandana which will qualify him to be a true Brahmacharin In modern education, there is no place for Hindu Scriptures and very few study Vedas after Upanayana. The least that is expected to be done after this ceremony is to recite the Gayatri Mantra and do Sandhyavandana. In the present day no attempt is made by the parents or the religious preceptors to educate the youngsters on the importance of this ceremony and its spiritual values. The ceremonies are done in a routine manner and the wards take this sacred religious ritual with least seriousness.

Praishartha (Vedarambha)

Praishartha (or Vedarambha) is the learning of Vedas and Upanishads in 'Gurukulam' or 'Pāthaśāla'. In the beginning of each academic period there is a ceremony called Upakarmam and at the end of each academic period there is another ceremony called Upasarjanam. ( Mn.2.71)


Keshanta (IAST: Keśānta) (literally, getting rid of hairs) is the first shave. It is ceremoniously performed for a boy at his age of 16. (Citation: Mn.2.65) Keshanta (Sanskrit: केशान्त, Keśānta) (literally, cutting the hair) is the thirteenth of the sixteen samskāras (sacraments) practiced by the Hindus. This samskāra is connected with the first shaving of a student's beard when his age is about 16 years. The procedure of this samskāra is almost the same as that of the Chudakarana. This samskāra was also known as the Godana (gifting a cow) or the Godanakarman (rite of gifting a cow), as the student offered a cow to the teacher at the end of the ceremony. According to the Manusmriti (II.65), this samskāra should be performed for a Brahmin in the sixteenth year (from conception), for a Kshatriya in the twenty-second year and for a Vaisya in the twenty-fourth year.


Samavartana (IAST: Samāvartana) (literaly, graduation) is the ceremony associated with the end of formal education of Vedas in 'Gurukula' or 'Pāṭhaśāla'. This ceremony marks the end of student hood. This also marks the end of Brahmacharyaasrama of life. (Citation: Mn.3.4) The Samavartana (Sanskrit: समावर्तन, Samāvartana), also known as Snāna, is a Hindu sacramental ritual (Saṃskāra) that was performed at the close of the Brahmacharya period and marked the end termination of the student life.


According to Hinduism, marriage is a union between a male and a female with a commitment so that they can pursue Dharma, Artha (possessions) and Kama (physical desires) together. It joins two families. It is at once a gateway to earthly life of pleasure, progress, prosperity and joy as it is also an altar of elevation to a level of spiritual experience. Society recognizes and controls it as it results in the procreation and nurture of future generation and thereby influences the social and cultural growth of society. According to Manusmriti, or laws of Manu, there are eight different types of Hindu marriages. Not all eight have religious sanction. The last four were not religiously defined and were condemned. These are: Brahma Marriage, Daiva Marriage, Arsha Marriage, Prajapatya Marriage, Gandharva Marriage, Asura Marriage, Rakshasa Marriage, Paishacha Marriage.


Antyeshti (IAST: Antyeṣṭi) (literally, last rites), sometimes referred to as Antim Sanskar, are the rituals associated with funeral.