The story of Indian culture and its rituals is sung all over the world. According to Indian philosophy, especially in Hindu culture or the forefathers of Hinduism, the sacramental spiritual truth was deeply recognized and deeply reviewed by life. They found that from the arrival in the uterus to the surrender in the funeral pyre, even after that there are many important turning points till liturgical respite, If the soul is not taken care of and groomed at this time, so man, far from understanding the meaning of his identity, keeps moving towards suffering and downfall. In order to be alert at these important points and to show the right path, our philosophers, mystics, had practiced the 16 Samskara. These Samskara are not considered religious rituals or ceremonies, but many important formulas of life management are hidden in them.
They are still in vogue in the form of sign-worship, but due to a lack of scientific, psychological, and spiritual understanding and training, they have become mere rituals and extravagance.
Let us know the meaning of the rites mentioned in the Hindu Vedas and about the various rites.
Meaning of Samskara
The word “samskara, the prefix “sam”, is formed by adding the suffix “Gh” to the root “kara”, which literally means sophistication, purity, or cleanness.
By the way, the exact meaning of the word “Samskara” is not in any language. But it can be linked to the yogic concept of karma and lust. According to Hindu Sanatan tradition, Samskaras or rituals were performed with the aim of sophistication or purifying the body of a person so that it could become suitable for personal and social development.
The purpose of Samskara in Sanatan Dharma is not only formal body rituals. The purpose of Samskara in Hinduism is the sophistication, purification, and perfection of the entire personality of the cultured individual. Sanskars have been provided for the sophistication of the materiality of life and the mentality of the individual at different stages of life.
According to Sadhguru, your karma and Vasana together form the sacrament. Because of the behavior of the past lives, you are born in a specific Samskara and move on to the present life. However, your current karma will stay with you and carry on in your next rebirth and decides how much joy or pain you experience.
Sanskar refers to those religious acts, which leave an impact on the mind and thoughts of a person.
Samskaras as per ancient texts
Maharishi Acharya Charak (C.S.V.1/2), the father of Ayurveda, says that-
sanskaro hi gunantaradhanam uchyate
That is, this effect is different. The process of removing the bad qualities of a person and imposing virtue on him is called Sanskar.
Angira Rishi (Veer Mitrodaya Sanskar Prakash-Part-1, page 139) says that-
Chitrakarma yathadenekairangaisamilyate shanaih.
brahminpi tadvastat samskarai purva kai: .
That is, just as a painting is gradually enhanced by the addition of different colors, in the same way, by performing rituals in a systematic way, one attains brahmana.
In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra III.18
In Yoga Sutra III.18, Patanjali Yoga Sutra discusses the samskaras— your habits, patterns, and conditioning—can be a point of focus for refining the mind.
16 Samskara in Hinduism
There are 40 samskaras mentioned in Gautam Smriti Shastra. In some places, 48 samskaras have also been told. Maharishi Angira has mentioned 25 samskaras. After consensus amongst various scholars, At present Shodasha Samskaras (Shodasha means sixteen in Sanskrit) are prevalent according to Maharishi Ved Vyas Smriti Shastra, according to that-
Gardhanam Punsavan Seemanto Jatkarma Ch.
Karnavedho Vratadesho Vedarambhakriya Vidhi:.
Keshantam Snanmudvaho VivahaagniParigraha:..
Tretagnisamgrahascheti Samskara : Shodash Smrita:. (Vyasmriti 1/13-15)
These are categorized into 5 sections – Pre-natal, Childhood, Educational, Marriage, and Death.
Let us have a look at each one of them.
1. Garbhadan (Conception)
In Hindu religious rituals, the conception ceremony is the first Samskara, from here the baby is formed. After entering the householder’s ashram, the couple has been given the belief to produce children, therefore it is said in the scriptures that in order to get the best children, first of all, conception has to be performed.
This Samskara is performed for the production of children only to get rid of the debt of the ancestors. By this Samskara, the defects related to seed and womb, etc., are removed, due to which good children are obtained.
Conception is the first Samskara of the soul because it is at that time that the soul first enters the womb of the mother.
To get the best child, parents have to prepare themselves physically and mentally because the coming child is the image of their own soul.
2. Pumsavana (Engendering a male issue)
When the soul enters the mother’s womb, its physical development begins. This sanskar is performed so that the physical development of the child is favorable.
Where has it been said in the scriptures that in the third month from conception, the Punsavan Sanskar is performed, according to the scriptures, there is no gender difference in the pregnancy for 4 months, so this rite is performed before the birth of the sign of a boy or a girl. In this ritual, a particular medicine is brought inside through the nostrils of the pregnant woman.
The mind and nature of the parents have a profound effect on the fetus, so this sanskar has special significance to make the mother mentally able to take good care of the fetus.
There are two main purposes of performing Punsavan rites in religious texts. The first objective is to get a son and the second is to get healthy, beautiful and talented children.
3. Simantonayana (Hair-parting)
This sanskar is performed during the seventh month of pregnancy and prayers are offered for the healthy physical and mental development of the child. Another significance of this sanskar is to free the expectant mother from worries for the last 3 months as it is a very difficult time period for the pregnant woman- both physically and mentally. Worship is performed for the purification of the atmosphere and for the peace of the mother and for giving birth to a peaceful and pious child.
The rites are primarily social and festive in nature, intended to pray for the health and well-being of the child and safe delivery of the mother.
4. Jatakarma (Birth rituals)
By performing Jatkarma Sanskar as soon as the child is born, many types of defects of the child are removed. Under this, honey and ghee are given to the baby, due to which the development of the child’s intelligence is accelerated. From then on the mother starts breastfeeding the child. The science of this ritual is that mother’s milk is the best food for the child. Also Vedic mantras are recited so that the child is healthy and long.
5. Namakarana (Name-giving)
After the Jatkarma Sanskar, the fifth Samskara naming ceremony is performed in Hinduism, this rite should be done on the 11th day after the birth of the child.
Naamkaran ceremony should be performed only at the prescribed time because man has a close relationship with the name.
The advantage of naming names according to constellations or zodiac signs is that it makes it easier to make horoscopes, the name should also be kept very beautiful and meaningful, inauspicious and unsightly names should never be kept.
It is believed that due to the naming ceremony, the age is accelerated and in worldly behavior, a separate existence of a famous person by name is created. In this sacrament, the child is offered a darshan of the sun by licking honey and giving a decently sweet speech and it is wished that the child should imbibe the radiance of the sun.
6. Nishkrama (First outing)
In this, the child is taken out of the house and given a glimpse of the sun, it is believed that as soon as the child is born, he should not be exposed to sunlight, it can have a bad effect on the eyes of the child, so when the child’s eyes and body When something becomes strong, then this sanskar should be done.
That is, in the fourth month of birth, Nishkraman rites should be performed; the knowledge and karmic senses of a four-month-old child become strong and become capable of bearing sunlight, wind etc. The main process of this rite is to worship the gods like Sun and Moon and make the child have darshan of the Sun, Moon etc.
7. Annaprashana (First feeding)
This samskara is generally performed around the sixth month of the child’s life. After the Annaprashan ceremony, other food items are started to be given to the child besides mother’s milk. Medical science also says that after a time limit, the child cannot be nourished by milk alone. He also needs other substances. The purpose of this sanskar is to develop the child physically and mentally through food items.
The purpose of Annaprashan is to make the child bright, strong, and meritorious, so there is a law for the child to do annaprashan by mixing ghee-rich rice or curd, honey and ghee.
8. Chudakarma or Chaul (Shaving of head)
In Hinduism Chudakaran Sanskar is the eighth rite, after performing Annaprashan Sanskar, it is a law to perform Chudakaran Sanskar, this rite should be done in the first or third year, according to the legend of Manusmriti, the two castes should be shaved in the first or third year, such is the order of the Vedas.
The reason for this is that the hair of the head that came from the mother’s womb is impure, and secondly, they keep on falling, due to which there is no rapid growth of the baby. The crest of the baby is kept after these hairstyles are shaved.
9. Karnavedh (Piercing the earlobes)
Karnavedha sanskar means piercing the ear. There are five reasons for this, one- to wear jewellery. Second- Piercing the ear stops the bad effects of Rahu and Ketu according to astrology. Third, it is acupuncture, due to which the flow of blood in the veins going to the brain starts to improve. Fourth, it increases hearing power and prevents many diseases. Fifth, it strengthens the sexual senses.
10. Vidyarambha (Learning the alphabet)
Through this Samskara, the attainment of the ultimate goal of learning is initiated after the person enters the momentary world. The importance of Vidyarambha Sanskar in Indian culture is more important than all other rites.
On the basis of ‘Lalayat Panchavarshani’, in the first five years, the life of the child is full of pampering and during this period his agility and instability of mind are at the peak. That is why this time was not considered ripe for the study. After five years, receptivity power develops in the child and this time is most suitable for Vidyalambh.
Vishnu, Lakshmi and Saraswati are worshiped at the time of Vidyarambh ceremony. The reason behind this is that Lakshmi is the goddess of Preyas Marg and Saraswati Shreyas Marg while Vishnu is established as the coordinator between the two. In this ritual, an elite person gets the child to do education by writing letters in the soil on the earth. Children feel pleasure in playing in the mud, so this is done to arouse their interest towards learning.
11. Upanayana (Sacred thread initiation)
Upanayana Sanskar is also called Yagyopaveet or Janeu Sanskar, every Hindu should have this rite. ‘Upa’ means pass, ‘Nayana’ means to take, means to take to the Guru, means Upanayana Sanskar.
In this sacrament, the Guru initiates the son at the age of eight with a sacred thread known as Janoi.
Even today it is a tradition that there are three threads in Janeu i.e. Yagyopaveet, it is a symbol of three gods Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh. Through this sanskar, the child gets strength, energy and brilliance, as well as spiritual feelings are awakened in him.
12. Vedarambha (Beginning Vedic study)
After the Upanayana ceremony, one begins the study of the Vedas. It is only in Indian culture at such a young age that a person starts taking the education of esoteric knowledge. It is from this knowledge element that man creates the ability to separate himself from other living beings of the world. In this, the personality of a person is formed and that is why this Vedarambh Sanskar is considered to be the most respected sacrament.
13. Keshant (Godaan) (Shaving the beard)
Keshant means – to end the hair, that is, to shave, is shaved even before the study of learning. Before attaining education, purification is necessary so that the mind works in the right direction.
This Samskara is also called Godan Samskara. This rite is performed at the end of adolescence and the beginning of puberty.
In ancient times, Keshant Samskara was also performed when he returned after receiving education from Gurukul.
14. Samavartan (End of studentship)
Samavartan Sanskar means to return again, after receiving education from the ashram or gurukul, this sanskar was performed to bring the person back into the society.
It means preparing a celibate person psychologically for the struggles of life.
15. Vivaha (Marriage Ceremony)
It is necessary to get married at an appropriate age. Vivaha samskara is considered to be the most important samskara. Under this, both the bride and the groom stay together and get married, taking a vow to follow the religion. Vivaha (wedding) does not only contribute to the development of the universe, but it is also necessary for the spiritual and mental development of a person.
This sanskar is the most important sacrament of life which plays an important role in building a better society.
16. Antyeshti (Death rites)
In Hindus, the process of burning the dead body in the funeral pyre in the Vedakt ritual is called antyeshti kriya or funeral rites.
This rite is performed to dedicate the body to the fire after death. Due to this being the last rites of any person, it is also called funeral. The philosophical aspect of this sanskar is that the body has to be re-merged in the same five elements from which the body is made. In this sacrament, the body that has left the soul is lit by the dearest person of that person.
Man does not fulfill any one of these 16 Samskara, he has to suffer a lot to attain salvation after death, so man should follow these sanskars as much as possible.
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