Sanskar is a commonly used variant of the Sanskrit word ‘Samskara’ and signifies cultural heritage and upbringing in modern Hindi.
Most Vedic rituals consist of Homa – fire sacrifies 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.
“Samskaras” mean sacraments. According to Max Mueller,” the prescription of these ceremonies reflect the deep rooted tendency in the heart of man to bring the chief events of human life into contact with a higher power, and to give to our joys and suffering a deeper significance and a religious sanctification.” Samskaras are rooted in the Rig-Veda, although the Atharva-veda is rich in mantras relating to marriage and funeral ceremonies. The objective of the Samskaras, are several. The removal of evil spirits, invoking blessings from gods for material gains, longevity and good progeny, are a few of these. The common thread holding all Samskaras is the worship of Agni (fire God) and Varuna (rain God) and the sprinkling or sipping of the holy water to wash away evil spirits and impurities. Different Mantras are chanted and different gods are worshipped depending upon the ceremony.
The Dharma sutras being mostly occupied with the Hindu laws and custom, not all of them care to describe or enumerate the Samskaras. They contain rules about the Upanayana. Vivcha, Upakarma, Utsarjana, Anadhybyas and Asaucha. The Gautama -Dharmasutra gives a list of altogether forty Samskcras with eight virtues of the soul (Chatvcrimsat samskarah, Astau Atmagunah)
The rite through which a man placed his seed in a woman was called Garbhadhana. Saunaka gives the similar definition though in slightly different words; “The rite by the performance of which a woman receives semen scattered (by her husband) is call Garbhalambhanam or Garbhadhana.”
The Garbhadhana Samskara is a purely spiritual act as is confirmed by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita 7.11. Such sex aimed at creating godly children is as good as God Himself.
tepitaram sutah” – Manusmrti “
Punarvasu, Pushya, Anuradha, Moola, Shravana, Ashvini And Mrigasirsha (Male Stars). The purpose of this ceremony is to instill faithand confidence in the mother to beget a male Child.The scriptural sanction for this ceremony is authenticated by the following Mantra.
Pumamsam Putram Vindasva tam Pumananujayatam
“Agni,Indra, Brhaspati are all endowed with manlyvigour. Oh, Lady! May you beget a male child, and the prog-eny succeeding him be also Vigorous”.
This is performed during the period between the fifth and the eighth months of pregnancy. The specific materials used during this Samskara, that are for the lady only, are, the quill of a porcupine, an ear of ripe paddy and some Udumbara leaves. The deity invoked is Rika, the presiding deity of the full-moon.Their implications are: that the pregnancy should be fruitful; the child should be endowed with sharp and penetrating intellect (like the sharp quill of the porcupine). The child should be beautiful like the full-moon. The gist of the Mantra is: “I beseech the goddess Raka. May she make this ceremony blameless. May my son be endowed with sharp intellect.”
The woman is dressed in new clothes and jewelry used for such occasions. Among some Nairs of Malabarm two local ritualistic additions called ariyidal and Garbha Prashnam are performed. In the ariyidal the seated pregnant lady is given rice and appams in her lap. In the Garbha Prashnam, an astrologer prescribes ritualistic remedies (if needed) for the protection of the mother and child as well as for smooth child birth in the event of any astrological obstacles. Afterwards, the pregnant lady visits four temples, including her own ancestral temple and prays to the deities for a healthy child and for a smooth delivery. After this she begins to observe Pula or birth pollution, which extends up to 15 days after childbirth. The family then holds a feast for all the relatives. Medicines and routines are prescribed for the woman, which are to be followed till childbirth. Ladies are asked to sing: “Be a mother of heroic sons” thus creating a heroic atmosphere. The mother fasts and keeps silent after the ceremony till night time when the stars become visible. At the close of the ceremony she touches a male calf, symbolizing a son.
At the time of pregnancy this is performed for the health and wealth of to born Baby and also for normal delivery.
After a child is born, a ceremony called Jatakarma Samskara is held to welcome the new born baby into the world and into the house. The father of the baby puts a small amount of honey and ghee in the baby’s mouth(though it received flak in later time to feed a new born baby anything other than milk). After this, the name of Lord Krishna is said in the child’s ear.
After ten days of the birth of the child, Namakarana is organized.
Namakarana is the ceremony organized to name the baby. The name is decided according to the Jatakaratna of the child depending on the time at which the child was born and depending on the position of the planets at that time. The child is neatly dressed in new clothes. The decided name of the child is whispered in his ear three times by his father and is written on the rice filled in a plate to symbolically announce it.
This sanskar is related to the time when the child is to be given solid food apart from the mother’s milk. The object of this ceremony is to pray to the gods with Vedic Mantras to bless the child with good digestive powers, good thoughts and talents. It is performed when the child is six months old which is the weaning time. The father feeds a little of the sweet food anointed with gold to the child with Mantras that say he feeds the child with food that may ensure a healthy life to the child and prevent ill-health. Annaprashana ceremony should be performed at the time when the child gains strength to digest cereal and preparations made from cereals. The first feeding of cereal commences with this ceremony. He who desires his child to be brilliant and famous should feed cooked rice mixed with ghee (clarified butter) or the rice mixed with honey, curd and ghee . The samskar ceremony for the first feeding commences with prayer, followed by Svastivachana, Shanitkarana and complete Samanya Prakarana. It is indicated that this ceremony should be performed (when the child is six months old) on the day on which the child was born.
Chudakarana also called Chaula or Chudakarma, this is the ceremony in which a child’s head is shaved for the first time, leaving a tuft on the crown. ‘Chuda’ refers to this tuft. This ceremony is also commonly called ‘mundan’ in the north.
This sanskara developed for reasons of physical hygiene. Usually performed when the child is approximately three years old, it is believed to have the power to cleanse the body and soul. The hair on a child’s head when he emerges from the womb is considered impure and must be shaved off to make way for the strong, clean hair that grows thereafter. In addition, to shave the head, a razor or other sharp instrument was required. Chudakarana is also a symbolic release of the child from his mother. Usually by three, the child is no longer being nursed by the mother, and is no longer physically dependent on her. During the Chudakarana, even the hair that he was born with is removed. Therefore this ceremony is believed to mark the point in the child’s life when the mother’s influence is reduced, and the influence of the father becomes dominant. With the father’s influence, the child’s education is also believed to begin.
In Hinduism, Upanayana, or ceremony to mark stages in the life of a Hindu. It is a religious ceremony undertaken by Hindu boys of the three highest castes. The ceremony usually takes place between the ages 7 and 11, indicating the entry into adulthood and the ability to deepen the individual’s awareness of the duties they now embrace as a Hindu. During the ceremony, a sacred thread is tied. The thread is made up of three separate threads, each with a symbolic meaning – one meaning to worship God, one meaning to show love and respect to parents, and one meaning to learn from the religious teacher. Mantras from the Hindu scripture the Rig Veda are used during the ceremony. The ceremony may end with the boy acting out his departure on religious pilgrimage, re-enacting the ways of those in the past who set out to study under the tuition of a religious guide.
(When studies are completed)
Then comes the end of the student stage, the Samavartana. The student, having completed the Vedic studies and the Vratas, presents his preceptor with a gift and obtains permission to take the formal bath which marks the close of his student-career. He returns home and performs the Samavartana, the returning ceremony. He is now ready to marry and enter the second stage or Grihastha Asrama, the life of a householder.
Vivaha means support to sustain. Sustain Dharma. Solemnized, with Agni as the witness. The marriage is complete when the couple take seven steps together (Saptapadi).
The meaning of Yagna is not confined to this sacrificial ritual. It has a much wider and deeper meaning. The word Yagna is derived from the Sanskrit verb yaj, which has a three-fold meaning: worship of deities (deva-pujana), unity (sangatikarana) and charity (daana). The philosophy of Yagna teaches a way of living in the society in harmony and a lifestyle which promotes and protects higher human values in the society, which is indeed the basis of an ideal human culture.
1. Brahma Yaj~nam , which is performed through the recitation of the VdAs and helps to discharge the debt to Vedic rishis or manthra drashtAs . They collected the Veda samhithAs through their spiritual powers .
2. Deva Yaj~nA, which requires the performance of pujAs and Yaj~nAs for Gods .
3. Pithru Yaj~nAs : The debt to one’s ancestors is discharged through the offering of pindAs during the tarpaNAs as oblations.
4. Maanushya Yaj~nA : The athithi sathkAram or feeding of one’s guest with respect , discharges one of his debts to the community . [Serving and helping humanity Feeding the hungry Clothing the naked Sheltering the homelessComforting the sad Rich are the stewards of the poor]
5. BhUta Yaj~nA : This samskArA consists of feeding the living entities other than human beings [Feeding poor, animals, birds] . Offerings are made to them as they are an extended set of human family.
1) Ashtaka, 2) Parvana Sthaleepaka, 3) Masi Sradha, 4) sravanee. 5) Aagrahaayanee, 6) Chaithree, 7) Aaswayujee.
“Pakayajnas” are minor sacrifices and are performed at home in the aupasanagni or grhyagni . These are seven in number .They are Ashtaka , Sthalipaka , Parvana , Sravani , Agrahayani , Chaitri , Ashvayuji. The sthalipaka is to be performed on every Prathama (first day of the lunar fortnight) “Sthali” is the pot in which rice is cooked; it must be placed on the aupasana fire and the rice called “Charu” cooked in it must be offered into the same fire. The Parvana is to be performed every month . The other five are to be performed once a year .
1) Agni Aadheyam, 2) Agni Hothram 3) Darsa Purna maasam 4) Chathurmasyam, 5) Aagrayanam, 6) Niruuda Pasubandham, 7) Southramanee.
The “haviryajnas” are more elaborate, though not as large in scale as the somayajnas. The haviryajna performed on every Prathama day ( every fifteen days )is “darsa-purna-isti”, “darsa” meaning the new moon and “purna” the full moon. The two rituals are also referred to merely as “isti”. The Darsapaurnamasa isti is the “prakrti” (archetype) for the haviryajnas. The first four haviryajnas – adhana, agnihotra, darsa-purna-masa and agrayana – are performed at home. The last three haviryajnas – caturmasya, nirudhapasubandha and sautramani – are performed in a yajnasala.
The Agnihotra is to be performed twice daily at sunrise and sunset immediately after the aupasana .The other five Havir yagnas are to be performed once a year , or at least once in a life time .
The last two havir yagnas have animal sacrifice as part of the ritual . However nowadays packets of flour etc are used as symbolic substitutes .
1) Agnishtoomam, 2) Athyagnishtoomam, 3) Ukthyam, 4) Shoodasee, 5)Vajapeyam, 6) Athirathram, 7) Apthooryaamam.
The name “somayajna” is called after the juice of the Soma plant, said to be “relished by the devas”, that is offered as an oblation. In these sacrifices, Samans are sung, and all Shrauta priests – the hotar, adhvaryu, udgatar and the brahman as well as their 12 helpers take part: each priest is assisted by three others. The Agnistoma, the first of the seven somayajnas is the “prakrti” (archetype) for the six others that are its “vikrti”. These six are: atyagnistoma, uktya, sodasi, vajapeya, atiratra and aptoryama. “Vajapeya” is often regarded as particularly important. When its yajamana (sacrificer) comes after the ritual bath (avabhrtha snana) at the conclusion of the sacrifice, the king himself holds up a white umbrella for him. “Vaja” means ‘prize of a race’ (but is nowadays also taken as rice, food) and “peya” means a drink, thus ‘drink of victory’. This sacrifice consists of the offering of soma-rasa (juice), pasu-homa (offering of 23 animals) and anna- or vaja-homa. The sacrificer is “bathed” in the rice that is left over. Since the rice is “poured over” him like water, the term “vajapeya” is apt.
Animal sacrifices are part of the ritual offerings in the soma yagnas . However , nowadays as and when they are rarely performed , substitutes made of flour etc are used instead of sacrificing live animals .
40 to 48 Athma Gunas
The eight gunas or qualities of the Self are are: daya, kshanti, anasuya, sauca, anayasa, mangala, akarpanya, aspriha.
“Daya” implies love for all creatures, such love being the very fulfillment of life. There is indeed no greater happiness than that derived by loving others. Daya is the basis of all qualities.
“Kshanti” is patience. One kind of kshanti is patiently suffering disease, poverty, misfortune and so on. The second is forgiveness and it implies loving a person even if he causes us pain and trouble.
“Anasuya” you know is the name of the sage Atri’s wife. She was utterly free from jealousy: that is how she got the name which means non-jealousy. Heart-burning caused by another’s prosperity or status is jealousy. We ought to have love and compassion for all and ought to be patient and forgiving even towards those who do us wrong. We must not envy people their higher status even if they be less deserving of it than we are and, at the same time, must be mature enough to regard their better position as the reward they earned by doing good in their previous life. “Sauca” is derived from “suci”, meaning cleanliness. Purity is to be maintained in all matters such as bathing, dress, food.
In Manu’s listing of Dharmas that are applicable to all, ahimsa or non-violence comes first, followed by satya (truthfulness), asteya (non-covetousness; non-stealing is the direct meaning), sauca (cleanliness) and indriya-nigraha (subduing the senses or even obliterating them).
“anayasa”. It is the opposite of “ayasa” which denotes effort, exertion, etc. Anayasa means to have a feeling of lightness, to take things easy. One must not keep a long face, scowl or keep lamenting one’s hardships. If you lose your cool you will be a burden to yourself as well as to others. Anayasa is a great virtue. In many of our rituals there is much bodily exertion. Here Anayasa means not to feel any mental strain. Obstacles, inevitable to any work or enterprise, must not cause you any mental strain. You must not feel any duty to be a burden and must develop the attitude that everything happens according to the will of the Lord.
“mangala”, is auspiciousness. There is mangala or an auspicious air about happiness that is characterised by dignity and purity. One must be cheerful all the time and not keep growling at people on the slightest pretext. This itself is extremely helpful, to radiate happiness wherever we go and exude auspiciousness. It is better than making lavish gifts and throwing money about.
To do a job with a feeling of lightness is ” Anayasa “. To be light ourselves, creating joy wherever we go, is mangala. We must be like a lamp spreading light and should never give cause for people to say, “Oh! he has come to find fault with everything.” Wherever we go we must create a sense of happiness. We must live auspiciously and make sure that there is happiness brimming over everywhere.
“Akarpanya” Miserliness is the quality of a krpana or miser. “Akarpanya” is the opposite of miserliness. We must give generously and whole-heartedly. At Kuruksetra Arjuna felt dejected and refused to wage war with his own kin. In doing so, according to the Gita, he was guilty of “karpanya dosha”. It means, contextually, that he abased himself to a woeful state, he became “miserly” about himself. Akarpanya is the quality of a courageous and zestful person who can face problems determinedly. “Aspriha” is the last of the eight qualities. “Spriha” means desire; a grasping nature. “Aspriha” is the opposite, being without desire. Desire is at the root of all trouble, all suffering and, all through the ages, it has been the cause of misfortunes. But to eradicate it from the mind seems an almost impossible task. By performing rites again and again and by constantly endeavouring to acquire the Atmic qualities one will eventually become desireless.
is the householder stage, which starts from 25 years and lasts till 50 years. In this stage, one marries, has a family, and works to maintain the family and society, in order to fulfil the emotional needs, the kama aspect.
is life after retirement and lasts from 50 to 75 years. This retirement highlights the fact that all beings, including the members of one’s own family, have their own destiny to fulfil. It is futile to interfere with the destiny of one’s children or grandchildren. However rich you may be, you cannot change the destiny of others. But you can provide positive and good quality samskaras so that they can work out their own life and destiny.
The concept of sannyasa ashrama begins from 75 years and lasts till 100 years or death. It is to maintain a balanced view of life. In pain and pleasure, in justice and injustice, one must maintain internal harmony and equilibrium.
The Hindu belief is that the soul is eternal, that is, it never dies. It continues to go through many rebirths until it merges with the supreme God, Brahman, and becomes free from . The soul, called atman, is given a new life and body as an appropriate reward for the kind of life he led before. During the period between one’s death and the next birth, one’s soul remains in a subtle form (that which cannot be seen) and roams in space until it enters another body at its birth.
Hindus cremate their dead because they believe that the physical body is not needed any more and it is the immortal soul that is important. It is believed that the body is made up of five elements which are earth, water, air, fire and either and that the God of Fire transports these five elements to their respective sources at death. Agni (holy fire) is the purifying agent that enables the soul to be liberated from the physical body.
Hindus believe that death generates negative attitudes like sorrow and grief in those who mourn the passing away of a loved one. It is believed that these negative attitudes will be passed on to others so the mourners stay at home and do not go out to mingle with people until the Anthyeshti or the funeral ceremony has been completed.
The Anthyeshti is to give a send-off to the soul of the deceased by the family members. The soul remains in the vicinity until the ceremony is completed.