Sanskars :

There are sixteen religious ceremonies known as Sanskars Sacraments of Life in Hindu culture. The Sanskar is said to be helping for achieving spiritual nourishment, peace of mind and ultimately moksha. Sanskars give a spiritual touch to the important events at different stages of a Hindu life - right from pre-birth to post-death. The Sanskars are performed for the Mental, physical, behavioral, and spiritual balance and progress of an individual.

Here are the sixteen Sanskars of Hindus which cover the entire life span of a person:

Garbhadhana (Conception):
Conception is an unforced, natural process. It is no different for man or beast. Garbhadhana Sanskara includes the rites to refine, sanctify and make a simple natural instinct more consequential. Garbhadhaba Sanskara is a journey from good to better. Ordinarily too, good children may be born, but by purposeful preparation and refinement through sanctifying, purificatory rites, a better child may be begotten.


Punsawana (Inspirational Rites for the Embryo):
These rites are performed after pregnancy is confirmed. After conception, the mother's role becomes primary. A joint effort of the family is needed to keep the mind and body of the expectant mother healthy. The second or third month after conception was considered the right time for this rite.

Seemantonnayana (Rite to Establish Intelligence in the Embryo):
This sanskara is an extension of Punsavana. Its literal meaning is "lifting up of hair". During the rite, the husband had to lift up the hair of his wife, hence the name of the rite. The Grihyasutras ascertain the time of this sanskara during the fourth or fifth month of pregnancy.

Jatakarma (Thanksgiving for safe birth):
Jatakarma is the rite of passage to celebrate the successful arrival of another being in this world. The time of this is during sixth or tenth day after birth.

Namkaran (Selection of Name):
The sages and scholars have suggested different ages to select a name for the child. They consider the tenth, eleventh, twelfth, sixteen day, one month or one year after the birth, the right time. It was forbidden to name a child based on an aspect of the Moon, river, mountain, birds, trees, snakes, etc. There was never any instance in India to name persons according to caste or community. The ancients have considered it a Rite of Passage as they recognized the importance of a name. The name stays with a person lifelong. A name is a convergence of letters and syllables.


Nishkraman (Leaving home for the first sight of the Sun and the Gods):
Nishkraman Sanskara developed as the conclusion of Namkaran. This rite was performed when the threshold of the home was crossed by the newborn for the first time and the Sun was sighted. The purpose of this Sanskara is to request the gods to protect the child at all places for the rest of his/her life.


Annaprashan (Introduction to Solid Food):
Food is an essential element of life. Scholars have expressed significant opinions about when and what grains may be introduced to the infant. This rite can be performed during or after the sixth month after the child's birth depending on the digestion of the child. It is advisable that the mother feed the child with her own hand. There is a natural relation between the mother's fingers and the child's lips. It is prayed to God that pure food, digestible food, food bought by righteously begotten wealth, food cooked with a pure heart, may be available to the child all his life.


Mundan/Karnavedh (Shedding of natal hair and piecing of earlobes):
As reflected by the parenthesis, this is the rite to remove the embryonic hair. The original name of Mundan is "Churakaran". Most scholars suggest the third year for this rite. At some places, even and odd years are suggested for the boy and girl child respectively.
 

Karnavedh:
In every part of the world, there is a tradition of wearing ornaments. India is no exception. Karnavedh probably was introduced a little late to the sanskara system. Hence no special shloka or detailed method is available.


Vidyarambh (Introduction to Letters):
The education of a child is initiated at home. This rite is performed to bless the child with righteous thoughts and auspicious resolve upon his entry into an ocean of knowledge. This rite can be performed at the age of three to four years.


Upanayana (Investiture with Sacred Thread):

The primacy of knowledge in the Indian way of life made the uapanaya Sanskara an unavoidable rite of Passage. The literal meaning of Upanayana is 'to bring close to' or 'to bring near'. This Sanskara should be performed when the aspirant is between eight to twelve years of age. This sanskara attracts the attention of the student to discipline and self-restraint.

Vedarambh (Initiation into Vedic Studies):
This Sanskara was probably not quite essential in early times as Upanayaya was considered the beginning of education. Scholars have placed this rite somewhere between Upanayaya and Samavartana. This rite can be performed on any auspicious day after Upanayaya.

Keshant (End of Early Hair):
Ordinarily this sanskara was done around sixteen years of age. In early times, the chid used to stay in Gurukula at this age. The purpose of this sanskara must have been to refresh the tenets of austerity and celibacy during student days.

Samavartana (Graduation):
Samavartana is the sanskara to mark the completion of formal education. Education was available to all seekers who acquired knowledge according to their capabilities. After this ritual the scholar began his life as a householder. The student begins to think of a career. In present times, this is performed as the convocation ceremony in Universities, as a group activity. However, this was a personalized ritual in the past.

Vivah (Marriage):
The Institution of marriage and its rites are the indicators of a civil society. This institution has developed gradually and successfully. There is no temptation, use of force or commerce in the marriage. There is a agreement from both the bride's and groom's side in this arrangement. Eight type of marriages have been mentioned in the scriptures - Paishacha, Rakshasa, Gandharva, Asura, Prajapatya, Arsha, Daiva and Brahm.

Antyeshti (Last Rite):
These are final rites of a Hindu life. Death is an unalterable reality. Indian sages had threaded together death and the post-mortem rituals calling them Antyeshti. When the body is surrender to the fire, the five elements which body is made of, dissolve into their original element.
  
 

 

  
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