By Manisha Pravin Sathe
16 SACRAMENTS – SAṁSKĀRAS- OF HINDU RELIGION FOR THE WELFARE OF INDIVIDUAL
Publication – Many articles are published in Daily Sakal, Prabhat, Agro-one, Nava Kaal as well as in different magazines ‘Chhatra prabodhan’, ’Samatol’,’ Yajnya’, ‘Weekly Sakal’ etc. some of the important articles include, History of Agriculture, Paryushan parva of Jain’s, Deepavali festival, etc.
Lectures delivered – How to perform sacraments? , Customs and traditions of food taking according to Upanishdic studies,etc. Participated in ‘Liverpool cultural festival in England -2008’
Abstract – The artist draws a picture and makes it perfect and beautiful by adding colors in it. Human life too blossoms softly and steadily with wonderful ‘Saṁskāras’. Saṁskāras or sacraments play an important role in ordinary Hindu individual’s life.
The life of Hindu individual’s life passes through the four (Āśramas) phases Brahamacarya, Gṛhastha, Vānprastha and Sanyāsa. One who goes through these four phases of life can achieve the heavenly bliss. Saṁskāras or sacraments were introduced thousands of years ago to bring sanctity and stability to the lives of the individuals and to integrate their personalities with the society they were born in. Religious sacraments take prominent place in the life of Hindu person from conception to cremation. The philosophy in the rituals says life is a cycle and it starts where it ends. Sacraments play a vital role in this life cycle.
(Citrakarma yathā anekaiḥ raṅgaiḥ unmīlyate śanaiḥ |Mānavyamapi tadvat syāt saṁskāraiḥ vidhipurvakaiḥ ||) (Pārāśara Gṛhyasūtra, Hariharabhāṣya)
The artist draws a picture and makes it perfect and beautiful by adding colors in it. Human life too blossoms softly and steadily with wonderful ‘Saṁskāras’. I.e. sacraments, they play an outstanding role in ordinary Hindu individual’s life.
Hinduism is known to the world as a ‘Sanātana Dharma’ and from time immemorial
is known for its philosophy towards life. And so any true devoted Hindu explores it not only as religion but as a way of life .It introduced the sacraments to bring sanctity and stability to the lives of the individuals and to integrate their personalities with the society they were born in.
THE MEANING OF THE WORD SAṀSKĀRA
This word is derived from the Sanskrit root ‘Saṁ kṛ’ we can trace it in Vedic literature. In the Ṛgveda (V.76.2) it is used in the sense of ‘Purified’. While in the classical Sanskrit literature the word Saṁskāra is used in the wider sense it means education, cultivation, or impression for life time. It is purificatory rite. (Kumārasaṁbhava 1.28, Śākuntala vii.23 etc.) The word Saṁskāra express the meaning ‘Impression, activator; sanctification or preparation’ of individual.
Hindu mind believes that the sacraments in the Hindu person’s life help to change the crude animals into refined humanity. The strong conviction of the Hindu mind is that ‘A sacrament or rite is done to make a significant transition of life. Which makes deep and positive impression on the mind of the recipient, inform the family and community of changes in the lives of its members and secure inner-world blessings. Gṛhyasūtras like Āśvalāyana, pāraaskara, Baudhāyana guides about the Saṁskāra but the number of Saṁskāra which must be done differ in every Gṛhyasūtra.
|Name of the Text||No of Saṁskāras|
|The Daśakarmapaddhatis||10 to 13|
|Śodaṣa Saṁskāra vidhi||16|
|(Many texts exclude funeral from main list of Saṁskāras)|
*Gṛhyasūtra – Texts giving directions for all sorts of usages, ceremonies, rites, customs and sacrifices.
The Brāhmaṇas, Āraṇyakas, Upaniṣads, Dharmasūtras, smṛtis, Epics, Purāṇas and the customs of society are valuable sources to know the fantastic world of sacraments.
THE PURPOSE OF THE SACRAMENTS
We can find similar sacraments all over the world in the Indigenous cultures. They are meant 1) to remove hostile influences and attract beneficial ones. 2) To express the joys, felicitation and even sorrows at the various events of the life. 3) To attract favorable spirits and invoke them for Boon. 4) For moral satisfaction. Sage Gautama says a sacrament gives ‘eight good qualities of the soul.’ (Gautama dharma sūtra vii.24). 5) For the development of integrated personality.
Originally life was easy and more natural but development of a man as a separate entity from other beings gave new dimension to his life. The customs which are merged with the sacraments were originally very simple ideas implemented in order to protect a person from worldly problems. Manu says, “By performing the Saṁskāras Conception, Birth rites, Tonsure and Upanayana, we can wash away impurities of life. (M.S.ii.27) and so we can say ordinary Hindus believed that sacraments finally leads them towards spirituality.
THE 16 SACRAMENTS COMMONLY KNOWN ARE AS FOLLOWS:
• Sacraments Before the birth of a child:
1) The Garbhādhāna (conception)
2) The Puṁsavana
3) The simāntonnayana
• Sacraments After the birth of a child:
4) The Jātkarma (Birth ceremony)
5) The Nāmkaraṇ a (Name – Giving)
6) The Niṣkramaṇa (First outing)
7) The Annaprāśana (First eating)
8) T h e Chudā karaṇ a (Tonsure)
9) The Karṇ avedha (making holes in thelobes)
• The educational sacraments :
10) The vidyāraṁbha (Learning of the Alphabets)
11) Upanayan (Initiation or Thread ceremony)
12) Vedāraṁbha (Beginning of the Vedic studies)
13) The Keśānta (Shaving the beard)
14) The samāvartana (The end of studentship)
• Sacraments after education:
15) The Vivāha (The Marriage ceremony) and
16) The Antyeṣṭi (Funeral Rites)
Thus we can find the maximum number of Sacraments i.e. 11 are performed between the age of 0 to 25 the very important phase of life or developmental when the mind and brain and the physic of an individual grow gradually and maximum efforts are taken to build up the personality. Now we will discuss in detail these Sacraments.
1) THE GARBHĀDHĀNa (WOMB – PLACING)
It is the rite of conception, where physical union is consecrated with the intent of bringing into physical birth an advanced soul. (HT -91) For this In the early period there was absence of specific ritual but in the later Vedic period we can see the prayers for children. It was very significant act in which every care was taken in order to bear Heroic son.
Gṛhyasūtras explain this ceremony in detail. For the Garbhādhāna day is chosen
according to wife’s ‘Ṛtu’ i.e. when she is physically prepared. The proper time according to Dharmaśāstra is from the fourth day to the sixteenth night after the menstrual course of the wife. (Y.S. I.79) Only nights were prescribed and day time is prohibited. Astrological considerations are also there. The gender of fetus was believed to be determined by the number of night on which the conception took place. e.g. – Even nights for Male child and Odd ones for Female child. After taking the bath husband and wife get ready for the ritual. Husband chants the various verses and touch the wife who is wearing beautiful dress, ornaments and flowers. Gods are invoked for favorable progeny. The reason behind all the ritual must be for controlling the extra sexual urge which is said to be harmful for one’s body and mind. The conception take place with a definite aim of producing best progeny in order to pay the ancestral debt by keeping the family growing. This sacrament is not familiar now a days and the way it is performed is also different. It includes the worship of Ganeśa and family deity, Matṛpūjā, Nandi śrādhha, Havana and adorning wife’s neck with garland of green fig fruits. Fig fruits are symbol of fertility.
2) THE PUṀSAVANA (RITE PERFORMED WITH THE EXPECTATION OF THE MALE CHILD.)
The sacrament performed during the third month of pregnancy constitutes prayers with an expectation of a son and for the well-being of mother and child. In the past this was performed with the need for male child who after being a young man can be helpful to guard the country, run the family business and support the parents in old age. It was not only customary approach but was need of society because in the battle number of young people lost their life. So it became need of the society and family that woman should bear a male child. In today’s situation it may seem ridiculous but it was need of the society in the past. It is symbolic and care is taken of the mother and would be child. After Ganeśapūjana, Matṛkāpūjā, Nāndiśrāddha, sap of the banyan tree or Kuśa (Particular type off grass which grow on the bank of the river) or Durvā is prepared and 3 or 4 drops of the sap are put in the right Nostril of the wife by the husband. According Ayurved, Sap of the banyan tree is of medicinal use and it help to remove all kind of trouble during the pregnancy. Touching the womb of wife symbolizes taking care of mother and child.
Though the sacrament is performed in the third month of pregnancy, there are different
suggestions by Yājñyavalkya, Manu, Śankha, Śaunaka and Bṛhaspati. So it can be performed
between 3rd to 8th months but 3rd month is very specific as it is believed that in the third month the fetus in the womb becomes stable, healthy and the possibility of abortion is less.
3) THE SIMĀNTONNAYANA(HAIR – PARTING)
The simāntonnayana means ‘hair – parting’. This Sacrament is held between the fourth and seven months in which the husband combs his wife’s hair and expresses his love and support for her.
As we know, today medical science has proved that fetus in the womb of the mother is influenced by mother’s nature and her behavior and so every step is taken to keep would be mother happy and satisfied. The atmosphere around a pregnant woman should be cheerful and peaceful. The simāntonnaya suggest the same meaning. This sacrament is performed in the fourth or fifth month of the pregnancy but Yājñyavalkya, Āpastamba extended this period up to eighth month (Yāj.smṛti I.II) or after the delivery also.
Suṣruta, the great Ayurvedacārya says , | (Chapter.33) It means from the fifth month of pregnancy the formation of the mind of the child begins and so utmost care is taken of the pregnant woman. Any physical shock to the
fetus must be avoided. In old day it was performed by the husband. While chanting the
sacred hymns husband parted the hair of the wife upwards. For this bunch of unripe Uduṁbara fruits and darbha grass is used. After that, branch of Uduṁbara is tied round the neck of wife. Uduṁbara is believed to be the symbol of fertility so we can find more and more use of this fruits in the pre natal sacraments.
Every attempt is made to keep the mother physically and mentally fit. Now a day we can observe combination of these 3 sacraments in one. In old days we find the husband takes care of wife. This was believed to be duty of the husband. Various prohibitions were imposed on him. But now as the sacrament is changed totally. Mostly family members, especially elder ladies participate in the sacrament and they sing traditional songs. Green coconut and other fruits are offered to would be mother as a symbol of prosperity. Different types of eatables, sweets are prepared according to her wish. With new clothes and specially designed ornaments of flowers she takes her seat like a queen. Everybody takes care of her.
4) THE JĀTAKARMA (BIRTH CEREMONY)
Sacraments After the birth of a child takes place once the child is born. On this happy moment the newly born is welcomed with prayers by his father and he feeds it a taste of ghee and honey. Before the delivery takes place a special room is prepared which is protected from every direction. (Maternity House) Elder experienced women accompany the mother. They give confidence to the mother and guide her about her diet and living. In Atharva-Veda we can find payer in which different deities are requested to protect the Mother and baby. (Atharva-Veda I.II) The time when actual birth takes place is accurately noted down in order to prepare Horoscope. The umbilical cord is separated from the child and some rites are performed.
1) The nāndi Ṣrāddha is done first to entertain the forefathers; it is believed that they are happy at the birth of child. The meaning is that, the parents impart to child the valuable wealth of thought and virtues which they themselves inherit from their forefathers. In this sense, giving birth to the child is not only fruition of conjugal life, but freeing oneself from the indebtedness to one’s forefathers is the real fruition of married life.(V.M.S vol.I pg.188)
2) After this Medhājanana is done.’ Medhā’ means sharp intellect. It is for
intellectual wellbeing of the child.
(Medhāṁ te deva savitā medhāṁ devī sarasvatī |Medhāṁ te aśvinau devau ādhattāṁ puṣkara srajau |) (A.G.S. 1.15.2)
Then father with prayers feed the baby slight mixture of honey and ghee with golden
spoon or ring. These both substances are helpful for mental growth. We can observe in these sacraments the substance used is having medicinal properties. Honey and clarified butter (ghee) are the main ingredients of many rituals. Than the father says mantras for the long life of the child. They are: O my dear child, As Agni, Soma, Dev, have a long life, I wish you too along life.
3) Strength giving is another rite. In this father touches the child with stone and
some type of Iron material and chants Aśmā bhava, paraśu bhava, hiraṇyamasṛtaṁ bhava | (P.G.S.i.16.14) It mean be strong like a stone and iron to face the hardship of life.
After this mantras are chanted in the praise of mother who has given the birth to the child. White mustard seeds with rice –chaff are spread in the mother’s room to ward off evil effects. After this gifts and alms are distributed to the Brahmans.
5) THE NĀMAKARAṆA (NAME – GIVING)
The Swing In the Hindu culture the new-born child is welcome as a manifestation of divinity. So every child is said to be Veda means knowledge. But for the convenience of parents and society special name is given to the child. The parents give that name to the child as they see it and they wish it to be. Though the child does not understand the meaning of the sacrament, its parents do .This helps them to develop the right attitude for bringing up the child.
Not exactly in Vedas but in the Brāhmaṇa literature we find some linkage of Nāmakaraṇa ritual. But it is more related with customs of that particular society than a
sacrament. The Nāmakaraṇa is done generally on the 10th or 12th day after the birth or on
any auspicious day.
What name should be given to the new born? For this some suggestion are given they are as follows,
- The name should be of 2 or 4 syllab Āśvalāyana attaches different kinds of merits to different number of syllabus. For boys names even numbers were prescribed and for girls odd ones.
- Generally name is given to the child of the gods and goddess or ancestors, or
- The name must have been suggestive of the caste and special qualities of that ce.g. Name of the Brahmin child should contain the idea of happiness and delight the name of a Kṣatrīya denote strength and ruling capacity…etc.
Five names are currently given to the child at the time of ceremony according constellation, deity of that particular month, name of the family deity, one which is chosen by parents as per their liking and. If there is a history in the family related with early death of a child, in that case this type of naming is done to protect the child.
In the ceremony mother and new born come to the place in new clothes. Various
presents are offered to both by their near ones. Father touched the breaths of the baby to awaken its consciousness and draw its attention towards the ceremony; father leans over the baby and in its right ears murmurs the five names and recites the verses for its long life. Feast is given to the invitees and Brahmans and ceremony is over.
There is another tradition in which Father gives oblation to the nine planets than
holding the child in his arms, sits on the little raised platform of earth and performs the saṅkalpa. By his side is a copper dish full of rice. With the first finger of his right hand in which he holds a gold ring, he writes on this rice the birth day of the child and the constellation on which the child is born according to Hindu calendar. And finally the name that he wishes to give him. With this name he calls the child three times in a loud voice. Other things are same means offering gifts to Brahmins etc. (Dubois: 156)
Now role of the father in this ceremony is reduced and elder ladies and other women from the family perform the ceremony. They offer the mother Green coconut, betel nut, different fruits and rice or wheat grain as a symbol of prosperity and good luck. Gold or silver ornaments are given to the child. Then baby is put in the decorated cradle and they sing lullaby and local or traditional songs. The name is given by paternal aunt and father does not participate in it. He only enjoys the ceremony and pays attention towards the invitees.
Thus the ceremony is concluded with feast. .
After Nāmakaraṇa following sacraments take place while the child is growing .In olden days they were also performed duly but now a day they are performed only as per the customs and the role of mantras and hymns is found very rarely.6) The Niṣkramaṇa (First outing) 7) The Annapāaśana (First eating) 8) The Cuḍākaraṇa (Tonsure) 9) The Karṇavedha.
6) THE NIṢKRAMAṆA (FIRST OUTING)
Traditionally this was done from 12th day of birth or after 45 days or up to the 4th month. Today after the delivery the infant is directly taken in the light and airy room but in the old days it was strictly avoided as the new born takes time to adjust with the outer world. After proper recovery of the mother she slowly takes part in the day to day activities and so obviously child also comes with her and looked after by family members. But when it is decided to take a child out of sweet home for the first time this sacrament takes place. Mother and child in new cloths with the father come outside the house. Father takes the child and makes it look at the Sun. He recites some hymns at the same time. But this can be done by maternal uncle also. As it is most affectionate relation which gives pleasure to the maternal uncle. Once the sūryadarśana is done, then child is taken to the temple of family deity or village deity to take their blessings.
The significance of this sacrament is that due to this the growing child gets acquainted with outer world and gets the fresh air and sunlight for its health. It helps to widen its world and not only family members but birds and animals, other little friends mingle in its little world.
7) THE ANNAPRĀŚANA (FIRST EATING)
As soon as the child steps in the sixth month it is believe to be proper time to feed the child solid food and other eatables which are necessary for its diet. This is done as quantity of mother’s milk diminishes. For mother and child health, the child should be weaned away and some substitute should be given to the child.
|(Ṣaṇmāsaṁ ca enaṁ annaṁ prāśayet laghuhitaṁ |- Susruta ch.10.64) Gṛhyasūtra
and Smṛti’s also insist for the same.
The vegetarian and non vegetarian food is prescribed for the same but it is insisted that it should be light and suitable. Now a day this done by inviting maternal uncle but in the Vedic period this was also done by father. After preparing the food oblation is given in the homa hymns are chanted and the little one is feed by the father.
In some places it is performed to some extent differently. The father offers puja to
the family deity. Then the married women form a procession and sing, while they bring a new dish of silver or copper and spoon or silver bowl. This is presented by maternal uncle. Then the babe is taken in the lap of maternal uncle, the elder ladies do the ārati (waving a lamp) of child and bless the child for strength, health, long life. Then the uncle feeds the child with silver spoon. Generally rice’ khīra’ or some sweet things are given to the child. Presents are offered to maternal uncle. Originally Brahmins are also invited for this ceremony and honored by the master of the house.
The significance of this ceremony is purely related with the health of mother and
child. For Childs health only mother’s milk is not an exact diet after six month. As a growing child needs every type of food substance, which gives child full nourishment.
8) THE CUḌĀKARAṆA (TONSURE)
It means shaving the head of child. Mostly Cuḍākaraṇa or Chaula is done for the boys only. It is done before completing first year or three years after the birth. The one reason to do the chaula is once the original hairs are shaved new hairs come which are strong enough. It is also necessary if some impurities are there in the hair; head of the child is cleaned in this ceremony. Only little patch is put on the palate for protection. Āśvalāyana Gṛhyasūtra says it is for the achievement of long life of the child. Cutting the hair by razor or iron instrument creates some fear in the mind of people and so the sacrament is created in order to protect the child. The shaving razor is praised and requested to be harmless by father in the Yajurveda we find some prayer about it. (iii.63) when barber do the shaving before starting he also worship his razor.
The procedure is quite simple. As usual an auspicious day is found out. The child is
brought by parents at the place of ceremony. Earthen platform or now a day’s wooden platform is prepared on which child seats. After wetting the hair prayer to the razor is done and then barber shave the child’s head. In this the arrangement of the top-hair or śikhā is the most important feature. The number of tufts was determined by the number of the pravara in the family. | (Yathā kuladharmaṁ keśaveśān
kārayet|- A.G.S.i.17). In the tribal people also we can find the system of keeping special no. of tufts. When the shaving is completed the child is put to bath and then various gifts are offered to the child after doing āratī. The hair of the child are thrown in the water or buried in the cow stall. As there is always a fear of black magic as the hair are regarded as a part of the body and so enemies may use it to threaten the parents or babe.
Significance of the ceremony according to Suṣruta is that, “Inside the head, near the
top, is the joint of an artery. There in the eddy of hairs is the vital spot called overlord. Any injury to this part causes sudden death so protection of this part was done by keeping a tuft of hairs just over this part. And that is why it is said that Cuḍākaraṇa gives the child long life.
9) THE KARṆAVEDHA (BORING THE EARLOBES)
The exceptionally specific symbol of being a Hindu is bored ears of both sexes. The ears of children of both sexes are pierced on the twelfth or the sixteenth day after the birth of the child. In some texts this period can be extended up to sixth, seventh or eighth to twelfth month. But it is better to do it in the early age as it is easier and less painful for the child. Though in the texts it is suggested that father will bore the ears but it is not done so as it requires experience. Suṣruta says a surgeon can do this. But Śrihari, a medieval writer says, a professional needle maker or goldsmith can do this. However, prescription of Suṣruta is more practical and now a day many children specialist keep this facility at their clinic. But then also it is a tradition that goldsmith is invited for the same and they do it carefully as this skill is hereditary and they are experienced ones.
On the auspicious day the goldsmith performs the operation with a very fine gold
wire and earring is put. The Suṣruta, Pārāśara, Bṛahaspatī gives information about this sacrament. Why to bore the ears? Is a question which may arise in one’s mind? In a general
talk some elders explain that these are the points of acupressure so to stimulate the points it is done. But we can’t rely on this without expert’s opinion. Suṣruta also claims that boring of ears is done as prevention from hydrosol and hernia.(Suṣruta ch.16.1) Whatever the reason may be it is a tradition which is definitely followed BY Hindus all over India.
THE EDUCATIONAL SACRAMENTS
Now we will see the educational Saṁskāra. They start with vidyāraṁbha and ends with the samāvartana they are as follows:
10) The vidyāraṁbha (Learning of the Alphabets) 11) Upanayana (Initiation or Thread
ceremony) 12) Vedāraṁbha (Beginning of the vedic studies) 13) The Keśānt (Shaving the beard) 14) The samāvartana (The end of studentship)
Today out of these 5 educational sacraments Upanayana is most popular particularly
in Brahmins and some other castes. But it is not universal in all the Hindus. It was strictly performed for boys only but now some authorities are taking initiative to perform this for girls also. Svami Dayanand of Arya samaj took initiative to perform this sacrament for any Hindu child from any caste and creed. Gayatri parivar of the Late Shreeram Sharma Acharya is also taking efforts for the same.
10) THE VIDYĀRAṀBHA (LEARNING OF THE ALPHABETS)
Symbol of goddess Saraswati It marks the beginning of formal education. The child
ceremoniously writes its first letter of an alphabet in the dish filled with the raw rice (uncooked rice).
Originally it was not believed to be very important sacrament in the Gṛhyasūtras as well as Dharmasūtras as writing was unknown in the early time. In the Smṛti period this sacraments takes place. Earlier it was combined with the Cuḍākaraṇa (Tonsure). Later on it is performed separately generally when the child becomes 5th year old. Occasionally it may be done before Upanayana.
On the auspicious day after taking a bath child wears new clothes. The Ganeśa, Sarasvatī family goddess and Bṛhaspatī were worshipped. Then teacher supports the child and writes letters. Before writing any alphabet salutation to the Ganesh family deity and Saraswatī is written and then ‘Om Namo Siddhaṁ’ is also written. Then child writes the alphabet thrice. The teacher is honored and gifts are given to him. For the further secondary education this step is very important and generally father gives the primary education.
One interesting thing to note: The vidyāraṁbha is done on ‘Vasanta Pañcmī’ as it is believed that goddess Sarasvatī come on the earth on this day. And the child who is of 4years 4 months and 4 days old participates in this ceremony. Same way Mohommadans also teach alphabets. There is an e.g. of Humayun who was admitted into a Maktab when he was four years ,four months, and 4 days old and it was done ceremoniously.
11) UPANAYANA (INITIATION OR THREAD CEREMONY)
Thread ceremony i.e. Initiation to student hood is an educational sacrament which takes place in ordinary Hindu boy’s life when he reaches at the age of 8th. This ritual was traditionally done only for selected upper caste boys. In rare cases we can find in the history where girls were initiated. In the Vedic Era around (3500 BC) there are some examples where girls take higher studies in the Veda and so they are also initiated. But after the invasion period many restrictions and taboos were set for women, so whatever education was given to the girls was domestic only.
Originally the ritual of thread ceremony was full with noble thoughts and was particularly done with the aim of ‘building a character of a child and to guide it on the way to the knowledge. The age factor was very specific i.e. from 8 to 12. As at this particular age child enters in the adolescent age which is a very sensitive period in child’s life. Worldly attractions come forth and there are chances that child get involved in distraction and may lose his concentration in the studies. It was believed that the ritual helped it to change its mindset and makes it more firm in order to achieve its goal in the life. E.g. of some guidelines given to the child are like: – Be truth worthy, be righteous, Control your senses and be attentive to the discourses offered by preceptor, etc.
In old days the method of thread ceremony was very simple .The boy who wanted to do the higher studies basically Vedic studies went to the preceptor and requests him ‘Please accept me as your student. For gaining knowledge I am ready to serve you’ the teacher accepts the child and takes the responsibility to teach him the Vedas and philosophy of life as well as ‘code of conduct’. These were the guide lines for student to be a good man, with good character and be a responsible (civil).
And so when the request is accepted by teacher, the life of the boy changes
systematically. Then the boy lives with his teacher for 12 yrs away from his parents, in which he has to do his studies rigorously, without wasting a time in worldly matters. So the sacrament contains many symbolical rites to explain the responsibility as a student. For this following steps were taken.
1) The auspicious day and time is selected for the sacrament. Before actual ritual,
Homa is performed and oblations are given to the nine planets and other deities. This process is called grahamakha. The maṇḍapa (Canopy) is set at the place where the sacrament takes place. Lord Ganesh is worshipped. His blessings are sought in order for this ceremony. Family deities as well Sri, Dhṛti, Medhā Sarasvatī are worshipped
2) The joint meal with the mother i.e. Matṛbojana On the day of Upanayana mother
and the child eat together. It is a time when the boy is separated from mother for next 12 years as he leaves home and goes to live with the preceptor. Aṣṭavarga means 8 students who are living in the same hermitage. They are now friends of the boy with who goes to the teacher’s home.
3) The boy is taken to the canopy and barber shaves his head, keeping little round of hair on the head. The boy takes a bath for the purification of the mind and body.
4) The baṭu (boy who is undergoing the sacrament) wears kaupīna to cover his private parts. Then the child approaches the Acharya with a requests him to accept him as a student. Acārya accept the request and offers clothes to him. Originally the deer-skin was used as upper garment which is a symbol of spiritual and intellectual life. But later it changed to cotton fabric (Uparana) symbol of ideal person.
5) The girdle of Muñja grass is tied around the waist of the baṭu which is of triple cord it symbolizes that baṭu is encircled by three vedas. It also suggests that baṭu is ready to take the vow of studentship.
6) The Sacred Thread is given to the baṭu by chanting the mantra | |(Yajñopavitaṁ paramaṁ pavitraṁ prajāpateḥ yaḥ sahajaṁ purastāt | āyuṣyamagraṁ pratimuñca śubhraṁ yajñopavitaṁ balamastu tejaḥ|- P.G.S.ii.2.13a) Giving sacred thread – Which is symbol of good behavior, good speech and great thoughts in the mind and also symbol of three sacred Vedas is a very unique symbol of this ritual. Originally it was clothing taken on the left shoulder which suggests the child is now entering in the stage of youth and becoming a civilized man. The three threads also suggest triguṇa i.e. reality, passion and darkness as well as three threads remind the wearer three debts he owes to the gods, ancient seers and ancestors.
7) Giving a staff to the student – Which is a symbol that now, this baṭu has started his journey on the path of knowledge. One reason for giving the staff is that hermitage is situated in the forest. A stick in the hand can be used for protection from wild animals. But it is symbolic and reminds baṭu if it will go astray the staff will punish it.
The reason behind the change in the outer look of the boy was specific as due to this anyone can recognize that this boy is now student who is living with the preceptor and earning education
Baṭu with staff and sacred thread
8) Dīkṣhā of Gāyatri Mantra- And the most important part of the ritual comes. Preceptor teaches baṭu Gayatri Mantra which is a very sacred mantra of Hindus and comes in four sacred Vedas. ॐ | | (Oṁ
tatsaviturvareṇyaṁ bhargo devasya dhīmahi | dhiyo yonaḥ pracodayāt|). Teaching of the mantra symbolizes the 2nd birth of baṭu i.e. ‘Dvija’. In traditional system of sacraments girls were not initiated so girls were prohibited from chanting the mantra. But as this sacrament is totally educational one now Jnana-Prabodhini performs this sacrament for teen age girls also.
8) Other few things – Touching the Heart of baṭu, Mounting the stone, Sprinkling Akshatas on the head of the Badu by chanting the mantras, Medhājanana for intellectual wellbeing, Taking vows in order to complete the education properly, baṭu gives the oblation in sacred fire which is a symbol of life and light. The round for Alms is done by the baṭu. He approaches to mother and other older ladies and beg by saying | & As preceptor do not take any fee from the baṭu and gives the knowledge whole heartedly to
the baṭu. Rounds for alms are taken because when he lives with the preceptor someone has
to take care of the preceptor and baṭu. Society gives great respect to the Baṭu and preceptor, so they were the dependent of the society.
Homa Though the aim behind the thread ceremony was fine but it
has its own limitations as this was limited to the Hindu boys only. But nowadays this ritual has lost its purpose and is over burdened with local traditions and is losing its essence and is done as a part of function only. Some odd customs are there as now only sacrament takes place and baṭu lives with his parents only. Though the outer look is changing then also at least in Brahmins this sacrament is very important. Jnana Prabodhini now performs this sacrament for teenage boys and girls of all caste, creed and religion.
After Upanayana following 3 sacraments come but now they are not at all compulsory as the educational system is now totally changed.
12) VEDĀRAṀBHA (BEGINNING OF THE VEDIC STUDIES)
We do not find traces of the same in the Gṛhyasūtras and Dharmasūtras. It is a later development. As originally, after Upanayana baṭu starts his Vedic Education. When the education system changed this was introduced by Vyāsa Smṛti only for those who want to learn the Vedas. It was done simply by Matṛpujan, Nāndi Ṣrāddha and with the oblations in the sacred fire. These oblations are given to the four Sacred Vedas as well as to the earth, sun and moon etc. Then Vedic studies began.
13) THE KEŚĀNTA (SHAVING THE BEARD)
It means the first shaving of the student’s beard. It was performed at the age of sixteen when the child is becoming youth and outer signs beard and moustaches appeared. As the student enters in the very sensitive age it becomes necessary to remind him his vow of Brahamacaryāśrama (celibacy).
14) THE SAMĀVARTANA (THE END OF STUDENTSHIP)
It is said lightheartedly that this sacrament is passport to the marriage. This was performed at the end of Brahamcaryāśrama means at the time of termination of student life. At the age of 24th it was done. The student was now called as Vidyāsnātaka means one who has bathed in learning. We can say it is a sacrament when student with his preceptor’s permission starts a normal life. Now he can earn and can start a life of Gṛhastha (House holder’s life) He offers gurudakṣiṇā (Fees) to the preceptor and if someone is unable to give
the fees than also preceptor appreciates his merits and give him the permission to enter into 2nd phase of life.
A ceremonial bath is taken with fragrant water; new clothes are given to him. Those things are offered to him, which he had not used in his student life; like garlands, ornaments, turban, shoes, and mirror. The teacher offers him ‘madhuparka’ (mixture of ghee – clarified butter and honey) which is a symbol of great honor.
15) THE VIVĀHA (THE MARRIAGE CEREMONY)
Marriage is one of most important sacrament in Hindu person’s life. The traditional Hindu way of the marriage differs according to different traditions and customs as India is a country where you can see lot of diversity. Though 85% of the people are Hindus they perform this sacrament so differently that one cannot imagine. Hindu marriage ceremony is a sacred vow which is taken in the presence of God, Brahmins, Elders and Sacred fire.
After Marriage the ‘Gṛhasthāśrama’ begins. The Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa says, ’Man
without wife is half man; his wife is a second half. ’The concept of three debts gives importance to marriage as one could pay off ancestral debt only by producing children.The Smṛties give information about eight methods of Marriage Brāhma, Daiva, Ārṣa, Prājāpatya, Asura, Gāndharva, Rākṣasa, and Paiśāca out of only first four methods are regarded prestigious. Out of which’ Brahma’ is the purest and the most evolved method of marriage. In which the father of the girl give her to a man of character and learning and respectable one. Now the methods are changing. The young generation is giving preference to own choice. Whatever may be the way, when proper ritual take place according to Hindu tradition 2 rites are definitely observed they are Lājāhoma and Saptapadi.
An auspicious day is selected and as a preliminary part Betrothal (Vāgdāna) ceremony takes place. In which parents of the bride and groom orally accepts a proposal of marriage. We can find now this ceremony merged with ring exchange ceremony, which is a symbol that both the parties have accepted the proposal and everybody is satisfied with it. The auspicious day is selected for the ceremony. Astrology plays a very important role while selecting the day. Before wedding ceremony some rites are performed at house in which family deities, Ganesh, nine planets are worshiped and their blessings are sought.
When all arrangements are done: The ‘paṇḍāla’ means canopy is set, Ritual of Haldi
takes place. It means lightly massaging wet turmeric powder to the bride and the groom in order to protect them from evils. Turmeric powder protects from skin disease this is a scientific reason behind this custom. Mostly marriage ceremony is held at bride’s place and so when groom and his relatives reach to that particular place they were greeted by elder persons at the border of the village or town this welcoming ceremony is called as ‘Sīmānta Pūjana’. The groom rides on a well-decorated horse accompanied by his friends and relatives the mother of bride and other older ladies do āratī (weaving the lamp) to ward off any inauspicious thing and put maṅgala tilaka on the forehead of the groom.
There are various different custom we can find in marriage ceremony. But proper Vedic marriage includes following steps. The bride and groom enter in the canopy by wearing a traditional dress.
1) Proposal of Marriage – By worshipping Ganesh and family deities Marriage
proposal is done which is called as ‘saṅkalpa’. Parents of the bride and groom express their wish to the almighty. They say this saṅkalpa, ‘for the achievement of ‘Dharma – righteous life, Artha – material resources, Kāma – fulfillment of worldly life’. This couple is entering in second phase of their life i.e. householder’s life. The marriage is believed to be a union of two souls for their own betterment, for the betterment of their progeny, of their relations and the society at large.
So out of these four ashrams’ gṛhasthāśrama shelters all other three āśramas. Life of the householder is supposed to be the backbone of the society.
2) Punyāhavācana – (soliciting blessings of the elders) – parents of the bride and groom request the elder ones to bless them for this day and declare this day is auspicious.
3) Madhuparka – parents of the bride and groom greet each other. This is the first honor that father – in – law bestows upon the bride groom by offering madhuparka. This is a respect which is given only to the distinguished person like king, sages and son – in – law who is treated here as god Vishnu.
4) Kanyādāna – (handing over the daughter) Kanyādāna is believed to be very auspicious as it is said that it absolves the forefathers of twelve succeeding and twelve preceding generations when, the girl after marriage delivers the baby. The father of the bride utters mantras mentioning groom and his forefathers as well as bride and her forefathers. The mantra expresses the meaning that ‘I offer this bride, daughter of mine for the achievement of for the achievement of ‘Dharma – righteous life, Artha – material resources, Kāma – fulfillment of worldly life’ Accept her as your wife. Then groom promises to the bride and her father that he is accepting her as a wife. A very significant question is asked here by bride and groom to the guardian that is ‘who has given this bride to whom? Answer comes, ‘Kāma’ the god of love. Then he takes the vow of ‘Nāticarāmi thrice. He utters, my dearest in the pursuit of righteous life, material resources and natural desires I assure you thrice that I will ever be faithful with you.
Kanyādāna is always done by father or in the absence of father any guardian but in
Yājñavalkya Smṛti it is said not only father, grandfather, brother can do the kanyādāna but mother can also do it. (I.63)
5) Akṣataropaṇa, Kaṅkaṇa bandhana – Expressing expectations from married life to each other and assuring that I will accept it is called as Akṣataropaṇa and Kaṅkana bandhana is done it was very important in ancient times, because from this time until the sexual union were protected from bad evils ,pollution by tying this sacred protection cord.
Mangalasūtrabandhanam 6) Maṅgalasūtrabandhana – (adorning bride’s neck
with maṅgalasūtra – the auspicious ornament) – There is lot of variety in this rite which signifies that bride is now a married woman. In the Maharashtrian and some other traditions maṅgalsūtra is an auspicious ornament. It is of black beads woven in the golden chain. Tying ‘Tali’, Putting sindur in the Mānga (Parted hair), or giving nose ring etc are the symbols of marriage.
7) Pāṇigrahana – (receiving the hand) In this groom holds the right hand of bride in his right hand and chants the mantra that ‘O, Bride accept this hand of yours for it will bring me good fortune. Be with me till we get old. You have been given to me by Gods like Bhaga, Aryama, Sun and Purandhi, so that I may perform the duties of our family life in the right manner’.
8) Vivaha-homa – (the fire worship for marriage ceremony) Now the sacred fire is
enkindled and couple takes the vows in the front of sacred fire. The name of this fire is ‘Yojaka’ means which connects this couple for life time. First oblations are given to the Skanda, Prajāpati, Agni and soma. Then in the pradhāna-homa – (main sacrifice) oblations are given to the sacred fire.
9) Lājāhoma, Parīnayana, Aśmārohaṇa – (sacrifice of
popped rice, going around the fire and ascending the stone) According to Hindu Marriage act, marriage ceremony is only accepted when lājāhoma and saptpadi is performed. In the Lājāhoma bride with the groom offers popped rice to the sacred fire for 3 times. After every offering groom by holding the right hand of the bride circumambulate the sacred fire. He utters, ‘I am the puruṣa. You are the prakṛti that binds me
.I am the sky, you are the earth….. Let us make a loving
family. Let us bring up our progeny and live a joyful life of a hundred years.’
10) Aśmārohaṇa (Mounting the stone) – In order to make the wife firm in her devotion and fidelity t him, the husband makes her tread on a stone with her right foot.
Sacrifice of Popped Rice
When she puts right foot on the stone he recites ‘be firm like this stone.’ ‘Make your enemies prostrate on the ground.’ ‘Defeat them one and all.’ ‘Be brave.’
11) Saptapadi – Walking seven steps together towards
North east as this direction is believed to be the direction of God. At that time groom recites ‘One step for vigor, two steps for vitality, three steps for prosperity, four steps for happiness, five steps for cattle, six steps for joy of all seasons, and seven steps for friendship. May we unite as one soul residing in two bodies. After this marriage is regarded legally complete. Saptarṣi Dhruv Prārthanā– (prayers to the seven symbolizing sages and the pole star) is done for protection and stability.
12) Vadhu-Vara abhiṣeka – (blessing the couple) After completing saptapadi, the latter part of sacrifice and the completion prayer the couple is blessed by elders by sprinkling holy water , and reciting the mantra that ‘ may peace, love and prosperity come to you’.
15) karmasamāpti – (completion of the ceremony) Actually Vedic marriage ends
here. But as we discussed first marriage ceremony is now overloaded with many regional customs and tradition. It is quite difficult to combine all these things together. Some different customs we can mention here they are Kanpili-twisting the ear of groom by brother of bride by saying don’t be small minded. Take care of my sister. Mangalāṣṭaka muhurta (singing marriage hymns and removing the ‘antarpāṭa’ on the auspicious moment), āśirvāda (benediction), gṛhapraveśa (entering the house) lakṣmīpūjana (worship of goddess lakṣmī) The Pārāśara Gṛhyasūtra supports that in the marriage one should do according to the custom of villag. (But with this facility now we can see the marriage ceremony is overloaded customs and losing its essence which is ‘while entering into the second phase of life the couple should get be acquainted with their responsibilities as well as duties.)’
16) THE ANTYEṢṬI (FUNERAL RITES)
As we have seen that a Hindu mindset always gives prime importance to the sacraments for its prosperity. The various rites and rituals are performed at different stages of life for the same. From Prenatal sacraments to the last rituals means funeral and ancestral worship i.e. Śrāddha they are divided. The ‘Antyeṣṭi’ which comes with a death of near one is a sacrament which includes love, worry and fear. These are very natural feelings, because fear of death is always there. The Hindu system of Antyeṣṭi is really very practical. As it was a great question for our ancestors that once the death takes place what to do with the corpse? All over the world different methods are used for the removal of the corpse but most common are funeral and Burial, among the Parsi people corpse is given to the birds as for them fire is very sacred. But we can say funeral is the most scientific method from the point of view of pollution.
The importance of funeral rites: – The renowned sage Baudhāyana says, ‘death is
inevitable in the case of being who is born…’ Bhagvad Gītā says,
|(Jātasya hi dhruvo mṛtyuḥ dhruvaṁ janma mṛtasya ca |- 2.27) . A creature
comes from the unknown and goes to the unknown, so the wise regards birth and death as equal. Such being the fact, people give their dues to their mother, father, preceptor wife, son, or disciple. And consecrate their cremation with proper sacrament. (Baudhāyana Pitṛmedha – sūtras 3.1.4) The sublime sentiments expressed through the performance of the sacraments make death less painful for the survivors and help them regain the lost poise.
The Vedic period and sūtra period shows how funeral ceremony takes place. In
Rg.X.14-19 and in the Atharvaveda we can find the hymns related with cremation. The rites were quite simple. Again in the ‘Taittirīyāraṇyaka’ we find the description of the ceremony under the title of ‘Pitṛmedha’.
We find many differences in this sacrament also because local tradition always plays a very important role in the same.
Once death takes place the body is laid down with its head towards the south. The close ones pour few drops of holy Gaṅga water, Tulsi and gold in the mouth of the dying person or dead. The body is bathed and then covered with new clothes, if possible Vedic hymns or Bhagwadgītā is chanted. Then the funeral procession starts. People walk silently after the chief mourner who holds Pot with fire in it. Now this is only symbolic as agni is available everywhere and it is not a need to take it from home. Every one repeat the sacred name of the Hari or Rama till the procession reaches at the cremation ground.
Normally the eldest son of the deceased performs the sacrament but in his absence any nearest person can perform it. It is a notion that woman will not do this but now the approach is changing and if daughter wants to perform the sacrament for her parents if she is the only child can do it, or wife for her beloved husband can do it.
At the funeral pyre the body is kept with legs on the south and head at the north. On
the other side on the ground a small homa is performed and oblation are given to the bhū, bhuvaḥ, swaḥ I.e.to the earth, space and sun. Prayer of the Yama is chanted request is done to the sacred fire that ‘O Agni! Consume not this body to cinders, neither give it pain nor scatter about its skin or limbs. O Jātvedas, when the body is fairly burnt, convey the spirit to the ancestors.’ (RV.10.154.3) etc. we cannot go in deep details here. Once the cremation is completed the chief mourner and others come back without looking around. They take a bath. The elder ones console the family members. The water is offered to the dead. I.e. Jalāñjali .Then the period of Aśauca begins it means the nearest family members of that particular gotra are segregated for next ten days for sanitary precaution against infections. In these ten days of aśauca we can find a tradition of reading ‘Garuda Purāṇa’ in which the chapter appears as ‘preta kalpa’. This is related with the journey of the ‘preta’ to another place which is ‘pitṛ-loka’ Place of ancestors.
In case of infants Burial is done. It is also suggested that Sanyāsins, monks should be buried and a mound is raised in the memory of them.
On the third day after cremation ‘Asthi-sañcayana ‘means collection of bones is done. After the asthi-sanchayan in old days bones were washed and deposited in an urn with a lid and then buried in the earth but now it is not done. Mostly the bones are now thrown in the sacred rivers. In the system of antyeṣṭi and Śraddha for the deceased one is now changed. Generally wood is used for pyre but to save the trees Electrical furnace is used for the same at least in the metro cities and small cities. We can observe local and regional customs in these rites which we can’t find in the original texts commonly. e.g. To keep a small oil lamp for ten days, To keep food and water for the deceased, tying a thread near oil lamp so that soul of the deceased can enter by holding the thread.
On the 10th day the rice ball is offered to the deceased and if the crow touches the
rice ball it is believed that every wish of the deceased is complete now, and if crow doesn’t touch the rice ball it is believed that some wish of the deceased has remained unfulfilled. Then the relatives promise the soul of completing the wish. All this ritual takes place at the bank of the river. Not only chief mourner but sagotra’s also shave the head and beard and moustaches which expresses sorrow.
On the 11th day ekoddiṣṭa śrāddha takes place. The (piṇḍa) rice ball (it is a symbol of
the body of the preta.is offered to the dead and homage is also paid. And it is said that O dead, be happy and satisfied. Ekoddiṣṭa means ritual which is done for the dead only.
On the 12th day sapiṇḍikaraṇa is done. It means associating the dead with the
manes. That means from now on the deceased will be one of the forefathers. The various observance of the funeral seem to have born out of the conception of life after death, the mixed feeling of dread and love for the departed, desire for an easy and peaceful passage from the world of mortals ensuring for the departed a fit place in the company of the forefathers and the gods, and Everything is done for giving ‘sadgati ‘to the dead.( I.e. with a motive of securing the final liberation of the soul from the cycle of births and deaths).For this many customs and traditions are followed by society at large which includes giving donations to the Brahmins which includes offerings in terms of money and kinds. Extensive meal is given to the Brahmins as well as relatives. If deceased is married woman all the requisites of married woman are donated to another needy married woman which includes ornaments and clothes also. In every way death of an individual is consecrated by its survivors by death rites for its future good and spiritual felicity.
Thus social institutions, beliefs, customs are included in the 16 sacraments and they
are all performed for the development of personality as well as for the refinement of an individual.