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Sixteen Samskaras

By Dr. Korada Subrahmanyam

Introduction

16-sanskarsIndian tradition firmly stands on four pillars, viz. Dharma, Artha (money and other mundane matters), Kāma (married life) and Mokṣa (renouncing the world and uniting Jīvātmā with Paramātmā to arrest the cycle of birth and death). The ultimate purpose of Saṃskāras is simply to generate Vividiṣā (a desire / taste in Vedānta and attain Mokṣa). Except in Vivāha (marriage) Vedic mantras are not to be used for a girl child.

The term Saṃskāra is pregnant with meaning and hence untranslatable. Saṃskāra here refers to any rite prescribed by scriptures either for purification (removal of sin) or generating / injecting some qualities by which a person becomes eligible / qualified to perform some rites. Vīramitrodayam defines a Saṃskāra thus:

आत्मशरीरान्यतरनिष्ठः अतिशयविशेषः संस्कारः।

ātmaśarīrānyataraniṣṭhaḥ atiśayaviśeṣaḥ saṃskāraḥ ।

A special virtue / quality that is connected with mind or body is called Saṃskāra (the rite for such a virtue / quality is also called Saṃskāra).

In other words Saṃskāras are for cleansing the mind and body and consequently a healthy, happy and peaceful life in this world and Mokṣa after death.

Number of Saṃskāras

There is difference of opinion as to the number of Saṃskāras. Gautama in his Smṛti (Dharmaśāstram) enumerated forty Saṃskāras, including five Mahāyajñas, seven Pākayajñas, seven Haviryajñas and seven Somayāgas. Finally, it is decided in Saṃskāradīpikā that the following sixteen Saṃskāras are essential:

आधानपुंसवनसीमन्तजातनामान्नचोलकाः।

मौञ्जीव्रतानि गोदानसमावर्तनविवाहकाः॥

अन्त्यं चैतानि कर्माणि प्रोच्यन्ते षोडशैव तु।

ādhānapuṃsavanasīmantajātanāmānnacolakāḥ ।

mauñjīvratāni godānasamāvartanavivāhakāḥ॥

antyaṃ caitāni karmāṇi procyante ṣoḍaśaiva tu ।

Garbhādhānam

Puṃsavanam

Sīmantaḥ

Jātakarma

Nāmakaraṇam

Annaprāśanam

Caulam

Upanayanam

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The Purpose of Ṣoḍaśasaṃskārakarmas

The very purpose of each Saṃskāra is explained in the following verses:

निषेकात् बौजिकंचैनः गार्भिकं चापमृज्यते।

क्षेत्रसंस्कारसिद्धिश्च गर्भाधानफलं तथा॥

गर्भे भवेच्च पुंसूतेः पुंस्त्वस्य प्रतिपादनम्।

निषेकफलवत् ज्ञेयं फलं सीमन्तकर्मणः॥

गर्भाम्बुपानजो दोषः जातात्सर्वोऽपि नश्यति।

आयुर्वर्चोऽभिवृद्धिश्च सिद्धिर्व्यवहृतिस्तथा॥

नामकर्मफलं त्वेतत् समुद्दिष्टं मनीषिभिः।

अन्नाशनान्मातृगर्भमलाशादपि शुद्ध्यति॥

बलायुर्वर्चोवृद्धिश्च चूडाकर्मफलं स्मृतम्।

उपनीतेः फलं त्वेतत् द्विजतासिद्धिपूर्विका॥

वेदाधीत्यधिकारस्य सिद्धिरृषिभिरीरिता।

देवपित्रर्णापगमः विवाहस्य फलं स्मृतम्॥

niṣekāt baujikacainaḥ gārbhikaṃ cāpamṛjyate।

kṣetrasaṃskārasiddhiśca garbhādhānaphalaṃ tathā॥

garbhe bhavecca puṃsūteḥ puṃstvasya pratipādanam।

niṣekaphalavat jñeyaṃ phalaṃ sīmantakarmaṇaḥ॥

garbhāmbupānajo doṣaḥ jātātsarvo’pi naśyati।

āyurvarco’bhivṛddhiśca siddhirvyavahṛtistathā॥

nāmakarmaphalaṃ tvetat samuddiṣṭaṃ manīṣibhiḥ।

annāśanānmātṛgarbhamalāśādapi śuddhyati॥

balāyurvarcovṛddhiśca cūḍākarmaphalaṃ smṛtam।

upanīteḥ phalaṃ tvetat dvijatāsiddhipūrvikā॥

vedādhītyadhikārasya siddhirṛṣibhirīritā।

devapitrarṇāpagamaḥ vivāhasya phalaṃ smṛtam॥

Niṣeka and Garbhādhāna (both mean the same – the first physical union of wife and husband) would remove the impurities related to sperm, blood and cleanses the womb. Puṃsavanam is for having a male child. Sīmanta (parting) is as good as Garbhādhānam. Jātakarma (the rite performed to a son just born) kills the bad affects born out of consumption of the water of the womb by the child. Nāmakarma (naming a child) is for increased longevity and brightness and to pronounce name during rites as well as mundane day to day transactions. Annaprāśana (feeding rice for the first time) purifies the child from the defects of eating the bad material while in the womb. Cūḍākarma (cutting of hair on the head for the first time) is meant for increased strength, longevity and brightness. Upanayanam is for attaining Dvijatva (second birth) that is essential to get eligibility to learn Veda and perform different rites. The four Vedavratas, viz. Āgneya, Saumya, Vaiśvadeva and Prājāpatya are performed before the beginning of the learning of Veda for injecting more power into the Veda that is learnt. Vivāha (marriage) is for paying back the debt of deities and father.

Eligibility

The Saṃskāras from Jātakarma to Cūḍākarma are to be performed in the case of a male child of Dvijas, viz. Brāhmaṇas, Kṣatriyas and Vaiśyas. In the case of the female child of a Dvija, only marriage (Vivāha) has to be performed with Vedamantras. Saṃskāraprakāśa rules that there cannot be any Saṃskāra for a Klība (impotent child).

Nirṇayasindhu, by quoting Smṛtis, says that Śūdras are entitled to perform six Saṃskāras, viz. Jātakarma, Nāmakaraṇam, Niṣkramaṇam (bringing the child into sunshine for the first time), Annaprāśanam, Cūḍā and Vivāha and the daily Pañcamahāyajñas (Devayajñaḥ, Pitṛyajñaḥ, Bhūtayajñaḥ, Manuṣyayajñaḥ and Brahmayajñaḥ). Śrāddhakarma (death ceremony) and other Saṃskāras for Śūdras have to be performed with verses from Purāṇas and not Vedic mantras. Varāhapurāṇa says that for a Śūdra, the Brāhmaṇa can repeat the Mantras.

Detailed Account of Saṃskāras

Garbhādhānam

Literally it means “implanting an embryo (into wife)”. The name suggests the first sexual intercourse of husband and wife. It can be traced to Atharvaveda (5.25) and Bṛhadāraṇyakopaniṣat (6.4.21). This is to be performed on the fourth day after Menses.

Carakasaṃhitā (Śārīrasthānam, 2.25) says that the lady would give birth to a child similar to the one whom she had had in mind during conception:

गर्भोत्पत्तौ तु मनः स्त्रियाः यं जन्तुं व्रजेत् तत्सदृशं प्रसूते।

garbhotpattau tu manaḥ striyāḥ yaṃ jantuṃ vrajet tatsadṛśaṃ prasūte।

       Puṃsavanam

पुमान् सूयते अनेन इति पुंसवनम्।

pumān sūyate anena iti puṃsavanam।

Male child is born by this and therefore it is called Puṃsavanam.

पुंसुवनं व्यक्ते गर्भे तिष्येण। (आपस्तम्बगृह्यसूत्रम्, १४.९)

puṃsuvanaṃ vyakte garbhe tiṣyeṇa। (Āpastambagṛhyasūtram, 14.9)

The Puṃsuvanam is to be performed when pregnancy is apparent under the star “Tiṣya” ( =Puṣyamī).

Puṃsavanam and Puṃsuvanam are synonyms. It is to be performed when the pregnancy becomes apparent, i.e. third or fourth month, and during the period of Puṣyamī star. A shoot from the fag-end of a branch of Nyagrodha (Banyan tree) is to be crushed and the juice has to be dropped in the right nostril of the wife by husband, while reciting some Mantras, prescribed.

Sīmantaḥ

Sīmantaḥ is also called Sīmantonnayanam. Sīmanta means parting of hair on head.

सीमन्तोन्नयनं प्रथमे गर्भे चतुर्थे मासि (आपस्तम्बगृह्यसूत्रम्, १४.१)

sīmantonnayanaṃ prathame garbhe caturthe māsi

(Āpastambagṛhyasūtram, 14.1)

Parting of hair by the husband is to be performed during the fourth month of first pregnancy (only).

The husband has to do the parting with the quill of a porcupine while reciting certain Mantras. Both Puṃsavanam and Sīmanta are prescribed during different months by different authors of Gṛhyasūtras (one of the four branches of the Vedāṅga, Kalpa, the others being Śrautasūtram, Dharmasūtram and Śulbasūtram). So it is decided that one should follow his own Gṛhyasūtram.

All the above three Saṃskāras, viz. Garbhādhānam, Puṃsavanam and Sīmantonnayanam, have to be performed before the birth of the child. Since they are for Garbhaśuddhi (cleansing of the womb and embryo), they need not be repeated.

The complete procedure of each Saṃskāra is not being provided due to want of space.

Jātakarma

This Saṃskāra is performed before the navel string is cut.

प्राङ्नाभिवर्धनात्पुंसः जातकर्म विधीयते। मनुस्मृतिः २.२९ ।

prāṅnābhivardhanātpuṃsaḥ jātakarma vidhīyate। Manusmṛtiḥ 2.29 .

Jātakarma of a male child is ordained before the umbilical cord is cut.

Before cutting the navel string there is no Aśaucam (impurity) due to birth and Jātakarma has to be performed at that time on a male child.

जातं वात्सप्रेण अभिमृश्य उत्तरेण यजुषा उपस्थे आधाय उत्तराभ्याम् अभिमन्त्रणम् मूर्धनि अवघ्राणं दक्षिणे कर्णे जापः। आपस्तम्बगृह्यसूत्रम्, १५.१ ॥

jātaṃ vātsapreṇa abhimṛśya uttareṇa yajuṣā upasthe ādhāya uttarābhyām abhimantraṇam mūrdhani avaghrāṇaṃ dakṣiṇe karṇe jāpaḥ.

Āpastambagṛhyasūtram, 15.1 ॥

As soon as the (male) child is born the father should recite the Vātsaprānuvāka, i.e. “divaspari . . .”, and touch (at the end of the Mantra), should take him into the lap while reciting the Yajus “asminnaham”, recite two Mantras, viz., “aṅgādaṅgāt” and “aśmā bhava”, for him and smell his head and the same Mantras are to be repeated in the right ear.

नक्षत्रनाम च निर्दिशति; तद्रहस्यं भवति । आपस्तम्बगृह्यसूत्रम्, १५.२, ३॥

nakṣatranāma ca nirdiśati; tadrahasyaṃ bhavati।

Āpastambagṛhyasūtram, 15.2, 3 ॥

The father pronounces the Nakṣatranāma (name coined after the name of the birth star) also in the right ear secretly.

The name runs like this:

Birth-star        Name related to Star

Rohiṇī                Rauhiṇaḥ

Revatī                Raivataḥ

Maghā                Māghaḥ

. . .                . . .

Such a name has to be kept a secret, i.e. should not be pronounced loudly.

Śatapathabrāhmaṇam (6.1.3.9) ordains that a name should be given to the male child as soon as he is born:

तस्मात् पुत्रस्य जातस्य नाम कुर्यात् ।

tasmāt putrasya jātasya nāma kuryāt ।

Vedāṅgajyotiṣam (Ṛgveda 25-28) enumerates twenty eight Nakṣatras (stars), including Abhijit and their Devatas (Gods) and adds that in Yajñas (Sacrifices) the Yajamāna (Sacrificer) has to bear the Nakṣatranāma:

 

नक्षत्रदेवता ह्येता एताभिर्यज्ञकर्मणि। यजमानस्य शास्त्रज्ञैः नाम नक्षत्रजं स्मृतम्॥

nakṣatradevatā hyetā etābhiryajñakarmaṇi।

yajamānasya śāstrajñaiḥ nāma nakṣatrajaṃ smṛtam॥

These are the deities of Nakṣatras (stars) useful in Yajñas. Scholars say that the Nakṣatranāma of Yajamāna has to be employed in Yajñas.

The Nakṣatranāma has to be kept secret in order to avoid Abhicāra (magical practice) against the person. The commentary on Khādiragṛhyasūtram (2.3.32) explains the above said concept, i.e. Yajñakarma and Abhicāra –

वैदिककर्मार्थमेतत्। नामापरिज्ञाने अभीचाराद्यसिद्धिः फलम्।

vaidikakarmārthametat। nāmāparijñāne abhicārādyasiddhiḥ phalam।

This [Nakṣatranāma] is meant for Vedic rites. If the name [to be used in Vedic rites] is not known, the result is that Abhicāra etc. would not be successful.

Nāmakaraṇam

This is the naming ceremony. Nāma means name. It should be done on tenth day or on a date after tenth day –

दशम्याम् उत्थितायां स्नातायां पुत्रस्य नाम दधाति पितामाता इति। आपस्तम्बगृह्यसूत्रम् १५.८॥

daśamyām utthitāyāṃ snātāyāṃ putrasya nāma dadhāti pitāmātā iti।

Āpastambagṛhyasūtram 15.8॥

On the tenth day, after the mother wakes up, takes bath, both the father and mother establish the name.

द्व्यक्षरं चतुरक्षरं वा नाम . . . । आपस्तम्बगृह्यसूत्रम् १५.९॥

dvyakṣaraṃ caturakṣaraṃ vā nāma । . . . Āpastambagṛhyasūtram 15.9॥

The name should consist of two or four letters.

There are other conditions regarding the form of the name in different Gṛhyasūtras. This is called Vyāvahārikanāma (the name useful for day to day worldly transactions). For a male child the name should have even number of letters whereas it is uneven number of letters for a female child.

Annaprāśanam

Annam means cooked rice and prāśanam is feeding. The child is to be fed rice –

जन्मनोऽपि षष्ठे मासि ब्राह्मणान् भोजयित्वा आशिषो वाचयित्वा दधिमधुघृतम् ओदनम् इति संसृज्य अवदाय उत्तरैः मन्त्रैः कुमारं प्राशयेत्। आपस्तम्बगृह्यसूत्रम् १६.१॥

janmano’pi ṣaṣṭhe māsi brāhmaṇān bhojayitvā āśiṣo vācayitvā dadhimadhughṛtam odanam iti saṃsṛjya avadāya uttaraiḥ mantraiḥ kumāraṃ prāśayet। Āpastambagṛhyasūtram 16.1॥

In the sixth month, when days are counted from the day of birth, i.e. after one hundred and fifty days, the sixth Saṃskāra called Annaprāśanam has to be performed. Having fed Brāhmaṇas and received benedictions from them, the son should be made to taste rice mixed with curd, honey and ghee (clarified butter), while the four Mantras, starting with “bhūrāpam” are being recited.

Caulam

It is also called Cūḍākarma and Cūḍākaraṇam. Cūḍā means tuft (of hair) that is kept on the back side of the head while the remaining part is clean shaven. In tradition it is popularly called “Śikhā”. In Sanskrit the letters “la” and “ḍa” are often interchanged. So Caula and Cūḍā mean the same. The Saṃskāra for which the purpose is “Cūḍā” (tuft / Śikhā) is called Caulam, and also Cauḷam.

Caulam is to be performed during the third year by counting days from the date of birth –

जन्मनोऽपि तृतीये वर्षे चौलं पुनर्वस्वोः । आपस्तम्बगृह्यसूत्रम् १६.३॥

janmano’pi tṛtīye varṣe caulaṃ punarvasvoḥ । Āpastambagṛhyasūtram 16.3॥

Caulam has to be performed during the third year by counting days from the date of birth and in the star Punarvasu.

Saṃskāraratnamālā (p. 904) adds the following –

अत्र देशभेदात् व्यवस्था द्रष्टव्या। स्त्रीणां केशधारणमेव शिखाधारणम्। एतच्च अमन्त्रकमेव स्त्रीणां कार्यम्। . . . होमोऽपि न।

atra deśabhedāt vyavasthā draṣṭavyā। strīṇāṃ keśadhāraṇameva śikhādhāraṇam। etacca amantrakameva strīṇāṃ kāryam. . . . homo’pi na।

One has to follow the custom of the country they live in. For ladies (having) hair (plait) itself is Śikhā and the Saṃskāra for them has to be performed without Mantras. . . . there will be no homa (sacrificial fire etc.).

Upanayanam

Literally it means “taking near”. It is implied that the boy is taken near Ācārya for instruction and learning Veda etc. The rite by which the boy is taken to Ācārya is also called Upanayanam.

Brahmacārī: The boy who underwent this Saṃskāra is called Brahmacārī (Brahma means Veda, one who learns Veda is called Brahmacārī). A Brahmacārī would get eligibility to perform any Vedic rite.

Dvija: Upanayanam is a Saṃskāra to be performed on the boys of Dvijas, i.e. Brāhmaṇa, Kṣatriya and Vaiśya. People belonging to the above three castes are called Dvijas, which literally means twice-born. The first birth is given by father and mother whereas, since Goddess Gāyatrī (whose Mantra is preached to the boy during Upanayanam) and the Ācārya (the teacher who performs the Upanayanam) are considered as mother and father during Upanayanam, the Upanayanasaṃskāra is considered as another birth. Thus the people of the first three castes are called Dvijas.

Ṛṣiṛṇam (the debt of sages): Taittirīyasaṃhitā (6.3.10.5) says the following:

जायमानो ह वै ब्राह्मणः त्रिभिः ऋणवान् जायते ब्रह्मचर्येण ऋषिभ्यः यज्ञेन देवेभ्यः प्रजया पितृभ्यः एष वा अनृणो यः पुत्री यज्वा ब्रह्मचारिवासी।

jāyamāno ha vai brāhmaṇaḥ tribhiḥ ṛṇavān jāyate brahmacaryeṇa ṛṣibhyaḥ yajñena devebhyaḥ prajayā pitṛbhyaḥ eṣa vā anṛṇo yaḥ putrī yajvā brahmacārivāsī।

Every Brāhmaṇa, when born is indebted in three debts related to Ṛṣis (sages), Devatas (deities) and Pitaraḥ (forefathers) in terms of Brahmacaryam (celibacy), Yajña (sacrifice) and Prajā (offspring), respectively. He can get rid of the above three debts by living with the teacher as a Brahmacārī, by performing a sacrifice and by being father of a son.

Brahmacārī and his conduct are beautifully lauded in Atharvaveda (11.7, 26). According to Taittirīyabrāhmaṇam (3.10.11) Bharadvāja took Brahmacaryam for three generations. Āśvalāyana, in his Gṛhyasūtram (22.3, 4) prescribes twelve years of Brahmacaryam for each Veda, i.e. forty eight years for four Vedas or till completion and its origin is in Gopathabrāhmaṇam (2.5) –

द्वादशवर्षाणि वेदब्रह्मचर्यम्। ग्रह्णान्तं वा। आश्वलायनगृह्यसूत्रम् ॥

dvādaśavarṣāṇi vedabrahmacaryam। grahṇāntaṃ vā।

Āśvalāyanagṛhyasūtram ॥

Age for Upanayanam: Three different ages are prescribed for Dvijas, viz. Brāhmaṇas, Kṣatriyas and Vaiśyas, in Gṛhyasūtras and Dharmaśāstras. Double the age is permitted for those, who, for some reason or the other could not perform at the right age –

गर्भाष्टमेषु ब्राह्मणमुपनयीत।

गर्भैकादशेषु राजन्यं गर्भद्वादशेषु वैश्यम्। आपस्तम्बगृह्यसूत्रम् १॰.२, ३॥

garbhāṣṭameṣu brāhmaṇamupanayīta।

garbhaikādaśeṣu rājanyaṃ garbhadvādaśeṣu vaiśyam।

Āpastambagṛhyasūtram 10. 2, 3॥

Upanayanam for a Brāhmaṇa should be performed in sixth or seventh or eighth years from conception. Similarly it is ninth or tenth or eleventh years from conception for a Kṣatriya; and tenth or eleventh or twelfth years from conception for a Vaiśya.

Gautama adds the following:

आषोडशात् ब्राह्मणस्य अपतिता सावित्री।

द्वाविंशते राजन्यस्य द्व्यधिकाया वैश्यस्य। गौतमधर्मसूत्रम् १.१३, १४॥

āṣoḍaśāt brāhmaṇasya apatitā sāvitrī।

dvāviṃśate rājanyasya dvyadhikāyā vaiśyasya।

Gautamadharmasūtram 1.13, 14॥

The upper limit for getting Upanayanam for a Brāhmaṇa is sixteen years. For Kṣatriya it is twenty years and for a Vaiśya it is twenty two years.

Manusmṛti prescribes the age for Upanayanam depending on the purpose.

Seasons for Upanayanam: Different seasons are prescribed for different Varṇas (castes) for Upanayanam –

वसन्तो ग्रीष्मः शरदिति ऋतवो वर्णानुपूर्व्येण। आपस्तम्बगृह्यसूत्रम्, १॰.४॥

vasanto grīṣmaḥ śaraditi ṛtavo varṇānupūrvyeṇa।

Āpastambagṛhyasūtram, 10.4॥

It is Vasanta (Spring) for a Brāhmaṇa, Grīṣma (Summer) for a Kṣatriya and Śarat (Autumn) for a Vaiśya for performing Upanayanam.

Specific Nakṣatras (stars) and Tithis (dates) etc. are also prescribed by some Smṛtis. Upanayanam, according to Smṛtis and Jyotiṣam (Astrology / Astronomy) has to be performed during Uttarāyaṇa (six months from mid-January) and forenoon.

Āśramas: In Indian tradition there are four stages called Āśramas, viz. Brahmacaryam (Celibacy), Gārhasthyam (married life), Vānaprastham (forest life) and Saṃnyāsa (life of one who renounces the world and worldly comforts and leads an ascetic life to attain Mokṣa, the final Puruṣārtha (purpose of life), i.e. last one of Dharma, Artha (money and related matters), Kāma (married life) and Mokṣa. One is free to go to the fourth Āśrama, viz. Saṃnyāsa after any of the three earlier Āśramas. Jābālyupaniṣat says –

ब्रह्मचर्यादेव प्रव्रजेत्।

brahmacaryādeva pravrajet।

One should embrace Saṃnyāsa right from Brahmacaryam.

Yajñopavītam: Yajñopavītam is the holy cord to be worn by a Dvija from the day of Upanayanam. It has got a lot of significance in the rites. Raising the boy’s right arm, putting the head into he suspends the cord over his right shoulder in such a way that it hangs down on his right side. Thus he becomes Yajñopavītin (one who has got the Yajñopavīta). The Yajñopavītam would have three positions.

  1. Upavītam: The cord will be sitting on the left shoulder and hanging under the right hand. For all rites related to deities (Vedic) one should maintain Upavītam.
  2. Prācīnāvītam: This is opposite to Upavītam, i.e. the cord would sit on the right shoulder and hangs under the left hand. This position is to be used while performing any rite related to forefathers (Pitṛkarma).
  • Nivītam / Saṃvītam: The cord simply hangs from the neck and this position is for any human activity such as sleeping, nature’s calls, sexual intercourse etc.

Manufacturing theYajñopavītam: The Yajñopavīta should have three threads of nine strands (tantus) well twisted for each thread. A Brahmacārī has to wear a single Yajñopavītam whereas a householder should wear two or three.

Women had Yajñopavītam: Saṃskāraprakāśa (pp. 402, 403) quotes Yama –

पुरा कल्पे कुमारीणां मौञ्जीबन्धनमिष्यते।

अध्यापनं च वेदानां सावित्रीवचनं तथा॥

purā kalpe kumārīṇāṃ mauñjībandhanamiṣyate।

adhyāpanaṃ ca vedānāṃ sāvitrīvacanaṃ tathā॥

During former ages, tying of girdle of muñja (i.e. Upanayana) was desired in the case of maidens, they were taught Vedas and made to recite Sāvitrī, i.e. Gāyatrīmantra.

Commentators are of the opinion that this practice belongs to earlier Yuga.

Women are of two types: Hārīta says there are two kinds of women – Brahmavādinis and Sadyovadhvas. It is the former that the Upanayanam is performed to and they do Agnihotram (worship of fire) and Vedādhyayanam (regular recitation of Veda). (Saṃskāraprakāśa, p. 402).

Gāyatrī-upadeśa: This is the most important aspect of Upanayanam. The Ācārya preaches (Upadeśa) the Mantra, which is there in all Vedas, to the disciple. The latter has to repeat the Mantra during Sandhyāvandanam at all three times of the day. The derivative meaning of “Gāyatrī” is – the one which protects the person who repeats it (gāyantam trāyate iti gāyatrī).

Sandhyāvandanam: This is the basic regular rite to be performed by all Dvijas. Those who ignore are not eligible to perform any (Vedic) rite. It is called Nityakarma (a regular rite). One has to perform this rite three times a day. Sandhyā means twilight. The rite performed during twilight is also called Sandhyā or Sandhyāvandanam (salute of Sandhyā). All the Dvijas (i.e. who have undergone Upanayanam) have to perform Sandhyā. For Śūdras and ladies the sight of rising and setting Sun itself is considered as Sandhyāvandanam.

उतैनं गोपा अदृशन्नदृशन् उदहार्यः (नमकम्, रुद्राध्यायः, तैत्तिरीयसंहिता, ४.५)

utainaṃ gopā adṛśannadṛśan udahāryaḥ

(Namakam, Rudrādhyāyaḥ, Taittirīyasaṃhitā, 4.5)

That the cowboys have noticed him (the Sun) and the ladies fetching water also noticed him.

According to tradition water should not be fetched during night. Water is fetched during both the twilights by ladies and they notice the Sun during both the twilights. Since the cattle is taken out during morning twilight and brought back during evening twilight by cowboys , they notice the Sun during both the twilights.

There are seven principal constituents of Sandhyāvandanam:

  1. Ācamanam (sipping of water thrice) – This is of three kinds and they are to be known through Ācārya. Ācamanam is to be done before and after Sandhyāvandanam.
  1. Prāṇāyāma: This is related to Yoga.

श्वासप्रश्वासयोः गतिविच्छेदः प्राणायामः। पातञ्जलयोगसूत्रम्, २.४९॥

śvāsapraśvāsayoḥ gativicchedaḥ prāṇāyāmaḥ। Pātañjalayogasūtram, 2.49॥

Arresting the inhalation and exhalation is called Prāṇāyāma.

The air is inhaled (Pūrakam), then held for some time (Kumbhakam) and finally released (Recakam).

  1. Mārjanam: Sprinkling himself with water while reciting certain Mantras.
  1. Aghamarṣaṇam: Literally it means killing the sin. It is just like Mārjanam.
  1. Arghyapradānam: Offering water purified with Gāyatrīmantra to Sun. Taittirīyāraṇyakam (2.2) says that some demons called Mandehas regularly try to hurt Āditya (Sun) and the Arghyam offered by Dvijas (Brahmavādins) would chase them down to an island called Mandehāraṇa. Arghyapradānam should be performed even during Aśaucam (impurity) due to birth of a child and by those, who for some reason or the other, cannot perform the complete Sandhyāvandanam.
  1. Japa of Gāyatrī: One has to repeat Gāyatrīmantra for a minimum of one hundred and eight times or at least ten times.
  1. Upasthānam: This is a prayer worshipping the Sun with (Vedic) Mantras in the morning, afternoon and evening, but evening the Sun in the form of Varuṇa.

Medhājananam: The intellectual capacity to retain the achieved knowledge for long (and produce as and when required) is called Medhā –

धीः धारणावती मेधा (अमरकोशः, धीवर्गः, २)

dhīḥ dhāraṇāvatī medhā (Amarakośaḥ, Dhīvargaḥ, 2)

The intellect with the capacity to retain for long is called Medhā.

The rite for the “generation of Medhā” is called Medhājananam. It is performed on the fourth day after Upanayanam.

 Vedavratas

There are four Vratas (Saṃskāras) for starting the learning of different branches of Veda. Each Vrata can be performed for a year or six months or one month or a fortnight or a single day during Uttarāyaṇam (i.e. six months from fifteenth of January). In case of any inconvenience all the four Vedavratas can be performed before marriage. The Vratas are performed by Ācārya.

Different Gṛhyasūtras have offered different nomenclature for these Vratas. According to Āpastambagṛhyasūtram – the entire Veda is divided into four parts, viz. Prājāpatya, Saumya, Āgneya and Vaiśvadeva. These are the names of four Vratas also. There will be two main events for each Vrata – Upākaraṇam (or Upākarma), which is the beginning of the Vrata and Utsarjana, which is ending the Vratam. Upākarma has to be performed on Pūrṇimā (full moon day) of the month of Śrāvaṇa and Utsarjana of the same Vrata on Pūrṇimā of the month of Pauṣa.

During the rest of the seven months the Brahmacārī has to learn the six Vedāṅgas (limbs of Veda), viz. Śikṣā (Phonetics), Vyākaraṇam (Grammar), Chandas (Prosody), Niruktam (Etymology), Jyotiṣam (Astrology), Kalpa (Procedure of rites and it consists of four branches – Śrautasūtram, which deals with the performance of Yajñas / Sacrifices, Gṛhyasūtram, that deals with Saṃskāras etc., Dharmasūtram, that deals with all walks of life and Śulbasūtram, that deals with geometrical matters of a Yajña).

In the study of Veda there are two traditions – Sārasvatapāṭha and Anukramapāṭha. Presently it is Sārasvatapāṭha, which is complicated, that is in vogue.

Samāvartanam

Literally it means “return from teacher’s house to one’s house”. This Saṃskāra is not needed if the student learns under his own father or if the student does not want to get married. This Saṃskāra is not an Aṅga (part) of marriage.

After finishing Vedic study and taking the permission of the teacher the student takes the ceremonial bath. Snāna is another term used for Samāvartanam by some Sūtrakāras (Manusmṛti, 3.4). In modern times it is called Snātakavrata or Convocation (held in Universities).

वेदमधीत्य स्नास्यन् . . .। आपस्तम्बगृह्यसूत्रम्, १२.१॥

vedamadhītya snāsyan . . ॥ Āpastambagṛhyasūtram, 12.1॥

Having completed the study of Veda, Vedāṅgas, Mīmāṃsā etc., while going to have the ceremonial bath . . .

 Godānam

Literally it means “shaving the head and other parts of the body, including Śikhā” (tuft on the head). In Caulam tuft is exempted from shaving.

गावः केशाः दीयन्ते खण्ड्यन्ते अत्रेति गोदानम् (दो = अवखण्डने – दिवादि)

gāvaḥ keśāḥ dīyante khaṇḍyante atreti godānam (do = avakhaṇḍane – divādi)

“gāvaḥ” means hair. The Saṃskāra in which the hair is completely shaved is called Godānam.

एवं गोदानमन्यस्मिन्नपि नक्षत्रे षोडशे वर्षे (आपस्तम्बगृह्यसूत्रम्, १६.१२)

evaṃ godānamanyasminnapi nakṣatre ṣoḍaśe varṣe

(Āpastambagṛhyasūtram, 16.12)

Just like in the case of Caulam the procedure is to be followed (right from Brāhmaṇabhojanam, i.e. feeding Brāhmaṇas, down to Varadāna, i.e. donation of a cow to Brahmā / priest by father). It is to be performed during the sixteenth year (counted from the date of conception) and in auspicious Nakṣatras (stars) such as Rohiṇī.

Godānam has to be performed after the completion of Vedavratas and Snātakam. This Saṃskāra is to be performed by Ācārya. Vivāha will be there after Godānam. (“Godānam” is a term generally understood as “donation of a cow”). Keśānta (end of hair) is a synonym of Godāna. Godāna is performed on girls but silently (Śāṅkhyāyanagṛhyasūtram, 1.28.22).

[Here ends Part 1; Vivāha and Antyeṣṭi are covered in Part II]

Vivāhaḥ (Marriage)

The term literally means (viśiṣṭaḥ vāhaḥ prāpaṇam) to make a girl attain wifehood, i.e. earlier there was “strītvam” (girlhood) and after marriage she attains “bhāryātvam” (wifehood) also. This Saṃskāra is the most important of all.

Why Marriage: Taittirīyasaṃhitā (6.3.10.5) says that a Brāhmaṇa is born with three debts and the debts of sages and forefathers have to be cleared by performing Yajñas (sacrifices) and producing children –

जायमानो ह वै ब्राह्मणस्त्रिभिर्ऋणवान् जायते ब्रह्मचर्येण ऋषिभ्यः यज्ञेन देवेभ्यः प्रजया पितृभ्यः एष वा अनृणो यः पुत्री यज्वा ब्रह्मचारिवासी . . .

jāyamāno ha vai brāhmaṇastribhirṛṇavān jāyate brahmacaryeṇa ṛṣibhyaḥ yajñena devebhyaḥ prajayā pitṛbhyaḥ eṣa vā anṛṇo yaḥ putrī yajvā brahmacārivāsī . . .

A Brāhmaṇa is born with three debts – he has to clear the debt of sages through Brahmacaryam (celibacy), that of deities / Gods through Yajñas (sacrifices) and that of forefathers through producing children. Therefore the Brāhmaṇa would be debtless if he has children, performs sacrifices and maintains Brahmacaryam.

Bride and bridegroom: Gautamadharmasūtram (Chapter 4) prescribed the qualifications of a bride and bridegroom –

गृहस्थः सदृशीं भार्यां विन्दते अनन्यपूर्वां यवीयसीम् (४.१)

gṛhasthaḥ sadṛśīṃ bhāryāṃ vindate ananyapūrvāṃ yavīyasīm (4.1)

One who wants to become a household should get a girl, who is of the same caste, not promised to others and younger in age.

Kāmasūtra (3.1.2) recommends an age gap of three years between the bride and groom. Just like raw pepper causes phlegm and dry pepper kills the phlegm, a girl elder than the groom would affect the longevity of the groom. Āyurveda says this clearly –

बाला प्राणप्रदा प्रोक्ता युवती प्राणधारिणी।

प्रौढा करोति वृद्धत्वं बृद्धा मरणमादिशेत्॥

bālā prāṇapradā proktā yuvatī prāṇadhāriṇī।

prauḍhā karoti vṛddhatvaṃ bṛddhā maraṇamādiśet॥

A girl much younger in age would increase the longevity of the groom, a young girl, i.e. younger in age but not too younger, would help maintain the longevity of the groom, a girl older in age would cause early ageing and too older a lady would cause early death.

असमानप्रवरैः विप्राः (४.२)

asamānapravaraiḥ viprāḥ (4.2)

The marriage should be between a bride and groom of different Pravaras.

Smṛtis prohibited marriage between a bride and groom of the same Gotra (i.e. those who are the progeny of the same sage).

A girl and a boy having Sāpiṇḍya (blood relation) should not marry:

ऊर्ध्वं सप्तमात् पितृबन्धुभ्यः। बीजिनश्च। मातृबन्धुभ्यः पञ्चमात्। (४.३,४,५)

ūrdhvaṃ saptamāt pitṛbandhubhyaḥ। bījinaśca। mātṛbandhubhyaḥ pañcamāt।

(4.3, 4, 5)

Seven generations above father or appointed father (who provides children through Niyoga / arrangement) and five generations above mother is the limit to select the girl.

As per the ancient Gṛhyasūtras and Dharmasūtras the girls were married around the time of puberty. Having brothers (sabhrātṛkā) is a must for a girl to be married, although some conditional procedure is offered for a girl without a brother (abhrātṛkā).

The Bride: Āpastambagṛhyasūtram prescribes the qualifications of a girl –

बन्धुशीललक्षणसम्पन्नाम् अरोगाम् उपयच्छेत्। आपस्तम्बगृह्यसूत्रम् ,३.१९॥

bandhuśīlalakṣaṇasampannām arogām upayacchet।

Āpastambagṛhyasūtram 3.19॥

A girl having good relatives, virtues like obedience, auspicious physical characteristics and healthy should be married.

Here health means not having incurable disease like leprosy.

The Bridegroom: Āpastamba clearly states the qualifications of a good bridegroom:

बन्धुशीललक्षणसम्पन्नः श्रुतवान् अरोग इति वरसम्पत्।आपस्तम्बसूत्रम् ३.२॰॥

bandhuśīlalakṣaṇasampannaḥ śrutavān aroga iti varasampat ।ibid. 3.2…॥

A boy, who is supported by good relatives, virtues like obedience, auspicious physical characteristics, educated and healthy is a good bridegroom.

Here health means without any incurable disease like leprosy.

How to decide: Āpastamba (and others) offers an easy way of selecting a bride –

यस्यां मनश्चक्षुषोः निबन्धः तस्याम् ऋद्धिः नेतरत् आद्रियेत इत्येके।आपस्तम्बगृह्यसूत्रम् ३.२१॥

yasyāṃ manaścakṣuṣoḥ nibandhaḥ tasyām ṛddhiḥ netarat ādriyeta ityeke ।

ibid. 3.21॥

In which girl the mind and eyes get fixed, i.e. the girl liked by mind and eyes of bridegroom, is good as a wife and there will be all round prosperity. Some sages say that if that is the case then the other qualifications need not be given much importance.

Needless to say marriage between a bride and groom belonging to the same caste (in Spanish “Custa” means “group”) such as Brāhmaṇa, Kṣatriya, Vaiśya etc. is recommended.

Eight kinds of marriages: Marriages are divided into eight types –

ब्राह्मो दैवस्तथैवार्षः प्राजापत्यस्तथासुरः।

गान्धर्वो राक्षसश्चैव पैशाचश्चाष्टमोऽधमः॥मनुस्मृतिः ३.२१॥

brāhmo daivastathaivārṣaḥ prājāpatyastathāsuraḥ.

gāndharvo rākṣasaścaiva paiśācaścāṣṭamo’dhamaḥ॥Manusmṛtiḥ 3.21॥

Brāhma, Daiva, Ārṣa, Prājāpatya, Āsura, Gāndharva, Rākṣasa and Paiśāca are the eight kinds of marriages and the last one, i.e. Paiśāca is condemned.

Here is an explanation of the eight forms of marriage:

  1. Brāhmavivāha: Inviting a bridegroom, who is a scholar in Veda and Vedāṅgas etc. to bride’s house, worshipping him as per the capacity and offering the girl.
  1. Daivavivāha: A Ṛtvik (priest), who pleased his Yajamāna (the master) of the Yajña etc., by his priesthood, is offered ornaments, clothes etc., worshipped as per the capacity and offered the girl.
  1. Ārṣavivāha: Having received a pair (or two) of cows, i.e. a cow and an ox, from the bridegroom as a token, the girl is offered.
  1. Prājāpatyavivāha: The donor of the bride says to the groom: “I offer you my girl, both of you should perform the auspicious rites and have good offspring”, worships him and offers the girl.
  1. Āsuravivāha: Having paid some amount to bride’s party, the groom weds the girl either in bride’s house or elsewhere, with his own expenditure.
  1. Gāndharvavivāha: It is nothing but the so called love-marriage.
  1. Rākṣasavivāha: Marrying forcibly a scared girl after threatening her by several means.
  1. Paiśācavivāha: Approaching the girl clandestinely, sedating her or taking her while asleep and marrying secretly.

The above is just the division of the marriages that were taking place in the society. Among the eight Brāhma, Daiva and Prājāpatya are considered as the best as the donor of bride (Kanyādātā) personally gathers information about the groom and proceeds depending on the virtues.

Purpose of marriage: In the Saṃkalpa (the pledge made before any rite) of marriage, the following is stated –

धर्मप्रजासम्पत्यर्थं स्त्रियमुद्वहे

dharmaprajāsampatyarthaṃ striyamudvahe

I wed this girl for Dharma, offspring and Artha (money matters and day to day life).

Further it is asserted in scriptures –

या धर्मार्था सैव रत्यर्था या रत्यर्था सा धर्मार्था न भवति।

yā dharmārthā saiva ratyarthā yā ratyarthā sā dharmārthā na bhavati ।

The bride who is accepted as wife for Dharma is also for sexual life but the one taken for sexual life cannot be for Dharma.

Auspicious time for marriage: Āpastamba rules that all the auspicious stars mentioned in Jyotiṣam (Astrology) have to be taken for marriage –

सर्वाणि पुण्योक्तानि नक्षत्राणि। आपस्तम्बगृह्यसूत्रम्, २.१३॥

sarvāṇi puṇyoktāni nakṣatrāṇi। Āpastambagṛhyasūtram, 2.13॥

For Sumuhūrta (an auspicious time span of forty eight minutes called Muhūrta) one should take all the stars said to be auspicious and listed in the works of Jyotiṣam (Astrology).

For want of space many more details related to Jyotiṣam with regard to marriage are not being provided but a few. The strength of Guru (Jupiter), who thwarts a hundred thousand defects and Śukra (Venus) who thwarts ten thousand defects is important.

Matching of horoscopes: This tradition has been there in Indian subcontinent since time immemorial. The horoscopes of bride and groom are referred to an astrologer (Jyautiṣika) who, in turn would advise whether the pair would make a good couple or not. The Jyautiṣika would take into consideration aspects such as Grahamaitrī (rapport between the lords of Rāśis of bride and groom – this is important for Brāhmaṇas).

Kujadoṣa (the defect of Mars placed in wrong house): This is a very important aspect in terms of compatibility between the horoscopes of bride and groom –

धने व्यये च पाताळे जामित्रे चाष्टमे कुजे।

स्त्रीणां भर्तृविनाशः स्यात् पुंसां भार्याविनाशनम्॥ अगस्त्यसंहिता॥

dhane vyaye ca pātāle jāmitre cāṣṭame kuje ।

strīṇāṃ bhartṛvināśaḥ syāt puṃsāṃ bhāryāvināśanam॥ Agastyasaṃhitā॥

If Kuja (Mars) is placed in second, fourth, seventh, eighth or twelfth house (it is called Kujadoṣa) of the bride then it would cause the death of the groom and vice versa.

The above said houses are to be counted from Lagna (ascendant), Rāśi (the house in which Moon is situated) and Śukra (Venus). However the Kujadoṣa gets nullified if there is any of the three relations of Guru (Jupiter) with Kuja, i.e. Parivartana (swapping of houses by Guru and Kuja), or association (both Guru and Kuja in the same house) or aspect of Guru to Kuja (Guru has fifth, seventh and ninth aspects). Similarly for those who are born in Kuja’s own houses, i.e. Meṣa (Aries) and Vṛścika (Scoprio), Mitrakṣetra (friend’s house), i.e. Simha (Leo) of Ravi (Sun), Mīna (Pisces) and Dhanus (Sagittarius) of Guru, Karkaṭaka (Cancer) of Candra (Moon), Uccakṣetra (zenith) i.e. Makara (Capricorn) – Kujadoṣa is nullified –

अर्केन्दुक्षेत्रजातानां कुजदोषो न विद्यते।

स्वोच्चमित्रभजातानां पीडको न भवेत्कुजः॥ देवकेरळम् ॥

arkendukṣetrajātānāṃ kujadoṣo na vidyate ।

svoccamitrabhajātānāṃ pīḍako na bhavetkujaḥ॥ Devakeraḷam ॥

Further, there will be compatibility if Kujadoṣa is there in the horoscopes of both the bride and groom.

While fixing the Muhūrta (auspicious time) for marriage one has to take care of the conditions such as Jāmitraśuddhi (either no planet in the seventh house from Lagnam / ascendant or there is Śubhagraha / auspicious planet in that house) etc. that are prescribed in the works on Jyotiṣam such as Kālāmṛtam, Muhūrtacintāmaṇi etc.

Major events of marriage: Since marriage, unlike other  Saṃskāras , has a lengthy process, there will be many events. So, some major events are being explained.

  1. Madhuparka: Literally it means “pouring honey”. While receiving the bridegroom at the bride’s house, honey etc. are offered just to honour the groom’s party.
  1. Parasparavīkṣaṇam: It means looking at each other. Just before the Muhūrta (fixed auspicious time) a piece of cloth is held between the bride and groom. At the time of Muhūrta the bride and groom look at each other while the groom recites a hymn (Ṛk – “abhrātṛghnīm”). Maṇgalāṣṭakas (auspicious verses such as “tadeva lagnam sudinam tadeva”) are recited while the interposed cloth is held.
  1. Kanyādānam (Gift of bride): It is in this rite that the father of the bride tells the bridegroom –

धर्मे चार्थे च कामे च त्वया एषा नातिचरितव्या

dharme cārthe ca kāme ca tvayā eṣā nāticaritavyā

You should not ignore this girl in terms of Dharma, Artha (money matters etc.) and Kāma (sex related matters).

Hereafter the bride is called Patnī / Bhāryā / Sahadharmacāriṇī while the bridegroom is called Pati / Bhartā etc. Together both are called Dampatī.

The groom then responds –

नातिचरामि

nāticarāmi

I shall not ignore.

Jaimini in Pūrvamīmāṃsā (6.1.4.17) rules that both husband and wife have to do the rites jointly but not separately –

स्ववतोस्तु वचनादैककर्म्यं स्यात्

svavatostu vacanādaikakarmyaṃ syāt

In the case of a wife and husband with wealth, due to the Vedic sentence (dharme cārthe ca kāme ca nāticaritavyā) both are entitled to combinedly perform the same rite.

This is popularly referred to as

दम्पत्योः सहाधिकारात्

dampatyoḥ sahādhikārāt

Since the wife and husband have to do things together.

Pāṇini (4.1.33) also confirms the above said aspect –

पत्युर्नो यज्ञसंयोगे

patyurno yajñasaṃyoge

Patnī (wife) is a word produced on the root Pati (husband) if both of them together perform the rites.

  1. Pāṇigrahaṇam and Pradhānahoma: Pāṇigrahaṇam (marriage) literally means “holding the hand” (of Patnī by Pati). “Pradhānahoma” is the principal fire for oblations (later there will be “Śeṣahoma” or remaining fire oblations). After holding Patnī’s hand Pati combinedly performs the homa.
  1. Lājahoma: Patnī offers fried grain (lājas) in fire for three times while Mantras are being recited.
  1. Agnipariṇayanam: It means going around the fire. Reciting some Mantras the Pati along with Patnī makes Pradakṣiṇam around the fire and the water jar.
  1. Aśmārohaṇa: The Patnī is made to tread on a millstone. The above three, viz. lājahoma, agnipariṇayana and aśmārohaṇa are done thrice, one after the other.
  1. Saptapadī: Literally it means a rite in which the Patnī is made by Pati to walk seven steps. According to tradition friendship is established between people by walking seven steps together or speaking seven words  with each other –

साप्तपदीनं सख्यम् (पाणिनिसूत्रम् ५.२.२)

सख्यं साप्तपदीनं स्यात् (अमरकोशः २.८.१२)

sāptapadīnaṃ sakhyam (pāṇinisūtram 5.2.2)

sakhyaṃ sāptapadīnaṃ syāt (amarakośaḥ 2.8.12)

This is a very important aspect of marriage. After completing the seven steps together with Pati, the Patnī would lose her father’s Gotram (origin of inheritance from a sage) and needless to say would attain the Gotram of her Pati –

स्वगोत्रात् भ्रश्यते नारी विवाहात् सप्तमे पदे (स्मृतिः)

svagotrāt bhraśyate nārī vivāhāt saptame pade (smṛtiḥ)

The bride would lose her Gotram in the seventh step in the marriage.

Āpastamba clearly explains the procedure of Saptapadī –

अथैनामुत्तरेणाग्निं दक्षिणेन पदा प्राचीमुदीचीं वा दिशम् अभिप्रक्रमयति एकमिष इति ॥

(आपस्तम्बगृह्यसूत्रम्, ४.१५)

athaināmuttareṇāgniṃ dakṣiṇena padā prācīmudīcīṃ vā diśam abhiprakramayati ekamiṣa iti ॥ (Āpastambagṛhyasūtram, 4.15)

After Pāṇigrahaṇam, a cloth has to be spread on the north side of the fire in such a way that the end-part of the cloth is left in the east or north, rice is to be put on the cloth and the Pati makes the Patnī walk along on the rice towards east or north for seven steps placing the right foot first.

At every step the Pati recites a specific Mantra –

Step 1:     एकमिषे विष्णुः त्वान्वेतु

ekamiṣe viṣṇuḥ tvānvetu

May Viṣṇu give you rice for your first step.

Step 2:    ऊर्जे विष्णुः त्वान्वेतु

ūrje viṣṇuḥ tvānvetu

May Viṣṇu give you strength for your second step.

Step 3:    त्रीणि व्रताय विष्णुः त्वान्वेतु

trīṇi vratāya viṣṇuḥ tvānvetu

May Viṣṇu give you the will power to perform Vratas (rites with specific conditions) for your third step.

Step 4:    चत्वारि मायो भवाय विष्णुः त्वान्वेतु

catvāri māyo bhavāya viṣṇuḥ tvānvetu

May Viṣṇu give you comfort for your fourth step.

Step 5:    पञ्च पशुभ्यो विष्णुः त्वान्वेतु

pañca paśubhyo viṣṇuḥ tvānvetu

May Viṣṇu give you cattle for your fifth step.

Step 6:    षडृतुभ्यो विष्णुः त्वान्वेतु

ṣaḍṛtubhyo viṣṇuḥ tvānvetu

May Viṣṇu give you wealth of seasons for your sixth step.

Step 7:    सप्त सप्तभ्यो होत्राभ्यो विष्णुः त्वान्वेतु

sapta saptabhyo hotrābhyo viṣṇuḥ tvānvetu

May Viṣṇu give you the mercy of the seven sages for your seventh step

After the Patnī is on the seventh step the Pati recites the Mantra “sakhā saptapadā . . . ” – says Āpastamba –

सखेति सप्तमे पदे जपति

sakheti saptame pade japati

The Pati pronounces the Mantra starting “sakhā saptapadā” after the Patnī is on the seventh step.

The following (portion of) Mantra is recited by the Pati when the Patnī is on her seventh step:

सखा सप्तपदा भव। सखायौ सप्तपदा बभूव। सख्यं ते गमेयम्। सख्यात्ते मा योषम्। सख्यान्मे मा योष्ठाः। समयाव सङ्कल्पावहै। संप्रियौ रोचिष्णू सुमनस्यमानौ . . . ।

sakhā saptapadā bhava । sakhāyau saptapadā babhūva । sakhyaṃ te gameyam. sakhyātte mā yoṣam । sakhyānme mā yoṣṭhāḥ । samayāva saṅkalpāvahai. saṃpriyau rociṣṇū sumanasyamānau . . . ।

O! my wife, who made seven steps! Be a friend of mine; you who made seven steps, and me, both of us became friends. I got friendship and hereafter I would not part with you, do not part from me. Let us be together; let us take common decisions in household matters; let us have mutual affection; let us shine by mutual dependence and let us be with good minds . . .

  1. Gṛhapraveśa: After Saptapadī the Pati takes Patnī to his house while reciting the following Mantras, which are significant –

. . . मूर्धानं पत्युरारोह प्रजया च विराड् भव। सम्राज्ञी श्वशुरे भव सम्राज्ञी श्वश्व्रां भव ननान्दरि सम्राज्ञी भव।

. . . mūrdhānaṃ patyurāroha prajayā ca virāḍ bhava । samrājñī śvaśure bhava samrājñī śvaśvrāṃ bhava nanāndari samrājñī bhava ।

You sit on the head of your husband, i.e. be important (like the head for body) for me, have good number of children (ten children are the limit), be loved by father-in-law, mother-in-law, sister-in-law etc., i.e. maintain good relation with all of them.

There is Homa (oblation in fire) at the time of Gṛhapraveśa.

  1. Dhruvārundhatīdarśanam: While reciting some Mantras, the Pati shows both the stars, viz. Dhruva and Arundhatī to Patnī at night on the day of marriage.
  1. Āgneyasthālīpāka: Both, Patnī and Pati cook rice in a vessel and offer to fire (Agni) with Mantras. Patnī pounds the paddy and the Pati would see through cooking. After putting down the rice-vessel on Kuśas (holy grass) both Pati and Patnī, touching each other, have to offer the cooked rice as oblation to the fire, while Mantras are being recited. The rice is to be sprinkled with clarified butter (Abhighāra) twice, when the vessel is still on the hearth and after it is put down. In this rite Agni (fire) is the Devatā (deity). Sthālī is vessel and Pāka is cooking. So it is called Āgneyasthālīpāka.
  1. Maṅgalasūtradhāraṇam: Tying an auspicious string with golden beads around the neck of Patnī by Pati. Maṅgalasūtram (the auspicious string) is considered important for a Patnī whose husband is alive. It is also a sign of a married woman.

Ardhāṅgī: The term is used to mean Patnī (wife). Literally it means “half of the body (of Pati)”. This aspect is clearly stated in Veda itself:

अर्धो ह वा एष आत्मनो यज्जाया। शतपथब्राह्मणम्, ५.२.१.१॰, ८.७.२.३॥

अर्धो वा एष आत्मनो यत्पत्नी। तैत्तिरीयसंहिता, ६.१.८.५॥

ardho ha vā eṣa ātmano yajjāyā । śatapathabrāhmaṇam, 5.2.1.1…, 8.7.2.3॥

ardho vā eṣa ātmano yatpatnī । taittirīyasaṃhitā, 6.1.8.5॥

Jāyā / Patnī (wife) is certainly half of the body of Pati (husband).

Āpastamba rules out any difference between Pati and Patnī –

जायापत्योः न विभागोऽस्ति। पाणिग्रहणाद्धि सहत्वं कर्मसु तथा पुण्यफलेषु च।

आपस्तम्बधर्मसूत्रम्, २.६.१३.१६, १७॥

jāyāpatyoḥ na vibhāgo’sti । pāṇigrahaṇāddhi sahatvaṃ karmasu tathā puṇyaphaleṣu ca । Āpastambadharmasūtram, 2.6.13.16, 17॥

There is no any separation between Pati and Patnī, i.e. both are to be treated as a single entity. By Pāṇigrahaṇam (marriage) there will be togetherness between them in all rites and in the activities meant for Puṇyam (opposite of Pāpam / sin).

Patnī would partake the Puṇyam but not Pāpam of Pati.

 Antyeṣṭi

The Saṃskāra to be performed at the end (of life), i.e. at the time of death of a person. The earlier fifteen Saṃskāras are performed while a person is alive. The last one, viz. Antyeṣṭi is performed after death of a person in order to get him a comfortable position. Antyeṣṭi is performed by sons.

जातस्य हि ध्रुवो मृत्युः ध्रुवं जन्म मृतस्य च।

तस्मादपारिहार्येऽर्थे न त्वं शोचितुमर्हति ॥ भगवद्गीता, २.२७॥

jātasya hi dhruvo mṛtyuḥ dhruvaṃ janma mṛtasya ca।

tasmādapārihārye’rthe na tvaṃ śocitumarhati ॥ Bhagavadgītā, 2.27॥

Śrīkṛṣṇa tells Arjuna during the great war of Mahābhārata – whoever is born has to die and one who is dead would be born, i.e. it is an unending cycle of birth and death. Therefore, you are not supposed to weep with regard to a thing that is inevitable.

People of Vedic tradition believe that the physical body is perishable whereas Ātmā (soul) is eternal / indestructible; there are Svarga (heaven) and Naraka (hell) that are caused by Karma (nemesis), viz. Puṇyam and Pāpam (sin); there is rebirth and an entity called Īśvara is running the universe.

After the death of a person, the near relatives would attain Aśaucam (impurity) for ten days. There is a lot of procedure to be followed right from burning the dead body to offering Daśadānāni (ten kinds of donations) among which is Godānam (donation of a milky cow with calf).

Different procedures of Antyeṣṭi are prescribed for different people, i.e. a Brahmacārī (celibate), a Śrotriya (Vedic scholar), a Yati (a Saṃnyāsī), a virgin, a married woman, a widow, a widower etc. Pitṛmedha has to be performed by the son. For the first twelve months, a monthly death ceremony called Māsikam is to be performed. Then yearly death ceremony called Ābdikam has to be performed. At every step there are some exemptions for people who cannot meet the standard procedure for some reason or the other. Such are called Āpaddharma (the Dharma in a hostile situation).

* * * * * * *

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