SIXTEEN SANSKARS OF A HINDU
16 Sanskars of a Hindu
The way Hindu lives is wrapped around various rites called Sanskar. The Sanskar is said to be helping for achieving spiritual nourishment, peace of mind and ultimately moksha. Sanskar give a spiritual touch to the important events at different stages of a Hindu life right from pre-birth to post-death. These sixteen Sanskar are as follows:
All sources recognize this as the first Sanskar. This is the enthusiastic prayer for a child. This is done for fulfillment of parental duty to continue the race. This sanskar is limited to the family members. This is performed by the husband.
This second Sanskar is performed during the third or the fourth month of pregnancy. The significance of this Sanskar is to invoke divine and good qualities in the child. According to our ancient Shastras, this ritual is performed in the desire for a male child. The reason for expecting a male child is believed to be in the belief that it is the male child who carries the Vansha forward. Like the first Sanskar i.e. Garbhadhan, Punsavana Sanskar is also restricted to the family members.
This Sanskar is performed during the seventh month of pregnancy and prayers are offered for the healthy physical and mental growth of the child. The other importance of this Sankar is to free the expectant mother free from worries since the last 3 months are very difficult for pregnant woman, both physically and mentally. On the day of this Sanskar, the expectant mother gets food of her desire. Only women are invited for this ritual and the gathering is kept small. The husband performs this ritual.
This Sanskar is performed at the birth of a child as a welcome sign to the new born child into the family. Brahmins chant Mantras for a healthy, long life of the child. This Sanskar is restricted to the family level. During this Sanskar, the father feeds honey to the baby and pierces the baby’s ear. This ear piercing is supposed to enhance the memory of the child.
This Sanskar is performed on the tenth, eleventh or twelfth day with recitation of Mantras. The baby child gets name on completion of this Sankar.
This Sanskar is performed when the child is taken out of the home for the first time. The reason for this Sanskar is to show obedience to the sun, moon, fire, wind etc, – the Panchmahabhut. This is supposed to enhance the age and physical and mental development of the child.
This Sanskar is performed on sixth month, when the child gets solid food for the first time. Mantras recited and oblations are offered to the various deities.
This Sanskar is shaving the head of child. This is done in first or third year of the child. The body of the child is protected and harmonized by this ceremony.
This Sanskar is performed in the fifth or the seventh year or at the end of the first year with Chudkaram Sanskar.
This is the most important Sanskar, which marks the beginning of the next stage of life Youth. The word Upanayana means bringing near. The child is bought near to the Guru. This Sanskar is second birth for child – a spiritual birth. This Sanskar is performed during six to nine years of the child.
This Sanskar is done along with Upanayana. The setting up with the Sacred thread entitles the child to study the Vedas and participate in Vedic functions. The child commences his journey on the road to spiritual life. This is contrasted with a life of eating, sleeping and procreating, which kinds of life animals also live. The child is sent to Gurukul.
This Sanskar is performed before entering the grahstha ashram or the life of a householder. This is performed at the end of childs study in Gurukul. The student has to take the permission of his guru before entering the ashram. After this the guru gives him important guidelines or tips for the grahstha ashram.
This sanskar is entry into the second Ashram. The life as individual family begins. Entering this stage of life, man has to take on his duties and has to pay spiritual debts by sacrifice, by procreating children and study. The bride and groom walks around Agni hand in hand. The bride sacrifices grains in the fire and chants mantras.
Man withdraws himself from all worldly activities, retires into the forest and prepares himself for taking sanyas. This is the life of a Vanprastha.
A sanyasi renounces the world and leads a life of study and meditation by living on alms.
When death is imminent, a small piece of gold, tulsi leaf and drops of Ganga water are put in the mouth of the person on the death bed. The body is laid on the ground with the head towards the north. The eldest son generally performs the last rites before which he takes a purificatory bath amidst the chanting of mantras. The dead body is washed, perfumed and wrapped in a new white cloth and decked with flowers. For ten days following death, food is not prepared at home and relatives and friends take the responsibility of getting food for the family.