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Om, Sri gurubhyo namaha

Vaidika Samskaras
Dr. S. Yegnasubramanian

1. Introduction teachings to be useful to humankind, our


Over the ages, humankind has always Rishis, through their inquiry, extracted the
strived to reach perfection and to explore the vedic wisdom, like extracting a precious metal
ultimate Truth. In this quest, every religion from the ore! Consequently, a new family of
has some unique features. Some of the unique l i t e r a t u r e k n o w n a s Sootras ( c r y p t i c
features characteristic of the Hindu Faith or statements) - emerged, such as, the Strouta
sanAtana dharma are: sutras, grihya sootras, dharma sootras etc.
·The concept of God as the very creation it- Since the sootras themselves were abstract,
self. For example we come across passages commentaries on these sootras were given by
like, Rishis in the form of smritis, s u c h a s ,
&U”p;d;w ySy n;i&”.; YAjnavalkhya smriti, ParAsara smriti, etc. The
term smriti refers to a ‘remembered idea’ (from
i]&uvnvpuW’ iv-,umIx’ nm;im .;
the vedas). Later, itihAsas (RaAmAyanNa and
and MahAbhArata) and purANas (BhAgavatam
a;p;t;{ön&” Sql;Ntö&uvnöb[„;;<@’ SkAndam etc.) were written in the form of
a;ivSfurtß . personified stories, to make these concepts
understandable to common people.
in the dhyAna slokas of Vishnu Sahasranamam
and Sri Rudram respectively. 2. Inner Virtues (Atma Guna’s)

·One’s birth according to one’s karma. The The scriptures have expounded the
entire chapter of karma yoga in Bhagavad Truth in absolute terms in all the Upanishads.
Gita deals with this aspect in great detail. The Hindu Faith aims at enabling every human
being to the realization of this Absolute Truth
·The idea of liberation, mukti, even when one
or the Self, and proclaims that, this realization
is alive - jeevanmukti:. For example, we have
is the only goal for every one to reach. The
in the in Bhagavad Gita:
scriptures say that this realization could be
pXynß xO<vnß SpOxnß ij`[nß aXnnß gCznß achieved though the development of Atma
GuNa’s, or certain inner virtues. Eight virtues
Svpnß Xvxnß a;Tmnev a;Tmn; tuÎ; .
have been mentioned in particular, and they
·The manifestation of the Divine through in- are:
numerable avatAras - ten of them are more
1. Compassion (dayA), consideration and sen-
popular; Bhagavatam mentions 21 avataras,
sitivity for all.
but says that they are countless ! avt;r;”
2. Patience or forbearance or the ability to
as’:yey” .
face provoking situations without agitation
·varNASrama dharma - The Lord says, ctuvR<yR’ (kshamA or kshAnti).
my; sOÏmß in the Gita.
3. Free of jealousy (anasooyA).
All these features are found in various texts
4. Purity - internal and external (Soucam).
and derive their basis from the Vedas .
5. K e e p i n g c o o l , free from burden
However, these are not given in a clear and
(anAyAsam).
concise format in the Vedas. For the Vedic
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6. Not being miserly (akArpaNyam). which then becomes eligible to be offered to
7. Absence of desire, attachment (aspruhA) the Lord.
8. A u s p i c i o u s n e s s , p e a c e (mangalam, ivi/ik[y;jNy” aitxy ivxeW” .
Ananda:). (Vedic rites, when formed, certain
When an individual acquires these qualities, special qualities are born)
he/she becomes eligible to Atma JnAnam, and
All through, the vedas teach that the
through inquiry, the person realizes the Abso-
ultimate goal of life is liberation (moksha:) and
lute.
if one has to achieve this goal, one has to
3. Vedic Rituals (vaidika samskAra’s) become qualified (yogyah:). This eligibility
The scriptures proclaim that a total comes by offering oneself to the Lord (Atma
person should be harmonious in thought samarpaNam) and before such offering, the
(maanasam), word (vAcika), and deed (bodily individual has to go through -almost a life-long
actions - kAyikam). As can be seen, this virtue - purification process. The entire life-style is
is far from realization by the vast majority of designed to be a process of samskAra, and in
people, and so has to be evolved right from this life-style, every stage is indicated by a
birth! Instead of just listing the above particular ritual. All these rituals are given in
mentioned Atma GuNa’s and postulating them the scriptures. It can be interpreted then, that,
as a requirement in the building up of a total those special qualities, which are born by
person for gaining the eligibility to the inquiry performing certain vedic rituals that make one
of the Self, our scriptures provide us with a fit for the True Knowldege of liberation, are
manual as to how to acquire these qualities samskAra’s. In course of time, the rituals
throughout one’s life, through the performance themselves, which led to these special
of rituals known as vaidika samskAra’s, qualities, came to be known as samskAra’s.
starting from the conception of the child, until
So, two meanings are primarily given for
death! In addition to some of the unique
samskAra’s
characteristics of the Hindu Faith mentioned
a) characteristic/special quality - atiSaya
earlier, vaidika samskAra is another unique
viSesha: and
and important feature since it helps the
individual to develop into a total person, b) the very ritual or ceremony.
physically and spiritually. In addition, a third definition also is given to
3.1 The word samskAra the word, which means, mental impression or
The seed for the samskAra’s is the vAsana. The Rishis acknowledged the fact that
Vedas, and, the word samskAra, the mantras a person’s mind can be influenced by so many
and the arrangement are given in the grihya factors all through the life based on one’s own
sootra’s. (For an overview of our vedic actions and through actions of others. The
scriptures please refer to Vol. 1 No. 1 of samskaras are supposed to accomplish two
Paramaartha Tattvam.) In the vedas, the things to an individual:
process of purification is denoted by the term doW apnynen v; gu,;/;nen v;.
samskuryAt. If any object is to be offered to
the Lord, that object has to be purified first, 1) doW apnynmß dosha apnayanam - elimination
both at the physical level and at the spiritual of physical and mental impurities (dosha) and
(subtle) level. After such purification, a new 2) gu , ;/;nmß guNAdhAnam - adding special
quality is believed to be born in the object, virtues or Atma guNa’s. As mentioned in the
16 Bhagavad Gita (13-7):
am;inTvmdiM&Tvmih’s; =;iNtr;jRvmß. d) Creation of awareness of the stage of life -
a;c;yoRp;sn’ x;wc’ SqwyRm;Tmiving[h” .. after upanayanam, brahmacarya ASrama; af-
ter vivAham, grihasta ASrama. Development
(humility, unprententiousness, non-violence,
of sanctity for life itself.
patience, uprightness, service to the teacher,
purity, steadiness and self-control) e) Sensitivity to elements of nature - for
It is interesting to note that, even example, all divinities are water - sv;R devt;
though the samskAras were meant to purify a;p” ; similarly fire is Divinity and so on.
an individual to become eligible for moksha, f) The respect that the entire creation is some-
the Rishis have formulated them in such a thing to be worshipped - is brahman - sarvam
manner that the individual also attains other brahma mayam jagat.
benefits - dharma, artha and kAma.
g) The awareness that the individual is part of
They involve the purification of the
Nature and not separate from it.
total personality - mAnasam, vAcikam and
kAyikam - since one is likely to have sinned h) The concept of social / family life - all rituals
through all these three instruments ! involve relatives, friends etc.
Samskaras contribute to the overall So, the vaidika samskaras have been
growth of the individual, such as: designed by the Rishis to contribute to the
overall growth of the individual.
a) The physical discipline during and after the
ritual - for example, prANAyAmam helps to 3.2 How many samskaras are given in the
regulate the blood circulation, etc. Also, several scriptures?
do’s and don’ts are prescribed for the As was mentioned earlier, the sootra’s
brahmacAri such as: give a comprehensive account of various
ajanavAdaSIla: ajnv;dxIl” - no gossip; samskAra’s and, among the sootra’s, the grihya
sootra’s give the most elaborate account. The
adhivA svApI  ai/v; Sv;pI / m; suWuPq; - no
grihya sootra’s themselves are many, which
sleeping during day time;
deal with all aspects of domestic life like
strtIbhi: yAvatharta sambhAshI S]Ii&” y;vqtR marriage, etc. Since these samskAra’s are
s’&;WI - speak only what is required to ladies, basically derived from the vedas, various
etc.
numbers are given in these grihya sootra’s.
(More details will be seen during the discussion Most popularly, forty one samskAra’s are
on upanayanam later). enumerated, which we can broadly classify in
b) The mental growth - again, prANAyAmam to nine groups. We will discuss in detail, each
helps to sharpen the mind; improves medha of the forty one samskaras - starting from
Sakti:; for example, prayers such as, conception of the baby, till the final cremation
- in subsequent issues of Paramaartha Tattvam.
SraddhAm medhAm yaSa: prajnAm Sriyam
Ayushyam teja Aroghyam dehime Source Material:
havyavAhana. 1.Hindu Samskaras, Rajbali Pandey, Motilal
Also, sraddhAvAn labhate jnAnam etc. Benarasidas,Delhi, 1998.

c) Imparting of values, ethics and morality - 2. The Book of Samskaras, Prema Rasa Dasa,
for example: kAmo kArshIt manyuh kArishIt Bhakti Vedanta Book Trust International, 1977.
- japa to overcome greed and anger. 3. Lectures by Swami Paramarthananda,
Madras.

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Om, Sri Gurubhyo Namaha

Vaidika Samskaras
Dr. S. Yegnasubramanian
(Sections and sub-sections are numbered in continuation from the previous article)

In the previous article in Volume 4 No. 1 (Some yogis perform sacrifices especially to
of Paramaartha Tattvam, we said that, propitiate deities; still others offer the Atman itself
as oblation in the fire of brahman)
l the samskaaras are a series of sacrements
performed by any one belonging to the l in all other offerings, the ego - ahamkAra: -
vedic tradition, which are meant for the is present. If one offers oneself to the Lord,
overall purification or overall refinement one must make sure that he/she is offer-
of the individual. able - in a fit condition.
l by overall refinement, we mean the l samskaara is that process by which one
physical, emotional, intellectual and makes oneself “samskrita jeevah:” (refined
spiritual development and maturity of the individual) to be offered to ISwarah:
personality at the total level. ISwara-nivedana-arhah: or yogyah: bhavati -
in the language of devotion, or
l the term samskaara has three meanings
AtmajnAnayogya: bhavati, in the language
1. the refinement itself
of vedaanta.
2. the ritual by which the refinement is
achieved, and l Since the impurities are accumulated over
3. the impressions - vAsanAs - created by innumerable number of births, the purifi-
oneself and the environment cation will take a long cleansing process
over the entire life - right from the very
l the purpose was not just material prosper-
conception onwards. If the purification
ity - which was incidental - but the moksha
becomes successful, one will be able to at-
purushArtha - based on which the entire
tain moksha in this life itself.
samskaras were developed. As side benefits,
one also gets dharma, artha and kaama l If not, the final rites- the cremation etc. ritu-
purushArthas. als - are performed and if one is born as a
human being, one can continue the perfor-
l before anything is offered to the Lord, the
mance of the samskaaras to become eli-
offering should be purified, and our sages
gible for moksha. As Sri Krishna says:
took the entire life as the greatest offering
of the individual - the jivaatmA - to the aneköjNmös’isi·” tto y;it pr;’gitmß.
paramAtman:
(having achieved purity through several births one
(SravaNam keertanam vishnoh: smaraNam can attain liberation)
pAdasevanam arcanam vandanam dAsyam
As was mentioned earlier, there are forty one
sakhyam Atmanivedanam)
samskaaras, starting from the conception of the
l the total life itself is an yajna. baby in the mother’s womb, till the cremation.
We will discuss each of these forty one
dwvmev;pre y_’ yoign” pyuRp;ste.
samskaaras in some detail in a series of
b[„;;Gn;vpre y_’ y_enwvopju‡it..
articles, starting from this number of the
(Srimad Bhagavadgita 4.25)

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Journal. The intent is not to give the mantras 4.1 Pre-natal samskaaras :
used in the rituals or the actual conduct of the There are three pre-natal samskaaras
rituals themselves, but to give a glimpse of the which are performed by the father before the
significance of the rituals along with some birth of the child, and they are:
peripheral details.
1. garbhAdhAnam - the conception ceremony;
4. Classification of samskaaras 2. pumsavanam - prayer for a male child;
The forty one samskaaras can be 3. seemantam or seemantonnayanam - parting
broadly classified in to nine groups: of the hair of the wife.
1. Pre-natal samskaaras (3) 4.1.1 garbhAdhAnam - the conception
2. Pre-educational samskaaras (4) ceremony:
3. Educational samskaaras (6)
There are two schools of thought regarding this
4. Marriage
ceremony.
5. Five mahAyajnas
6. Seven pAka yajnas l Purification of the mother - to make her
7. Seven havir yajnas eligible to conceive the baby through the
8. Seven soma yajnas spiritual cleansing of the womb - =e]ös’Sk;r”
9. Final Rites l Purification of the seed - bIjös’Sk;r”
The concept is that, by the time a person l How do the interpretations affect the
completes all the forty samskaaras, he may conduct of this samskaara? If it is =e]ös’Sk;r”,
become qualified for jnAnam - so all through then there is no need to repeat it for every
the life, going through each of the aaSramas conception. But if it is bIjös’Sk;r”, then it
(stages - brahmacarya aaSrama, grihasthASrama, has to be performed for each child.
vAnaprastha aaSrama and sannyAsa aaSrama), Popularly, the latter is accepted even though
the person becomes yogya: (qualified) to study the ritual itself is performed once only for
vedaanta s o t h a t t h e k n o w l e d g e aham the first child.
brahmAsmi will be realized. Once the person
What is garbhaadhaanam? The word garbha:
gains this knowledge, then there is no need
has two meanings:
for any further samskaaras. However, this
realization may not be possible for most a) the womb of the mother, and
because of the thickness of the impurity b) the baby itself - the embryo or fetus -
accumulated over several cycles of birth and g&RSy ixxu”.
so even after death, the individuality
l Here we take the second meaning, the jeeva
continues. The person has to be purified
and the term aadhaanam means the transfer
further and so, after death, the final samskaara,
or placement of the jeeva in the womb of
known as antyeshTi: (the 41st samskaara), is
the mother.
performed (by one’s son or close relative), with
the hope that the person will become qualified g&RSy ixxo” a;/;nmßö> g&R;/;nmß.
for a better birth next time!
As a picture becomes clearer and clearer by l The jeeva is not created afresh; it already
each stroke that the artist draws , each of the exists in the father, and is only transferred
samskaaras makes the jeeva more and more to the mother! The jeeva (jIv”) is anaadi -
refined, to become yogyah for moksha. never created and when present in the

13
father, it is called reta: ( ret” or pu™WöbIjmß ). l The birth of the child protects one’s family
This reta: is called garbha: after transfer to lineage - kula-paramapara.
the mother. l Also, from the spiritual angle, any person
l From where did the father get this jeeva? It is born with three debts - 1) to the devas
is an elaborate process in which the jeeva is (deva-RuNam), 2) to the Rishis (Rishi-
believed to go through five stages before RuNam), and 3) to the ancestors (pitru-
coming to human form, the last stage being RuNam). Among these, the third debt is
the mother’s womb. According to Mundaka removed by getting an offspring. So the son
Upanishad (II.i.6) is called RuNa-mocaka: (the remover of debt)
who can perform srAddha etc. rituals.
tSm;tß aiGn” sim/o ySy sUyR”
l It is believed that, even if the father had
som;TpjRNy aoW/y” pOiqVy;mß.
committed some sins and has to go to
pum;nß ret” is’cit yoiWt;y;’
naraka,called put-naraka: ( putß-nrk” ), he
b‡I” p[j;” pu™W;tß s’p[sUt;”..
will be saved by the performance of
(From Him emerges the fire (i.e. heaven) of srAddhas. The name putra: for the son came
which the fuel is the Sun. From the moon from the statement: puNn;Mn” nrk;tß ];yte Eit
emerge clouds, and (from clouds) the herbs on pu]”.
the earth. A man sheds the semen in to the
l Getting a child is indirectly perpetuating
woman. From the Purusha have originated
oneself. The child is nothing but one’s own
many creatures.)
flesh and blood. Aitereya Upanishad says
What are these five stages? that the father only is reborn as the child;
1. After leaving previous birth, the jeeva enters every organ is made of one’s own organs
the pitru loka: (or «uölok”) etc.

2. From there enters the clouds - pjRNy” Time of conception:


3. From clouds, enters the plants - aoW/y” The scriptures prescribe the time of conception
4. From plants, enters the father based on various considerations.
5. From the father, enters the mother’s womb. l Physical health of the parents: For example,
l The transfer of jeeva from one stage to the if the parents are not healthy at the time of
other is considered a yajna. In other words, conception, the child may be affected.
the jeeva comes to this world as a result of l The mental condition of the parents will
five yajnas! In each of these yajnas, the jeeva influence the child. If the parents are
is offered as the oblation. focused on artha, kAma (material or sensual
pleasure) only, the child also will be artha,
Thus, the conception is considered as the
kAma oriented. The scriptures prescribe
greatest yajna, which brings a human life into
m a r r i a g e f o r b e g e t t i n g dharma-prajA
existence, and so it is given a lot of importance.
(righteous offspring) only.
The ritual by which the mother conceives the
baby is garbhaadhaanam l The astrological time - position of planets,
ùg&R’ s’/;yRte yen ttß g&R;/;nmßú. stars etc - is considered very important.
Conception during the day- time is never
This can be viewed from various angles:
prescribed.

14
l Several interesting details are given (And, he who desires a son of tawny or brown
regarding the time/day of conception. complexion, to be versed in two vedas and having
Certain ideal time is prescribed, called Rutu- the full span of life, should eat rice cooked in
kAlam and sixteen days are given. If curd mixed with ghee, with his wife. (Then they)
conceived on even days (2nd, 4th etc. days), would be able to give birth (to such a son).
the child will be a boy and, if conceived on
aq y ECzeTpu]o me Xy;mo loiht;=o j;yetÚ
odd days, will be a girl. (yuGm;su pu];” j;yNte
i–y” ayuGm;su) ]INved;nnub[uvItÚ svRm;yuiry;iditÚ
¯d;wdn’ p;ciyTv; sipR-mNtmXnIy;t;mß
l Further differences are also mentioned: for
ERXvr;w jniytvw .
example, a male child born on the
p 4th day, will be poor and short lived (And, he who desires a son of dark complexion
p 6th day, will be a mediocre child with red eyes, to be versed in three vedas and
p 8th day, will be prosperous having the full span of life, should eat rice boiled
p 10th day, will be wise in water, mixed with ghee, with his wife. (Then
p 12th day, will be best all round they) would be able to give birth (to such a son).
p 14th and 16th days, will be spiritual
aq y ECzedßduiht; me pi<@t; j;yetÚ
l Similarly, a female child born on the
svRm;yuiry;iditÚ itl;wdn’ p;ciyTv;
p 5th day, will give birth to girls only
sipR-mNtmXnIy;t;mßë ERXvr;w jniytvw .
p 7th day, will have no children
p 9th day, will be very auspicious (And he who desires a daughter with learning, to
p 11th day, will be irreligious live a full term of life, should eat rice cooked in
p 13th day, will be an evil person sesame seeds, mixed with ghee, with his wife.
p 15th day will get male children (Then they) would be able to give birth (to such a
girl)
l For getting children of certain types and
qualities, brihadAraNyaka upanishad gives l After conception, throughout the course of
several mantras: (Ch. 6, Sec 4: 14-16) pregnancy, there was the awareness that the
physical and mental conditions of the child
s y ECzeTpu]o me xuKlo j;yetÚ
are influenced by the environment and a
vedmnub[uvItÚ svRm;yuiry;iditÚ
spiritual environment was desired.
=Ir;wdn’ p;ciyTv; sipR-mNtmXnIy;t;mß
ERXvr;w jniytvw . 4.1.2 pumsavanam - ceremony for getting
a male off-spring:
(He who wishes “a son of fair complexion, to be
The second pre-natal samskAra is
versed in one veda having the full span of life”,
pumsavanam. The term pu' s ß (pums) means
“should eat rice cooked in milk mixed with ghee,
“male” and the term svnmß (savanam) refers to
along with his wife.” (Then they) would be able
the birth. Hence, the birth of a male child is
to give birth (to such a son)
pumsavanam. For the sake of the propagation
aq y ECzeTpu]o me kipl” ip³lo j;yetÚ of one’s paramparA, it has been the desire,
»;w ved;vnub[uvItÚ svRm;yuiry;iditÚ from the beginning. So the ritual is known as:
d?yodn’ p;ciyTv; sipR-mNtmXnIy;t;mß pum;nß p[sUyte yen kmR,; ttß pu’svnmß.
ERXvr;w jniytvw .
yen kmR,; - by which rite; pum;nß p[sUyte - a male

15
child is given birth. and so the mind should be fit for sAstra-
vicAra, Atma-jnAna and so, the samskAra is
According to the sAstras, the rite is
performed right at the time of formation of
supposed to be performed in the third month
this faculty.
after conception. Sushruta, the Ayurveda
expert says that the formation of the child It is also a symbolic ritual where the
takes place only in the third month. According husband makes a boundary in the head of the
to him, the development of the child happens wife by parting the hair. sIm; - boundary; aNt”
as follows: - end and so, the limiting line is called
seemanta:. ¯Nnynmß - making or parting (of the
Month Development hair in the head). The purpose of this ritual
1 still in liquid form; no formation can be seen from various angles:
2 a vague solidified mass l the mind is formed at this time and can be
3 sense organs and veins are formed influenced by the subtle forces around -
4 head, hands and legs are formed especially negative forces - like yakshas,
rAkshasas etc. The prayers recited during
5 bones, fingers, hair, and the mind
the ritual act as an armor.
are formed
l These prayers invoke mahAlakshmI in the
6 intellect seemanta: line (so kumkum is applied there)
7 prANa and nervous system l The husband asks mahAlakshmI to ward off
8 &9 capacity to experience pleasure/ all evils and make the child pure, and give
pain prosperity.
l Certain warnings were also given to the
Based on the sAstras, a time is chosen pregnant mother - do’s and don’ts - for a
when the moon is in a male constellation and careful conduct of life; movements are
prayers are offered for the birth of a healthy, restricted; noble and pious thoughts are
fully developed male child. There is also a imparted.
ritual where the husband pours a drop of the l Husband also takes the responsibility and
juice from the sprout of the banyan tree and offers to do everything for her, including
milk, in the right nostril of the wife. This ritual dressing her hair (symbolically to show that
is meant to give birth to a healthy male child. he will do whatever she needs)
4.1.3 seemantam or seemantonnayanam - With this, the discussion on the three pre-natal
parting of the hair of the wife. samskaras is concluded. We will continue with
the post-natal samskaras from the next article
The third pre-natal saskAra is seemanta:
of this series.
which is performed at the 5th or 6th month of
pregnancy. The mind and intellect (essentially, Source Material:
the subtle personality) of the baby is supposed 1. Hindu Samskaras, Rajbali Pandey, Motilal
to develop around this time. Our sAstras Banarasidass, Delhi, 1998.
clearly acknowledged the fact that, 2. The Book of Samskaras, Prema Rasa Dasa,
Bhakti Vedanta Book Trust International,
l a person’s superiority is not based on the
1977.
physical body, but by the viveka-Sakti.
3. Lectures by Swami Paramarthananda,
l moksha has to be attained by the mind alone Madras.

16
Om, Sri Gurubhyo Namaha

Vaidika Samskaras (contd..,)


Dr. S. Yegnasubramanian
(Sections and sub-sections are numbered in continuation from the previous article)

In the previous article in Volume 4 No. 2 of x Then a special rite is prescribed for com-
Paramaartha Tattvam, we discussed the three fortable delivery called, sOshyantI karma,
pre-natal samskaras, namely, garbhAdAnam, derived from the root sU – prasavE.
pumsavanam and seemantam. All these are meant
Then, following the child birth, the ritual
for the health and complete growth (physical,
performed by the father is jAta karma.
psychological and spiritual) of the child, in the
womb of the mother. We will now continue MWHVLWLN>\PuNP5MWNP5 OR
the discussion with the post-natal samskaras. MWuSX@u¡¯LN>\PuNP5
4.2 Post-natal samskAras x Generally, the time for performance of this
There are four post-natal samskAras before ritual has two options:
the Educational samskAras: a) Immeidately after the birth
1. jaata karma – the birth ceremony
b) For any reason if it could not be done,
2. naama karaNa – the naming ceremony can be done on the 11 th day along with
3. anna-prASana – Feeding of solid food naama karaNam.
4. cUDA karma OR caulam – tonsure
ceremony This is essentially a purificatory rite. The
father has sewn the seed in the kshetram - the
4.2.1 jaata karma – the birth ceremony
womb. The child that comes is not in the pure
The fourth samskAra is the birth ceremony. form and so has to undergo jAta karma to remove
Before the actual birth of the child, several details the natural dOsha’s. These are of two kinds:
are mentioned:
a) Those related to garbha -JL 5N-GR:PÁ
x Around the time of delivery, the pregnant
b) Those related to the seed - E,MPÁ
lady should be taken to a sUtikA bhavanam
(birthing room) with its door opening in the Generally the following rites are involved:
east or northern side.
x nAndI srAddham – to propitiate and seek
x The room should be able to influence the blessings of the pitrus. The karma is
postive thoughts in the mother. very important during the birth since, it is
x The time of entry into the room is chosen believed, that all pitrus come to that house
astrologically. The lady should enter into during that time. Why? It is a happy affair
the room with vedic chanting, or music on for the continuation of the paramparA,
the glory of the Lord . since a male child is required for pinDa-
udaka- kriyA (essentially food-offereing to
x Well experienced ladies in child birth
the pitrus)
should be asked to assist in the birthing
x Then the father keeps the child on the lap
process, as it is a very painful process.
and prays for the welfare:
14
DuJGuJWÁ Vu YLV eG\GLM\VH so that the milk will become jnAna pUtam – with
D7PYZ SX@QPLVVM,Y[UG;[WPÁ the jnAnam of Saraswati. The child is given a
D;P YSU[X 5YLKU\u D6W2Wu Y secret name based on the star of the child – for
example, if the star is aSvinI , the name could be
DuJGuJWÁ Vu YLV- O child, you have come out aSvinIkumAra etc. – known only to the parents.
of the essence of every limb of mine! Several other rituals and recitations are done for
eG\WÁDLM\VH- You are born out of my heart- the welfare of the child and parents. It is said:
felt desire; so you are D7PYZSX@QPLV - none
¦u DL6PQÁ V1Q\LWDP2W7Yu FJ&]LW
other than myself reborn as the child!
LSWSX@6\MW6\S;\HWÁ FHWÁ M,YWRPXPÁ
VM,Y[UG;[WPÁ - You live long; the father will
breath in the nostril of the baby as if he is which means,
giving his prANa to the child!
MW6\SX@6\M,YWwFHWÁPXPÁ- if the father looks
D;P Y - Be strong like the stone
at the face of the new born baby,
SU[X 5Y - Be sharp like an axe to destroy all
DP2W7YuFJ&]LW- he gets immortality (figuritive
your internal and external enemies.
immortality i.e he lives in the form of his son)
LKU\u D6W2Wu Y - May you shine as pure gold!
There are prayers for the intellect, good Then only, the umbilical chord is broken.
sense, fame, long life, health etc. - The reason is, that the father gets the D[ZFPÁ
(unclean) the moment the chord is cut, as the
PHuS>B u\[wD\XwDUR*\uF
child is supposed to be completely born only
PHuWHGHY6VLYWPHuGHY,VU6YW, when the chord is cut. If done before, the father
PHuWHDL;YQZGHYY7WuSXNUV>M will have D[ZFPÁ and so he will not be able to
7YL\PHu7YL\S>Mu7Y<\L*Q6WHMRGWX perform the jAta karma ritual at that time. Then
7YL\PHu7YL\S>Mu7Y\,1G>(L1G>\uGWX it can be done only on the 11th day. Also, if the
delivery is complicated for any reason, then the
7YL\PHu7YL\S>Mu7YL\V8\R5 >MRGWX
ritual is performed on the 11th day. Then the
Then the child is fed with a combination of parents pray to Mother Earth : “O mother, this
ghee, honey and curd with a golden spoon ( or a child is going to walk on you, fall on you etc. –
golden ring inside the cup). Such a combination but don’t hurt the child and make the child cry”
is believed to have lot of health effects. Along
QP\LWQ|GLW\@Y\u YGPLV\@F
with the feeding, praNava, vyAhruti and gAyatri
are recited so that the Vedic thought may be DL P2[PLV
introduced to the child. Then the father utters Then there is prAyascittam for twins etc, and
in the ears of the child - YHGDLV (you are veda
some more prayers.
itself). Then the child is fed at the right breast
of the mother with the following mantra: 4.2.2 nAma karaNam (naming ceremony)

D\uNXPUwMUu\WXG,C5P\X The fifth samskAra is the naming ceremony.


As was mentioned earlier, a secret name is
\6PZ7Yu6WQS>3\\D\XY5F5w\[REOPÁ
already given to the child based on the star of
There are mantras to invoke Devi the child. Two more names are given at this time
Saraswati’s breast on the breast of the mother as follows:

15
a) For divine purpose - GHYØ9\YKUT5PÁ - there 4.2.3 anna prASanam – First feeding of
are rules governing the choice of the name. solid food
For example, male child will have even letters
This ritual is generally conducted af-
and female child will have odd letters. There
ter six months (boy) or seven months (for girls),
are rules for suffixes etc. The name can be
when the teeth also slowly get formed. The
chosen based on several considerations:
child is fed a combination of ghee, honey, curd
x based on the month of birth – and rice mixed with salt and chilli, along with
SrAvaNkumAr praNava and vyAhruti. A special prayer to all
x based on forefather’s name the plants (Oshadhi) and water is recited, es-
x based on the kula devatA – family deity sentially to impart respect to nature and for
their help and nourishment of the child. At
x based on Rishis
this time, it is believed that the vAsanas get
x based on what the parent’s desire: for ex-
developed for the child and the aptitude of the
ample, sundaram, kubEra, meenAkshi
child can be found – painting, arts, music, tools
This name is not used casually but only dur- (motor skills). Even though this ritual is done
ing important spiritual occasions such as so early, it is again conducted during
upanayanam, vivAham etc., and when the boy upnayanam in a different style (kumAra
recites the pravaram. bhojanam).
b) For social / worldly purpose - ORNØ9\YKUT5PÁ 4.2.4 cUDA karma – Tonsuring ceremony
- popular name.
The seventh samskAra is FZOPÁ or F8# ØNP5 -
x According to one’s varNa, proper suffix is
shaving off the hair keeping the tuft or SikhA.
chosen for the name; for example,
It is generally performed during the third year.
o Brahmin – SarmA – stands for Ananda
o Kshatriya–varmA – an armor to society x Symbolically hair is considered to repre-
o Vaisya – guptA – one who protects wealth sent our rAga-dvEshAs – passion and ha-
or deals with secrets tred. The reason for using hair and not
o Sudra – dAsa – one who serves. other organs as a symbol, is because it is
countless, and so does our sins, accumu-
x Later, other suffixes are given, such as
lated over several cycles of births. Shav-
dIxitah: (one who takes dIkshA for conduct-
ing of the hair symbolizes the removal of
ing yajna; sAstrI – one who has studied the
sins.
sAstras etc.
x The whole body is considered a chariot;
Before the conduct of the next (6th) samskAra,
the chariot requires a roof, symbolized by
another ritual is prformed by some people,
the tuft.
called, nishkramaNam – first outing. This is
generally done during the 3rd month. The child x According to Sushruta (Ayurveda expert),
is taken out with Vedic chanting etc. for the within the head, on the top portion, there
first time on an auspicious day. The child is is a junction of the blood vessels and the
shown the Sun and the Moon – sUrya-candra- vital part (marma sthAnam) and just below
darSanam – sitting in a decorated place, by the that, the life is stored. If that is damaged,
father. Mrutyunjaya mantra is recited for long death takes place immediately. And, the
life. SikhA acts like a helmet!

16
x From the Sastra point of view, the SikhA is x This can be removed for a sannyAsi through
required for many rituals: another ritual – ashta- SrAddhas are per-
formed, the ancestors are propitiated; the
L[ULKWu NP5 LQIOPÁ
guru initiates chanting mantras and then
There are two contexts in which the signifi- the tuft is removed.
cance of SikhA is understood:
x There are other details mentioned, such as
a) As part of a japa or pujA, anganyAsa, prayers to the barber, to the knife etc. Also,
karanyAsa are performed which includes the order in which the sides should be
the application of SikhAyai vashaT. shaven are given – first, the front, then
b) After the daily snAnam, the water in the right side, left side etc – with chanting of
SikhA is called SikhOdakam which is sup- appropriate mantras –including the disposal
posed to be offered to the pitrus. The scrip- of the hair!
tures say: x Then, the hot and cold water are mixed for
OWØY2 H:X JX/PH:X YW51WH LSWURPP- my ancestors the bath. The procedure is to mix the hot
are in various places – the creepers, trees etc. water with the cold water, for long life of
WH:u D!\\QT51WX - for their welfare, growth (Gu the child.
D6WX L[RGNPÁ - let this SikhOdakam be an of- x Along with the hair, they cut the kusa grass,
fering. keeping a porcupine quill along with the
x Also, during cUDA karma, the pitrus are knife (to symbnolize sharpness)
supposed to come as in the case of jaata x For each side shaving, there are special
karma since they will receive SikhOdakam mantras; East: health; south – fame; west –
then onwards! logevity; north – intelligence.
x Similary, vastrOdakam also should be of- x Then the cut hair is mixed with cow dung
fered. That is why our scriptures say that, and buried under a udumbara tree or
at least, minimum clothing should be on thrown far away.
the body during bath. Naked bath is not
x Then snAnam is performed!
allowed - LYYVQwQ6Q\WÁ. The scriptures
say, The next major samskAra is the upanayana
samskAra. There are a few incidental rituals,
$NHW6PWÁ NXOH MWDSX@JR@MP2W
practiced by some before the upanayanam. One
WHJ2l1WXP\G7WuY6@LQS,#QRGNPÁ is called karNa-vedha. Vidh – to pierce. In this
Y6@ LQS,#QRGNPÁ - when I ring the cloth, let ritual, the ears are pierced and an ear orna-
the water be offered to the ancestors. ment is put.

x The SikhA is not supposed to be removed From the Ayurvedic angle (Sushruta), it is be-
under any circumstances. If to be removed lieved that sun’s rays give good health, when
for any reason (due to disease etc.) should they pass through the holes of the ear. When
be substituted with kuSa grass on the ears. a metal like gold is used, it removes diseases
like hernia etc. Also, there are special nerve
x Even though this is to be done in the 3rd
centers (such as between eyebrows, temple
year, it is also done during upanayanam.
etc.) in various parts and they get activated.

17
Another ritual is vidyArambha or akshara- Source Material:
abhyAsa, where the child is initiated to alpha- 1. Hindu Samskaras, Rajbali Pandey, Motilal
bets. The tradition is to use rice or wheat and Banarasidass, Delhi, 1998.
practice the child to write on it with a golden
2. The Book of Samskaras, Prema Rasa Dasa,
pen! After prayers to the various deities, the
Bhakti Vedanta Book Trust International,
rice is cooked and offered to them and the
1977.
prasAdam is given to the child. This ritual is
done also on an auspicious day when the plan- 3. Lectures by Swami Paramarthananda,
ets are in favourable position, and the child Madras
will seek the blessings of the elders, the devatas
etc.

18
Om, Sri Gurubhyo Namaha

Vaidika Samskaras (contd..,)


Dr. S. Yegnasubramanian
(Sections and sub-sections are numbered in continuation from the previous article)

In the previous article in Volume 4 No. l For kshatriyas, the eleventh year is sug-
3&4 of Paramaartha Tattvam, we discussed the gested including pregnancy (garbha-
four post-natal samskaras, namely, jAtakarma, EkAdaSa). The suggested season is Sum-
nAmakaraNa, annaprASana and cUDA karma. mer – grIshma Ritu. Their function is not
We will now continue the discussion with the to protect the Sastras, but to know as much
e d u c a t i o n a l samskAras , s t a r t i n g f r o m to follow their dharma . Their vedic edu-
upanayanam. cation was also limited to that extent, since
they had a larger responsibility of protect-
4.3 Upanayanam (thread ceremony)
ing the entire country, and the other three
Among the educational samskaaras, the varNas. They had additional education
foremost is upanayanam. Scriptural (vedic) edu- such as, dhanur vidya, (archery and war-
cation starts only after this samskaara is fare), artha Sastra (economics) etc. Sum-
peformed and, as such, can be viewed as a pre- mer is a hot season and as such, the
educational samskaara also. kshatriyas were actively engaged in battles
Upanayana samskAra is to be performed etc. to protect the country, and to punish
for all three varNas – the brAhmaNas, the the wicked to uphold dharma.
kshatriyas, and the vaiSyas. Why is this l For vaiSyas, the twelfth year including
samskAra performed only for the three varNas? pregnancy is suggested and the preferred
According to scriptures, those who are not ini- season is Autumn – Sarad Ritu. Their func-
tiated, or those who do not perform the vaidika tion was essentially commerce to assure a
samskAras even after initiation, are geneally sound economic basis for the country and
considered sUdras! (one should not confuse so, their vedic education was limited to
this with the caste system). that much extent to know their dharma
adequately. They also had additional edu-
Scriptures also suggest the time in which
cation in commerce etc. The autumnal
this samskaara can be performed, which var-
seaon – just after the rains – stands for
ies with the varNa.
prosperity, and was considered the pre-
l For brahmaNas, the 8 th year (including ferred season for the upanayana samskAra
pregnancy) is suggested. The Spring sea- for the vaiSyas.
son is considered ideal. The very function
In addition, platenary positions and other as-
of a brAhmaNa was only veda paThanam
pects were also considered for the conduct of
(learning of vedas) and veda pAThanam
this ritual by all the varNas.
(teaching of vedas). A lot of study of the
entire SAstras was involved, such as, the 4.3.1 Purpose of upanayanam
vedas, the vedAngas, the upAngas etc. upanayanam marks the entry into a sec-
Spring– vasanta Ritu - is a mild season, ond life and after the performance of this cer-
and as such the brAhmaNas were supposed emony, the boy becomes a dvija:. (dve janmanI
to be mild and not involved in aggressive yasya sa: dvija: - one who has got two janmas.
or violent activities. All the three varNas are known as dvijas.

16
What is meant by a second life? pampering etc. of the parents, and will also be
able to learn through interaction with other
Till upanayanam, only the physical per-
children.
sonality alone was taken care of, and not the
inner personality. The life was similar to that The syllabus for this education is based
of animal only until this time with little devel- on the scritptures (vedas), which talk not only
opment of individuality, intellect, mind, of the purushArthas of the individual but also
awareness of family, community etc. When the the social well-being, duties to family, to soci-
child reaches the age of 7 or 8, the mind, in- ety etc.
tellect etc. develop from that stage to a hu- Since the child leads a life based on the
man stage with self-awareness etc. It is neces- learnings from the vedas, this life is called,
sary and critical to regulate and orient the per- brahmacaryam – a way of life, devised by
sonality in the right direction, at this time. brahma – the vedas. One who leads such a life
upanayanam is a samskAra which is meant to is called a brahmacArI.
mould the personality to become a responsible
There is also another meaning for this
human being – with several considerations
term – Brahma refers to Para Brahman, and
such as:
so, brahmacaryam is a life style directed to-
– Proper emotional personality; imbibing wards brahmaNi carati or brahma vishaye or
of values - satyam vada (speak the truth); brahma nimittam carati.
dharmam cara (abide by dharma) etc. even
In summary, brahmacaryam has two
if the child does not understand and fol-
meanings:
low for some time, he will realize the val-
ues later and grow with the right attitude 1. a life style as prescribed in the vedas
and emotion. 2. a life style meant to reach brahmatvam
– Development of the intellect with the 4.3.2 The word upanayanam
right type of knowledge –viveka (dis-
The word upanayanam has been de-
crimination); vairAgya (dispassion) etc.
scribed in many ways. For example,
and development of a spiritual person-
ality. – the term upa means ‘near’ and nayanam
means ‘leading’. The word upanayanam
– Physical discipline – getting up early,
means ‘leading near’. It is a samskAra by
cleanliness, etc.
which a person is purified and made fit to
– Knowledge of varNa dharma and learn the vedas – OR vedam upanayanam
ASrama dharma – and the duties; re-
– to study vedas, the child goes to a guru and
spect for others etc.
so it can be described as gurum upanayanam
– Knowledge of the responsibility to the
– Or, through this samskAra, the child is
society, to oneself, to the family etc.
coming closer to parabrahma and so can
So, the society and the individual are con- be described as parabrahama-upanayanam
sidered together in the building up of a right – Or, since the teacher utters the mantra –
personality of the child during growth. Entry aham upanaye – (I take the boy near my-
into such a life style is indicated by the self), it is called upanayanam
upanayana samskAra.
Since the child learns the vedas from the
The ideal setting for this education was teacher, an ideal human being is born, and for
the gurukula setting where the child can learn this birth, the Veda is the mother and the
without the emotional considerations, teacher is the father.

17
m;tu" ag[e ai/ jnnmß. i»tIy' m;w©IbN/n;tß . Since the AcArya is going to teach the
t];Sy m;t; g;y]I ipt;tu a;c;yR ¯Cyte.. child, he keeps the child in his garbha, as it
were - for three nights - tam rAtrI: tisra: udare
m;tu" ag[e ai/ jnnmß. First a non-refined indi-
bibharti ; and when the new brahmacArI is
vidual is born with human anatomy
born, all the devatas will come and be happy -
i»tIy’ m;w­jIbN/n;tß the second birth takes place tam jAtam drushTum abhisamyanti devA: |
in upanayanam referred by mounjI-bandhanam
4.3.3.1 yajnopavIta dhAraNam – wearing
t];Sy m;t; g;y]I (For the second birth – dvitIya
of the sacred thread
janmani), the mother is gAyatrI – refers to the
entire veda itself; so gAyatrI is taught first. After these preparatory rites, the actual
ritual begins. The first ritual is yajnopavIta
ipt;tu a;c;yR ¯Cyte the teacher is the father.
dhAraNam – wearing of the sacred thread.
In summary, the purpose of the upanayanam
is two-fold: UpavItam – is the one that is worn

1. It symbolizes entry in to gurukulam For what purpose? yajnAya - for the sake
2. It purifies the child to enter the of performing yajnas – sandhyAvandanam,
gurukulam to learn the gAyatrI mantra devayajnam, pitruyajnam, etc. – or dedicating
and the vedas. all actions as yajna.

4.3.3 The upanayanam ritual The following samkalpam is made when


the yajnopavItam is worn
Generally the biological father does the
gAyatrI mantra upadeSam to the child, before À;;wtSm;tR iviht sd;c;r inTykm;RnuÎ;nyoGyt;
sending to the gurukulam and hence, plays the is?yqRmß b[„;tej” ai&vO?yqR’
role of the AcArya. Because of this, lot of dis-
cipline is prescribed to the father since the Who has initiated this?
mantra upadeSa will have more effect only
when the upadeSa kartA has more merit! If the y_opvIt’ prm’ piv]’ p[j;pte” yTshj’
father has not been performing the purSt;tß a;yu-ymg[ßy’ p[itmu¨ xu&[‘
sandhyAvandanam etc. rituals regularly, at least y_opvIt’ blmStu tej”
a few weeks before the ritual, he should re-
This yajnopavItam worn by (born with)
cite 1008 gAyatrIs every day along with the
Brahmaji Himself first – sahajam –indicates
sandhyAvandanam.
bondage and the boy will now on be bound by
There are so many preparatory rituals the veda niyamas.
prescribed such as nAndI SrAddham (to propi-
tiate the ancestors), udakaSAnti, 4.3.3.2 kumAra bhojanam – Joint meal
puNyAhavAcanam (purificatory rites) etc. Also,
There is then another ritual known as
till now, the samskAras for the boy were done
kumAra bhojanam – joint meal with other
by the father (jAtakarma, nAmakaraNa, etc.),
brahmacArIs, friends etc. Then, vapanam
but now on, the child becomes responsible to
(shaving the head leaving the tuft) is conducted
do all the rituals and so has to be purified.
which symbolizes the removal of all sins (hair
Since this is considered a second birth, is symbolic of sins) followed by snAnam (bath-
in olden days, the child was asked to remain ing). If the child has undergone the cUDA
silent in a separate room, symbolic of karma earlier, this is only symbolic here.
garbhavAsa.

18
4.3.3.2 samidh AdhAnam - Offering of – MounjI mekhalA dhAraNam – wearing of
samidh to agni the girldle made of munjA grass around the
waist. Three strands of munjA grass are
Then a simple ceremony known as
braided and tied around the waist three
samidh AdhAnam; the child dips a samidh in
times clockwise.
ghee and offers to agni, praying him to be his
parent – pitA iva tvam raksha and also to give – MekahlA is addressed as sister-deity and
him Ayushyam, Arogyam ca – long life, health mantra prays for protection of the body
etc. – to fullfill his mission of doing vedic learn- (SarIra rakshA), for prANa-apAna balam (no
ing – veda adhyayanam. breathing problems etc.); saubhAgya
prApti: (for obtaining all auspiciousness);
4.3.3.3 asmArohaNam - climbing on stone
tapas Sakti: (for ability to perform pen-
Then asmArohaNam – standing on the ance); freedom from enemies (internal and
stone - ceremony is performed. The teacher external); freedom from selfishness etc.
asks the boy to stand on a stone and recites
– KrishNa-ajina-dhAraNam – wearing of
the following mantra – “be firm and strong like
black deer-skin; mantras are recited and a
this stone”
piece of deer-skin is tied to the thread
a;itÎem’ aXm;n’ aXm; Ev Tv’ iSqro &v (though not supposed to be tied) – worn
while standing on the stone, with prayer
Stone stands for strength and withstands any-
for tejas (brilliance), kIrti (fame), pushTi:
thing. The ritual is symbolic of not being af-
(nourishment) etc.
fected by the problems of life and to win over
all internal enemies. 4.3.3.6 Purification of the child – anjali-
tIrtha-prokshaNam
4.3.3.4 vastra dhAraNam – wearing of new
clothes In this ritual, the AcArya pours a handful
of water in to the hands of the student with
Prayers are offered to several devatAs –
the recitation of mantras. When the water is
to protect the physical body and the subtle
poured, it will fall down and the student will
body (the mind) - such as, the deity respon-
sprinkle that water on himself. When the
sible for cotton; the deities for weaving etc.,
AcArya holds the water, he invokes all his
starting from the deity RevatI.
mantra Sakti, tapas Sakti etc. and when it is
There are mantras recited during wear- poured, he transfers all these Saktis to the
ing the cloth. All these are done while stand- student, which wash off all the sins of the
ing on the stone. Prayers are offered to give student and render him pure.
the ability to protect others and oneself, for
During sprinkling, another mantra is re-
long life, prosperity, and to share the earnings
cited praying for a) the ability to observe
with others etc. The cloth should be tied prop-
brahmacarya dharma in the gurukulam; b) no
erly – the navel should not be exposed. The
misunderstanding between the teacher and the
dress can be up to the knee only or sometimes,
student; c) healthy and happy life till the stu-
up to the ankle.
dent reaches the grihastASrama; d) for long life,
4.3.3.5 brahmacarya lingAni – symbols of health etc. e) and most importantly –
the brahmacArI amrutatvam asya – for immortality – the goal
of life. The teacher faces east and the student
There are several symbols to designate the
faces the teacher.
brahmacarya Asrama.

19
With these rituals, the student becomes 4.3.3.8 upanayana homam, meant for prayers
eligible to go ‘near’ the teacher and to receive to various deities, and the teacher asks for
the initiation. various boons from each of these deities for
the student – for life, nourishment, strength,
4.3.3.7 AcArya varaNam – choosing the health, digestion, motherly care, intellect etc.
teacher: Only after the student is prepared by these ritu-
First the deities, Surya, Agni, Soma are als, he can be given the brahmopadeSam.
invoked as the teachers. The AcArya holds
4.3.3.8 BrahmopadeSam
the hand of the child and recites mantras to
The term brahma refers to Vedas.
leave the child in the care of these deities. The
Sun god is supposed to say to the teacher to – Before starting veda adhyayanam, one sym-
take charge of the student in the name of these bolic mantra is taught which is the gAyatrI
deities. Now, the AcArya, as commanded by mantra
the deities, will take the child near him. – The gAyatrI mantra derives its name be-
cause it is set in the gayatrI meter – which
devSyTv; sivtu” p[sve ¯pnye has 8 syllables per line (pAda) and has three
devasya tvA savitu: prasave upa naye pAdas
– It is also called sAvitrI mantra, after the
Since the AcArya uses the expression
Sun god – the savitr devatA
upanaye – the ritual came to be known as
upanayanam. Holding the feet of the AcArya, the student asks
– sAvitrIm anubrUhi – please teach me the
Having taken charge of the student, the
sAvitrI mantra.
teacher prays for his welfare: “O, student, you
should come up very well, with good health, Then the brahmopadeSam ritual is con-
brilliance, powerful and strong and should ducted, with the mantra recited in the right
have good children when you become a ear of the child – (gangA is supposed to be
grihastha”. present in the right ear); also the teacher, the
student and the parents are enclosed so that
Then, a dialog happens between the
this cannot be overheard. Since the upanayana
teacher and the student:
samskAra is considered as the second birth,
S: brahmacaryam agAm … Now I have taken the enclosure also symbolizes garbhavAsam.
brahmacaryam; I am willing to follow all disci- The teaching is done through a set procedure.
plines, meant for studying the Vedas, as com-
Then there are several other rituals like,
manded by the Sun god.
danDa dhAraNam (holding of the stick from
T: kO nAmAsi? What is your name? Palasa tree) – symbolic of the discipline that
the brahmacArI is supposed to follow; the child
T: kasya brahmacArI asi? You belong to whom? prays for power of listening (since Vedas are
S: prANasya brahmacArI asmi – I belong to the taught orally only) and is taught the mantras
paramAtman in a particular format. He is asked to observe
things like a crow (kaaka-drushTi:); with at-
Then the teacher says, “I am ready to take you tention of a crane (baka-dhyAnam); never to
- May you not have “apamrutyu (untimely have deep sleep, like a dog (SvanidrA); meager
death)”, etc. food (alpa AhAram); simple dress (jeerNa
vastram); These are called the characteristics
The teacher prays to the Sun god to guide the
of the student (etat vidyArthi lakshaNam)
student.

20
Since this ritual marks a transformation performed as one brief ritual, just before the
from a rAga-dvesha based life to a sAstra based marriage!
life, the brahmacAri is allowed to understand
4.5 Conclusion of gurukula education
the gravity of this change by observing cer-
and returning back home –
tain behaviors such as, silence for three days,
eating less, sleeping on the ground etc. On the samAvartanam
fourth day, a small pujA is performed praying The conclusion ceremony of the gurukula edu-
for : cation and the returning back to home, is
marked by a ritual known as avabhruta snAnam
– SraddhA in Vedas, and
– a bathing ritual, with special prayers,
– MedhA Sakti – to study the Vedas by
prAyascittam etc. This is also coupled with a
heart – grahaNa-dhAraNa paThitvam – to
few non-vaidika rituals like, shaving, trimming
absorb and retain.
nails etc. Several of the disciplines imposed
Then on, study of Vedas/SAstras is taken up during brahmacaryam are also relaxed – for
in the gurukulam. example, the daNDa (stick), mekhala (belt made
of kuSa grass) are removed and certain luxu-
4.4 Educational samskAras – catvAri
ries are allowed – like use of slippers, mirror,
vedavratAni – Four vratas
perfumes, etc!!
To study the Vedas, the duration prescribed
One who has done the samAvartana ritual is
is as follows:
called snAtaka:. If he has done vedavratam and
1. All four Vedas – 48 years avabhruta snAnam, he is called, veda-vrata-
2. Three Vedas – 36 years snAtaka:.
3. Two Vedas – 24 years Once he comes out of the brahmacarya ASrama,
4. One Veda – 12 years he will enter in to the next ASrama, known as
grihasthASrama. He takes permission from the
Vedavratam is a worship to be done to the pre-
teacher, does samAvartana snAnam, and
siding deity of the Vedas;
marries.
– For each veda, this may vary
– Let us take the example of yajurveda gu™,; anumt” Sn;Tv; sm;vOÆ;o yq;ivi/
o Has seven kANDas –sections
¯»ehTi»jo &;y;R’ sv,;R’ l=,;iNvt;mß..
o Each section has a presiding Rishi, One should not be without an ASrama at any
known as kANDa Rishi:, and the sections time; if so, prAyascittam has to be done; the
are named after them; they are: Sastras say,
1. prAjApatya kANDam an;À;mI n itÎeTtu =,’ Akmip i»j”
2. soumya kANDam a;À;me, ivn; itÎnß p[;yiÁÆ;Iyte nrw”..
3. Agneya kANDam Since it is not practical to get married immedi-
4. vaiSvadeva kANDam ately after the samAvartana snAnam ritual (a
suitable girl has to be found; other logistics
Before the beginning of the study of each of
have to be worked out etc.), this ritual was
these kANDas, and at the conclusion, a ritual
kept pending. Once the marriage is fixed, then
is performed to worship the presiding deity of
this ritual was performed, mostly on the day
the respective kANDas. Since 8 worships are
of marriage itself!!
involved – two per kANDa (at the beginning
and at the end), these rituals are also known This concludes one of the most important
as ashTavratAni. After the performance of these samskAras, the upanayana samskAra and the
rituals, the study in the gurukulam is supposed following educational samskAras. We will con-
to be complete. Today, this practice is not fol- tinue the discussion with the marriage ritual
lowed at all! They are all merged together and – vivAha samskAra - in the next article.

21
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Om, Sri Gurubhyo Namaha

Vaidika Samskaras (contd..,)


S. Yegnasubramanian

(Sections and sub-sections are numbered in continuation from the previous article)

In the previous article in Volume 5 No. 3&4 of i. D"\SQuE>g\BwLearning in brahma-carya


Paramaartha Tattvam, we discussed one of the ASrama and teaching in grihastha –ASrama,
most important samskAras, the vivAha to maintain the guru-Sishya paramparA, is
prescribed. If cannot teach, one should
samskAra, which is the fourteenth samskAra of perform a ritual at least, known as
the forty-one samskAras mentioned in the first brahmayajna, which is a nitya karma.
article of this series (Paramaartha tattvam, vol. 4
ii. LSW2\B6WXWS5PÁPerformance of tarpaNa
No. 1, Jan-Mar 2002). We will continue the
during amAvAsya etc. occasions, to worship
discussion with the rest of the samskAras in the ancestors.
this article. All the discussions are based on
iii. KRPRGHYw- Offering oblations to devatas like
tradition and scriptures; several of them are
Indra, agni, varuNa etc in hom, to express
seldom in practice these days. our gratitude to the natural forces and seek
their blessings.
The samskAras after vivAha are not popular
today. As was noted earlier, the vivAha iv. ELO 5ZWw- bhUtayajna – or vaiSvadeva – to
samskAra is the 14 th
samskAra. There are 26 protect birds and animals.
more samskAras which are highly ritualistic. v. Q2\BwDLWLTS8MQPÁ- Respect for other
However, for the sake of completeness, we humans in society.
will outline them briefly in this article.
PancamahAyajna is a very important samskAra
The remaining 26 samskAras can be broadly for a grihastha.
classified in to four categories:
As mentioned above, three groups of seven
1. panca-mahA-yajnas 5 yajnas each are also prescribed as part of the
2. sapta-pAka-yajnas 7 forty samskAras. All these are fire-rituals and
3. sapta-havir-yajnas 7 are very seldom done these days. Before
4. sapta-soma-yajnas 7 discussing these twenty one rituals, it is useful
Total 26 to understand a few details.
During the vivAha samskAra, a particular fire
6. panca-mahA-yajnas : There is a nice sloka
ritual known as vivAha homa is performed.
which gives all the five mahAyajnas.
That vivAha-homa-agni is supposed to be
D"\SQ
E>g\B preserved till a person dies or takes to
LSW2\B6WXWS5PÁ sannyAsa. All the above mentioned 21 yajnas
are to be performed in that agni alone. (At the
KRPRGHYw
time of sannyAsa, the person renounces all
ELO 5ZWw karma and gives up all agnis, and so is called
Q2\BwDLWLTS8MQPÁ nirAgni.)

21
The grihastha is supposed to perform a nitya As was mentioned earlier, the vivAha agni is
karma known as aupAsana, twice a day, in that also known as smArta agni. This agni is
agni (This ritual can be considered as a maintained in a circular kuNDa. A portion of
replacement of samidh AdhAnam.). The same this agni is taken to perform vedic rituals –
agni is used for all the later samskAras of the srauta karmas – and is called srauta agni. The
children – upnayana, vivAha etc. – and other fourteen yajnas, namely the sapta-havir-yajnas
karmas, like SrAddha etc. When the son gets and sapta-soma-yajnas, which are prescribed in
married, the father’s vivAha agni goes to the the Vedas, are performed in the srauta agni,
son, and so, is supposed to be maintained which should be preserved all the time.
eternally.
Elaborate procedures are given regarding the
Since these agni samskAras are connected with use of this agni for the performance of the 14
the well being of the family, it is called grihya rituals. The yAgSAla is also known as a
agni. This will vary from family to family; for “devayajna”. The kalpa-sutras contain a
example, for Rigvedis, it is prescribed by the description of it, not omitting minute details.
AswalAyana grihya sutras; for yajurvedis, by the There are altars called “cayanas” to be built
Apasthamba griya sutras; for sAmavedis, by the with bricks. (There are no cayanas for havir
gobila griha sutras etc. These rituals are not and pAkayajnas. ) Several kinds of ladles are
given in Sruti (the Vedas), but prescribed by the used in making offerings in the fire, “tarvi”,
Rishis in grihya sutras – from smritis. Since “sruk” and “sruva” etc.
rituals prescribed in the smritis are performed
The srauta agni is like the master of the griha –
in this agni, it is also called smArta agni, grihya
the grihapati - is supposed to protect from all
agni, aupAsana agni etc.
calamities etc. and so is called the gArhapatya
It is in this smArta agni, the first set of seven agni This is divided in to three, before the
pAka yajnas are performed. ritual. On the eastern side, a square kuNDa is
established and a portion of the gArhapatya
7. sapta- pAka-yajnas :
agni is transferred. There are prescriptions
These involve the offering of cooked grains in regarding the size of the kuNDa, the size of the
the form of a gruel, and are done at different bricks etc. This agni is called Ahavaneeya agni.
times, and frequencies:
On the southern side of the gArhapatya agni
i. sthAlI pAkam – twice a month
another kuNDa – semicircular in shape – is
ii. pArvaNam - once a month established. Another portion of fire from the
iii. ashTakA – once a year gArhapatya agni is transferred to this kuNDA
iv. caitrI, - once a year and is called dAkshiNAgni:
v. AsvayajI – once a year srauta agni
vi. SrAvNI - 4 months in an year –
(August to November).
vi. AgrahAyaNI - conclusion of SrAvaNI
once a year. Ahavaneeya gArhapatya dAkshiNA
agni agni agni
Immediately after vivAha, the first of the seven
pAkayajnas, namely, sthAlIpAka, is intitiated.

22
Since the smArta agni is never divided, it is also vi. nirUDha-paSubandha –The 6th and the 7th
called ekAgni, and, since the srauta agni is rituals are done in a very big scale,
divided in to three, it is also called tretAgni. generally, once an year, outside the house.
Most of the srauta rituals are done in the vii. sautrAmanI once a year. The last three
Ahavaneeya agni. No ritual is actually done in haviryajnas - cAturmasya, nirudhapa-
the gArhapatya agni and is only a witness. After Subandha and sautrAmani - are performed
the performance of the ritual, the Ahavaneeya in a yAgasAla.
agni and dAkshiNAgni are joined back in to 9. sapa-soma-yajnas
gArhapatya agni.
In these yajnas, soma juice is offered with the
When a person dies, his cremation is chanting of sAma veda in high pitch. All are
performed using the srauta agni. The smArta very big yajnas and are done outside the house,
agni is preserved for the wife. When the for the benefit of the entire country. The seven
husband dies first, he will use up the srauta yajnas are:
agni, and the smarta agni will be used to
i. agnishtoma or jyotishtoma
cremate the wife, which is supposed to give
ii. atyagnishtoma
her svarga loka. If the wife dies first as a
sumangali, part of the srauta agni will be used iii. uktyam
for her, which is believed to give her brahma iv. shoDasI
loka. One should remember that these rituals v. vAjapeya
are prescribed in the karma kANDa, only for vi. atirAtra
those who are not jnAnis!
vii. AptoryAma
8. sapta-havir-yajnas It is generally observed that one does aupAsana
Thses are supposed to be performed in the and agnihotra daily, and the rest, at least once
Ahavaneeya agni. The seven yajnas are: in a life time.

i. agni AdhAnam - Division in to three; this During vivAha, the first smArta yajna, namely,
division itself is a ritual; done only once. It sthAlI pAka, and the first srauta yajna, agni
has to be maintained. If it goes off, AdhAna are initiated. Among the 21 yajnas, the
prAyascittam is to be done! seven pAka yajnas are done in smArta agni and
the remaining 14 are done in srauta agni, till
ii. agnihotra – a daily ritual
death or till becoming a sannyAsI!
iii. darSa-pUrNa-mAsa performed twice a
As already mentioned, the daksiinAgni and the
month – on amAvAsya and poorNimA days
Ahavaniyaagni are made from the
iv. AgrayaNa – once a year. - The above 4 gArhapatyAgni. When srauta rites for the
rituals are small rituals, done, mostly, fathers have been performed in the
within the house. dakhsinAgni and other srauta rites in the
v. cAturmAsya – different from what AhavaniyAgni, the two fires no longer have the
sannyAsIs observe. This ritual is performed exalted name of “srautAgni” and are just like
three times in an year, once every four any other ordinary fire and they have to be
months. extinguished. Only the gArhapatya and

23
aupAsana fires are to be kept burning In pAkayajnas there are no rtviks; the
throughout. householder (as the yajamAna) performs the
On every prathama (first day of the lunar rites with his wife. In haviryajnas there are four
fortnight), a pAkayajna and a haviryajna have to rtviks and the yajamAna. But the udgAta’s place
be performed in the grhyAgni and srautagni is taken by the agnidhra. The udgAta is the one
respectively. The first is called sthAlipAka. who sings the sAman. It is only in somayajnas
“Sthali” is the pot in which rice is cooked and it that there is sAmagAna, not in haviryajnas. In
must be placed on the aupasana fire and the cAturmasya and pasubandha there are more
rice called “caru” cooked in it must be offered than the usual number of priests
in the same fire. The rite that is the basis of
In somayajnas, there is the full complement of
many others (the archetype or model) is called
priests - the hota, the adhvaryu, the udgAta and
“prakrti”. Those performed after it, but with
the brahmA. Each priest is assisted by three
some changes, are known as “vikrti”. For the
others. So in all there are sixteen priests in a
sarpabali called sravani and the pAkayajna
somayajna. agnistoma which is the first of the
called agrahayani, sthAlipaka is the prakrti.
seven somayajnas is the prakrti (archetype) and
The haviryajna performed on every prathama is the other six are its vikrti. These six are:
“darSa-pUrNa-ishTi”, “darSa” meaning the new atyagnistoma, uktya, soDasi, vaajapeya, atiraatra
moon and “pUrNa” the full moon. So the and AptoryAma.
“ishTis” or sacrifices conducted on the day
In the old days a Brahmin used all his wealth
following the new moon and the full moon (the
in performing the somayajna. Much of this was
two prathamas) are together given the name of
spent in dakshiNa to the priests and the rest for
darSa-pUrNa-ishTi. The two rituals are also
referred to merely as “ishTi”. This is the prakrti materials used in the sacrifice. There was also
for haviryajnas. a time when even poor Brahmins performed
this sacrifice every spring ( “ vasante vasante “)
For soma sacrifices “agnistoma” is the prakrti,
by begging! A Brahmin who conducted the
the word “stoma” also meaning a sacrifice.
sacrifice every year was thus called “prati-
One who performs an elaborate sacrifice like a vasanta-somayAjin.
somayajna is called a “yajva”, “eeikshita” or
10. Final samskAra – antyeshTi
“makhin”. And one who conducts the greatest
of the somayajnas, vaajapeya, is known as a The final samskAra after death (obviously
“vaajapeyin”. Sacrifices are called variously performed by the son or other near relative), is
“kratu”, “makha”, “ishti”, “stoma”, “samsta”. antyeshTi – antya ishTi –final yAga.
There are some difference between these. The individual offered so many things during
The person who performs the yajna is called the 40 rituals all through the life. Finally, the
the yajamana and those who perform the body itself is offered to the agni.
sacrifice for him are called rtviks (priests) who It is believed, that, after death, if the person
consist of the hota (Rg veda priest), adhvaryu has to get a better life in the next janma, the
(yajurveda priest) udgAta (sAma veda priest) and person should be purified of all sins and the
brahmA (atharva veda priest) fire does the purification.

24
The cremation is not performed for sannyAsI, Near the dead-body, certain rituals are
essentially for two reasons: performed, including a homa, as a prayer and
for the safe journey of the subtle body. The son
i. At sannyAsa, the person has given up agni
takes the srauta agni; the cremation ground is
ii. the sannyAsa ASrama itself is a great fire of purified; there are rules regarding the type of
purification and so agni samskAra is not wood; the body is bathed and new dress is put
needed. If the person happens to be a on – symbolic of leaving this body as a old
jnAni also, there is no need for any cloth and taking on another body as a new
samskAra – no question of reaching higher cloth. Several mantras are recited for the
loka etc. various limbs to go back to the corresponding
total divinities – the eyes will go back to the
@\uD¢PuFNX\5WÁGKLGNwL€\w Sun God; the ears will go back to the
directional deities etc. The day following
For the three Asramas, dahanam etc. rituals are
cremation, the bones are collected –
done; and
sancayanam karma- and thrown in to the river.
\WHwLNLŠ©NW59\u An elaborate ritual lasting 13 days is
for, sannyAsIs, nothing is to be done as performed. GaruDa purANa is recited so that
samskAra; the departed soul will be guided by the proper
devatAs and reach the proper desitination.
Not only that, there is no one need to do karma
for him, and he never does karma to any one. Rituals are performed for 12 days to develop
various organs: For example,
QFD1\H:uNURLWVw
1st day Development of body, head
Why? Because a jnAnI is akartA! 2nd day sense organs, brain, etc

All the samskAras are needed only when one 10th day Loses its preta status
depends on something or some body for 11th day prayer for the well being of the
purification. When the jnAnI himself or herself jiva in the next janma
if pure, the jnAna agni will remove all 12th day the jiva to join the pitr loka
impurities.
- sapinDIkaraNam – the term
From the hygiene point of view, cremation piNDa (rice ball) symbolizes
seems to be a good choice to destroy germs etc. Sareeram– which is merged with
which may affect others. the ancestors.
If the person has done puNya
At the time of death, the person is supposed to himself or herself, he/she will
remember God. If cannot, others recite God’s attain good janma; if not, the
names, Gita, Upanishad etc. rituals are supposed to enable
getting one.
Giving gifts – dAnam – is considered very
noble and sacred; is done immediately after 13th day forget the past; start with an
death, by others. auspicious note – Subham

25
On the 13th day, the asaucam (or uncleanliness) 7. D6S2Kabsence of attachment
is believed to go away. There are essentially
8.PuJOPÁauspiciousness / DQ1Gw
two aspects regarding asaucam:.
Absolute DQ1Gw requires Atma-jnAnam. But one
1. From the medical stand point – germs etc.
are likely to be with the intimate visitors, can get relative quietitude through the practice
who are essentially close relatives; like a of these. When a person is endowed with the
quarantine, the spreading is minimized. above AtmaguNas, he becomes an adhikArI –
grihya sutras also give a lot of details. the eligible – for vedAnta and for the ultimate
knowledge. Endowed with the Knowledge, the
2. Mental shock and du:kham remain. With person has no worry about next life, krama
frustration and sorrow, a person will have muktI, svarga loka etc. Such a person is pUrNa:
only dislike and so is given time to get and lives with the awareness aham brahma
over that. asmi. Thus the samskAras lead to AtmaguNas
However, there are some exceptions for which give adhikAritvam to gain Knowledge
asaucam – for example, brahmacarIs, sannyAsIs, which gives liberation – moksha. If a person
and one, in the midst of an yAga, even if a does not get the AtmaguNas in this life, with
grihastha, do not have asaucam. the antyeshTi samskAra, it is hoped that one
will get them in the next life!!
Our scriptures have prescribed these
samskAras to facilitate a person to attain the This concludes a cursory discussion of all the
eight great virtues – Atma guNas, which are: 41 vaidika samskAras.

1. G\- Compassion, sensitivity to others etc. Source Material:

2. 1. Hindu Samskaras, Rajbali Pandey, Motilal


L1Wwpatience, forbearnce, capacity to face
Banarasidas, Delhi, 1998.
provoking situations without getting
agitated 2. The Book of Samskaras, Prema Rasa Dasa,
3. DQV8\absence of jealousy Bhakti Vedanta Book Trust International,
1977.
4. [ZFPÁpurity internally and externally
3. Lectures by Swami Paramarthananda,
DQ\Vwabsence of tension / anxiety Madras.

6. DNS5\PÁ absence of miserliness or 4. Hindu Dharma, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan


helplessness 1995.

26