Vaidika Samskaras | Vedas | Bhagavad Gita


Om, Sri gurubhyo namaha
Vaidika Samskaras
Dr. S. Yegnasubramanian
1. Introduction
Over the ages, humankind has always
strived to reach perfection and to explore the
ultimate Truth. In this quest, every religion
has some unique features. Some of the unique
features characteristic of the Hindu Faith or
sanAtana dharma are:
·The concept of God as the very creation it-
self. For example we come across passages
¬ :ºl¤l ª~ª ¬ll¬:1;
l¬¬ ¬¬¬º º l¬'T PíH ¬PllP 1;
<lºldl7~¬¬: ~°?l·d~¬ ¬¬~¬ ªllªª
<ll¬~9 ld 1
in the dhyAna slokas of Vishnu Sahasranamam
and Sri Rudram respectively.
·One’s birth according to one’s karma. The
entire chapter of karma yoga in Bhagavad
Gita deals with this aspect in great detail.
·The idea of liberation, mukti, even when one
is alive - jeevanmukti:. For example, we have
in the in Bhagavad Gita:
º"ª¬ H ª¬¬ ~º H¬ l¯H ¬ <"¬¬ º¯D¬
~¬º¬ "¬H¬ <l¯P¬ ¬ <l¯P¬l d ºl 1
·The manifestation of the Divine through in-
numerable avatAras - ten of them are more
popular; Bhagavatam mentions 21 avataras,
but says that they are countless ! <¬dlll:
<P Tª ª: 1
·varNASrama dharma - The Lord says, ¯d ¬ ªª
Pªl P ºP in the Gita.
All these features are found in various texts
and deri ve thei r basi s from the Vedas.
However, these are not given in a clear and
concise format in the Vedas. For the Vedic
teachings to be useful to humankind, our
Rishis, through their inquiry, extracted the
vedic wisdom, like extracting a precious metal
from the ore! Consequently, a new family of
l i t erat ure known as Sootras ( crypt i c
statements) - emerged, such as, the Strouta
sutras, grihya sootras, dharma sootras etc.
Since the sootras themselves were abstract,
commentaries on these sootras were given by
Ri shi s i n t he form of smri ti s, such as,
YAjnavalkhya smriti, ParAsara smriti, etc. The
term smriti refers to a ‘remembered idea’ (from
the vedas). Later, itihAsas (RaAmAyanNa and
MahAbhArata) and purANas (BhAgavatam
SkAndam etc.) were written in the form of
personified stories, to make these concepts
understandable to common people.
2. Inner Virtues (Atma Guna’s)
The scriptures have expounded the
Truth in absolute terms in all the Upanishads.
The Hindu Faith aims at enabling every human
being to the realization of this Absolute Truth
or the Self, and proclaims that, this realization
is the only goal for every one to reach. The
scriptures say that this realization could be
achieved though the development of Atma
GuNa’s, or certain inner virtues. Eight virtues
have been mentioned in particular, and they
1. Compassion (dayA), consideration and sen-
sitivity for all.
2. Patience or forbearance or the ability to
face provoking situations without agitation
(kshamA or kshAnti).
3. Free of jealousy (anasooyA).
4. Purity - internal and external (Soucam).
5. Keepi ng cool , free from burden
which then becomes eligible to be offered to
the Lord.
l¬lHl4 ªl¯·ª: <ldHª l¬H º: 1
(Vedic rites, when formed, certain
special qualities are born)
All through, the vedas teach that the
ultimate goal of life is liberation (moksha:) and
if one has to achieve this goal, one has to
become qualified (yogyah:). This eligibility
comes by offering oneself to the Lord (Atma
samarpaNam) and before such offering, the
individual has to go through -almost a life-long
- purification process. The entire life-style is
designed to be a process of samskAra, and in
this life-style, every stage is indicated by a
particular ritual. All these rituals are given in
the scriptures. It can be interpreted then, that,
those special qualities, which are born by
performing certain vedic rituals that make one
fit for the True Knowldege of liberation, are
samskAra’s. In course of time, the rituals
t hemsel ves, whi ch l ed t o t hese speci al
qualities, came to be known as samskAra’s.
So, two meanings are primarily given for
a) characteristic/special quality - atiSaya
viSesha: and
b) the very ritual or ceremony.
In addition, a third definition also is given to
the word, which means, mental impression or
vAsana. The Rishis acknowledged the fact that
a person’s mind can be influenced by so many
factors all through the life based on one’s own
actions and through actions of others. The
samskaras are supposed to accomplish two
things to an individual:
¤lº <º¬ª¬ ¬ ¬l º TlHl¬ ¬ ¬l1
1) ¤lº <º¬ª¬P dosha apnayanam - elimination
of physical and mental impurities (dosha) and
2) º TlHl¬P guNAdhAnam - adding special
virtues or Atma guNa’s. As mentioned in the
Bhagavad Gita (13-7):
6. Not being miserly (akArpaNyam).
7. Absence of desire, attachment (aspruhA)
8. Auspi ci ousness, peace (mangal am,
When an individual acquires these qualities,
he/she becomes eligible to Atma JnAnam, and
through inquiry, the person realizes the Abso-
3. Vedic Rituals (vaidika samskAra’s)
The scriptures proclaim that a total
person should be harmonious in thought
(maanasam), word (vAcika), and deed (bodily
actions - kAyikam). As can be seen, this virtue
is far from realization by the vast majority of
people, and so has to be evolved right from
bi rt h! Inst ead of j ust l i st i ng t he above
mentioned Atma GuNa’s and postulating them
as a requirement in the building up of a total
person for gaining the eligibility to the inquiry
of the Self, our scriptures provide us with a
manual as to how to acquire these qualities
throughout one’s life, through the performance
of rituals known as vaidika samskAra’s,
starting from the conception of the child, until
death! In addition to some of the unique
characteristics of the Hindu Faith mentioned
earlier, vaidika samskAra is another unique
and important feature since it helps the
individual to develop into a total person,
physically and spiritually.
3.1 The word samskAra
The seed for the samskAra’s is the
Vedas, and, the word samskAra, the mantras
and the arrangement are given in the grihya
sootra’s. (For an overview of our vedic
scriptures please refer to Vol. 1 No. 1 of
Paramaartha Tattvam.) In the vedas, the
process of purification is denoted by the term
samskuryAt. If any object is to be offered to
the Lord, that object has to be purified first,
both at the physical level and at the spiritual
(subtle) level. After such purification, a new
quality is believed to be born in the object,
d) Creation of awareness of the stage of life -
after upanayanam, brahmacarya ASrama; af-
ter vivAham, grihasta ASrama. Development
of sanctity for life itself.
e) Sensitivity to elements of nature - for
example, all divinities are water - P¬l ¤ ¬dl
<lº: ; similarly fire is Divinity and so on.
f) The respect that the entire creation is some-
thing to be worshipped - is brahman - sarvam
brahma mayam jagat.
g) The awareness that the individual is part of
Nature and not separate from it.
h) The concept of social / family life - all rituals
involve relatives, friends etc.
So, the vaidika samskaras have been
designed by the Rishis to contribute to the
overall growth of the individual.
3.2 How many samskaras are given in the
As was mentioned earlier, the sootra’s
give a comprehensive account of various
samskAra’s and, among the sootra’s, the grihya
sootra’s give the most elaborate account. The
grihya sootra’s themselves are many, which
deal with all aspects of domestic life like
marriage, etc. Since these samskAra’s are
basically derived from the vedas, various
numbers are given in these grihya sootra’s.
Most popularly, forty one samskAra’s are
enumerated, which we can broadly classify in
to nine groups. We will discuss in detail, each
of the forty one samskaras - starting from
conception of the baby, till the final cremation
- in subsequent issues of Paramaartha Tattvam.
Source Material:
1.Hindu Samskaras, Rajbali Pandey, Motilal
Benarasidas,Delhi, 1998.
2. The Book of Samskaras, Prema Rasa Dasa,
Bhakti Vedanta Book Trust International, 1977.
3. Lectures by Swami Paramarthananda,
<Pll¬¯¬P¤l¹¬¯¬Plª Pl Hll·dll¯ ¬P 1
<l¯lªl ºlP¬ Hl ¯ ~° ª Pl¯Pl¬l¬º ª: 11
(humility, unprententiousness, non-violence,
patience, uprightness, service to the teacher,
purity, steadiness and self-control)
It is interesting to note that, even
though the samskAras were meant to purify
an individual to become eligible for moksha,
the Rishis have formulated them in such a
manner that the individual also attains other
benefits - dharma, artha and kAma.
They involve the purification of the
total personality - mAnasam, vAcikam and
kAyikam - since one is likely to have sinned
through all these three instruments !
Samskaras contribute to the overall
growth of the individual, such as:
a) The physical discipline during and after the
ritual - for example, prANAyAmam helps to
regulate the blood circulation, etc. Also, several
do’ s and don’ t s are prescri bed for t he
brahmacAri such as:
ajanavAdaSIla: <¯¬¬l¤Hí?: - no gossip;
adhivA svApI <lH¬l ~¬lºí / Pl P º '°l - no
sleeping during day time;
strtIbhi: yAvatharta sambhAshI ~¬íl¬: ªl¬°d
P ¬lºí - speak only what is required to ladies,
(More details will be seen during the discussion
on upanayanam later).
b) The mental growth - again, prANAyAmam
helps to sharpen the mind; improves medha
Sakti:; for example, prayers such as,
SraddhAm medhAm yaSa: prajnAm Sriyam
Ayushyam teja Aroghyam dehime
Also, sraddhAvAn labhate jnAnam etc.
c) Imparting of values, ethics and morality -
for example: kAmo kArshIt manyuh kArishIt
- japa to overcome greed and anger.
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
of Paramaartha Tattvam, we said that,
l the samskaaras are a series of sacrements
performed by any one belonging to the
vedic tradition, which are meant for the
overall purification or overall refinement
of the individual.
l by overal l refi nement, we mean the
physi cal , emoti onal , i ntel l ectual and
spiritual development and maturity of the
personality at the total level.
l the term samskaara has three meanings
1. the refinement itself
2. the ritual by which the refinement is
achieved, and
3. the impressions - vAsanAs - created by
oneself and the environment
l the purpose was not just material prosper-
ity - which was incidental - but the moksha
purushArtha - based on which the entire
samskaras were developed. As side benefits,
one also gets dharma, artha and kaama
l before anything is offered to the Lord, the
offering should be purified, and our sages
took the entire life as the greatest offering
of the individual - the jivaatmA - to the
(SravaNam keertanam vishnoh: smaraNam
pAdasevanam arcanam vandanam dAsyam
sakhyam Atmanivedanam)
l the total life itself is an yajna.
¤ ¬P ¬lºl ªH ªllº¬: ºª ºlFd 1
¬ ªll¹¬l¬ºl ªH ªH ¬ ¬lº¯ªld11
(Srimad Bhagavadgita 4.25)
(Some yogis perform sacrifices especially to
propitiate deities; still others offer the Atman itself
as oblation in the fire of brahman)
l in all other offerings, the ego - ahamkAra: -
is present. If one offers oneself to the Lord,
one must make sure that he/she is offer-
able - in a fit condition.
l samskaara is that process by which one
makes oneself “samskrita jeevah:” (refined
individual) to be offered to ISwarah:
ISwara-nivedana-arhah: or yogyah: bhavati -
i n t he l anguage of devot i on, or
AtmajnAnayogya: bhavati, in the language
of vedaanta.
l Since the impurities are accumulated over
innumerable number of births, the purifi-
cation will take a long cleansing process
over the entire life - right from the very
conception onwards. If the purification
becomes successful, one will be able to at-
tain moksha in this life itself.
l If not, the final rites- the cremation etc. ritu-
als - are performed and if one is born as a
human being, one can continue the perfor-
mance of the samskaaras to become eli-
gible for moksha. As Sri Krishna says:
<¬ 4~¯·P~F lFlT: ddl ªlld ºll ºldP 1
(having achieved purity through several births one
can attain liberation)
As was mentioned earlier, there are forty one
samskaaras, starting from the conception of the
baby in the mother’s womb, till the cremation.
We will discuss each of these forty one
samskaaras in some detail in a series of
articles, starting from this number of the
4.1 Pre-natal samskaaras :
There are three pre-natal samskaaras
which are performed by the father before the
birth of the child, and they are:
1. garbhAdhAnam - the conception ceremony;
2. pumsavanam - prayer for a male child;
3. seemantam or seemantonnayanam - parting
of the hair of the wife.
4.1.1 garbhAdhAnam - the conception
There are two schools of thought regarding this
l Purification of the mother - to make her
eligible to conceive the baby through the
spiritual cleansing of the womb - H >~F ~4ll:
l Purification of the seed - ¬í¯~F ~4ll:
l How do the interpretations affect the
conduct of this samskaara? If it is H >~F ~4ll:,
then there is no need to repeat it for every
conception. But if it is ¬í¯~F ~4ll:, then it
has t o be performed for each chi l d.
Popularly, the latter is accepted even though
the ritual itself is performed once only for
the first child.
What is garbhaadhaanam? The word garbha:
has two meanings:
a) the womb of the mother, and
b) the baby itself - the embryo or fetus -
º¬ ~ª lHH :1
l Here we take the second meaning, the jeeva
and the term aadhaanam means the transfer
or placement of the jeeva in the womb of
the mother.
º¬ ~ª lHHl: <lHl¬P ~>º¬ lHl¬P 1
l The jeeva is not created afresh; it already
exists in the father, and is only transferred
to the mother! The jeeva (¯í¬:) is anaadi -
never created and when present in the
Journal. The intent is not to give the mantras
used in the rituals or the actual conduct of the
rituals themselves, but to give a glimpse of the
significance of the rituals along with some
peripheral details.
4. Classification of samskaaras
The forty one samskaaras can be
broadly classified in to nine groups:
1. Pre-natal samskaaras (3)
2. Pre-educational samskaaras (4)
3. Educational samskaaras (6)
4. Marriage
5. Five mahAyajnas
6. Seven pAka yajnas
7. Seven havir yajnas
8. Seven soma yajnas
9. Final Rites
The concept is that, by the time a person
completes all the forty samskaaras, he may
become qualified for jnAnam - so all through
the life, going through each of the aaSramas
(stages - brahmacarya aaSrama, grihasthASrama,
vAnaprastha aaSrama and sannyAsa aaSrama),
the person becomes yogya: (qualified) to study
vedaanta so t hat t he knowl edge aham
brahmAsmi will be realized. Once the person
gains this knowledge, then there is no need
for any further samskaaras. However, this
realization may not be possible for most
because of the thickness of the impurity
accumulated over several cycles of birth and
so even aft er deat h, t he i ndi vi dual i t y
continues. The person has to be purified
further and so, after death, the final samskaara,
known as antyeshTi: (the 41st samskaara), is
performed (by one’s son or close relative), with
the hope that the person will become qualified
for a better birth next time!
As a picture becomes clearer and clearer by
each stroke that the artist draws , each of the
samskaaras makes the jeeva more and more
refined, to become yogyah for moksha.
l The birth of the child protects one’s family
lineage - kula-paramapara.
l Also, from the spiritual angle, any person
is born with three debts - 1) to the devas
(deva-RuNam), 2) to the Rishis (Rishi-
RuNam), and 3) to the ancestors (pitru-
RuNam). Among these, the third debt is
removed by getting an offspring. So the son
is called RuNa-mocaka: (the remover of debt)
who can perform srAddha etc. rituals.
l It is believed that, even if the father had
committed some sins and has to go to
naraka,called put-naraka: ( º d -¬l4: ), he
wi l l be saved by the performance of
srAddhas. The name putra: for the son came
from the statement: º ·¬l¹¬: ¬l4ld >lªd 7ld
º >:1
l Getting a child is indirectly perpetuating
oneself. The child is nothing but one’s own
flesh and blood. Aitereya Upanishad says
that the father only is reborn as the child;
every organ is made of one’s own organs
Time of conception:
The scriptures prescribe the time of conception
based on various considerations.
l Physical health of the parents: For example,
if the parents are not healthy at the time of
conception, the child may be affected.
l The mental condition of the parents will
influence the child. If the parents are
focused on artha, kAma (material or sensual
pleasure) only, the child also will be artha,
kAma oriented. The scriptures prescribe
marri age for beget t i ng dharma- praj A
(righteous offspring) only.
l The astrological time - position of planets,
stars etc - is considered very important.
Conception during the day- time is never
father, it is called reta: ( l d: or º ¹º~¬í¯P ).
This reta: is called garbha: after transfer to
the mother.
l From where did the father get this jeeva? It
is an elaborate process in which the jeeva is
believed to go through five stages before
coming to human form, the last stage being
the mother’s womb. According to Mundaka
Upanishad (II.i.6)
d~Pld <l¹¬: FlPHl ª~ª F ª :
FlPl¯º¯ ·ª <lºHª: º l°¯ªlP 1
º Pl¬ l d: lF =ld ªllºdlªl
¬ªí: º ¯l: º ¹ºld F º F dl:11
(From Him emerges the fire (i.e. heaven) of
which the fuel is the Sun. From the moon
emerge clouds, and (from clouds) the herbs on
the earth. A man sheds the semen in to the
woman. From the Purusha have originated
many creatures.)
What are these five stages?
1. After leaving previous birth, the jeeva enters
the pitru loka: (or ª ~?l4:)
2. From there enters the clouds - º¯ ·ª:
3. From clouds, enters the plants - <lºHª:
4. From plants, enters the father
5. From the father, enters the mother’s womb.
l The transfer of jeeva from one stage to the
other is considered a yajna. In other words,
the jeeva comes to this world as a result of
five yajnas! In each of these yajnas, the jeeva
is offered as the oblation.
Thus, the conception is considered as the
greatest yajna, which brings a human life into
existence, and so it is given a lot of importance.
The ritual by which the mother conceives the
baby is garbhaadhaanam
(º¬ F Hlª d ª ¬ dd º¬ lHl¬P J1
This can be viewed from various angles:
l Several i nt erest i ng det ai l s are gi ven
regarding the time/day of conception.
Certain ideal time is prescribed, called Rutu-
kAlam and sixteen days are given. If
conceived on even days (2nd, 4th etc. days),
the child will be a boy and, if conceived on
odd days, will be a girl. (ª ¹PlF º >l: ¯lª·d
lTª: <ª ¹PlF )
l Further differences are also mentioned: for
example, a male child born on the
p 4th day, will be poor and short lived
p 6th day, will be a mediocre child
p 8th day, will be prosperous
p 10th day, will be wise
p 12th day, will be best all round
p 14th and 16th days, will be spiritual
l Similarly, a female child born on the
p 5th day, will give birth to girls only
p 7th day, will have no children
p 9th day, will be very auspicious
p 11th day, will be irreligious
p 13th day, will be an evil person
p 15th day will get male children
l For getting children of certain types and
qualities, brihadAraNyaka upanishad gives
several mantras: (Ch. 6, Sec 4: 14-16)
F ª 7¯D ¯º >l P H 4?l ¯lª d,
¬ ¤P¬ ¬ ¬íd, F¬ Plª llªll¤ld,
Híll ¤¬ ºl=lª¯¬l Flº 'P·dP"¬íªldlP
7 "¬ll ¯¬lªd¬ 1
(He who wishes “a son of fair complexion, to be
versed in one veda having the full span of life”,
“should eat rice cooked in milk mixed with ghee,
along with his wife.” (Then they) would be able
to give birth (to such a son)
<° ª 7¯D ¯º >l P 4lº?: lº7?l ¯lª d,
¤l ¬ ¤l¬¬ ¬ ¬íd, F¬ Plª llªll¤ld,
¤°ªl¤¬ ºl=lª¯¬l Flº 'P·dP"¬íªldlP
7 "¬ll ¯¬lªd¬ 1
(And, he who desires a son of tawny or brown
complexion, to be versed in two vedas and having
the full span of life, should eat rice cooked in
curd mixed with ghee, with his wife. (Then they)
would be able to give birth (to such a son).
<° ª 7¯D ¯º >l P "ªlPl ?llªdlHl ¯lª d,
>í·¬ ¤l¬¬ ¬ ¬íd, F¬ Plª llªll¤ld,
¯¤l ¤¬ ºl=lª¯¬l Flº 'P·dP"¬íªldlP
7 "¬ll ¯¬lªd¬ 1
(And, he who desires a son of dark complexion
with red eyes, to be versed in three vedas and
having the full span of life, should eat rice boiled
in water, mixed with ghee, with his wife. (Then
they) would be able to give birth (to such a son).
<° ª 7¯D ¤ ¤ lªdl P ºlªªdl ¯lª d,
F¬ Plª llªll¤ld, ld?l ¤¬ ºl=lª¯¬l
Flº 'P·dP"¬íªldlP : 7 "¬ll ¯¬lªd¬ 1
(And he who desires a daughter with learning, to
live a full term of life, should eat rice cooked in
sesame seeds, mixed with ghee, with his wife.
(Then they) would be able to give birth (to such a
l After conception, throughout the course of
pregnancy, there was the awareness that the
physical and mental conditions of the child
are influenced by the environment and a
spiritual environment was desired.
4.1.2 pumsavanam - ceremony for getting
a male off-spring:
The second pre-natal samskAra is
pumsavanam. The term º F (pums) means
“male” and the term F¬¬P (savanam) refers to
the birth. Hence, the birth of a male child is
pumsavanam. For the sake of the propagation
of one’s paramparA, it has been the desire,
from the beginning. So the ritual is known as:
º Pl¬ º F ªd ª ¬ 4P Tl dd º F¬¬P 1
ª ¬ 4P Tl - by which rite; º Pl¬ º F ªd - a male
and so the mind should be fit for sAstra-
vicAra, Atma-jnAna and so, the samskAra is
performed right at the time of formation of
this faculty.
It is also a symbolic ritual where the
husband makes a boundary in the head of the
wife by parting the hair. FíPl - boundary; <·d:
- end and so, the limiting line is called
seemanta:. ¯·¬ª¬P - making or parting (of the
hair in the head). The purpose of this ritual
can be seen from various angles:
l the mind is formed at this time and can be
influenced by the subtle forces around -
especially negative forces - like yakshas,
rAkshasas etc. The prayers recited during
the ritual act as an armor.
l These prayers invoke mahAlakshmI in the
seemanta: line (so kumkum is applied there)
l The husband asks mahAlakshmI to ward off
all evils and make the child pure, and give
l Certain warnings were also given to the
pregnant mother - do’s and don’ts - for a
careful conduct of life; movements are
restricted; noble and pious thoughts are
l Husband also takes the responsibility and
offers to do everything for her, including
dressing her hair (symbolically to show that
he will do whatever she needs)
With this, the discussion on the three pre-natal
samskaras is concluded. We will continue with
the post-natal samskaras from the next article
of this series.
Source Material:
1. Hindu Samskaras, Rajbali Pandey, Motilal
Banarasidass, Delhi, 1998.
2. The Book of Samskaras, Prema Rasa Dasa,
Bhakti Vedanta Book Trust International,
3. Lectures by Swami Paramarthananda,
child is given birth.
According to the sAstras, the rite is
supposed to be performed in the third month
after conception. Sushruta, the Ayurveda
expert says that the formation of the child
takes place only in the third month. According
to him, the development of the child happens
as follows:
Month Development
1 still in liquid form; no formation
2 a vague solidified mass
3 sense organs and veins are formed
4 head, hands and legs are formed
5 bones, fingers, hair, and the mind
are formed
6 intellect
7 prANa and nervous system
8 &9 capacity to experience pleasure/
Based on the sAstras, a time is chosen
when the moon is in a male constellation and
prayers are offered for the birth of a healthy,
fully developed male child. There is also a
ritual where the husband pours a drop of the
juice from the sprout of the banyan tree and
milk, in the right nostril of the wife. This ritual
is meant to give birth to a healthy male child.
4.1.3 seemantam or seemantonnayanam -
parting of the hair of the wife.
The third pre-natal saskAra is seemanta:
which is performed at the 5th or 6th month of
pregnancy. The mind and intellect (essentially,
the subtle personality) of the baby is supposed
to develop around this time. Our sAstras
clearly acknowledged the fact that,
l a person’s superiority is not based on the
physical body, but by the viveka-Sakti.
l moksha has to be attained by the mind alone
Om, Sri Gurubhyo Namaha
Vaidika Samskaras (contd..,)
Dr . S. Yegnasubr amani an
(Sect i ons and sub-sect i ons ar e number ed i n cont i nuat i on f r om t he pr evi ous ar t i cl e)
Then a speci al ri te i s prescri bed f or com-
f ortabl e del i very cal l ed, sOshyantI karma,
deri ved f rom the root sU – prasavE.
Then, fol l owi ng the chi l d bi rth, the ri tual
performed by the father i s jAta karma.
General l y, the ti me f or perf ormance of thi s
ri tual has two opti ons:
a) I mmei datel y af ter the bi rth
b) For any reason i f i t coul d not be done,
can be done on the 11
t h
day al ong wi th
naama karaNam.
Thi s i s essenti al l y a puri fi catory ri te. The
father has sewn the seed i n the kshetram - the
womb. The chi l d that comes i s not i n the pure
form and so has to undergo jAta karma to remove
the natural dOsha’s. These are of two ki nds:
a) Those rel ated to garbha - -
b) Those rel ated to the seed -
General l y the fol l owi ng ri tes are i nvol ved:
nAndI srAddham – to propi ti ate and seek
the bl essi ngs of the pi trus. The karma i s
very i mportant duri ng the bi rth si nce, i t i s
bel i eved, that al l pi trus come to that house
duri ng that ti me. Why? I t i s a happy af f ai r
f or t he cont i nuat i on of t he par ampar A,
si nce a mal e chi l d i s requi red f or pi nDa-
udaka- kri yA (essenti al l y f ood-of f erei ng to
the pi trus)
Then the f ather keeps the chi l d on the l ap
and prays f or the wel f are:
I n the previ ous arti cl e i n Vol ume 4 No. 2 of
Paramaartha Tattvam, we di scussed the three
pr e-nat al samskaras, namel y, garbhAdAnam,
pumsavanam and seemantam. Al l these are meant
for the heal th and compl ete growth (physi cal ,
psychol ogi cal and spi ri tual ) of the chi l d, i n the
womb of the mother. We wi l l now conti nue
the di scussi on wi th the post-natal samskaras.
4.2 Post -nat al samskAr as
There are four post-natal samskAras before
the Educati onal samskAras:
1. j aata karma – the bi rth ceremony
2. naama karaNa – the nami ng ceremony
3. anna-prASana – Feedi ng of sol i d f ood
4. cUDA k ar ma OR caul am – t onsur e
4.2.1 j aat a kar ma – t he bi r t h cer emony
The fourth samskAra i s the bi rth ceremony.
Before the actual birth of the child, several details
are menti oned:
Around the ti me of del i very, the pregnant
l ady shoul d be taken to a sUti kA bhavanam
(bi rthi ng room) wi th i ts door openi ng i n the
east or northern si de.
The r oom shoul d be abl e t o i nf l uence
posti ve thoughts i n the mother.
The ti me of entry i nto the room i s chosen
astrol ogi cal l y. The l ady shoul d enter i nto
the room wi th vedi c chanti ng, or musi c on
the gl ory of the Lord .
Wel l exper i enced l adi es i n chi l d bi r t h
shoul d be asked to assi st i n the bi rthi ng
process, as i t i s a very pai nf ul process.
- O chi l d, you have come out
of the essence of every l i mb of mi ne!
- You are born out of my heart-
f el t desi re; so you are - none
other than mysel f reborn as the chi l d!
- You l i ve l ong; the f ather wi l l
breath i n the nostri l of the baby as i f he i s
gi vi ng hi s prANa to the chi l d!
- Be strong l i ke the stone
- Be sharp l i ke an axe to destroy al l
your i nternal and external enemi es.
- May you shi ne as pure gol d!
There are prayers f or the i ntel l ect, good
sense, f ame, l ong l i f e, heal th etc. -
Then the chi l d i s fed wi th a combi nati on of
ghee, honey and curd wi th a gol den spoon ( or a
gol den ri ng i nsi de the cup). Such a combi nati on
i s bel i eved to have l ot of heal th effects. Al ong
wi th the feedi ng, praNava, vyAhruti and gAyatri
are reci ted so that the Vedi c thought may be
i ntroduced to the chi l d. Then the father utters
i n the ears of the chi l d - (you are veda
i tsel f). Then the chi l d i s fed at the ri ght breast
of the mother wi th the fol l owi ng mantra:
Ther e ar e mant r as t o i nvoke Devi
Saraswati ’ s breast on the breast of the mother
so that the mi l k wi l l become jnAna pUtam – wi th
the jnAnam of Saraswati . The chi l d i s gi ven a
secret name based on the star of the chi l d – for
exampl e, i f the star i s aSvinI , the name coul d be
aSvinI kumAra etc. – known onl y to the parents.
Several other ri tual s and reci tati ons are done for
the wel fare of the chi l d and parents. I t i s sai d:
whi ch means,
- i f the f ather l ooks
at the f ace of the new born baby,
- he gets i mmortal i ty (f i guri ti ve
i mmortal i ty i .e he l i ves i n the f orm of hi s son)
Then onl y, the umbi l i cal chord i s broken.
The reason i s, that the father gets the
(uncl ean) the moment the chord i s cut, as the
chi l d i s supposed to be compl etel y born onl y
when the chord i s cut. I f done before, the father
wi l l have and so he wi l l not be abl e to
perform the jAta karma ri tual at that ti me. Then
i t can be done onl y on the 11
day. Al so, i f the
del i very i s compl i cated for any reason, then the
ri tual i s performed on the 11
day. Then the
parents pray to Mother Earth : “O mother, thi s
chi l d i s goi ng to wal k on you, fal l on you etc. –
but don’ t hurt the chi l d and make the chi l d cry”
Then there i s prAyasci ttam f or twi ns etc, and
some more prayers.
4.2.2 nAma kar aNam (nami ng cer emony)
The fi fth samskAra i s the nami ng ceremony.
As was menti oned ear l i er , a secr et name i s
al ready gi ven to the chi l d based on the star of
the chi l d. Two more names are gi ven at thi s ti me
as fol l ows:
a) For di vi ne purpose - - there
are rul es governi ng the choi ce of the name.
For exampl e, mal e chi l d wi l l have even l etters
and f emal e chi l d wi l l have odd l etters. There
ar e r ul es f or suf f i xes etc. The name can be
chosen based on several consi derati ons:
based on t he mont h of bi r t h –
based on f oref ather’ s name
based on the kul a devatA – f ami l y dei ty
based on Ri shi s
based on what the parent’ s desi re: f or ex-
ampl e, sundaram, kubEra, meenAkshi
Thi s name i s not used casual l y but onl y dur-
i ng i mpor t ant spi r i t ual occasi ons such as
upanayanam, vi vAham etc., and when the boy
reci tes the pravaram.
b) For soci al / worl dl y purpose -
- popul ar name.
Accordi ng to one’ s varNa, proper suf f i x i s
chosen f or the name; f or exampl e,
o Brahmi n – SarmA – stands f or Ananda
o Kshatri ya–varmA – an armor to soci ety
o Vai sya – guptA – one who protects weal th
or deal s wi th secrets
o Sudra – dAsa – one who serves.
Lat er , ot her suf f i xes ar e gi ven, such as
dI xi tah: (one who takes dI kshA f or conduct-
i ng yaj na; sAstrI – one who has studi ed the
sAstras etc.
Bef ore the conduct of the next (6
t h
) samskAra,
anot her r i t ual i s pr f or med by some peopl e,
cal l ed, ni shkramaNam – f i r st outi ng. Thi s i s
general l y done duri ng the 3
r d
month. The chi l d
i s taken out wi th Vedi c chanti ng etc. f or the
f i rst ti me on an auspi ci ous day. The chi l d i s
shown the Sun and the Moon – sUrya-candra-
darSanam – si tti ng i n a decorated pl ace, by the
f ather. Mrutyunj aya mantra i s reci ted f or l ong
l i f e.
4.2.3 anna pr ASanam – Fi r st f eedi ng of
sol i d f ood
Thi s ri tual i s general l y conducted af -
ter si x months (boy) or seven months (f or gi rl s),
when the teeth al so sl owl y get f ormed. The
chi l d i s f ed a combi nati on of ghee, honey, curd
and ri ce mi xed wi th sal t and chi l l i , al ong wi th
praNava and vyAhruti . A speci al prayer to al l
the pl ants (Oshadhi ) and water i s reci ted, es-
senti al l y to i mpart respect to nature and f or
thei r hel p and nouri shment of the chi l d. At
thi s ti me, i t i s bel i eved that the vAsanas get
devel oped f or the chi l d and the apti tude of the
chi l d can be f ound – pai nti ng, arts, musi c, tool s
(motor ski l l s). Even though thi s ri tual i s done
so ear l y , i t i s agai n conduct ed dur i ng
upnayanam i n a di f f er ent st yl e (kumAr a
bhoj anam).
4.2.4 cUDA kar ma – Tonsur i ng cer emony
The seventh samskAra i s or -
shavi ng of f the hai r keepi ng the tuf t or Si khA.
I t i s general l y perf ormed duri ng the thi rd year.
Symbol i cal l y hai r i s consi dered to repre-
sent our rAga-dvEshAs – passi on and ha-
tred. The reason f or usi ng hai r and not
other organs as a symbol , i s because i t i s
countl ess, and so does our si ns, accumu-
l ated over several cycl es of bi rths. Shav-
i ng of the hai r symbol i zes the removal of
si ns.
The whol e body i s consi dered a chari ot;
the chari ot requi res a roof , symbol i zed by
the tuf t.
Accordi ng to Sushruta (Ayurveda expert),
wi thi n the head, on the top porti on, there
i s a j uncti on of the bl ood vessel s and the
vi tal part (marma sthAnam) and j ust bel ow
that, the l i f e i s stored. I f that i s damaged,
death takes pl ace i mmedi atel y. And, the
Si khA acts l i ke a hel met!
From the Sastra poi nt of vi ew, the Si khA i s
requi red f or many ri tual s:
There are two contexts i n whi ch the si gni f i -
cance of Si khA i s understood:
a) As par t of a j apa or puj A, anganyAsa,
karanyAsa are perf ormed whi ch i ncl udes
the appl i cati on of Si khAyai vashaT.
b) Af ter the dai l y snAnam, the water i n the
Si khA i s cal l ed Si khOdakam whi ch i s sup-
posed to be of f ered to the pi trus. The scri p-
tures say:
- my ancestors
are i n vari ous pl aces – the creepers, trees etc.
- f or thei r wel f are, growth
- l et thi s Si khOdakam be an of -
f eri ng.
Al so, duri ng cUDA karma, the pi trus are
supposed to come as i n the case of j aata
karma si nce they wi l l recei ve Si khOdakam
then onwards!
Si mi l ary, vastrOdakam al so shoul d be of -
f ered. That i s why our scri ptures say that,
at l east, mi ni mum cl othi ng shoul d be on
the body duri ng bath. Naked bath i s not
al l owed - . The scri ptures
- when I ri ng the cl oth, l et
the water be of f ered to the ancestors.
The Si khA i s not supposed to be removed
under any ci rcumstances. I f to be removed
f or any reason (due to di sease etc.) shoul d
be substi tuted wi th kuSa grass on the ears.
Even though thi s i s to be done i n the 3
r d
year, i t i s al so done duri ng upanayanam.
Thi s can be removed f or a sannyAsi through
another ri tual – ashta- SrAddhas are per-
f ormed, the ancestors are propi ti ated; the
guru i ni ti ates chanti ng mantras and then
the tuf t i s removed.
There are other detai l s menti oned, such as
prayers to the barber, to the kni f e etc. Al so,
t he or der i n whi ch t he si des shoul d be
shaven ar e gi ven – f i r st, the f r ont, then
ri ght si de, l ef t si de etc – wi th chanti ng of
appropri ate mantras –i ncl udi ng the di sposal
of the hai r!
Then, the hot and col d water are mi xed f or
the bath. The procedure i s to mi x the hot
water wi th the col d water, f or l ong l i f e of
the chi l d.
Al ong wi th the hai r, they cut the kusa grass,
keepi ng a porcupi ne qui l l al ong wi th the
kni f e (to symbnol i ze sharpness)
For each si de shavi ng, t her e ar e speci al
mantras; East: heal th; south – f ame; west –
l ogevi ty; north – i ntel l i gence.
Then the cut hai r i s mi xed wi th cow dung
and bur i ed under a udumbar a t r ee or
thrown f ar away.
Then snAnam i s perf ormed!
The next maj or samskAra i s t he upanayana
samskAra. There are a f ew i nci dental ri tual s,
practi ced by some bef ore the upanayanam. One
i s cal l ed karNa-vedha. Vi dh – to pi erce. I n thi s
ri tual , the ears are pi erced and an ear orna-
ment i s put.
From the Ayurvedi c angl e (Sushruta), i t i s be-
l i eved that sun’ s rays gi ve good heal th, when
they pass through the hol es of the ear. When
a metal l i ke gol d i s used, i t removes di seases
l i ke herni a etc. Al so, there are speci al nerve
cent er s (such as bet ween eyebr ows, t empl e
etc.) i n vari ous parts and they get acti vated.
Anot her r i t ual i s vi dyAr ambha or akshar a-
abhyAsa, where the chi l d i s i ni ti ated to al pha-
bets. The tradi ti on i s to use ri ce or wheat and
practi ce the chi l d to wri te on i t wi th a gol den
pen! Af ter prayers to the vari ous dei ti es, the
r i ce i s cooked and of f er ed t o t hem and t he
prasAdam i s gi ven to the chi l d. Thi s ri tual i s
done al so on an auspi ci ous day when the pl an-
ets are i n f avourabl e posi ti on, and the chi l d
wi l l seek the bl essi ngs of the el ders, the devatas
Sour ce Mat er i al :
1. Hi ndu Samskaras, Raj bal i Pandey, Moti l al
Banarasi dass, Del hi , 1998.
2. The Book of Samskaras, Prema Rasa Dasa,
Bhakti Vedanta Book Trust I nternati onal ,
3. Lect ur es by Swami Par amar t hananda,
Om, Sri Gurubhyo Namaha
Vaidika Samskaras (contd..,)
Dr. S. Yegnasubramanian
(Sections and sub-sections are numbered in continuation from the previous article)
l For kshatriyas, the eleventh year is sug-
gested i ncl udi ng pregnancy ( garbha-
EkAdaSa). The suggested season is Sum-
mer – grIshma Ritu. Their function is not
to protect the Sastras, but to know as much
to follow their dharma . Their vedic edu-
cation was also limited to that extent, since
they had a larger responsibility of protect-
ing the entire country, and the other three
varNas. They had additional education
such as, dhanur vidya, (archery and war-
fare), artha Sastra (economics) etc. Sum-
mer is a hot season and as such, the
kshatriyas were actively engaged in battles
etc. to protect the country, and to punish
the wicked to uphold dharma.
l For vaiSyas, the twelfth year including
pregnancy is suggested and the preferred
season is Autumn – Sarad Ritu. Their func-
tion was essentially commerce to assure a
sound economic basis for the country and
so, their vedic education was limited to
that much extent to know their dharma
adequately. They also had additional edu-
cation in commerce etc. The autumnal
seaon – just after the rains – stands for
prosperity, and was considered the pre-
ferred season for the upanayana samskAra
for the vaiSyas.
In addition, platenary positions and other as-
pects were also considered for the conduct of
this ritual by all the varNas.
4.3.1 Purpose of upanayanam
upanayanam marks the entry into a sec-
ond life and after the performance of this cer-
emony, the boy becomes a dvija:. (dve janmanI
yasya sa: dvija: - one who has got two janmas.
All the three varNas are known as dvijas.
In the previous article in Volume 4 No.
3&4 of Paramaartha Tattvam, we discussed the
four post-natal samskaras, namely, jAtakarma,
nAmakaraNa, annaprASana and cUDA karma.
We will now continue the discussion with the
educat i onal samskAras, st art i ng from
4.3 Upanayanam (thread ceremony)
Among the educational samskaaras, the
foremost is upanayanam. Scriptural (vedic) edu-
cation starts only after this samskaara is
peformed and, as such, can be viewed as a pre-
educational samskaara also.
Upanayana samskAra is to be performed
for all three varNas – the brAhmaNas, the
kshatriyas, and the vaiSyas. Why is this
samskAra performed only for the three varNas?
According to scriptures, those who are not ini-
tiated, or those who do not perform the vaidika
samskAras even after initiation, are geneally
considered sUdras! (one should not confuse
this with the caste system).
Scriptures also suggest the time in which
this samskaara can be performed, which var-
ies with the varNa.
l For brahmaNas, the 8
year (including
pregnancy) is suggested. The Spring sea-
son is considered ideal. The very function
of a brAhmaNa was only veda paThanam
(learning of vedas) and veda pAThanam
(teaching of vedas). A lot of study of the
entire SAstras was involved, such as, the
vedas, the vedAngas, the upAngas etc.
Spring– vasanta Ritu - is a mild season,
and as such the brAhmaNas were supposed
to be mild and not involved in aggressive
or violent activities.
What is meant by a second life?
Till upanayanam, only the physical per-
sonality alone was taken care of, and not the
inner personality. The life was similar to that
of animal only until this time with little devel-
opment of individuality, intellect, mind,
awareness of family, community etc. When the
child reaches the age of 7 or 8, the mind, in-
tellect etc. develop from that stage to a hu-
man stage with self-awareness etc. It is neces-
sary and critical to regulate and orient the per-
sonality in the right direction, at this time.
upanayanam is a samskAra which is meant to
mould the personality to become a responsible
human being – with several considerations
such as:
– Proper emotional personality; imbibing
of values - satyam vada (speak the truth);
dharmam cara (abide by dharma) etc. even
if the child does not understand and fol-
low for some time, he will realize the val-
ues later and grow with the right attitude
and emotion.
– Development of the intellect with the
right type of knowledge –viveka (dis-
crimination); vairAgya (dispassion) etc.
and development of a spiritual person-
– Physical discipline – getting up early,
cleanliness, etc.
– Knowledge of varNa dharma and
ASrama dharma – and the duties; re-
spect for others etc.
– Knowledge of the responsibility to the
society, to oneself, to the family etc.
So, the society and the individual are con-
sidered together in the building up of a right
personality of the child during growth. Entry
into such a life style is indicated by the
upanayana samskAra.
The ideal setting for this education was
the gurukula setting where the child can learn
wi t hout t he emot i onal consi derat i ons,
pampering etc. of the parents, and will also be
able to learn through interaction with other
The syllabus for this education is based
on the scritptures (vedas), which talk not only
of the purushArthas of the individual but also
the social well-being, duties to family, to soci-
ety etc.
Since the child leads a life based on the
learnings from the vedas, this life is called,
brahmacaryam – a way of life, devised by
brahma – the vedas. One who leads such a life
is called a brahmacArI.
There is also another meaning for this
term – Brahma refers to Para Brahman, and
so, brahmacaryam is a life style directed to-
wards brahmaNi carati or brahma vishaye or
brahma nimittam carati.
In summary, brahmacaryam has two
1. a life style as prescribed in the vedas
2. a life style meant to reach brahmatvam
4.3.2 The word upanayanam
The word upanayanam has been de-
scribed in many ways. For example,
– the term upa means ‘near’ and nayanam
means ‘leading’. The word upanayanam
means ‘leading near’. It is a samskAra by
which a person is purified and made fit to
learn the vedas – OR vedam upanayanam
– to study vedas, the child goes to a guru and
so it can be described as gurum upanayanam
– Or, through this samskAra, the child is
coming closer to parabrahma and so can
be described as parabrahama-upanayanam
– Or, since the teacher utters the mantra –
aham upanaye – (I take the boy near my-
self), it is called upanayanam
Since the child learns the vedas from the
teacher, an ideal human being is born, and for
this birth, the Veda is the mother and the
teacher is the father.
Pld : <º <l¹ T°°P 1 l"dí¯ Pl Tíª¯¹°ld 1
d7l¯¯ Pldl ºl¯7í lºdld <l¯l¯ ¯¯¯d 11
Pld : <º <l¹ T°°P 1 First a non-refined indi-
vidual is born with human anatomy
l"dí¯ Pl ¯Tíª¯¹°ld the second birth takes place
in upanayanam referred by mounjI-bandhanam
d7l¯¯ Pldl ºl¯7í (For the second birth – dvitIya
janmani), the mother is gAyatrI – refers to the
entire veda itself; so gAyatrI is taught first.
lºdld <l¯l¯ ¯¯¯d the teacher is the father.
In summary, the purpose of the upanayanam
is two-fold:
1. It symbolizes entry in to gurukulam
2. It purifies the child to enter the
gurukulam to learn the gAyatrI mantra
and the vedas.
4.3.3 The upanayanam ritual
Generally the biological father does the
gAyatrI mantra upadeSam to the child, before
sending to the gurukulam and hence, plays the
role of the AcArya. Because of this, lot of dis-
cipline is prescribed to the father since the
mantra upadeSa will have more effect only
when the upadeSa kartA has more merit! If the
fat her has not been performi ng t he
sandhyAvandanam etc. rituals regularly, at least
a few weeks before the ritual, he should re-
cite 1008 gAyatrIs every day along with the
There are so many preparatory rituals
prescribed such as nAndI SrAddham (to propi-
t i at e t he ancest ors) , udakaSAnti ,
puNyAhavAcanam (purificatory rites) etc. Also,
till now, the samskAras for the boy were done
by the father (jAtakarma, nAmakaraNa, etc.),
but now on, the child becomes responsible to
do all the rituals and so has to be purified.
Since this is considered a second birth,
in olden days, the child was asked to remain
si l ent i n a separat e room, symbol i c of
Since the AcArya is going to teach the
child, he keeps the child in his garbha, as it
were - for three nights - tam rAtrI: tisra: udare
bibharti ; and when the new brahmacArI is
born, all the devatas will come and be happy -
tam jAtam drushTum abhisamyanti devA: | yajnopavIta dhAraNam – wearing
of the sacred thread
After these preparatory rites, the actual
ritual begins. The first ritual is yajnopavIta
dhAraNam – wearing of the sacred thread.
UpavItam – is the one that is worn
For what purpose? yajnAya - for the sake
of performing yajnas – sandhyAvandanam,
devayajnam, pitruyajnam, etc. – or dedicating
all actions as yajna.
The following samkalpam is made when
the yajnopavItam is worn
°ll d¯Pld l¬lFd F¯l¯l¹ l°¯¯TPl ° ºl°¯l¯¯dl
lF°¯° P ª 7ld T: <l¹¬ °¯°
Who has initiated this?
¯Hlº¬íd º¹P ºl¬7 º Tlºd : ¯¯FFT
º ¹¯dld <l¯ ¯¯Pº ¯ º ldP T T ¹
¯Hlº¬íd ªØP¯d d T:
Thi s yaj nopavItam worn by ( born wi th)
Brahmaji Himself first – sahajam –indicates
bondage and the boy will now on be bound by
the veda niyamas. kumAra bhojanam – Joint meal
There is then another ritual known as
kumAra bhojanam – joint meal with other
brahmacArIs, friends etc. Then, vapanam
(shaving the head leaving the tuft) is conducted
which symbolizes the removal of all sins (hair
is symbolic of sins) followed by snAnam (bath-
ing). If the child has undergone the cUDA
karma earlier, this is only symbolic here.
19 samidh AdhAnam - Offering of
samidh to agni
Then a simple ceremony known as
samidh AdhAnam; the child dips a samidh in
ghee and offers to agni, praying him to be his
parent – pitA iva tvam raksha and also to give
him Ayushyam, Arogyam ca – long life, health
etc. – to fullfill his mission of doing vedic learn-
ing – veda adhyayanam. asmArohaNam - climbing on stone
Then asmArohaNam – standing on the
stone - ceremony is performed. The teacher
asks the boy to stand on a stone and recites
the following mantra – “be firm and strong like
this stone”
<lldº P <7Pl° <7Pl ¯¬ ¯¬ l¯°¹l ¹¬
Stone stands for strength and withstands any-
thing. The ritual is symbolic of not being af-
fected by the problems of life and to win over
all internal enemies. vastra dhAraNam – wearing of new
Prayers are offered to several devatAs –
to protect the physical body and the subtle
body (the mind) - such as, the deity respon-
sible for cotton; the deities for weaving etc.,
starting from the deity RevatI.
There are mantras recited during wear-
ing the cloth. All these are done while stand-
ing on the stone. Prayers are offered to give
the ability to protect others and oneself, for
long life, prosperity, and to share the earnings
with others etc. The cloth should be tied prop-
erly – the navel should not be exposed. The
dress can be up to the knee only or sometimes,
up to the ankle. brahmacarya lingAni – symbols of
the brahmacArI
There are several symbols to designate the
brahmacarya Asrama.
– MounjI mekhalA dhAraNam – wearing of
the girldle made of munjA grass around the
waist. Three strands of munjA grass are
braided and tied around the waist three
times clockwise.
– MekahlA is addressed as sister-deity and
mantra prays for protection of the body
(SarIra rakshA), for prANa-apAna balam (no
breathing problems etc.); saubhAgya
prApti: (for obtaining all auspiciousness);
tapas Sakti: (for ability to perform pen-
ance); freedom from enemies (internal and
external); freedom from selfishness etc.
– KrishNa-ajina-dhAraNam – wearing of
black deer-skin; mantras are recited and a
piece of deer-skin is tied to the thread
(though not supposed to be tied) – worn
while standing on the stone, with prayer
for tejas (brilliance), kIrti (fame), pushTi:
(nourishment) etc. Purification of the child – anjali-
In this ritual, the AcArya pours a handful
of water in to the hands of the student with
the recitation of mantras. When the water is
poured, it will fall down and the student will
sprinkle that water on himself. When the
AcArya holds the water, he invokes all his
mantra Sakti, tapas Sakti etc. and when it is
poured, he transfers all these Saktis to the
student, which wash off all the sins of the
student and render him pure.
During sprinkling, another mantra is re-
cited praying for a) the ability to observe
brahmacarya dharma in the gurukulam; b) no
misunderstanding between the teacher and the
student; c) healthy and happy life till the stu-
dent reaches the grihastASrama; d) for long life,
heal t h et c. e) and most i mport ant l y –
amrutatvam asya – for immortality – the goal
of life. The teacher faces east and the student
faces the teacher.
With these rituals, the student becomes
eligible to go ‘near’ the teacher and to receive
the initiation. AcArya varaNam – choosing the
First the deities, Surya, Agni, Soma are
invoked as the teachers. The AcArya holds
the hand of the child and recites mantras to
leave the child in the care of these deities. The
Sun god is supposed to say to the teacher to
take charge of the student in the name of these
deities. Now, the AcArya, as commanded by
the deities, will take the child near him.
¯ ¬¯¯¯¬l Fl¬d : º F¬ ¯º°¯
devasya tvA savitu: prasave upa naye
Since the AcArya uses the expression
upanaye – the ritual came to be known as
Having taken charge of the student, the
teacher prays for his welfare: “O, student, you
should come up very well, with good health,
brilliance, powerful and strong and should
have good children when you become a
Then, a dialog happens between the
teacher and the student:
S: brahmacaryam agAm … Now I have taken
brahmacaryam; I am willing to follow all disci-
plines, meant for studying the Vedas, as com-
manded by the Sun god.
T: kO nAmAsi? What is your name?
T: kasya brahmacArI asi? You belong to whom?
S: prANasya brahmacArI asmi – I belong to the
Then the teacher says, “I am ready to take you
- May you not have “apamrutyu (untimely
death)”, etc.
The teacher prays to the Sun god to guide the
student. upanayana homam, meant for prayers
to various deities, and the teacher asks for
various boons from each of these deities for
the student – for life, nourishment, strength,
health, digestion, motherly care, intellect etc.
Only after the student is prepared by these ritu-
als, he can be given the brahmopadeSam. BrahmopadeSam
The term brahma refers to Vedas.
– Before starting veda adhyayanam, one sym-
bolic mantra is taught which is the gAyatrI
– The gAyatrI mantra derives its name be-
cause it is set in the gayatrI meter – which
has 8 syllables per line (pAda) and has three
– It is also called sAvitrI mantra, after the
Sun god – the savitr devatA
Holding the feet of the AcArya, the student asks
– sAvitrIm anubrUhi – please teach me the
sAvitrI mantra.
Then the brahmopadeSam ritual is con-
ducted, with the mantra recited in the right
ear of the child – (gangA is supposed to be
present in the right ear); also the teacher, the
student and the parents are enclosed so that
this cannot be overheard. Since the upanayana
samskAra is considered as the second birth,
the enclosure also symbolizes garbhavAsam.
The teaching is done through a set procedure.
Then there are several other rituals like,
danDa dhAraNam (holding of the stick from
Palasa tree) – symbolic of the discipline that
the brahmacArI is supposed to follow; the child
prays for power of listening (since Vedas are
taught orally only) and is taught the mantras
in a particular format. He is asked to observe
things like a crow (kaaka-drushTi:); with at-
tention of a crane (baka-dhyAnam); never to
have deep sleep, like a dog (SvanidrA); meager
food (alpa AhAram); simple dress (jeerNa
vastram); These are called the characteristics
of the student (etat vidyArthi lakshaNam)
performed as one brief ritual, just before the
4.5 Conclusion of gurukula education
and returni ng back home –
The conclusion ceremony of the gurukula edu-
cation and the returning back to home, is
marked by a ritual known as avabhruta snAnam
– a bathing ritual, with special prayers,
prAyascittam etc. This is also coupled with a
few non-vaidika rituals like, shaving, trimming
nails etc. Several of the disciplines imposed
during brahmacaryam are also relaxed – for
example, the daNDa (stick), mekhala (belt made
of kuSa grass) are removed and certain luxu-
ries are allowed – like use of slippers, mirror,
perfumes, etc!!
One who has done the samAvartana ritual is
called snAtaka:. If he has done vedavratam and
avabhruta snAnam, he is called, veda-vrata-
Once he comes out of the brahmacarya ASrama,
he will enter in to the next ASrama, known as
grihasthASrama. He takes permission from the
teacher, does samAvartana snAnam, and
º ¹Tl <° Pd: ¯°l¯¬l FPl¬ ¯ll ¯°ll¬l¹
¯" F¯l"Tl ¹l¯l F¬Tl ØHTll¯¬dlP 11
One should not be without an ASrama at any
time; if so, prAyascittam has to be done; the
Sastras say,
<°l°lPí ° ldº ¯d HT TTPlº l"T:
<l°lP T l¬°l ldº° º l¯lU¯lí¯d °¹ :11
Since it is not practical to get married immedi-
ately after the samAvartana snAnam ritual (a
suitable girl has to be found; other logistics
have to be worked out etc.), this ritual was
kept pending. Once the marriage is fixed, then
this ritual was performed, mostly on the day
of marriage itself!!
This concludes one of the most important
samskAras, the upanayana samskAra and the
following educational samskAras. We will con-
tinue the discussion with the marriage ritual
– vivAha samskAra - in the next article.
Since this ritual marks a transformation
from a rAga-dvesha based life to a sAstra based
life, the brahmacAri is allowed to understand
the gravity of this change by observing cer-
tain behaviors such as, silence for three days,
eating less, sleeping on the ground etc. On the
fourth day, a small pujA is performed praying
for :
– SraddhA in Vedas, and
– MedhA Sakti – to study the Vedas by
heart – grahaNa-dhAraNa paThitvam – to
absorb and retain.
Then on, study of Vedas/SAstras is taken up
in the gurukulam.
4.4 Educational samskAras – catvAri
vedavratAni – Four vratas
To study the Vedas, the duration prescribed
is as follows:
1. All four Vedas – 48 years
2. Three Vedas – 36 years
3. Two Vedas – 24 years
4. One Veda – 12 years
Vedavratam is a worship to be done to the pre-
siding deity of the Vedas;
– For each veda, this may vary
– Let us take the example of yajurveda
o Has seven kANDas –sections
o Each section has a presiding Rishi,
known as kANDa Rishi:, and the sections
are named after them; they are:
1. prAjApatya kANDam
2. soumya kANDam
3. Agneya kANDam
4. vaiSvadeva kANDam
Before the beginning of the study of each of
these kANDas, and at the conclusion, a ritual
is performed to worship the presiding deity of
the respective kANDas. Since 8 worships are
involved – two per kANDa (at the beginning
and at the end), these rituals are also known
as ashTavratAni. After the performance of these
rituals, the study in the gurukulam is supposed
to be complete. Today, this practice is not fol-
lowed at all! They are all merged together and
olhei puNva harmas also vhich vill lead lo
JharmaprApti, puNvaprApti, cittaSuJJhi-prApti,
In addilion, aflei maiiiage, lhe peison vill
mainlain lhe hula Jharma, vhich has Leen
mainlained fiom lime immemoiial Ly lhe family
lineage and vill have lhe aLilily lo hand ovei lo
lhe nexl geneialion.
Since lhe enliie life vill Le lifled Ly lhese
noLle deeds, il is called uJvAha..
Since lhe Liide's falhei is giving avay lhe
daughlei ¦ hanvahAj as a gifl ¦JAnamj, lhe iilual
is called hanvahA-JAnam.
Since lhe maiiiage ceiemony is a holy, noLle
and sacied ceiemony, Lecause il leads lo Jharma
oi puNvam, il is called halvANam.
Fiom lhe veJAntic peispeclive also, lhe
grihasthASrama is an inevilaLle ASrama foi
developing cittaSuJJhi, maturitv, patience, a
polished peisonalily elc, vhich aie ialhei undei-
developed oi undeveloped in lhe case of a
Hence, all lhe foui leims, indicale lhe gloiy
of grihasthASrama. Il gives lhe ideal oppoilunily
lo seive all olheis, vhich is veiy unique foi lhe
¯°l ¬l¯ FPll°l¯¯ ¬d ¯d F¬ T¯d¬:
d°l ºF¯°Pll°l¯¯ ¬d ¯d F¬ <l°lPl: 1
(As all creations live based on the wind-god. in the
same way. all $VUDP,V survive based on the
In lhe pievious ailicle in Volume 5 No. 1&2
of Paiamaailha Tallvam, ve discussed one of
lhe mosl impoilanl samshAras, lhe upanavana
samshAra and lhe folloving educalional
samshAras. We vill conlinue lhe discussion vilh
lhe maiiiage iilual - vivAha samshAra - in lhis
ailicle. All lhe discussions aie Lased on liadilion
and sciipluies, some of lhem may nol apply lo
piesenl day silualions.
5. Mavviagc ÷ y|yAhu
This is lhe 14
in lhe lisl of samshAras and
iepiesenls lhe enliy in lo lhe second ASrama,
knovn as grihasthASrama.
5.1 Mcaning oI Ihc Icvm y|yAhu
The leim vivAha is used synonymously vilh
seveial olhei leims such as, uJvAha, hanvahA
JAnam, halvANam elc. The fiisl lvo leims,
namely, vivAha and uJvAha aie similai in lhe
folloving sense:
l¬TºT ¬Fld ¯ld l¬¬lF: ¦l¬T º T special ¦
So fai, lhe peison vas a single individual
vhose main ioL vas lo sludy only. Aflei
maiiiage, his life is nol isolaled any moie, Lul
'specially' inleilinked vilh anolhei life - 'yoked'
vilh anolhei life ¦symLolically a 'yoke' is used
duiing lhe maiiiage also!¦
T°¬ P ¬Fld ¯ld ¯"lF: ¦T°¬ P lifl ¦
\nlil maiiiage, lhe brahmacArí did nol have
any iighl ¦aJhihAritvam¦ lo peifoim any iiluals ¦
brahmacAriNa. harmaNi aJhihAra. nAsti ¦, he
should peifoim lhe sanJhvA-vanJana-harma
alone. Bul aflei maiiiage, he can peifoim all
Om, Sri Gurubhvo Namaha
Vaidika Samskaras (contd..,)
Dr. S. Yeguusubrumuu|uu
¦Sect|ous uuJ sub-sect|ous ure uumbereJ |u cout|uuut|ou from the prey|ous urt|c|eI
5.2 Purpose of Marriage
The puipose of lhe maiiied life can Le seen
fiomlhe poinl of vievof all lhe foui purushArthas
- namely, Jharma, artha, hAma and mohsha.
\nion of male and female follovs a naluial
inslincl leading lo lhe fulfillmenl of a
fundamenlal desiie. Hovevei, lhe human syslem
is highly analylical and evolved, and so, lhe
syslem changes such a hAma harma leading lo
lhe hAma purushArtha in lo a veiy dignified
The maiiied life involves pioleclion and
secuiily foi Lolh lhe pailneis Ly vay of shaiing
and caiing foi each olhei. Il also enaLles
acquisilion of veallh, and olhei iiches, lhus
fulfilling lhe artha purushArtha.
The veiy samhalpa laken al lhe lime of
maiiiage emphasizes on 'Jharma´ and 'prajA´ as
lhe piimaiy puipose. ¦¹P º Tl <l¹¬°¯° P ¦. The
samhalpa nevei emphasized hAma and artha al
all! In addilion, iighl fiomlhe lime of Liilh, eveiy
peison has indeLledness, namely, JevaBiNa
¦indeLledness lo lhe devas¦, BishiBiNa
¦indeLledness lo Bishis¦ and pitruBiNa.
¦indeLledness lo lhe anceslois¦ Among lhese, lhe
BishiBiNa can Le iemoved in lhe brahmacarva
ASrama also. Hovevei, lhe pitruBiNa is iemoved
Ly SrAJJha. ceiemonies elc., and, moie
impoilanlly, Ly having good childien ¦ º 7l¯º¯¯l
lºd TT ¦, vhich can Le accomplished in lhe
maiiied life only. Also, lhe JevaBiNa is iemoved
lhiough vajnas, vhich also can Le peifoimed only
Ly a grihastha. Since lhe maiiied life alone
enaLles one lo puisue lhese JhArmic endeavois,
lhe maiiiage fulfills lhe Jharma purushArtha also.
Fiom lhe mohsha purushArtha poinl of viev
also, maiiied life plays an impoilanl iole since,
il can lead lo cittaSuJJhi, viveha, vairAgva, mind
and sense conliol, maluiily elc. vhich aie
fundamenlal qualificalions lo puisue
jnAnamArga - vhich is lhe only vay lo allain
5.3 Choicc oI µavIncv
Choice of a suilaLle Loy oi giil, is Lased on
seveial consideialions:
a. CompaliLilily cannol Le assessed easily
Lecause, il is nevei possiLle lo knov lhe in-
deplh chaiaclei of an individual. If iudgmenl
of compaliLilily of lhe Loy and giil is Lased
on a fev lhings like chaiaclei, lasle lovaids
lhings, elc.,- il is suLiecl lo change and so is
lhe compaliLilily. In oui liadilion, ve
undeislood lhal peifecl compaliLilily is
nevei possiLle. Thal means, a maiiiage
should nevei depend on compaliLilily,
inslead, in spile of il, il should conlinue.
The syslem ilself looks foi compaliLilily
Lased on seveial olhei means, such as
hoioscope elc.
L. The choice should Le Lased only on Jharma,
artha and mohsha and nevei on hAma. The
emphasis is on Jharma and nol on physical
Leauly, veallh elc. Oui liadilion Lelieved
lhal a pooi Jhaarmic family is Lellei lhan a
iich aJhaarmic family.
c. Also, maiiiages veie aiianged Lelveen
people of lhe same varNa. This is Lased on,
essenlially, convenience since each varNa
follovs diffeienl liadilions and vay of life,
especially vilh ieligious piaclices.
d. Maiiiage Lelveen people of lhe same gotra
vas Laiied. Even medical findings do nol
iecommend maiiiage Lelveen close
ielalives. People Lelonging lo lhe same gotra
aie Lelieved lo Le fiom lhe same lineage.
e. Theie vas a lol consideialion given lo age
of lhe pailneis. The leim hanvahA JAnam
suggesls lhal lhe giil should Le a hanvahA.
Giils aie iefeiied Ly lheii age as follovs:
<º¬ºl ¹¬d ºl¹í - Age 8 *RZU,
°¬¬ºl d ¹llFTí - Age 9 5RKL1,
¯T¬ºl ¹¬d T¯¯l - Age 10 - NDQ\$
i.e marriages were perIormed about 10 years oI
age Ior the girl. II one can divide the whole liIe
(100 years) in to Iour parts. ~ the Iirst quarter oI
25 years is spent in JXUXNXODP. So one can say
that the marriage could be between the ages oI 10
to 25. It was recommended that the girl should be
younger in age than the boy. According to
ªlØlTl FlP¹PU ªlد7í l°PØl¯TP
¹l7l Hí¹l¯°¹lñdU <l¯¬lT: l¯° l¯°11
and lhe opposile Leing,
¬TlTl ºd¹PU ¬T¯7í º¯¬Øl¯TP
¹l7l ¯°¯¯°¹lñdU <l¯: HíT l¯° l¯°11
Also, eaily maiiiage enaLles easiei
adiuslmenl vilh lhe nev family.
5.4 Tyµcs oI Mavviagcs
Oui anceslois divided maiiiage Lioadly in
lo eighl calegoiies. They aie:
1. brAhma vivAha
2. prAjApatva vivAha
S. Jaiva vivAha
4. aarsha vivAha
5. gaanJharva vivAha
6. aasura vivAha
7. rAhshasa vivAha
S. paiSAca vivAha
Among lhese, lhe fiisl foui only aie accepled
Ly lhe Sastras. Among lhose lhal aie accepled,
brAhmavivAha is of lhe highesl piioiily, vhich
is in piaclice geneially in India, loday.
Lel us fiisl discuss lhose lypes of maiiiages
vhich aie nol appioved Ly lhe Sastras.
In lhis calegoiy, lhe voisl is lhe paiSAca
vivAha. This involves foiceful aLduclion of lhe
giil vilhoul lhe knovledge of paienls and
vilhoul lhe giil's consenl.
In rAhshasa vivAha., lhe giil is laken vilhoul
lhe knovledge of lhe paienls, Lul vilh lhe giil's
In Asura vivAha., lhe paienls agiee lo give
lhe giil avay in maiiiage in ieluin foi money oi
olhei veallh vilh a selfish molive.
In gAnJharva vivAha.,lhe Loy and giil love
each olhei and maiiy vilhoul lhe knovledge of
lhe paienls ¦i.e lhe gifl ilself valks avay!¦
All lhese foui kinds of maiiiages aie nol
alloved Ly lhe Sastras.
Among lhe lypes of maiiiages lhal aie
alloved Ly lhe Sastras, Jaiva vivAha. is one vheie
lhe falhei gels his daughlei maiiied lo a piiesl
foi peifoiming an vajna.
Arsha vivAha. is one vheie lhe falhei
ieceives maleiials ¦land, money, covs elc.¦ foi
peifoiming an vajna. Since lhe falhei gels some
lhing in ieluin, il is nol consideied hanvA JAnam.
In prAjApatva vivAha., condilions ielaled lo
lhe iighls of lhe prajA ¦piogeny¦ aie demanded
¦like lhal of Salyavali's falhei lo Bhishma¦.
ßrAhma vivAha is lhe ideal one vilhoul any
condilions and vilhoul expecling any maleiial
Lenefil in ieluin.
5.5 How did ´dowvy' comc in a mavviagc?
One of lhe evils of lhe Hindu maiiiage
syslem in piaclice foi quile some lime, is lhe
pioLlem of 'doviy' vheie money, maleiial elc.
aie demanded fiom lhe Liidegioom's side. Whal
vas said in lhe SAstras gol mulilaled ovei lime
and look lhe shape of lhis demonic piaclice.
Accoiding lo lhe SAstras, vhenevei any gifl
is given, gold ¦oi money¦ also should Le given
along vilh. Even vhen some one is fed vilh a
sumpluous meal, lhe SAstras suggesl a bhojana-
JahshiNA, lo Le given Lased on one's
affoidaLilily. Since lhe Loy is given lhe JAnam
of lhe giil duiing maiiiage, lhe giil's falhei gives
vhalevei he can as vara-JahshiNA. Whalevei
vas oiiginally meanl lo Le volunlaiy accoiding
lo lhe affoidaLilily of lhe Liide's falhei - vara
JahshiNA - gol mulilaled lo lhe leiiiLle piaclice
of doviy. In addilion, lhe paienls lhemselves,
oul of love of lheii child, give a lol of gifls lo lhe
Loy and lhe family, vhich aie called SríJhanam.
Whal vas oiiginally meanl lo Le given oul of
love, gol liansfoimed lo lhe leiiiLle piaclice of
demanding veallh and maleiials of all kind lalei,
undei lhe name of SríJhanam!
5.6. Maiiiage Biluals.
Mosl of lhe maiiiage iiluals aie cenleied
aiound lhe Liide. Mosl of lhe iiluals given heie
aie fiom a Soulh Indian - Tamil Biahmin
vedding. Even lhough some of lhe piaclices may
vaiy in lhe olhei pails of India and among olhei
communilies, lhe geneial spiiil undeilying a veJic
vedding is lhe same.
The maioiily of lhe mantras ieciled duiing
a vedding ceiemony could Le Lioadly divided
in lo lhiee gioups:
O foi puiificalion of lhe giil ¦Loy's puiificalion
ceiemony is lhe upanavanam¦ and lo fiee
fiom pioLlems
O as advice as lo lhe do's and don'ls aflei
O piayeis foi fuluie velfaie
Why puiify lhe Liide. Maiiiage ceiemony
foi lhe giil is similai lo lhe upanavanamceiemony
foi lhe Loy. Aclually, seveial of lhe iiluals like
maunjíbanJhana, asmArOhaNa elc. aie lhe same
as in lhe upanavana ceiemony. In case of
maiiiage, lhe guru is supposed lo Le lhe husLand
himself and lhe giil is in lhe place of lhe sludenl.
By nov, lhe Loy, vho venl lhiough lhe
puiificalion iiles duiing his upanavanam, should
have piacliced lhe ausleiilies of a brahmacArí
and Lecome eligiLle lo Le a guru ovei lhe yeais
¦liue in lhose days, al leasl!¦.
When lhe husLand is vieved as guru, il is
nol lo Le vieved as any supeiioiily oi infeiioiily
Leing poiliayed. Each one complimenls and
suppoils lhe olhei in seveial vays. Thal is vhy
lhe vife is called sahaJharmacAriNí. Hei
puiificalion oi citta-SuJJhi iesulls fiom hei
suppoil lo him in lhe conducl of lhe iiluals of a
grihastha and his citta-SuJJhi iesulls fiom lhe
sinceie peifoimance of lhe iiluals foi lhe velfaie
of his family. So, Lolh can Lecome eligiLle lo
ieach lhe final goal of AtmajnAnam.
Among lhe vaiious iiluals, some of lhemaie
of vaiJiha significance ¦as given in lhe sciipluies¦
and some of lhem aie of lauhiha signifcance
¦family liadilions / piaclices¦ vhich aie nol given
in lhe sciipluies. Aclually lheie is a saying:
vivAhe ca smaSAne ca vriJJhAnAm stríNAm ca
vacanam hurvu., vhich implies lhal, in malleis
of maiiiage, oi dealh, lake lo lhe sayings of lhe
eldei ladies of lhe family. Ceiemonies like
'nalangu', Lieaking of 'appaLam', paccahipodi
elc. ¦populai among lamil maiiiages¦, come
undei lhe caleigoiy of lauhiha ceiemonies.
The fiisl lauhiha iilual is lhe engagemenl
ceiemony oi niScava-tAmboolam. In lhis
ceiemony, lhe vAh-JAnam is given iegaiding lhe
offeiing of lhe giil lo lhe Loy. The pravaram of
lhe Loy and lhe giil aie given in an assemLly of
people of Lolh lhe families, and gaNapati pUjA
elc. aie peifoimed.
Anolhei laihiha ceiemony is lhe jAnuvAsas
ceiemony, vheie lhe Liidegioom is laken in a
ceiemonious piocession. ¦Theie aie vaiialions
of lhis piaclice in vaiious iegions¦
Nov on, ve vill discuss lhe aclual maiiiage
5.6.1 uuhurArpuNum - seeding - Nine diffeienl
giains ¦lenlils, pulses, giams elc.¦ aie sovn in
nine diffeienl clay pols vilh piayeis lo all deilies.
Il is a symLolic iilual, vhich implies lhal, as lhe
seeds giov, so may lhe maiiiage ielalion also
giov ovei lhe yeais lo come.
5.6.2 prut|surubuuJhu - lying of a sliing aiound
lhe viisl. In oidei lo piolecl lhe Loy and giil
fiom lhe influence of any evil foices, a sliing
made of gold, silvei oi moslly commonly, collon
lhiead, is vound aiound lhe viisl nine limes
vilh lhe chanling of mantras. This also seives lo
insulale lhem fiom any aSauca ¦impuiily¦ lhal
may aiise due lo a dealh oi Liilh in lhe family
5.6.3 yuruprEshuNum Aclually mosl of lhe
vedding mantras aie fiom lhe rigveJa. The
conlexl in lhe rigveJa vas lhe maiiiage Lelveen
survA, lhe daughlei of lhe Sun god and lhe Moon
god, Soma. The same mantras aie chanled loday,
piaying lo all lhe deilies foi a successful vedding
5.6.4 E×changc oI gav!ands. This is anolhei
lauhiha iilual vilh no mantras elc., Lul has a
Leauliful significance. The gailand of floveis is
symLolic of vAsanA - and slands close lo lhe
heail vhen voin. So, lhe Loy's gailand
symLolizes his vAsanAs and lhe giil's, hei
vAsanAs. If lhey slick lo each olhei's vAsanAs
only, even aflei lhe vedding, lheie vill Le no
ioom foi adiuslmenl and undeislanding al all.
By lhe exchange of gailands, each is expiessing
lheii villingness lo shaie and adiusl so lhal lhe
maiiiage slays foievei.
5.6.4 Thc Swing. This is anolhei lauhiha iilual.
The Loy and lhe giil sil logelhei on a vooden
plank - symLolic of lhe maiiied life. The sving
goes lhiough ups and dovns and so is life. Il is
lo ieassuie each olhei lhal lhey vill Le logelhei
in any such sving in ieal life. The chain of lhe
sving is symLolic of harma, vhich alone is
iesponsiLle foi lhe ups and dovns. The plank of
life vhich svings and changes, is connecled Ly
lhe shafl al lhe lop ¦fiomvhich lhe sving hangs¦,
vhich iemains slalionaiy and does nol change.
The shafl iepiesenls ßrahma vhich is lhe
ullimale suppoil.
5.6.5 huuyuhAJAuum - offeiing lhe giil. This
is lhe fiisl impoilanl iilual in a maiiiage. The
ieceivei, namely lhe Liidegioom, is consideied
as Loid Vishnu and so, lhe givei offeis lhe giil
vilh ísvara-arpaNa-buJJhi . Because lhe
Liidegioom is consideied as Loid nAravaNa, lhe
giil's falhei vashes his feel and makes lhe
folloving slalemenl:
T¯¯l T°TFº¯°l T°Tl¹¹T¹lºdl
¯l¯¯llP l¬¯T¬ d°¯ ª7lØlT lTºíº¯l
¦I offei lhe giil vho is endoved vilh gold,
veaiing gold oinamenls, lo you, lhe
MahAvishNu, foi me lo allain brahmaloha¦. A
linge of selfishness - lo allain brahmaloha is also
exhiLiled, even lhough lhis is a JAnam!
l¬7¬¹¹l: F¬ ¹dl: FllHT: F¬ ¯ ¬dl:
¯Pl T¯¯l º ¯l¯¯llP lºdTl dl¹Tl¯ ¯
í o//er this girl vith the vitness o/ all the beings anJ
all the Jeities, so that /through begetting chilJrenj,
the bov´s ancestors vill be protecteJ.
T¯¯ PPlº dl ¹¯l: T¯¯ P ¯ l¬ ºl7¬ d:
T¯¯ P F¬ dl ¹¯l: ¯¬ Tl°ld PlHPl¯°¯lP
O girl, come to mv /ront. to mv siJe. anJ all arounJ.
bv o//ering vou, mav í attain mohshaj. So, il vas
Lelieved lhal a grihastha also could allain mohsha
Ly piopei folloving of lhe ASrama.
All lhe aLove mantras aie ieciled Ly lhe giil's
falhei and lhe offeiing is done symLolically Ly
pouiing valei, holding a coconul, Ly lhe falhei.
The Liidegioom ieciles a fev mantras vhen
he ieceives lhe JAnam, seeking lhe help of lhe
deilies lo help him in piolecling lhe Liide and lo
lieal hei piopeily. Also, since lhe falhei-in-lav
is eldei lo him, if he piosliales lo lhe Loy, lhe
Loy's puNva vill deleiioiale and so, lhe Loy
keeps on ieciling seveial piayeis. Folloving lhis,
lheie is maJhuparha pUjA. In olden days, a cov
pUjA vas also done lo indicale lhe pioleclion of
5.6.6 yuru-eehshuNum The Loy vill look al lhe
giil and addiess hei vilh piopei allilude. The
Loy vill iequesl lhe giil lo have a kind look, lo
Le nice lo his siLlings, lo Le a souice of
auspiciousness, lo peifoim noLle aclions
logelhei, lo Legel voilhy childien elc. Tvo
impoilanl piayeis vill Le lo engage in noLle
harma and lo Legel good / noLle childien. By
gelling good childien, lhe indeLledness lo
anceslois could Le iemoved. The gioom vill
symLolically vipe Lelveen hei eyeLiovs lo
iemove any alahshmí, if piesenl.
The giil may ciy due lo lhe lhoughl of
leaving hei paienls. Since il is consideied
inauspicious lo ciy in such a happy occasion,
one mantra is chanled, iequesling lhe giil nol lo
ciy, lo lhink of posilive lhings in life, lo ask foi
Llessings, humilily elc.
5.6.7 F!ough - SymLolic of lvo Lulls connecled
Ly lhis vooden device, foi lhem lo voik
logelhei, foi accomplishing life's lask, Lolh lhe
husLand and vife should voik logelhei. This
iilual is Lased on a sloiy fiomlhe Big veJa, vheie
a giil named abalA had a ceilain disease and so
could nol Le maiiied. She piayed lo ínJra, vho
kepl lhe vheel of a chaiiol on hei head and kepl
lhe vooden shafl aLove il. He lhen pouied valei
ovei lhe giil lhiough lhe shafl and vheel, aflei
vhich she gol cuied. In maiiiages, lhis iilual is
peifoimed lo iemove any physical oi menlal
illness. A gold piece is kepl in lhe vhole of lhe
shafl foi puiificalion, vhich lalei is made inlo
mAngalvam. Aclually, lheie is no iefeience lo
mAngalvam in lhe Vedas. The idea of all lhese
iilualislic piayeis is foi lhe giil lo Le fiee fiom
any evil influence and lo slay heallhy.
5.6.8 uUtuuu-yustru-JhAruNum - veaiing nev
clolhes. The mantras aie similai lo vhal aie
ieciled duiing lhe upanavana ceiemony. The giil
veais nev clolhes vilh piayeis lo ínJra foi
heallh, auspiciousness, noLle childien, elc.
5.6.9 mAugu|yu-JhAruNum - lying lhe
mAngalvam oi mangala sUtram - This is lhe
second impoilanl iilual and nol a vaiJiha harma.
The folloving sloha ¦nol a veJa mantra¦ is ieciled
and a lhiead conlaining lhe gold mAngalvam, is
lied lo lhe neck of lhe Liide.
Plº¯¯d¯d°l° ° PP Tí¬°~F d°l 1
T°5 ª°°llP F¹º ¯¬ Tí¬ T¹¯: TdP 11
<° ° Plº¯¯d¯d°l Ly lhis mAngalva sliing
PP Tí¬°~F d°l vhich is my life-slienglh
Wilh lhal,
T°5 ª°°llP I lie on youi neck
F¹º O, sumangali
¯¬ Tí¬ T¹¯: TdP you live 100 yeais.
The Loy puls a knol, Loy's sislei and olhei
family memLeis pul lvo moie knols, amidsl lhe
chanling of mantras and lhe sound of musical
5.6.1U muuujee-buuJhuuum - lying a Lell of
munia giass. The nexl impoilanl iilual is lo lie a
Lell made of munia giass aiound lhe vaisl of
lhe Liide Ly lhe Liidegioom. This iilual is similai
lo lhe upanavana iilual, discussed in a pievious
ailicle. This is impoilanl since, having gol
puiified, lhe giil is led lo lhe fiie foi peifoiming
fiie ielaled iiluals only aflei lhis iilual.
5.6.11 pAN|gruhuNum - holding lhe hand -
Leading lo lhe fiie, lhe Loy addiesses lhe giil:
ºFl° º¯D ºFº¯°í (¹¬} Be my misliess
¬lT°í ¹¬ - Le one vho keeps lhe family undei
l¬¯° <l¬¯llF - give suggeslions lo peifoim
noLle harma
Beciling lhe aLove mantras, lhe Loy holds
lhe hand of lhe giil and leads hei lo lhe agni
huNDa. This iilual is mosl impoilanl since, lhis
is lhe fiisl lime, lhal lhe couple come in physical
conlacl. Theie aie lol of delails given as lo hov
lo hold lhe hand elc.
<°l¯¯ ¯lHT ° °í¯l F¯d ° ¯lHTP¯dl° F¯d
ºFí¯ld - By his iighl hand, lhe Liidegioomshould
hold lhe iighl hand of lhe giil, facing up,
including all hei fingeis. Accoiding lo
Apasthamba sutra,
¯l¯ TlP¯ d ¯7í¹ ¬ T°¯ ¯ ¯ld <TØí¹ ¬
º °Fí¯ld - if daughleis alone aie desiied, all fingeis
¦excepl lhe lhumL¦ should Le held,
¯l¯ TlP¯ d º F: T¬ T°¯ ¯ ¯ld <TºP ¬
º°Fí¯ld - if, male childien aie desiied, lhen, only
lhe lhumL should Le held. If childien of Lolh
gendeis aie desiied, all fingeis should Le held.
Al lhis lime, lhe Liidegioom seeks
peimission fiom lhiee deilies Lefoie laking lhe
giil, namely, 1. soma, 2. ganJhrava and S. agni.
Accoiding lo lhe Sastras, each slage in a giil's
giovlh and developmenl, is piesided Ly a
pailiculai deily.
Slage 1: 1 lo 4 yeais -soma. ¦moon god¦
Slage 2: 5-S yeais - ganJharva
Slage S: 9-12 yeais - -agni
Theie aie olhei piayeis also: To goddess
sarasvatí, foi auspiciousness, lo lhe vind-god,
vAvu, foi love elc.
5.6.11 suptupuJI ¦seven sleps¦ This is lhe mosl
impoilanl iilual in lhe maiiiage. Even if all olhei
iiluals aie aLiidged ¦as in lhe case of modein
day maiiiages !¦, lhis iilual should nol Le
skipped. Accoiding lo lhe Sastras
°l¯T ° ° ¬l¯l ¬l T¯¯l¯l: ºld¹¯¯d
ºllTº FTF ¯Tl¹ld ºld¯¬ F¯dP º¯ 11
° ¯¯T ° - nol Ly hanvA JAnam ¦giving valei¦
° ¬l¯l ¬l - oi nol Ly vAgJAnam - niScitArtham
one Lecomes a husLand - ºld.
ºllTº FT~F ¯Tl¹l°¯d¹P F¯dP º¯ T¬
ºld¯¬ ¹¬ld - Bul, aflei pANigrahaNam, only vhen
lhe 7
slep is done, one Lecomes a husLand.
Aflei lhe 7
slep, vhal happens.
Fiisl, lhe giil's gotra goes avay. She keeps seven
sleps along vilh lhe husLand. Each slep has a
piayei foi ideal maiiiage. All sleps have a
common ending expiession -
l¬¯T: ¯¬l <¯¬ d1 ¦Lel Vishnu come along vilh you
/ Lehind you¦
Slep 1: TT ¯º ~ l¬¯T: ¯¬l <¯¬ d - foi pioviding
food, lel Vishnu Le vilh you.
Slep 2: " TT ~ l¬¯T: ¯¬l <¯¬ d - foi giving physical
and menlal eneigy/ povei, lel Vishnu Le vilh
Slep S: 7ílT ¬ dl¯ ~ l¬¯T: ¯¬l <¯¬ d - foi lhe sake
of peifoiming vaiious ausleiilies, lel Vishnu Le
vilh you.
Slep 4: ¯¯¬ll¹ Pl¯l ¹¬l¯~l¬¯T: ¯¬l <¯¬ d - foi lhe
sake of happiness/peace of mind, lel Vishnu Le
vilh you.
Slep 5: ºT ºT°¯: ~ l¬¯T: ¯¬l <¯¬ d - foi lhe sake
of callle, veallh, piospeiily elc. lel Vishnu Le
vilh you.
Slep 6: ºT Td°¯:~l¬¯T: ¯¬l <¯¬ d - foi lhe sake of
lhe six seasons, lel Vishnu Le vilh you.
Slep 7: F¯d F¯d°¯:~Fl7l°¯:~l¬¯T: ¯¬l <¯¬ d foi lhe
sake of piiesls lo do iiluals, lel Vishnu Le vilh
Aflei saptapaJi lhe ielalionship is made fiim,
so, holding hei hand, lhe husLand addiesses hei:
~FOl F¯dº¯l ¹¬ FOl¯ F¯dº¯l ª¹¬1 Fiom lhis ve
have Lecome fiiends ¦indicaling shaiing of pain
and pleasuie¦
~FT¯ d ºP ¯ - I amenleiing in lo youi fiiendship.
~FT¯ld d Pl ¯lº - I vill nol go avay fiom youi
~FT¯ld P Pl¯lºl: - Fiom my fiiendship you also
do nol go avay.
~FP¯l¬ FT¯ºl¬F - Lel us make all plans logelhei
¦in life¦
~F lº ¯l - lel us Le loving
~FP°¯¯Pl°l - lel us have noLle lhoughls aLoul
each olhei
~F°l P°llF F¬dl - lel oui minds Le logelhei lo do
We should Le insepaiaLle. Some examples
aie given:
Tl¹F ºl°¬í ¯¬ - I am sky, you, lhe eailh
¹ dlTF ¹ dl¹d ¯¬ -I am seed, you, lhe land.
P°lTF ¬lT ¯¬ - I am mind, you, void.
FlPlF TT ¯¬ - I am sAma veJa, you, lhe
rig veJa.
F°d - O, lady of noLle voids,
ºF º7l¯, l°l¯ º7l¯ ¬¯d ¬ - lel us Legel
noLle / auspicious offspiings
This concludes lhe mosl impoilanl iilual in
lhe maiiiage, namely saptapaJí..
5.6.12 y|yAhu- homu - lhe maiiiage havan - This
is anolhei impoilanl fiie iilual in vhich seveial
ilems aie piayed foi vilh sixleen manlias, such
as, vife's vell-Leing, childien, heallh, fieedom
fiom exleinal foices, desliuclion of all sins, elc.
Some aie also iepelilive. Il is also cuslomaiy lo
go aiound lhe fiie. Folloving aie some of lhe
impoilanl manlias:
º ¯d: P ¯ll d ° <P d: - Lel hei cul off lhe
ielalionship fiom lhal family, Lul nol fiom my
FªTl <Pd: T¹d - Lel hei Le fiim
Pl d ºF l°lT Hlº: - Lel lheie nol Le any noisy
scenes in lhe house
¯¬d ¹¯¯¯: <¯¯7 Fl¬T¯d - Lend youi ciying povei
lo someone else
Pl ¯¬ l¬T Tí - Lel youi haii nol Le unlied
5.6.13 usmArOhuNum - slepping on a slone -
A symLolic iilual, vheie lhe Liide slands on a
slone and lhe manlias aie similai lo lhe ones
used in lhe upanayana ceiemony foi lhe Loy.
5.6.14 |Aju hOmu: - havan vilh puffed iice.
This iilual is done Ly lhe Liide, and lhe Liide-
gioom ieciles lhe manlias on hei Lehalf. Puffed
iice is offeied lhiough lhiee manlias, and aflei
each, go aiound lhe fiie and slep on lhe slone,
piaying foi long life, childien, Leauly, heallh,
desliuclion of enemies, love foi husLand's
family, haimony elc.
5.6.15 putuI uuyuuum - laking lhe Liide lo lhe
husLand's house. The husLand makes hei feel
comfoilaLle, assuies hei of hei iole as lhe queen
of lhe family and all ils memLeis. Theie aie
piayeis foi a safe iouiney lo lhe husLand's house.
Then upon ieaching lhe house, lhe husLand asks
hei lo look al all lhal she Lioughl vilh hei fiom
hei house and all lhal is in his house vilh an
equal senlimenl elc.
5.6.16 gr|hu pruyeSu - enleiing in lo lhe house.
The Liide enleis lhe house placing hei iighl fool
fiisl. A pailiculai homa called praveSa homa is
peifoimed. Il conlains aLoul 1S mantras piaying
foi long life, heallh, happiness, auspiciousness,
childien, piospeiily elc. Then he asks hei lo lake
lhe iesponsiLilily of lhe family.
5.6.17 Jhruyu - uruuJhutI JurSuuum - seeing
lhe slais Jhruva and arunJhatí. Jruva - arunJhatí
JarSanam.. This iilual occuis in lhe nighl, vhen
she asks him lo see lhe slai, Jhruva, symLolic of
sleadiness and he asks hei lo see lhe slai
arunJhatí symLolic of chaslily.
Then lvo moie fiie iiluals knovn as Agneva-
sthAlípAham and aupAsanam aie peifoimed.
These aie supposed lo Le nitva-harmas foi lhe
Wilh lhis, lhe iiluals lo Le peifoimed on lhe fiisl
lhiee days of lhe vedding aie concluded. Then,
one of lhe mosl impoilanl fiie iiluals, knovn as
Sesha homa is peifoimed on lhe fouilh day. \nlil
lhis lime, lhe gioom has lo oLseive brahmacarva
disciplines. This iilual involves a fev mantras,
piaying foi lhe iemoval of sins, enemies elc. Al
lhe end lhe giil addiesses lhe Loy lhus:
P°Fl ¯ lTdl° ¯¬l <º7¯P - I am seeing you as a
peison vho vill undeisland my feelings.
dºFl Tld - You aie Boin oul of tapas,
dºF: l¬¹d - gloiy of tapas
So, lhe iespecl Lecomes mulual. If he ill-lieals
hei, il is Lelieved lhal he vill Le Loin as a giil
foi seven Liilhs! And says,
º Tl¯¯¬ º T¯l º 7 TlP - 'May you Legel childien
lhiough me' Lul puls il in a Leauliful vay as,
"may you Le Loin as my child". The ideas is lhal,
lhe husLand enleis lhe vife lhiough
garbhAJhAnam and is Loin as lhe child! Then he
piays foi lhiee lhings:
1. °l 7¯¯ll° FP T¯d - Lel oui heails Lecome one
- uniled.
2. º Tlºd ~d¯¬ P Tº¯¬ ¯¬º: ¯ ¬ l¹: FFFlP: ¯¯¯ : 1
Lel lhe divine caipenlei, tvashTa shape lhe
Lody of lhe child and lel inJra give slienglh.
S. T °l ¹¬ l"º¯ T ¯d¯º¯ - Lel my vife have
noLle ielalionship vilh lhe pipeds and
quadiupeds of lhe house.
garbhAJhAnam is lo Le done only aflei lhis. The
husLand fiisl piays lo soma, ganJharva and agni
vho veie guaiding hei all lhese days and seeks
lheii peimission lo assume guaidianship of hei.
Then a iilual lo seek lhe Llessings of lhe anceslois
- nAnJí SrAJJham is peifoimed Ly lhem. The
ceiemonies conclude vilh gifls lo piiesls and
olheis folloved Ly Llessings Ly lhe eldeis elc.
This concludes one of lhe mosl impoilanl iiluals.
We vill discuss lhe iemaining iiluals in lhe nexl
Souvcc MaIcvia!:
1. Hindu Samskaias, BaiLali Pandey, Molilal
Banaiasidass, Delhi, 199S.
2. The Book of Samskaias, Piema Basa Dasa,
Bhakli Vedanla Book Tiusl Inleinalional,
S. Lecluies Ly Svami Paiamailhananda,
4. vajurveJívaApasthamba pUrvapravoga- Ly
"annA", Bhavani Book Cli., Madias.
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
Paramaartha Tattvam, we discussed one of the
most important samskAras, the vivAha
samskAra, which is the fourteenth samskAra of
the forty-one samskAras mentioned in the first
article of this series (Paramaartha tattvam, vol. 4
No. 1, Jan-Mar 2002). We will continue the
discussion with the rest of the samskAras in
this article. All the discussions are based on
tradition and scriptures; several of them are
seldom in practice these days.
The samskAras after vivAha are not popular
today. As was noted earlier, the vivAha
samskAra is the 14
samskAra. There are 26
more samskAras which are highly ritualistic.
However, for the sake of completeness, we
will outline them briefly in this article.
The remaining 26 samskAras can be broadly
classified in to four categories:
1. panca-mahA-yajnas 5
2. sapta-pAka-yajnas 7
3. sapta-havir-yajnas 7
4. sapta-soma-yajnas 7
Total 26
6. panca-mahA-yajnas : There is a nice sloka
which gives all the five mahAyajnas.
i. Learning in brahma-carya
ASrama and teaching in grihastha –ASrama,
to maintain the guru-Sishya paramparA, is
prescribed. If cannot teach, one should
perform a ritual at least, known as
brahmayajna, which is a nitya karma.
ii. Performance of tarpaNa
during amAvAsya etc. occasions, to worship
the ancestors.
iii. - Offering oblations to devatas like
Indra, agni, varuNa etc in hom, to express
our gratitude to the natural forces and seek
their blessings.
iv. - bhUtayajna – or vaiSvadeva – to
protect birds and animals.
v. - Respect for other
humans in society.
PancamahAyajna is a very important samskAra
for a grihastha.
As mentioned above, three groups of seven
yajnas each are also prescribed as part of the
forty samskAras. All these are fire-rituals and
are very seldom done these days. Before
discussing these twenty one rituals, it is useful
to understand a few details.
During the vivAha samskAra, a particular fire
ritual known as vivAha homa is performed.
That vivAha-homa-agni is supposed to be
preserved till a person dies or takes to
sannyAsa. All the above mentioned 21 yajnas
are to be performed in that agni alone. (At the
time of sannyAsa, the person renounces all
karma and gives up all agnis, and so is called
The grihastha is supposed to perform a nitya
karma known as aupAsana, twice a day, in that
agni (This ritual can be considered as a
replacement of samidh AdhAnam.). The same
agni is used for all the later samskAras of the
children – upnayana, vivAha etc. – and other
karmas, like SrAddha etc. When the son gets
married, the father’s vivAha agni goes to the
son, and so, is supposed to be maintained
Since these agni samskAras are connected with
the well being of the family, it is called grihya
agni. This will vary from family to family; for
example, for Rigvedis, it is prescribed by the
AswalAyana grihya sutras; for yajurvedis, by the
Apasthamba griya sutras; for sAmavedis, by the
gobila griha sutras etc. These rituals are not
given in Sruti (the Vedas), but prescribed by the
Rishis in grihya sutras – from smritis. Since
rituals prescribed in the smritis are performed
in this agni, it is also called smArta agni, grihya
agni, aupAsana agni etc.
It is in this smArta agni, the first set of seven
pAka yajnas are performed.
7. sapta- pAka-yajnas :
These involve the offering of cooked grains in
the form of a gruel, and are done at different
times, and frequencies:
i. sthAlI pAkam – twice a month
ii. pArvaNam - once a month
iii. ashTakA – once a year
iv. caitrI, - once a year
v. AsvayajI – once a year
vi. SrAvNI - 4 months in an year –
(August to November).
vi. AgrahAyaNI - conclusion of SrAvaNI
once a year.
Immediately after vivAha, the first of the seven
pAkayajnas, namely, sthAlIpAka, is intitiated.
As was mentioned earlier, the vivAha agni is
also known as smArta agni. This agni is
maintained in a circular kuNDa. A portion of
this agni is taken to perform vedic rituals –
srauta karmas – and is called srauta agni. The
fourteen yajnas, namely the sapta-havir-yajnas
and sapta-soma-yajnas, which are prescribed in
the Vedas, are performed in the srauta agni,
which should be preserved all the time.
Elaborate procedures are given regarding the
use of this agni for the performance of the 14
rituals. The yAgSAla is also known as a
“devayajna”. The kalpa-sutras contain a
description of it, not omitting minute details.
There are altars called “cayanas” to be built
with bricks. (There are no cayanas for havir
and pAkayajnas. ) Several kinds of ladles are
used in making offerings in the fire, “tarvi”,
“sruk” and “sruva” etc.
The srauta agni is like the master of the griha –
the grihapati - is supposed to protect from all
calamities etc. and so is called the gArhapatya
agni This is divided in to three, before the
ritual. On the eastern side, a square kuNDa is
established and a portion of the gArhapatya
agni is transferred. There are prescriptions
regarding the size of the kuNDa, the size of the
bricks etc. This agni is called Ahavaneeya agni.
On the southern side of the gArhapatya agni
another kuNDa – semicircular in shape – is
established. Another portion of fire from the
gArhapatya agni is transferred to this kuNDA
and is called dAkshiNAgni:
srauta agni
Ahavaneeya gArhapatya dAkshiNA
agni agni agni
Since the smArta agni is never divided, it is also
called ekAgni, and, since the srauta agni is
divided in to three, it is also called tretAgni.
Most of the srauta rituals are done in the
Ahavaneeya agni. No ritual is actually done in
the gArhapatya agni and is only a witness. After
the performance of the ritual, the Ahavaneeya
agni and dAkshiNAgni are joined back in to
gArhapatya agni.
When a person dies, his cremation is
performed using the srauta agni. The smArta
agni is preserved for the wife. When the
husband dies first, he will use up the srauta
agni, and the smarta agni will be used to
cremate the wife, which is supposed to give
her svarga loka. If the wife dies first as a
sumangali, part of the srauta agni will be used
for her, which is believed to give her brahma
loka. One should remember that these rituals
are prescribed in the karma kANDa, only for
those who are not jnAnis!
8. sapta-havir-yajnas
Thses are supposed to be performed in the
Ahavaneeya agni. The seven yajnas are:
i. agni AdhAnam - Division in to three; this
division itself is a ritual; done only once. It
has to be maintained. If it goes off,
prAyascittam is to be done!
ii. agnihotra – a daily ritual
iii. darSa-pUrNa-mAsa performed twice a
month – on amAvAsya and poorNimA days
iv. AgrayaNa – once a year. - The above 4
rituals are small rituals, done, mostly,
within the house.
v. cAturmAsya – different from what
sannyAsIs observe. This ritual is performed
three times in an year, once every four
vi. nirUDha-paSubandha –The 6
and the 7
rituals are done in a very big scale,
generally, once an year, outside the house.
vii. sautrAmanI once a year. The last three
haviryajnas - cAturmasya, nirudhapa-
Subandha and sautrAmani - are performed
in a yAgasAla.
9. sapa-soma-yajnas
In these yajnas, soma juice is offered with the
chanting of sAma veda in high pitch. All are
very big yajnas and are done outside the house,
for the benefit of the entire country. The seven
yajnas are:
i. agnishtoma or jyotishtoma
ii. atyagnishtoma
iii. uktyam
iv. shoDasI
v. vAjapeya
vi. atirAtra
vii. AptoryAma
It is generally observed that one does aupAsana
and agnihotra daily, and the rest, at least once
in a life time.
During vivAha, the first smArta yajna, namely,
sthAlI pAka, and the first srauta yajna, agni
AdhAna are initiated. Among the 21 yajnas, the
seven pAka yajnas are done in smArta agni and
the remaining 14 are done in srauta agni, till
death or till becoming a sannyAsI!
As already mentioned, the daksiinAgni and the
Ahavaniyaagni are made from the
gArhapatyAgni. When srauta rites for the
fathers have been performed in the
dakhsinAgni and other srauta rites in the
AhavaniyAgni, the two fires no longer have the
exalted name of “srautAgni” and are just like
any other ordinary fire and they have to be
extinguished. Only the gArhapatya and
aupAsana fires are to be kept burning
On every prathama (first day of the lunar
fortnight), a pAkayajna and a haviryajna have to
be performed in the grhyAgni and srautagni
respectively. The first is called sthAlipAka.
“Sthali” is the pot in which rice is cooked and it
must be placed on the aupasana fire and the
rice called “caru” cooked in it must be offered
in the same fire. The rite that is the basis of
many others (the archetype or model) is called
“prakrti”. Those performed after it, but with
some changes, are known as “vikrti”. For the
sarpabali called sravani and the pAkayajna
called agrahayani, sthAlipaka is the prakrti.
The haviryajna performed on every prathama is
“darSa-pUrNa-ishTi”, “darSa” meaning the new
moon and “pUrNa” the full moon. So the
“ishTis” or sacrifices conducted on the day
following the new moon and the full moon (the
two prathamas) are together given the name of
darSa-pUrNa-ishTi. The two rituals are also
referred to merely as “ishTi”. This is the prakrti
for haviryajnas.
For soma sacrifices “agnistoma” is the prakrti,
the word “stoma” also meaning a sacrifice.
One who performs an elaborate sacrifice like a
somayajna is called a “yajva”, “eeikshita” or
“makhin”. And one who conducts the greatest
of the somayajnas, vaajapeya, is known as a
“vaajapeyin”. Sacrifices are called variously
“kratu”, “makha”, “ishti”, “stoma”, “samsta”.
There are some difference between these.
The person who performs the yajna is called
the yajamana and those who perform the
sacrifice for him are called rtviks (priests) who
consist of the hota (Rg veda priest), adhvaryu
(yajurveda priest) udgAta (sAma veda priest) and
brahmA (atharva veda priest)
In pAkayajnas there are no rtviks; the
householder (as the yajamAna) performs the
rites with his wife. In haviryajnas there are four
rtviks and the yajamAna. But the udgAta’s place
is taken by the agnidhra. The udgAta is the one
who sings the sAman. It is only in somayajnas
that there is sAmagAna, not in haviryajnas. In
cAturmasya and pasubandha there are more
than the usual number of priests
In somayajnas, there is the full complement of
priests - the hota, the adhvaryu, the udgAta and
the brahmA. Each priest is assisted by three
others. So in all there are sixteen priests in a
somayajna. agnistoma which is the first of the
seven somayajnas is the prakrti (archetype) and
the other six are its vikrti. These six are:
atyagnistoma, uktya, soDasi, vaajapeya, atiraatra
and AptoryAma.
In the old days a Brahmin used all his wealth
in performing the somayajna. Much of this was
spent in dakshiNa to the priests and the rest for
materials used in the sacrifice. There was also
a time when even poor Brahmins performed
this sacrifice every spring ( “ vasante vasante “)
by begging! A Brahmin who conducted the
sacrifice every year was thus called “prati-
10. Final samskAra – antyeshTi
The final samskAra after death (obviously
performed by the son or other near relative), is
antyeshTi – antya ishTi –final yAga.
The individual offered so many things during
the 40 rituals all through the life. Finally, the
body itself is offered to the agni.
It is believed, that, after death, if the person
has to get a better life in the next janma, the
person should be purified of all sins and the
fire does the purification.
The cremation is not performed for sannyAsI,
essentially for two reasons:
i. At sannyAsa, the person has given up agni
ii. the sannyAsa ASrama itself is a great fire of
purification and so agni samskAra is not
needed. If the person happens to be a
jnAni also, there is no need for any
samskAra – no question of reaching higher
loka etc.
For the three Asramas, dahanam etc. rituals are
done; and
for, sannyAsIs, nothing is to be done as
Not only that, there is no one need to do karma
for him, and he never does karma to any one.
Why? Because a jnAnI is akartA!
All the samskAras are needed only when one
depends on something or some body for
purification. When the jnAnI himself or herself
if pure, the jnAna agni will remove all
From the hygiene point of view, cremation
seems to be a good choice to destroy germs etc.
which may affect others.
At the time of death, the person is supposed to
remember God. If cannot, others recite God’s
names, Gita, Upanishad etc.
Giving gifts – dAnam – is considered very
noble and sacred; is done immediately after
death, by others.
Near the dead-body, certain rituals are
performed, including a homa, as a prayer and
for the safe journey of the subtle body. The son
takes the srauta agni; the cremation ground is
purified; there are rules regarding the type of
wood; the body is bathed and new dress is put
on – symbolic of leaving this body as a old
cloth and taking on another body as a new
cloth. Several mantras are recited for the
various limbs to go back to the corresponding
total divinities – the eyes will go back to the
Sun God; the ears will go back to the
directional deities etc. The day following
cremation, the bones are collected –
sancayanam karma- and thrown in to the river.
An elaborate ritual lasting 13 days is
performed. GaruDa purANa is recited so that
the departed soul will be guided by the proper
devatAs and reach the proper desitination.
Rituals are performed for 12 days to develop
various organs: For example,
day Development of body, head
day sense organs, brain, etc
day Loses its preta status
day prayer for the well being of the
jiva in the next janma
day the jiva to join the pitr loka
- sapinDIkaraNam – the term
piNDa (rice ball) symbolizes
Sareeram– which is merged with
the ancestors.
If the person has done puNya
himself or herself, he/she will
attain good janma; if not, the
rituals are supposed to enable
getting one.
day forget the past; start with an
auspicious note – Subham
On the 13
day, the asaucam (or uncleanliness)
is believed to go away. There are essentially
two aspects regarding asaucam:.
1. From the medical stand point – germs etc.
are likely to be with the intimate visitors,
who are essentially close relatives; like a
quarantine, the spreading is minimized.
grihya sutras also give a lot of details.
2. Mental shock and du:kham remain. With
frustration and sorrow, a person will have
only dislike and so is given time to get
over that.
However, there are some exceptions for
asaucam – for example, brahmacarIs, sannyAsIs,
and one, in the midst of an yAga, even if a
grihastha, do not have asaucam.
Our scriptures have prescribed these
samskAras to facilitate a person to attain the
eight great virtues – Atma guNas, which are:
1. - Compassion, sensitivity to others etc.
2. patience, forbearnce, capacity to face
provoking situations without getting
3. absence of jealousy
4. purity internally and externally
absence of tension / anxiety
6. absence of miserliness or
7. absence of attachment
8. auspiciousness /
Absolute requires Atma-jnAnam. But one
can get relative quietitude through the practice
of these. When a person is endowed with the
above AtmaguNas, he becomes an adhikArI –
the eligible – for vedAnta and for the ultimate
knowledge. Endowed with the Knowledge, the
person has no worry about next life, krama
muktI, svarga loka etc. Such a person is pUrNa:
and lives with the awareness aham brahma
asmi. Thus the samskAras lead to AtmaguNas
which give adhikAritvam to gain Knowledge
which gives liberation – moksha. If a person
does not get the AtmaguNas in this life, with
the antyeshTi samskAra, it is hoped that one
will get them in the next life!!
This concludes a cursory discussion of all the
41 vaidika samskAras.
Source Material:
1. Hindu Samskaras, Rajbali Pandey, Motilal
Banarasidas, Delhi, 1998.
2. The Book of Samskaras, Prema Rasa Dasa,
Bhakti Vedanta Book Trust International,
3. Lectures by Swami Paramarthananda,
4. Hindu Dharma, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan

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