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16 Sanskar (Hindu)

Dharma preaches that the purpose of human birth is God-realisation. The religious scriptures therefore impart guidance on how to undertake spiritual practice so as to be able to get closer to God in every incident of life, right from birth till death. Life span from birth till marriage completes one cycle. A similar cycle is completed from the birth of a son/daughter to his/her marriage. This goes on generations after generations. These articles imparts knowledge on what sanskars should be performed to get closer to God in the sixteen rituals in life from conception to marriage. These sanskars later help in improving spiritual practice.

1. Grabhaadhan: Conception
2. Punsavana: Fetus protection
3. Simanta: Satisfying wishes of the pregnant Mother
4. Jaat-Karmaa: Child Birth
5. Naamkarma: Naming Child
6. Nishkramana: Taking the child outdoors
7. Annaprashana: Giving the child solid food.
8. Mundan or Choula: Hair cutting.
9. Karnavedh: Ear piercing
10. Yagyopaveet: Sacred thread
11. Vedarambh: Study of Vedas and Scriptures
12. Samaavartana: Completing education
13. Vivaah: Marriage
14. Sarvasanskaar: Preparing for Renouncing
15. Sanyas (Awasthadhyan): Renouncing
16. Antyeshti: Last rite, or funeral rites

1. Garbhaadhan
(Conception) To produce a good child, its mother and father should have pure thoughts and observe the rules of Shastras. God characterizing parents are necessary for bringing up a good child in the world.

2. Punsavana

Brahaspati says that the rite should be performed before the baby begins to grow and move in the womb. The word Punsvana occurs in Atharvaveda, where it is used in the literal sense of “giving birth to a male child:. The word “male means soul. The Punsavana is used for welcoming the great sould. This is also called “Garbharakshan”. Garbharakshana is performed to assure that the infant is not miscarried.

3. Simanta
This ceremony should be performed in the fourht month of pregnancy, in the fortnight of waxing moon, when the moon is in conjunction with a Nakshatra that is regarded as “male” or auspicious. A Puja is performed for purification of the atmosphere and as an offering to God for the peace of mother and infant, for giving birth to a peaceful and holy child. This rite is primarily social and festival in nature, intended to keep the pregnant woman in good spirits. The pregnant woman gets gifts of rice and fruits from seven ladies. Kumkum is applied on her cheek to keep her happy so that the child will be affected by her happiness.

At the time of pregnancy, due to harmonic fluctuation / changes, a woman has to go through the discomfort stage of life, which may cause emotional imbalance. She should have patience and try to increase her power of moral understanding. She will have a child reflecting the same kind of thoughts she had during pregnancy. After becoming a mother, she is responsible for assuring that her child will be mentally and physically healthy and vigorous. Ashtabakra and Abhinamy heard stories about truth from their father when they were in the womb of mother.

A future mother should have good thoughts at all times. She should place Picture of ‘Balgopal’ or ‘Laddu Gopal’ in her home. She should read the Gita and other scruptures in addition to performing her daily work and should avoid thrilling books and movies.

During Solar and lunar eclipses, a woman should not use any kind of weapons. During normal times, she should avoid violent thoughts. Her husband should help keep her peaceful and cheerful.

4. Jaat-Karm
Jaat-karma performed on six or after 11 days from the birth of a child, is for the purification of the house. This is done in order to keep a child in a clean atmosphere where he may not incur any physical or mental problems. It is also called Shashthi. Goddess Shashthi is the protector of children. Jaat-karma is followed with Grah Puja, Homa.

5. Naamkarn
(Naming) Soemtime Jaatkarma and Naamkarma are performed together. This ceremonyu is performed to give a sacred name to the child, assigned according to the 212 divisions of 27 Nakshatra and the position of the moon at the time of child’s birth. An appropriate name is given to the child according to the star of birth, and the first letter of the name is taken from the Hora Shatra.

6. Nishkraman
(Taking the child out of the house) This ceremony is performed on or after 40 days, but some scruptures allow it at the time of naming ceremony. The child must be blessed with the holy water and Surya Darshan, with the prayer, “salutation to you, Oh divine Sun, who has hundreds of rays and who dispels darkness, may you bring the brightness in the life of the child”.

7. Annaprashana
(Making a child eat cooked food for the first time) Most of the Smrities prescribe it the sixth month from birth, when the child first develops teeth. Anna is considered as one of the main reasons to make a person commence the good or bad things. The body is made of chemicals, therfor, the kinds of chemical, we put in our bodies will bring out their effect. Sweet porridge or rice pudding can be given to the chiled if parents are desirous of nourishment, holy luster, swiftness, or splendor. One of them with curd, honey and ghee is given it to the child while reciting Prasad Mantras.

8. Mundan or Choul
Also known as ‘Mundan’. The first time cutting of hair on the child’s head. Chura means the lock of tuft of hair, kept on the head when the remaining part is shaved (i.e. the Shikha). The ceremony is to be performed on an auspicious day after the age of one year. This ceremony is performed for the development of power better understanding, and for long life. The hair must be disposed of at holy places where no one can find the.

9. Karnavedh
(Piercing the child’s ear lobes). With the commencement of Surya Puja; the father should first address the right ear of the child with the mantra “Oh God may we hear bliss with our ears”, performed so that child may listen to good things and to have a good education.

10. Yagyopaveet (Sacred Thread)
The sacred thread ceremony is very significant in the life of a Hindu man. This ceremony initiates the child into an intellectual and spiritual journey. The mother gives birth to the child; this is natural birth. However, when the Guru initiates him by giving Gayatri mantra, this prayer for Buddhi is considered a second birth of the child. tHis ceremony is known also as Upnayan, ‘the sacred vision’ or ‘new vision’, the vision to se things in a proper way and to know ‘wrong’ and ‘right’. Therefore, Upnayan is essential to handle household life.

‘Yagyopaveet’ (sacred thread) indicates that the child is qualified to perform all the traditional Vedic rites including Pitra Kriya and Tarpan for his forefathers.

Yagyopaveet symbolizes three formes of one supreme being, Satoguna Brahma (the creator), Rajoguna Vishnu (the sustained) and Rajoguna Shiva (the destroyer). The knot is called Brahma-Knot, the Lord who controls these three faces of nature. It also symbolizes the three duties for three debts.

(i) Pitra: Debt of parents and ancestors,
(ii) Manushya: Debt of society and humanity,
(iii) Dev: Debt of Nature and God. The twist in the thread symbolizes strength and honesty.

Gayatri Mantra is given to the child who promises to lead a good human life as per the rules of Dharmashastra.

O! God Fiver of birth and life, the dispeller of ignorance, and bestower of light, we meditate upon thee. O creator of ours! The most worthy and acceptable almighty, nay you inspire and lead our mind and intellect.

Gayatri Mantra is simple prayer to the Sun God to brighten the intellect. The sun represents the creator of the Earth, God. Just as we bathe our body to keep clean every day, so must we bathe our mind with the Gayatri prayer, to keep our mind ever pure, ever inspired. Gayatri Mantra is so powerful that it can destory all negative forces.

The ceremony has six parts: –

Puja: worshipping the Gods,
Havan: sacrifice,
Shiksha: teaching the morality and duties in life,
Bhiksha: begging as a renounced Brahmchari of Gurukula. Teacher’s teaching has made him renounced minded that he has accepted a life of Vairagee,
Diksha: giving the most sacred Gayatri Mantra to the child, and
Blessings: child is bless by all Gods, Goddesses, ancestors, and elders

11. Vidhyaarambha
(Commencement of learning of the alphabet) On the third or fifth year, when Choula is performed, this important ceremony can take place. the Brahman or teacher should start teaching the first lesson after worshipping Saraswati, the Goddess of learning.

12. Samavartan
(Taking the ceremonial bath after finishing Vedic study and returning from the teacher’s house) After learning the rules of life he returns home from his Teacher’s Ashram. When he completes his education about and religion the law of life, his first Ashram Brahmacharya is complete. He is now eligible to enter into the householder stage, and considered a qualified man to get married.

13. Vivah (the marriage)
Vedic Hindu marriage is viewed as sacramental, which is a lifelong commitment of one wife and one husband. It is the strongest bond between a man and a woman, which takes place in the presence of their parents, relatives, and friends. This an errevocable commitment for a lifetime.

For a Hindu, marriage is the only way to continue the family, and thereby repay, his debt to his ancestors. The most important thing is that all the Hindu God and Goddesses are also united in this. Marriage is for spiritual growth and a way of learning many things in life through experiece. In other words, it is a perfect way of following the holy law of the Creator. There are eight ways of getting married. They are:

1. Brahmaa: Kanyadan performed by holy parents
2. Daiva: Kanyadan by God-fearing parents
3. Aarsha: Kanyadan by parents with five other gifts
4. Prajaapatya: Kanyadan by honor and respect
5. Asur: Love Marriage
6. Gandharv: Marrying for money
7. Raakshas: Forceful abduction of a maiden.
8. Paishaach: Intercourse in asleep, intoxicated situation

14. Sarvasanskar & 15. Sanyas (Mahavakyaparisampti):
This ceremony is performed at the age of 50, in osme cases at the age of 60. With the commencement of his ceremony, a man completes his Grahastha Dharma and enters inot Vanprastha Ashram (forest hermit). Ganesh Puja havan and Gayatri Yajna is performed. The Priest gives the new uniform and the rules are explained. Yajaman should agree to follow the rules of Banprastha life. There are 17 rules for a Vanaprasthi.

1. No attachments with wife and children.
2. Take bath three times a day and remain peaceful all times.
3. Be satisfied with simplest food.
4. Eat fresh food, which keep mind and body pure.
5. Use cheapest clothing just to cover the body.
6. Accept the heat in summer and cold in winter.
7. Do not do any hair dressing or unreal show.
8. Love in forest or in most simple way.
9. Sleep on a simplest bed or on the floor.
10. Think before consuming the things where from they are, and by which mean they came.
11. Stay away from violence and the food earned by violent means.
12. Follow the system of sacrifice, Full Moon day fasting, and other montly observance.
13. Become weak by acceptance of hard penance.
14. Weak body should start shaking with hard penance.
15. Always keep the Lord in the mind.
16. To become a Sanyasi one should perform Prajapatya Yajna and the eight kinds of Shradh before death.

16. ANTYESTI (the Last Rite):
1. By and large, Hindus adopt “Cremation”, i.e. burning at some specified place. Christians bury the body under belief that on the “Day of Judgement”, the dead body will be brought to life and given judgement whether the person will go to eternal Heaven or to eternal Hell.

2. Hindus believe that the dead body is like a piece of cloth or dress which has been given up; that dead body is not going to be revived. There is no particular Day of Judgement: there is no eternal Heaven and no eternal Hell: Left to itself, the dead body will decompose and pollute the environment. It has to be disposed of in a manner which has following ingredients:
(a) Respect.
(b) Hygienic principles of life.
(c) Socially acceptable and beneficial system.

3. Keeping these principles in view, Hindus give ceremonial bath (cleaning) to the dead body, wrap the body in clean cloth or dress, put garlands and sprinkle scents and respectfully take the body to the cremation ground in the company of relatives and friends. Very close and sensitive relatives who cannot stand the sight of confining the body to flames do not accompany the body to the cremation ground. On the way, the accompanying persons chant the slogan: “God is the companion of the departed one. He will take care of the person”.

4. At the cremation ground, some ceremonies are performed with the help of professional family priests and the body is respectfully placed on the fire place. Fire is ignited among holy chantings and prayers, bowing down before fire. Fire is worshipped as a manifestation of God to whom the body is given as the last offering of the human birth.

5. Those who have been to the cremation ground are advised to take bath and change their clothes before getting back to normal work. This is a part of hygiene. In the process of touching the dead body or being close to it, the person might be tainted by harmful bacteria, etc. Also, in the cremation ground, we have dead bodies who are afflicted by various types of diseases or the bodies which have undergone decomposition due to delay in cremation. Fire and Water are the cleaning and purifying Agents of Nature.

6. Ashes (bones) are respectfully collected from the cremation place after 3 days and immersed in holy places at suitable times, with appropriate respect.

7. There are ceremonies for 12 to 13 days, Garud Puran Path, Sapindi, Pind Dan, Kriya Shiv Puja, Narayan Bali for the peaceful journey of the departed soul and with chanting of God’s Names and singing of holy songs to create an atmosphere of soft and soothing adjustment of family members and friends to the new situation with loss of their close relative/friend.

8. There are monthly and annual ceremonies with memories of respect, affection and prayers for the welfare of the departed person.

9. Hindus believe that broadly an individual is composed of:

(a) Soul never gets destroyed: It is immortal. It witnesses birth and death in various bodies.

(b) Subtle Body accompanies the Soul, birth after birth, till subtle body gets completely purified and soul merges into the total Universal Consciousness. This subtle body goes out of the gross body, in company of the soul at the time of “death”. This (soul + subtle body) takes rebirth of a type depending on the actions of the individual. A person with good record of actions in the past takes birth in a beautiful, healthy human body, in the family of pious and prosperous persons. A person with record of evil and cruel actions in the past takes birth in one of 84,00,000 types of bodies, including animals, insects, etc. In each body, the person learns to do good in its own capacity and progresses upward to take birth again in human body, learns lessons of Nature and lives a life of nobleness, to be one with God, the Universal Consciousness.

10. Hindus avoid converting the whole or major part of our land surface on the earth into a wide graveyard and to dump one dead body over the other at one place. Cremation as the best method of disposal of a dead body, with due respect, honour and affection

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