SHODASHA SAMSKARAS.By K. N.Shivashankara Rao
The sixteen steps of purification among Hindus.
(SHODASHA SAMSKAARAS)Samskaara means cleaning, improving. These help in development. “What is done by elders and knowledgeable people are followed by others” (MAHAAJANAHA YENA GATHAHA SA PANTHAHA).
Samskaaras are of two types- one internal, the other is external. The external samskaaras are not totally a waste although they should not be mistaken for the real.- like the covering on the coconut.
The sixteen samskaaras are the following:
1.Garbhaadaana, 2. Pumsavana and 3. Seemanthonnayana(These three are done before the baby is born; parents are responsible for these.)4. Jaatakarma, 5. Naamakarana, 6. Nishkramana, 7. Annapraashana, 8. Karnavedha, 9. Choula,(These six are done before the baby is 5 years old; parents and the relatives are jointly responsible for these).10. Upanayana, 11. Vedaarambha, 12. Samaavarthana, 13. Marriage, 14. Vaanaprastha. 15. Sannyaasa. 16. Anthyeshti.We may briefly deal with these to find out the significance and the meaning attached to each of these.
But we should remember, “NA YONIRNAAPI SAMSKAARO NA SHRUTHAM NA CHA SANTHATHIHIKAARANAANI DVIJATVASYA VRITTHAMEVA THU KAARANAM”
(It is not because a person was born to Brahmin parents, not by samskaaras, not by learning Vedas, not because of the dynasty that he becomes a Brahmin; Good character is the only way to become a Brahmin.)
GARBHAADAANA :This first samskaara is for purification of the seed and the egg and it is in the beginning of the child birth.
PUMSAVANA: After the conception is confirmed, this is done during the third month of pregnancy. After conception, the husband is supposed to follow brahmacharya till the baby is two months old. There is a practice of administering some ayurvedic juices through the nose of the lady among some people.
SEEMANTHONNAYANA: This is to enrich the pregnancy and it is done during the fourth, sixth or eigth month. The husband has to please her through sweet words, entertain through music etc., and the elder ladies reassure her and bless.
JAATHAKARMA: This is done after the child birth. Cow’s ghee and honey are mixed and with these, OM is written on the child’s tongue through a golden stick. The mother is bathed in fragrant water and the child is fed first through the right and later from the left breast of the mother. Child is blessed by all the elders.
NAAMAKARANA :The naming ceremony is done on the eleventh/101s t day/or the first day of the second year. Poojas are offered with homas and elders bless “tvam Ayushmaan varchasvee tejasvee shreemaan bhooyaaha”. The child is given a name with even number of letters for the male child and with odd number of letters for the female child. It is ordained that the names with stars, trees, rivers, mountains, birds, snakes etc., and fear and servitude should not be given.
NISHKRAMANA :This is done after three months on the third day of the lunar side of the month or on the day of birth during the fourth month. The baby is bathed, new clothes given; poojas and homas conducted and is shown the Sun. “Be powerful like the Sun and live long” is the aasheervadam given.
ANNAPRAASHANA: After five months, smooth rice is given. Yajurveda mantra is uttered indicating the nature of the food. ‘Annaapathe annasys no dehya nameevasya shushbeenaha, prapradathaaram thaarisha oorjam no dehi dvipade chatushpade”(Oh lord of food, give us food which makes us disease free and healthy. Help the farmer who gives us food. Grant all of us the required strength)Then the elders say, “tvamannapathirannaado vardhamaano bhooyaaha”.
CHOODAKARMA : This is only for boys and it is also called Choula. It is done during the brighter half of the month during Uttaraayana. Prayer to Eswara, swastivaachana, special homas are conducted and then the child is made to sit in front of the barber. The hairs are shaved off amidst mantras. Some times, only a portion of the hairs is removed. The hairs so removed are buried underground. The child’s head is then smeared with butter or cream of curds and bathed. New clothes are given. Elders give the asheervadam as “ Jeevaha sharadasshatham vardhamaanaha”.
KARNAVEDHA : It is done during the third or fifth month. After abhyanga a new set of clothes are given and special poojas are conducted. To please the child play things are given along with whatever the child likes amidst mantrocchaarana the right ear is first pierced and then the left. Golden wire is inserted and tightened. Prayer is offered for good words falling on the ears.UPANAYANAM : The word Upanayana has two meanings. To take the boy near- is one meaning; Second eye is another. This second eye is shastradrishti or knowledge. For this, teaching from a Guru starts.When the boy grows fit enough to move to the gurukula, he is given the yajnopaveeta.
The three lines in the yagnopaveeta represent the determination to study through Kaayaa, vaachaa and Manasaa. Normally the Brahmin boys are given this samskaara at the eigth year. It is preferable to hold this function during the spring time.On the previous day the boy and his parents take mangal snaana and pray to the assembly of learned people and then to Ganesha, then punyaaha, ankuraarpana, rakshaabandhana, naandi, grahayajna, Ishtadevathaapooja mantapa pooja are done.Ankuraarpana, punyaaha, rakshaabandhana, navathanthu dhaarana, yajnopaveetha dharane, Matrukaa bojana(also called Choula pankti bhojana), digvapana, kshourakarma, agnisthapana, palaashanmeedaadaana, ashmaarohana, udakaanjali, hastagrahana, devathaa pradaana, brahmopadesha, pradhana homa, gayatri upadesha, oshta karma sparshana, palaasha danda sweekara, aadithyopasthaana, kaamya vidhi, agni kaarya, shikshaa, bhikshaacharya, palaasha karma are all done. Next is the brahma bhojana. Then, the guests are honoured and their ashirvadam taken.
VEDARAMBHA : This is done the next day after the upanayanam. Signifies the starting of the Veda abhayaasa. The four Vedas, upa Vedas, upaangaas, brahmanas and upanishats are studied from that day.SAMAAVARTHANA : This is done after completion of the Veda abhyaasa. (This is now done before marriage!!) Normally, this has to be done at the Guru’s place signifying that he has now become a graduate. He then adorns all his jewels and returns to his father. The Guru is lavished with gifts etc. MARRIAGE (VIVAAHA) : One who does not marry becomes yajnaheena and condemnable says taitthareeya Brahmana (188.8.131.52). A brahmin has to fulfill his Rishi Runa by Brahmacharya, Deva Runa by yajnas and pitrRuna by getting children, says the samhitha (184.108.40.206).A Grihasta is the pivot of the society. Manusmrithi says, As all living beings live by the air, all aashramis live because of the Grihasta. Thus, marriage is not only a social obligation, but a dharmic samskaara as well.Two persons born and brought up at different places, have to live together throughout their lives after that. Patience, sacrifice, love are essential for this and this is what the marriage ceremony teaches. However, amidst so many unnecessary procedures, the main purpose is being lost now a days.Paaraskara, Bodhaayana, AAswalaayana, Kaatyaayana, Gadaadhara, Maandaleeka and other sootrakaaras have indicated that the essential parts of a marriage are vaagdaana, Madhuparka, varapooja, Kanyaadaana, kankana bandhana, maalaarpana, akshathaaropana, maangalya bandhana, agnisthaapana, paanigrahana, saptapadi, pradhaana homa, ashmaarohana, and Laajaahoma. After all these and at the boy’s place Dhruva and Arundhati nakshatra darshana, Aagneya sthaaleepaaka karma, oupaasanaa homa, and shesha homa are done.Before the Panigrahana, the boy is given another yajnopaveetha. This indicates that he has to shoulder additional responsibilities of service to mother and father, wife and children and the guests and invitees.Now, we may consider the extravagant way this is being done now in our society. There are several procedures which have lost significance – for example Vaagdaana and varapooja. Kaashi yaatra is a joke.!! These require to be deleted.The most important part of marriage is the saptapadi. The first step is for Rasa, then Savi, Vriddhi, soulabhya, cattle wealth, Ruthus and sapta Hotrus. Lastly, the boy says, “My Friend, Remain with me for all these seven in life. Love me”.In any case, keeping only the essential parts of the vivaaha all the unnecessary paraphernalia should be dispensed with.
GARBHAADAANA : After marriage, the boy and the girl have to observe three nights celibacy. On the fourth day, the Garbhaadaana is celebrated. The mantras chanted during this Karma is, “ May we get strong, healthy, long living children. May our ancestors get mukti by this. May god give you the strength to bear children. May Tvashtra, Dhaata and Ashvini give beauty to our children.”
VAANAPRASTHA : The old couple when decided to leave the house should chant svastivaachana, do shaantikarana etc., and get peace after relinquishing all attachments. Time should be spent in learning and teaching and in prayers, trying to attain moksha.SANNYAASA : There are four types of sannyaasa.Krama sannyaasa, Sannyaasa without vaanaprastha, sannyaasa while in grihastha stage itself and sannyaasa directly from Brahmacharya stage.Relinquishing Kaama, Krodha, Moha, Lobha, Mada and Maatsarya is a prerequisite for sannyaasa. He will not have shikha and yajnopaveetha. Saffron clothes with a stick in hand and begging without any remorse etc., and guiding others towards moksha are the duties of a sannyaasi.Before one takes sannyaasa, he has to eschew solid food for three days and spend time praying alone. On the fourth day getting up at braahmi muhoortha after due prayers etc., hairs are cut and bathed. Standing in a river or tank turning to east he utters, “Putraishana, viththaishana, lokaishana mayaa parithyaktaa matthaha sarva bhoothebhyo abhayamasthu” and keeping fire as a witness, becomes a sannyaasi.
ANTHYESHTI : This is a karma done by the children after the person’s death. The body is washed, new dresses are worn and sandal paste applied. Then taking the body to the burial ground a small pit of size 8feetx 4 feet in the north south direction is excavated and sanctified with cow dung water. Over the pile of Fire wood, the body is kept with head towards north and additional fire wood is placed. Ghee mixed with sandal, Kastoori Kesari and other sweet smelling materials are dipped with a fire wood and fire started.After the body is completely burnt, those who had gone there return home after bathing and shaanti karana mantras uttered at home . Next day, the asthi sanchayana and releasing in flowing water..For thirteen days shraaddha karmas are done. After that monthly, oonamaasika, annual shraaddhaas are done. It is shraddhaa that is more important here than the luxury. It is condemnable if some one does these shraaddhaas luxuriously after the parents are gone without looking after them carefully when they were alive.