16 Sanskaras in Hinduism
Sanskaras in Hinduism are some rites that develop one’s life beautifully in a religious environment. Sanskaras make people honest, free from guilt and cleansed. There are 16 Sanskaras in traditional Hindu society.
Sanskara in Hinduism
These Sanskaras improve a man’s life, protect him from bad company and build him up as a good citizen. In this article, I would like to present 16 Sanskaras in Hinduism that cover a person’s entire span of life.
This is the first of 16 Sanskaras. After marriage, a husband and a wife are blessed by everyone to give birth to their children. The family members, relatives and well-wishers of the couple pray for the newly married couple’s healthy, noble and generous child through this Sanskara or rite.
2.Punsavana (Fetus Protection)
This Sanskara has to be performed usually after 3 months of a woman’s pregnancy. The family members, relatives and well-wishers of the woman pray to God so that the fetus can grow well in her womb.
3.Simantanyana (Satisfying Wishes of a Pregnant Woman)
It is done for full physical growth of the fetus after the end of the sixth or eighth month of a woman’s pregnancy. A puja is performed on the occasion of this Sanskara for giving birth to a physically and mentally healthy child.
4.Jatakarma (Birth Rituals)
After the birth of a child, the Sanskara of Jatakarma is performed on the sixth day. This Sanskara is usually performed through the worship of goddess Shashthi. Everybody around the baby prays to the goddess for its safety.
A child needs to be given a good name on the tenth, eleventh, twelfth or hundredth day after birth. This Sanskara is called Namkaran. The name of a child is also given according to horoscope or the planetory positions of the child’s birth time.
6.Nishkraman (Taking the Child Outdoors)
This Sanskara is observed in the fourth month of a child’s birth. The child is brought to the outside environment so that the sun’s light makes him healthy. At this time everybody in its family prays for its long life. From this time, the child’s nature tends to grow naturally.
7.Annaprashana (Giving the Child Solid Food)
Annaprasana is one of the important Sanskaras of Hinduism. In the sixth month after the birth of a son and in the fifth, eighth or tenth month after the birth of a daughter, the ceremony of putting solid food or rice to the child’s mouth for the first time is called Annaprashana.
8.Chudakaran or Mundan (Shaving the Head)
This Sanskara is observed between the child’s first to third year ages. For the first time, the child’s head is shaved on an auspicicious day. At this event, the child is prayed for good health and healthy mental development.
9.Karnavedh (Ear Piercing)
When the baby is 3 years old, his Karnas or ears are pierced. This Sanskara is called Karnavedh. On this occasion Surya Puja is performed and everybody prays for the baby so that it can listen to good things and have good lessons throughout its life.
10.Upanayana(Wearing Sacred Thread)
At the age of 5 to 6 years, a child comes in contact with a guru or teacher through Upanayana. Then the guru suggests the child to follow various rules including knowledge, action, devotion, that is, to live according to the scriptures. Brahmcharya or student life is the most important period in life. The habit of controlling oneself and refraining from all kinds of bad deeds has to be done in student life. Regular studies begin after the performance of this Sanskara. This Sanskara is also called the spiritual birth or second birth of a child.
11.Vedarambha (Study of Vedas and Other Scriptures)
This Sanskara is observed only after the Upanayana of a child. At this time the acquisition of spiritual knowledge according to the Vedas and various scriptures begin. He has to roam in all branches of knowledge and through this he can know about spiritual things along with worldly things.
12.Samavartana(Completion of Studies)
Samavartana is the name of the ceremony that takes place when a student returns home from his educational institution or Gurugriha after finishing his studies. This ceremony is usually held when a student is 21-25 years old. In this program the teacher or guru gives a lot of valuable advice to the student.
According to Hindu scriptures, marriage is the best of the 16 sanskaras or rituals in the entire human life. The sanskara of the union of the bride and groom in their youth or after the end of their Brahmacharya or bachelor life is called marriage which is completed by chanting Vedic mantras, patriarchal worship, Homa yajna etc. In Hindu society, marriage is the practice of religious life. No religious work of a man is done without his wife. So the wife of a man is called his ‘Sahadharmini’. In addition, by marriage a man gains paternity by becoming the father of a child and a woman gains motherhood by becoming the mother of the child.
14.Vanaprastha(Retirement from Worldly life)
A person’s Vanaprastha life starts at the age of 50 or in some cases at the age of 60. Then he should abandon everything he did for his own convenience. At the beginning of Vanaprastha life, he should give all the responsibilities of the family to his son or daugher and engage himself in worship, meditation and human welfare.
According to scriptures, a person has been told to accept Sanyasa at the age of 75. It is also said that he will accept Sanyasa who can keep himself away from materialistic world and practice self-restraint and spirituality. During the period of Sanyasa, he will abandon wealth, social and family ties and all desires. In fact, he will have no specific family, society or home.
16.Antyeshtikriya (Last Rite)
‘Anta’ means the end and ‘Ishti’ means ‘Homa’ or ‘Yajna’. So ‘Antyeshtikriya’ means offering of a dead body to the fire or cremation. Death means the departure of the soul from the body. When the soul leaves the body, that body becomes a lifeless immovable substance. Therefore, there is a provision in Hindu scriptures for dead body ‘Satkara’ through various rituals. These rituals are known as ‘Antyeshtikriya’.