WHAT ARE SIXTEEN PURIFICATORY RITES (The 16 sanskaras )OF HINDUISM ?
Man Making is a science. Like a gardener, parents & teachers work on a person so that the best can flower out from him or her. The whole thrust is to help bring about greater awareness & love in the mind, and channelize the interest & energies into positive fields. The whole ‘work’ is on the mind alone, and is comparable to the work of a genetic engineer. The only difference is that while a genetic engineer plays & transforms with the basic structure, a teacher works to manifest the basic inherent beauty, freedom & potential which facilitates to carve out a dynamic, creative, intelligent & magnanimous personality. ……… Interest is a very subjective thing, and has to come out from within. It can never be imposed. Interests are created by impressions & knowledge. That is what ad agencies too do. While the experts of the advertisement world are generally seen to use this ‘knowledge of impressing minds’ for their selfish & commercial ends,,,,,,, THE VEDIC MASTERS used this knowledge to help bring out a positive & dynamic personality. While the former conditions the mind to the extent that the very thinking process of their target crowd is conditioned in their favor, but the Rishis saw to it that the very power to think & question daringly, independently & creatively grew. Thus we have all our scriptures in the form of question & answers. DEFINITION OF SANSKARAS---- ……… These deliberate & positive impressions which help create a deep & lasting impressions on the mind of a person - so as to generate interest in him about the Truth & Dharma, help bring out a positive personality and free the mind of its negativities are called ‘Sanskaras’. No one while living in the world remains free of the conditionings of his or her environs & teachings, so the question is not whether we can stop all conditionings but to see to it that a person is looked after like a plant and help his or her potentials bloom. To a question whether Sanskaras are deliberate positive conditionings, well the answer is that, the objective of the entire exercise is to help a person awake to a state which is free from all conditionings, so while impressions are certainly put effectively & deliberately yet they are the very anti-thesis of what is implied by the word conditionings. This is one of the finest & blessed science, and has been perfected here as an art form too. ……… San skaras are the turning points of life and need to be celebrated. Celebrations are very important ingredients of Sanskaras. They directly or indirectly involve our respected elders, scholars, near & dear ones. Everyone gets together to convey their best wishes & blessings to the person concerned and thus there is social & religious sanction for the act & ceremony. Sanskaras are great, time-tested tools in our traditional systems which help carve out a great personality. Apart from scriptural validation, history also proves to us the great effectiveness of these methods. When Vedic Masters had their way, India was on top of the world. The people of the far off land prayed that they will one day see this great land of plenty, prosperity & righteousness. ……… THE AIM OF PERFORMING 16 SANSKARS---- According to the Bhartiya tradition all actions of a person must stem from a good sanskara.. There are 16 main sanskaras to be performed on a person from pre-birth to marriage. IT IS BELIEVED THAT A CHILD TAKES BIRTH WITH 16 VIKARS (DEFECTS ) WHICH SHOULD BE PURIFIED...I6 ALPHABETS MANTRA,,,,,,FAST OF 16 MONDAYS ,,,,& 16 SANSKARS ETC. ARE THE METHOD OF PURIFICATION.....The aim of performing these sanskaras is as follows: 1. To minimize defects at its point of origin. 2. To minimize defects during pregnancy. 3. To minimize the effectiveness of curses; these might have been given by ancestors or Deities, in previous births. To free ourselves from the liabilities towards the ancestors and Deities. To please the family Deity, favourite Deity, Deity of Motherhood, Prajapati, Sri Vishnu, Deity Indra, Deity of the Air (Vayu), Ashtadwarpal (Deity guarding eight doors), Deity Sun, Agni (Fire) Deity and to obtain their blessings. 4. To beget a healthy, strong children with long life. 5. To beget an intelligent and righteous child with good moral values. 6. For children to progress spiritually through correct and righteous behaviour and thus an ability to emancipate the twelve past and the twelve future generations of the family. 7. To be able to evolve spiritually and attain Brahmalok or Moksha (Final liberation). 8. Every action and every sanskara is performed with the aim of pleasing God, as only with the God’s blessings we can achieve our aim.These sanskaras have to be performed by parents and teachers of a child. There is an introduction to these famous sixteen Sanskaras of Hindus which cover the entire life span of a person and take him to the door steps to Truth. THE 16 SANSKARA------- The ten principal and generally recognised Sanskaras are: Garbhadana, Pumsavana, Simantonnayana, Jatakarma, Namakarana, Annaprasana, Chudakarma, Upanayana, Samavartana and Vivaha. Of these ten, only some are now performed. Some of the Sanskaras pertain to infantile life and early childhood. Some are ceremonies which may be performed daily or on special occasions. The whole life of the Hindu is thus consecrated and protected from the cradle to the grave. 1-GARBHADANA(Conception) The Garbhadana sanctifies the creative act. The husband prays fervently from the core of his heart that a child may be conceived. He repeats sacred Mantras during Ritu-Santi ceremony or nuptials. The new child is conceived amidst the vibration of Mantras. Good impressions are impressed in the brain-cells of the embryo. For a real Hindu who is endowed with pure intellect and right understanding, the sexual union is not for the sake of mere enjoyment. He utilises the divine, creative, vital energy for the formation of a human body. Husband and wife should be cheerful and pious when they have intercourse. When their minds are perturbed or agitated, or when there is anger or hatred, they should avoid copulation. They should study holy scriptures. If they have the image of Arjuna, they will have a chivalrous and wise son. If they have the image of Lord Buddha, they will bring forth a son with mercy and other good virtues. If they have the image Of Dhanvantari, they will get a son who will turn out to be a reputed Ayurvedic doctor. If they think of Surya or Sun-God, they will bring forth a lustrous son with splendour and effulgence. 2-PUMSAVANA (Fetus protection) In the third month, the Pumsavana is performed with Mantras. The food-sheath and the vital-sheath of the child ai^e formed. 3-SIMANTONNAYANA(Satisfying the cravings of the pregnant mother) The Simantonnayana is performed at the seventh month with recitation of Veda Mantras. This protects the mother from evil influences and bestows health on the child. The above three Sanskaras protect the mother and the child. The body of the child develops nicely. The harmonious vibrations set up by the recitation of Mantras and the performance of the ceremonies help in shaping the body of the child beautifully.
4-JATAKARMA(Child birth) The next Samskara, the ceremony performed immediately after the birth of the child, is the Jatakarma. The father welcomes his new-born child. He prays for its long life, intelligence and well-being, and feeds it with honey and butter. 5-NAMAKARANA(Naming the child) Then comes Namakarana or the naming ceremony. The new-born child is given a name on the tenth, eleventh or twelfth day with recitation of Mantras .6. Nishkramana (Taking the child outdoors for the first time) This sanskara is performed in the fourth month after birth when the child is moved outside the house. 7-ANNAPRASANA(Giving solid food) The Annaprasana comes in the sixth month when the child is given solid food for the first time. Mantras ai^e recited and oblations are offered to the various deities. 8-CHUDAKARMA---Mundan (Hair cutting) The Chudakarma, the tonsure or shaving of the head, is performed in the first or third year.
the first year with the Chudakarma. The body of the child is protected and harmonised by these ceremonies. Any hereditary defect that arises from defect of semen and embiyo is removed. 9.KARNAVEDHA (Ear piercing) This sanskara is performed in the third or fifth year. Vidyarambha also is another Samskara. Alphabet is taught to the child. This is also known by the name Aksharabhyasa. These Sanskaras pertain to the child stage of life. 10--UPANAYANA(Sacred thread ceremony) The most important ceremony which marks the beginning of the next stage of life — the stage of youth — is Upanayana. Upanayana is a very important Samskara. It is a landmark in the life of the child. It is his second or spiritual birth. The word Upanayana means bringing near. The boy is brought near his Guru, spiritual teacher. The preceptor invests him with the sacred thread, Yajnopavita, and initiates him by giving him the Gayatri Mantra, and gives him a staff. This is the beginning of Brahmacharya Asrama, during which Brahmacharya — perfect or entire celibacy — is enjoined. He is to begin the life of study. The initiation makes him a Dvija, twice-born. The father and the mother gave birth to him from mutual desire. This is his physical birth. Initiation into Gayatri Mantra is his another, true birth. According to Yajnavalkya, the Upanayana ceremony is performed at the eighth year for a Brahmana, eleventh for a Kshatriya and twelfth for a Vaisya. Manu gives the age at the fifth year for a Brahmana, the sixth for a Kshatriya and the eighth for a Vaisya. DECODATION OF SACRED THREAD & OTHER SYMBOLS -----
1-The sacred thread or Yajnopavita consists of three threads knotted together. He who wears the thread should have a triple control, over his mind, speech and body — thought, word and deed. 2-The holy thread signifies the various triads which exist in the world, viz.. Sat, Chit and Ananda; creation, preservation and destruction; the three states of waking, dreaming and deep sleep; three qualities of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas; the Trimurtis Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva; etc. 3-The staff signifies that the student should have control over his thoughts, words and actions. 4-He who practises control over his thoughts, words and actions, and he who practises Brahmachaiya in thought, word and deed, attains perfection. 5-The boy wears a Kaupina, a small yellow cloth and a girdle of Munja grass. The Acharya puts on him a deerskin. 6- The new yellow cloth represents the new body. Yellow colour is a symbol of spirituahty. Wearing of Kaupina indicates that the boy should lead a pure life of perfect celibacy. 7-The girdle is wound round thrice. This indicates that the boy has to study the Samhitas, the Brahmanas and the Upanishads. The deer-skin represents the ascetic life he should lead. 11. VEDARAMBHA (Study of Vedas) This sanskara is performed at the time of Upanayana or within one year. The Guru teaches the Gayatri Mantra. 12-SAMAVARTANA Then comes the end of the student stage, the Samavartana. The student, having completed the Vedic studies and the Vratas, presents his preceptor with a gift and obtains pemiission to take the formal bath which marks the close of his student-career. He returns home and performs the Samavartana, the returning ceremony. He is now ready to marry and enter the second stage or Grihastha Asrama, the life of a householder. 13-VIVAHA Vivaha is marriage or entry into the second Asrama. The life of the householder begins. Now he takes up his duties as man and pays his spiritual debts by sacrifice, by study and by procreating children. The bridegroom tells the bride: "I take your hand for good fortune." They walk round the sacred fire hand-in-hand. The bride sacrifices grains in the fire and prays: "May my husband live long. May my relations increase." THE LAST TWO STAGES OF LIFE---
14. VANAPRASTHAV (Preparation for renunciation) This sanskara is performed at the age of 50 to celebrate the departure from the householder stage to the Vanaprastha stage when the person begins to engage in spiritual activities.Man withdraws himself from all worldly activities, retires into the forest and prepares himself for taking Sannyasa. This is the life of a Vanaprastha.
15. SANNYASA(Renunciation) This sanskara is performed after Vanaprastha.A Sannyasin renounces the world and leads a life of study and meditation by living on alms.
16.PRETAKARMA / Antyesthi (Cremation) -- This is the final sanskara performed after death by his or her descendents. Pretakarma is funeral rite. When a man dies, the funeral ceremonies are performed ..
The sanskars and education inculcated in previous birth helps in this birth as well. If a man was a master musician in the previous birth, he will be able to make rapid progress in music in the present birth. If the person has been spiritually evolved being in his previous birth, he will be naturally inclined to spirituality in this birth. Adi Shankaracharya was teaching Vedas from the age of eight and explain their meaning. SRI KRISHANA SAYS in the ‘Srīmadbhagwadgita:------- 'The spiritual aspirants, who are unable to reach their goal of self-realization in present birth, take re-birth in a sattvik (With spiritual background) or wealthy family. Majority of Saints are born in families with a strong spiritual background.' A soul addicted to cigarettes and alcohol in previous birth will take present birth in a family where family members are addicted to alcohol or cigarettes. An evolved soul in last birth takes re-birth in families where the atmosphere is sattvik. Hence if we want our children to be good, we must maintain sattvik habits and be sattvik in our thinking and behaviour.--------SHIVOHAM