Samskaras literally mean “impression” and but another meaning is “to refine or purify”. The purpose of life is to understand who we really are and fully blossom in love. As human beings, we undergo various stages in life - childhood, education, youth, professional life, marriage, parenthood etc. Almost all cultures and traditions mark and celebrate these stages in the journey of life. Our ancient Vaidic tradition identifies sixteen such important milestones in life and we collectively celebrate them - these are called Shodasha Samskraras.
Life is a celebration. In Celebration people come together with enthusiasm and uplifted spirit; it brings happiness and harmony in the society. Samskraras in the Vaidic tradition are celebrations which include pertinent ceremonies, performance of rituals, Homas, chanting of mantras, use of specific herbs, fruits, flowers, grains etc., obtaining blessings from the elders and family. The Samskara ceremonies produce positivity in the mind; bring fulfilment, success and harmony in every stage of life. Samskaras strengthen the emotions, protect the body and mind. The Shodasha Samskaras also have deeper spiritual significance and are the best performed by qualified pundits under the guidance of a spiritual master.
Shodasha Samskaras identifies Samskara- ituals as eminent landmarks from womb to tomb of an individual. The Samskaras are based on ancient texts - Manu Smriti and Grihya Sutras.
1 - GARBHADHANAM
Performed to kindle love and harmony between the newly weds
2 - PUMSAVANAM
This is celebrated in the third or fourth month of pregnancy; customarily after the pregnancy becomes noticeable but before the baby starts moving in the womb.
3 - SEEMANTONAYANAM
The third of the 16 saṃskāras as mentioned in the ancient texts of Hinduism. It is observed in the last trimester of pregnancy, wishing the safe delivery and is akin to baby shower.
4 - JATAKARMA
Performed to welcome the new-born child into the world and as a reminder of its true divine nature.
5 - NAMAKARNAM
Ancient Vaidic ceremony for naming the child and is usually performed on the 11th day after the birth with pujas, chantings and celebration.
6 - NISHKRAMANA
For the first time child is taken out of the house and is shown good and auspicious symbols. This is usually done after the first month of the birth.
7 - ANNAPRASHANAM
Performed in the sixth month, the child is fed solid food for the first time.
8 - CHUDAKARMA
Also known as Mundan Ceremony where the child’s scalp hair are shaved off. It symbolizes cleansing, renewal and new growth and is marked as a new phase of life for the child. Mantras are chanted and the child is given blessings for a long life, prosperity and fame.
9 - KARNAVEDHAN
Piercing ears is believed to help in developing intelligence and enhancing immunity against respiratory infections.
10 - VIDYARAMBHAM
Vidya means knowledge and ārambha is beginning. The child is introduced to the world of alphabets is made to write the first alphabet.
11 - UPANAYANAM
It means going closer to the Guru or Divine. It symbolizes spiritual rebirth, and entering into the Brahmacharya stage of life. The child is initiated into the most sacred ‘Gayatri Mantra’ in the Brahmopadesham ceremony.
12 - VEDARAMBHA
Means ‘commencement of Vedas learning’ and is performed on an auspicious date after the Upanayanam. In front of the sacred fire and the student takes a vow of dedicating himself to serve his Guru and his family, and living a disciplined life.
13 - KESHANT
It is performed when the boys attain the age of 16 years. On an auspicious day Lord Ganesha and other family deities are worshipped. Godāna (donating a cow) is also part of this ceremony where the student gifts a cow to his Guru.
14 - SAMAVARTAN
Samāvartana is the Vaidic Samskārā which marks the end of student life and the entering into a householder’s life. The student offers Guru Dakshina to his Guru.
15 - VIVAHA
Vivaha is a commitment of everlasting companionship between husband and wife. The saptapadi or seven sacred vows are an important part of the wedding ceremony. These vows are guidelines for the couple so that they can lead a devoted and happy married life.
16 - ANTYESHTI
Antyeshti is the final Samskārā for the soul’s journey on the earth. In the Vaidic tradition, when the body is cremated, Ved-mantras are chanted and relevant rituals are performed.