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======= Understanding Hinduism =======
The Laws of Manu, IX, 18 states:
There are sixteen main Sacraments (Samskaras).
Click on underscored words to open paragraph
Objects The objects of Sacraments
History and Sources of Sacraments
Sixteen Main Sacraments
1.Garbhadhana Sacrament of Impregnation
2. Punsavanam Second or third month of pregnancy
6. Niskramana Samskara
7. Annaprashana Smaskara
completion of studies, the teacher instructs the pupil
11. Samavartana (returning home)
Clicking on 12-13-14-15 below will open text on other pages
12 Vivah Samskara (Marriage Ceremony)
13.Grihasthashrama Sacraments relating to house-holders.)
14. Vanprasthashrama (Renouncing the householder's life)
15. Sanyasashrama. (Leading the life of a monk)
16. Funeral-Antyeshti The last rites of the dead
Samskaras (Sacraments) are rituals and sacrifices. By virtue of their performances the life of the performer receives a higher sanctity. Samskaras cover the entire life of a Hindu from the moment he is conceived in the mothers womb till his death- inclusive of his funeral ceremonies and thereafter, for the smooth passage of his soul to another world.
Just as gold and diamonds that are dug out from the ore need refining and polishing in order to shine in all their splendour, man too needs these Samskaras or purificatory ceremonies in order to shine in his best form physically, psychically and spiritually.
There are several objects of the Samskaras, as can be seen from the Mantras and symbolism used in the ceremonies. These can be broadly divided into two categories; to invoke beneficence from the kindly gods and to keep away or remove hostile or evil powers that beset human life at various stages.
Samskaras aim in the first instance at material gain to the individual. During some ceremonies prayers are offered to gods for health, wealth, children, intellect etc., which contribute to domestic and social felicity. Samskaras mirror self-expression of joys and sorrows, hopes and ambitions, which man exhibits in a dignified way when he celebrates these functions with feasts, presents, decoration, music and also in funeral ceremonies in an appropriate mood.
Samskaras also create an awareness of the attainment of social status and privileges for the individual. The boy who is given the sacred thread acquires the right to study the Vedas; the married man gains the title to perform the Dharmas mentioned in the Vedas.
Samskaras bring about cultural gains. The ancient lawgivers underscored the introduction of higher religion and sanctity in the lives of those who undergo Samskaras. Some impurity is inherently attached to the pre-natal stage of birth and Manu and Yajnavalkya see in the Samskara ceremonies, the removal of those impurities, so that mans body is made fit to become a temple for God to reside. Samskaras are moulders of character.
Sage Angiras poetically refers to the development of personality that the Samskaras endow on its adherents: "Just as a picture is painted with various colours, so the character of the individual is formed by the proper performance of the Samskaras."
Sage Gautama said that Samskaras along with the eight Atma-gunas take one to Brahman (Supreme Self) or Moksha.
In short, the whole gamut of Samskaras is designed to channel the entire energies of man towards the creation of a perfect secular as well as spiritual life in himself in a manner that is not only ingenious but essentially practical, dignified and compulsory in the interest of all-round human welfare.
To quote Max Muller, the emphasis placed upon these ceremonies by the ancients disclose "the deep-rooted tendency in the heart of man to bring the chief events of human life into contact with a higher power, and to give to our joys and sufferings a deeper significance and a religious sanctification.
The earliest suggestion of Samskaras are found in the Rig-Veda. Hymns now used in the rituals of marriage, conception and funeral are to be found there, besides others that are generally recited during all rituals.
In the Yajurv Veda we have references to the tonsure ceremony. This is common to the Shrauta or Yaga ceremonies.
The Atharva Veda is a rich source of Mantras relating to several of the Samskaras like marriage, funeral, initiation for Vedic studies etc.
Coming down to the Brahmana period, Gopatha Brahmana contains references to Upanayana or the thread-ceremony. The word Brahmacharya is to be found in Sathapatha Brahmana.
Taittiriya Aranyaka contains Mantras for cremation.
Chandogya Upanishad relates how a Brahmacharin is admitted to the Guru-Kula (boarding school).
Mention of Gayatri Mantra is made in Brahadaranyaka and other Upanishads.
Taittiriya Upanishad contains the famous convocation address. This Upanishad also contains Mantras used for begetting a learned son and also relating to funeral ceremonies.
It is reasonable to conclude that Samskaras were developed, amplified, codified and given an institutional bias in later years with the development of civilisation, catering to the needs of the time for giving stability to the community.
The rituals constituting the Brahmanas received systematic treatment in what are called Kalpa-Sutras. These are exegetical texts of the Vedas. The need for them arose because short manuals were required by the priests as an aid for their daily performance. Among these texts, those that deal with Vedic sacrifices are called Srauta-Sutras and those that deal with domestic rituals are called Grihya-Sutras which, though not valuable as pieces of literature, are yet valuable as "Folk-lore" journals of ancient India. They portray an accurate picture of the social lie, popular customs and usage of ancient India.
Some important Grihya Sutras are listed below:
1.Apastamba 2. Aswalayana 3.Baudhayana 4.Bharadwaja 5.Gobhila 6.Hiranyakesia 7. Jaimineeya 8.Khadira 9.Manava 10.Paraskara 11.Sankhayana 12.Varaha Grihya Sutras.
There is another class of texts called Dharma Sutras that are an extension of the Grihya Sutras. These texts deal mainly with secular and religious laws relating to the Ashramas.
These are again supplemented by what are called Parisishtas or addenda. The Commentaries of which 25 are known; Prayogas, of which 24 are known. There are also a dozen Karikas or specialised treatises on individual Samskaras.
In addition to these are Apta-vakyas or the words of the saints and the wise who observe and follow Sanatan Dharma (Vedic religion).They have the sanctity of Smritis in cases of doubt.
These, then, are the real sources of information about the Samskaras. It can easily be seen from the number of works on the subject, how important the ancients considered the Samskaras.
Sixteen Main Sacraments
We can call it the conception ceremony. There are certain Dos and Donts during the Ritu period of the woman, which are of great psychological significance. The propitious day and time are fixed astrologically for Garbhadhana and the ritual follows a set pattern. The Mantras uttered in this Samskaras are essentially prayers offered to God to help the bride conceive a good son. The Mantras make use of occasional metaphors of joint action. They can be freely translated thus:
"May we produce strong and long-lived sons as fire is produced by friction; may he be well behaved. I am part of God and I shall produce good sons to liberate my ancestors. May we beget shining, wealthy children. May we donate liberally to the needy and attain moksha. May God make you fit for conception. Let the evil spirit flee from you. Let your child be free from defects like lameness, deafness etc. Be you like the divine Kamadhenu etc."
Procreation is a compulsory duty enjoined on the Hindu to repay his ancestral debt, except when either or both the partners are functionally unfit.
This ceremony is performed in the second, third and the fourth month of pregnancy. The meaning and object of this ceremony is to "quicken a male child" in the woman. The Punsavana is performed on a day of male Nakshatra. During this ritual, a few drops of the juice of the Banyan stem are put into the right nostril of the pregnant lady to inhale it, with a prayer for the birth of a son or a worthy child. According to Susruta, the great Ayurvedic writer, the juice of the Banyan tree has all the properties of relieving trouble during pregnancy.
Sanctified thread is tied to the left wrist of the lady by way of protection. The mantras, freely rendered, pray: ""May God Isana fulfil our wishes; Dhata bless the world with children and wealth. May He bless this household too with children. May the immortals live in this house. May Agni bless me with sons. May Indra bless me with children. May I have handsome children."
[Note: The following explanations are from the writings of Swami Dayananda Saraswati (The founder of The Arya Samaj). The translation is by Acharya Vaidyanath Shastri].
Placing his hand on the womb of his pregnant wife the husband should pronounce the following Mantra from the Yajurveda, the meaning of which is given below:
"O soul in the womb! May you have the swiftness of nice-winged swift bird, may there arise in your head the trio of action, contemplation and learning. Gayatri be your eye. Brihat and Rathantara like your sides. Rtgveda your soul, metres your limbs. The hymns of Yajuh are your name. The Vamadevya is your body. The deeds worth doing and shunning are your hind part. The yajnas are like your hooves, the feet. You are a noble soul, the master of noble qualities. Acquire knowledge and attain to happiness in life and beyond."
After this the pregnant lady should live in a disciplined way and lead a life with proper (restricted) diet and confined movements. She should eat a small quantity of the cocculus cordiclius (giloy) Brahmi herb, and dry ginger (Soonth) with milk. She should avoid too much sleep, avoid too much talking, avoid saltish food preparations, avoid sour, pungent, bitter things and avoid purgatives like Termunallia Chebula (Haritaki). She should avoid anger, aversion, greed etc and should always keep her mind joyful and happy. She should lead a life of good conduct.
The third in the series of pre-natal Samskaras, this is performed during the period between the fifth and the eighth months of pregnancy. The specific materials used during this Samskara, that are for the lady only, are, the quill of a porcupine, an ear of ripe paddy and some Udumbara leaves. The deity invoked is Rika, the presiding deity of the full-moon. Their implications are: that the pregnancy should be fruitful; the child should be endowed with sharp and penetrating intellect (like the sharp quill of the porcupine). The child should be beautiful like the full-moon. The gist of the Mantra is: "I beseech the goddess Raka. May she make this ceremony blameless. May my son be endowed with sharp intellect."
Music, especially on the veena, is indicated to be played on this occasion. This increases the mothers suckling power besides conferring other psychological benefits. Ladies are asked to sing: "Be a mother of heroic sons" thus creating a heroic atmosphere. The mother fasts and keeps silent after the ceremony till night time when the stars become visible. At the close of the ceremony she touches a male calf, symbolising a son.
[Note: The following abridged explanations are from the writings of Swami Dayananda Saraswati (The founder of The Arya Samaj). The translation is by Acharya Vaidyanath Shastri].
"I, the husband, call my wife who is as beautiful as the full moon in the night and is possessed of good words of praise for me, I call her to participate in all the functions of the prayers. Let her, the lady of good fortunes, listen to my words and understand them with her spirit. May she perform the functions of progeny in such a good way as she sews the clothes etc. with the needle that does not pierce the fingers when sewing. May she give me a brave son. Whatever is uttered herein is true. The oblation offered is meant for Raka and it is not me."
"O full-moon like beautiful lady, and who is munificent nature, come to me with heart full of joy, and with wealth of praiseworthy advice regarding various physical and spiritual wealth. O lucky one, come to me giving a thousand kinds of fortunes. Whatever is uttered herein is true. The oblation offered is meant for Raka and it is not for me."
"My husband who is potentially vigorous has established the embryo of life in me, who is desirous of a son or vigorous child. May husband be free from all evils and accompany me with noble son."
The persons concerned sprinkle water on the
This is the authority from Paraskar Grihya Sutra and thus the same has been written in the Ashvalayana, Gobhiliya and Shaunakiya Grihya Sutra.
At the time when delivery is going to take place, the sprinkling of water on the body of the pregnant woman should be done with the Mantras from the Yajurveda and from other sources.
The ceremony proper should be performed (unless prevented by death in close family circles) before the umbilical cord of the child is severed. The father looks at the face of the newly born infant and this at once redeems his debt to his ancestors. Thereafter he must immediately bathe in cold water with his clothes on. Actually, he must jump into a river or a lake so as to cause the splashing waters to rise in the air as high as a palm tree. He is then enjoined to perform dana, dharma etc. (charity and other good deeds) as the merits earned by him at that time are of immense benefit.
The father then touches the tongue of the infant with a drop of honey touched by a gold ring, uttering Mantras. This action endows the child with Medha or intelligence. Susruta praises honeys properties in this respect.
A name is also given to the child, in secret, lest his enemies should practice black magic on the child with that name. Then the father utters a prayer for long life in the ear of the infant. Other Brahmins (priests) too bless the child with long life by breathing the breath of life upon the infant. The father prays to Mother Earth "May we live a hundred years." By another hymn that says: "Be a stone; be an axe (unto enemies); be the imperishable gold." The father prays that the child be endowed with strength, valour and fame.
After severing the umbilical cord, the child is handed over to the mother to suckle when the husband prays to the water-god to protect the mother too.
[Note: The following abridged explanations (greatly abridged extracts selected at random) are from the writings of Swami Dayananda Saraswati (The founder of The Arya Samaj). The translation is by Acharya Vaidyanath Shastri].
After offering oblations with Mantras the husband should sing Vamadevaya-gana given at the end of Samanyaprakarana. There after the father of the child should write AUM syllable on the tongue of the child with the pre-prepared golden bar dipped in ghee (clarified butter) and honey mixed properly. Doing so he should whisper VEDOASITI(your confidential name is Veda) in the right ear of the child and then, with the bar of the gold make the child lick a little of the mixed ghee and honey with the following Mantras:
"O child, for you I give this ghee and honey has been produced by God who is the producer of all the wealth of the world. May you be preserved and be protected by learned men and your parents. May you attain long life and live in this world for hundred autumns."
"I establish in you the idea of God who is the giver of life. I establish in you, O child, the idea of God who is all beatitude. I establish in you, O child, the idea of God who is the source of all movements. I establish in you the idea of God who is the life of all, all beatitude and the source of all movements."
"May we attain Divinity, who is the Master of all the assembled masses of the world, who is wondrous and eternal, who is desired and attainable by individual souls and also the wisdom of discrimination."
After giving ghee and honey six times to the child to lick with these above listed Mantras, rice and barley in a very meager quantity should be cleaned and crushed and mixed with water. The liquid thus prepared be strained through a piece of cloth and be kept in a pot. The father of the child or a person concerned place a drop of this liquid in the mouth of the child using the thumb and the last finger taken together, pronouncing the following Mantra:
"This is ghee. This is grain or cereal. This is for life and this is immortality or the nectar of eatables."
[Note: This is the opinion of only Gobhiliya Grihya-Sutra and not of any other authorities]
Thereafter the father of the child should whisper in the right ear of the child the following Mantras:
"O child, may God, the creator of all bless you with firm wisdom. May Saraswati (the goddess of learning), the all knowing goddess bless you with firm wisdom. May the sun and the moon, stationed in space, be the source of firm wisdom for you."
"The fire is the source of life, it gains this power from the wood-fuel. May you attain long life, O child, with that life giving fire."
"Soma, the moon is the source of life. Knowledge and wisdom is the source of life. It gains this power with the Brahmanas, the knower of the Vedas. The enlightened persons are the source of long life. They gain this power through immortality. He seers (Rishis), possessing penetrative genius, are the source of life. They gain this power by austerity and discipline. The parents, grand-parents etc. are the source of life. They gain this power from grains, cereals and other foods. The Yajna is the source of life. It gains this power through qualified ways of performance. The ocean is the source of life. It gains this power from the rivers. With that life of moon, with that life of knowledge and wisdom, with that life of the learned persons, with that life of the seers, with that life of parents and grand-parents, with that life of yajna, with that life of ocean, O child, may you attain long life, knowledge and wisdom."
These Mantras should again be recites in the left ear of the child.
Thereafter, the father of the child, placing his hand very gently upon the shoulders of the child, should recite more Mantras. Of these one only is reproduced below:
"O child, may you become firm and strong like a rock. May you become like an axe to destroy injustice, may you become as bright as gold with knowledge and action. O child, you are my soul and spirit. May you not be subjected to an immature death. May you live a hundred autumns."
Some interesting pre-natal directions
A month before the expected date of delivery, a maternity room (Sutika-griha) is selected on an auspicious day. The room should be in the south-west corner of the house; the ground should be even. The would-be mother enters the room a couple of days before the expected date, after worshipping the elders, family deities and accompanied by auspicious sounds like ringing of bells or music and also accompanied by experienced and pleasant mothers.
They cheer and otherwise prepare the lady for safe delivery by means of approved diet, ointments etc. The room is made comparatively dark, because it is said, the sunlight will be too bright for the new-born babe and for ensuring for it a black retina. When the time arrives, the would be mother is made to lie on her back. Mantras are chanted outside to ward off evil spirits. An elderly person at home unties several knots of a rope suggesting the loosening of muscles tying the child in the womb. The Turyanti leaves are placed near the lady to ward off evil forces and also to expedite delivery. If the delivery is difficult, the verse from the Atharva Veda meant for it, is chanted. On safe delivery a small fire called Sutika-fire is lighted in the room to purify and protect the child and its mother. Mustard seeds and grains are thrown into the fire to counteract evil forces and evil eyes.
This is a simple ceremony in which the child is given a name. According to Asvalayana, the names of boys should have an even number of syllables. A two-syllable name will bring material prosperity and fame and a four syllable name will bring religious fame.
The names of girls should have an odd number of syllables and end in "I" or "aa". They should be easy to pronounce, pleasing to the ear and auspicious. They should not suggest awkward suggestions. By traditions, names are chosen after the Nakshatras of birth (letters are allocated to the signs of the zodiac). Some people name their children after the ancestors.
The practice of naming children after favourite deities began from the Puranic times. The rise of the Bhakti (devotion) movement made this practice generally popular. By naming children after gods, we are deemed to gain several opportunities for uttering Gods name whenever we call the child.
The Namakarana Samskar is performed, normally on the tenth or twelfth day after birth. If there are inconveniences then it is taken to the end of the first year.
After preliminaries, the parents give the offerings to gods and feel the breath of the child symbolising the awakening of its consciousness and utters in its ear three times: "Your name is ..". The Brahmins and elders are asked to follow, calling the child by that name and blessing it.
[Note: The following abridged explanations are from the writings of Swami Dayananda Saraswati (The founder of The Arya Samaj). The translation is by Acharya Vaidyanath Shastri].
The parents, Acharya (teacher) etc. give name to the child. It is written in the Gobhiliya 2/8/8-18 and the Shaunaka Grihya Sutra that a meritoriously attractive and pleasant name should be given to the child.
The name should be given to the child on the 11th day leaving 10 days from the day of birth of the child or on 101st day or on the very day of the birth of the child in the beginning of the second year.
On the day fixed for giving name to the child, the Yajaman (the father of the child) and the priests of the yajna invite the guests present and commence the ceremony.
After reciting prayers as prescribed in 8 Mantras from Samanya Prakarana, Svastivachana, Shantikarana, and the complete procedure of Samanya Prakarana, four oblations of Aghavarajyabhagahuti; four Vyahriti oblations; eight oblations with eight Mantras beginning with Tvanno Agne from the Samanya prakarana, should be offered.
Thereafter, the mother of the child, bathing the child with clean water, dressing the child with nice clean clothes, coming near the Yajnakunda (sacred fire), passing behind the father of the child, stands on the right side of him (childs father) keeping the head of the child in the north direction. She then places the child into the hands of the childs father and she herself returns from the back side of her husband (the childs father). She should take her seat in the north side keeping her face in the east.
The father of the child, keeping the childs head in the north direction and feet in south direction, should give the child to his wife (the mother of the child). They then follow the procedure that has been mainly prescribed for Namakarana Samskara. A Yajna is performed. Filling the spoon with ghee, the Yajaman (father of the child) should offer one oblation (into the sacred fire) pronouncing this Mantra: "Om Prajapataye Swaha".
Thereafter, four oblations one oblation with each of the Tithi, Nakshatra, Tithi Devata and Nakshatra-Devta should be offered. These Tithis and Nakshatras are the lunar dates and the stars under which the birth of the child took place.
Thereafter, one oblation with the "Svishtakrit Mantra" from the Samanya Prakarana and four Vyahriti oblations from Samanya prakarana, and thus totaling five oblations in all should be offered.
Then the mother taking the child in her lap sits on a nice seat and the father of the child feels the breaths being exhaled from the nostrils of the child. He then utters a few mantras.
The following female names should be avoided.
Names after a constellation such as Rohini, Revati etc. should be avoided.
Names of trees and plants such as Champa, Tulasi etc.
Names formed on the basis of lowering merit like Chandali
Names of birds like Kokila, Hansa etc
Names suggestive of menial servants or other orderlies like Dasi, kinkakari etc.
The above types of names are prohibited names for female children.
The scriptural authority for the above prohibitions is taken from Manu Smriti 3/9. Which reads as follows:
"Let him not marry a maiden named after a constellation, a tree, or a river, nor one bearing the name of a low caste, or of a mountain, nor one named after a bird, a snake, or a slave, nor one whose name inspires terror."
Distinguishing factors merit attention when giving names. For example take the names Dev or Jaydev. In the case of the child possessing a promising tendency of becoming Brahmana, or the parents desiring to make their child a Brahmana should give him the name such as Devsharma. Similarly, in the case of Kshatriya, Vaisya and Sudra, the names be respectively given to children as Devavarma, Devgupta, and Devdas etc..
If the child is female, the name should be of one or three or five letters like Shree, Hrihi, Yashoda, Sukhada, Saubhagyaprada etc.
[Note: The following abridged explanations are from the writings of Swami Dayananda Saraswati (The founder of The Arya Samaj). The translation is by Acharya Vaidyanath Shastri].
The infant is taken out of the house into the climate of fresh air and sunshine.
From the Gobhil Grihyasutra 2.8.1:
"Chaturthemaasi Nishkramanika. Suryamudikshayati Tatchakshuriti.
"Jananaadyastriteeyo jyoutsnastasya Triteeyaayaam."
The time of Niskramana. Two dates are mentioned.
The first date is the third lunar date of the third full-moon fortnight from the birth date of the child.
The second date is the birth Tithi (date) of the child in the fourth month from the date of birth.
In the morning, after sunrise, the infant is bathed and dressed. The mother of the child brings the child in Yajnashala (place of Sacred Fire Ceremony), approaching from the right side of her husband faces her husband and gives the child into the hands of her husband, keeping the head of the child in the north direction and the childs face and chest facing upwards. The mother then walks clockwise from behind her husband and takes her seat on the left side of her husband keeping her face eastward.
The same ceremony and the same Mantras are used as for Jatakarma Samskaras.
Thereafter the father of the child gives the child to the mother, keeping the childs head in the north direction and the feet in the south direction. Keeping silence, the husband touches the head of his wife. The child is then taken out in the sun with the following Mantra from the Yajurveda. This Mantra is recited on behalf of the infant child.
"Om Tatchakshurdevahitam Purustaatshukramuccharat. Pashyema Sharadah Shatam Jeevema Sharadah Shatam Shrunuyaam Shradah Shatam Pra Bravaam Sharadha Shatamadeenaahaa syaama Sharadah Shatam Bhooyashcha Sharadah Shataat."
O Benefactor of devotees! I concentrate on Thy pure energy. Grant me perfect health. May my eyes, ears, tongue and the other organs function in a strong and healthy way for a hundred years. May I not become helpless and dependent during this time. Grant me a hundred years of joyous life free from disease.
After exposing the child to the sun and fresh air, the child is brought back into the Yajnashala where people bless the child with the following sentence:
"Tvam Jeeva Sharadah Shatam Vardhamaanah."
May you be endowed with health and strength and live a life of hundred years.
Exposing the child to the moonlit night
In the night, the mother brings the child approaching the husband from the right side, facing the husband gives the child to her husband, keeping the childs head in the north direction. The mother then walks clockwise walking behind her husband stands on his left side facing the moon. With a little water in her right hand palm a prayer is offered with the following Mantra.
"Om Yadadashchandramasi Krishnam Prithivyaa Hridayam Shritam
Tadaham VidvaaGvam Statpashyanmaaham Pautramagham Rudam."
The water in the hand is then sprinkled to the ground. The mother then walks anticlockwise from behind her husband and facing him takes the child. Then again walking clockwise from behind her husband stands to the left of her husband keeping the childs head in the north direction and feet in the south direction. This time the father of the child takes a little water in his right hand palm and recites the same Mantra..Then he sprinkles the water to the ground.
Thereafter both husband and wife, in a happy frame of mind, take the child back into the house.
7. Annaprashana Smaskara
This is the ceremony for the first feeding of cooked rice. The object of this ceremony is to pray to the gods with Vedic Mantras to bless the child with good digestive powers, good thoughts and talents. It is performed when the child is six months old which is the weaning time. Susruta commends this weaning time as best for both the mother and the child.
Offerings are made to the goddess of speech and vigour. Prayers are offered so that the childs senses have their full gratification and live a happy and contented life. The father feeds a little of the sweet food anointed with gold to the child with Mantras that say he feeds the child with food that may ensure a healthy life to the child and prevent ill-health.
Apart from the efficacy or otherwise of this ceremony, its observance creates in all concerned an awareness of the cumulative needs of the child at that age in a scientific and tender manner. Its systematic observance therefore ensures the results expected especially when fortified by Mantras.
The first feeding of cereal to the child.
The authority for Annaprashana Samskar derives from Ashvalayans Grihyasutra (1.16.1,4,5). Also the authority of Paraskar Grihya Sutra.
The Annaprashana ceremony should be performed at the time when the child gains strength to digest cereal and preparations made from cereals. The first feeding of cereal commences with this ceremony. He who desires his child to be brilliant and famous should feed cooked rice mixed with ghee (clarified butter) or the rice mixed with honey, curd and ghee . The samskar ceremony for the first feeding commences with prayer, followed by Svastivachana, Shanitkarana and complete Samanya Prakarana. It is indicated that this ceremony should be performed (when the child is six months old) on the day on which the child was born.
The rice should be prepared thus: Rice is washed, cleaned, cooked nicely and ghee in proper quantity is mixed in the rice when it is in the cooking process. When this rice has been cooked properly and has become cold, then it should be placed in Homasthali or the tray of Homa. From this Homashali the rice is then given in small containers to the Yajman, to Purohita and Ritvij (Priests), accompanied with chanting of Mantras.
The Yajmana (father of the child) then performs Agnyadhan and Samidadhana. Offers four oblations of Aghavarajyabhagahuti and four oblations of Vyahriti. Thereafter the oblation of the cooked rice that was given to the Yajman and to the priests, should be offered with one Mantras from the Rig Veda and one Mantra from the Yajur Veda.
Thereafter the Yajmana mixes small quantity of curd, honey and ghee. Adds this to the rice that remained after the oblations. This should be fed to the child in minute quantity according to the desire of the child with the following Mantra from the Yajurveda:
"Om Annapateannasya No Dehyanamivasya Shushminah/
Pra Pra Dataaram Taarisha Oorjvam No Dhehi Dwipade Chatushpade
"O Lord of plenty (of food)! Vouchsafe us a share of food that invigorates us, and brings no sickness. O Lord, thou art our leader. Grant us nourishment (maintenance) both for bipeds and for quadrupeds."
Thereafter the child is blessed by the mother and father of the child and also by the priests, the elders and the guests. The child is blessed with the sentence:
"Twam Annapatihi Annavo Vardhamano Bhooyaaha" meaning
"O child, May you be endowed by Gods grace with Anna (grains or food). May you grow in strength and may you live a long life."
This ceremony of the first tonsure is to be performed in the third year of the male child. . Also it initiates the maintenance of a Sikha (tuft of hair on the head) as a religious necessity after that age. According to Susruta, a tuft of hair on the head protects a vital part on the head.
Susruta and Charaka confirm that removing the hair, excess nails etc., contribute to strength, vigour, longevity, purity and beauty of the individual.
An auspicious day is selected for the ceremony. A porcupine quill, Darbha grass, and a dummy razor are the specific materials used by the father for symbolically cutting the childs hair first. The gist of the Mantra used in this particular ceremony is:
"May the child live long beyond a hundred years. May his eye sight remain unimpaired. May he become prosperous and wealthy so that he can feed (and cater to the needs of others) liberally. May his digestion be perfect. Let him become a Varchasvi (prominent)."
From Ashvalayana Grihyasutra:
"Triteeye Varshe Chaulam. Uttaratoagne Vreervihiyavamaashatilaanaam prithakpoorna Sharaavaani Nidadhaati."
From Paraskara Grihyasutra:
Gobhiliya Grihyasutra 18.104.22.168 is also of the same opinion.
This ceremony should be performed in the third year or in the 1st year from the date of the childs birth. The dates for this ceremony should be chosen during the northern solstice and during the bright fortnight of the moons phase.
A hairdresser (Barber) is invited to this ceremony.
Four earthenware pots are brought to the Yajnashala (place of sacred fire Ceremony). They contain rice, barley, Mung and in the fourth Sesumum (Til). These four pots are placed in the north side of the Yajnavedi (Havan Kund).
A Havan Ceremony is performed.
Thereafter, addressing the hairdresser, the following Mantra from the Atharvaveda is recited.
"Om Aayamagantsavita kshurenoshnena vaaya Udakenehi.
This barber, who is competent and swift has come with his razor (or a pair of scissors). Using lukewarm water, may the learned man (barber) known as Rudra and Vasu make the hair wet with utmost care and (thereafter) cut the hair like the king of Soma (as the Soma herbs are cut with care).
The father of the child mixes hot and cold water reciting the following Mantra.
Thereafter, applying to the hair a mixture of the lukewarm water and a little butter or curd to moisten the hair of the child. The following mantra is recited.
Let this unbreakable razor (or scissors) cut the locks (hair on the head), let the waters with their moistening (softening) power soften the hair of the child, May the Lord of creatures (God) remove disease from this child. May this child attain to long life. May this child acquire knowledge.
From Paraksara Grihyasutra:
O Child! Let the mighty celestial waters produced by the sun drench your head. May you attain a long life. May you acquire knowledge.
The father takes a comb in his hand and using the comb, gathers some hair from the right side of the childs head. Taking three blades of the Darbha (kusa) grass, while touching the hair with the grass and slightly pressing the hair against the grass, the following Mantra is recited.
From Gobhiliya Grihyasutra, 219.14
Then holding the razor in a hand the father recites the following Mantra
From Gobhiliya Grihyasutra, 219.13 -1.6.4
"Vishnorda Ashtroasi "
This instrument (razor) is the means in the performance of this Yajna (Samskara) of Chudakarma.
From the Yajurveda:
This instrument (razor) is for auspiciousness. It is made of steel (metal) that is as strong as Vajra (a weapon). Let this razor be fit for cutting the hair. Let it not cause any pain whatsoever.
From The Yajurveda:
"Om Nivarttayaam Yaayusheannaadyaaya Prananaaya Raayasposhaaya Soooprajaastvaaya Suviryaaya."
O Child! I perform this tuft-ceremony so that you can attain to long life, constructive power, strength and wealth, good progeny and vigour.
The father of the child then holds the childs locks in a loop made from the Kusa
grass and applies the first cut with the following Mantra.
"O priest and all the learned guests! This competent barber shaves this child by the same razor (or scissors) that he uses to shave the head of our glorious King and the heads of noble men (men of merit). May this child be prosperous, wealthy and have good progeny."
All the hair cut by the razor or scissors, together with Kusa grass and the leaves of Mimosa (Shami) should be placed in an earthenware container. All lose hair pieces on the floor should be carefully picked up and placed in this container.
(The detailed procedure entails the father cutting a little of the hair first from the right side of the childs head. Appropriate Mantras being recited. Then the same sequence is followed for the left side of the head. The third time from the back of the head The fourth time again the father cuts a little hair from the back of the hair.)
Thereafter the father of the child blesses the child (with Mantra) by placing his right hand on the head of the child.
Then with the following Mantra, the father gives the razor (and scissors) to the
"Om Yatkshurena Marchayata Supeshasaa Vaptaa Vapasi Keshaan Shundhi Shiro Maasyayuhu Pra Moshihi."
O Barber! You are the cutter of the hair. Cut and shave the head of the child with that swift soft razor. Do not decrease (cut or shorten) the childs life.
The father then tells the barber to sharpen his razor on his sharpening stone. The father then requests the barber to gently drench the childs head with lukewarm water and that he should shave attentively with smooth hand, avoiding any cut from the razor. With these words he leads the barber to the north of the Yajna-Kunda. He sits with the child facing eastward. The barber shaves the childs head.
A little tuft of hair may be left on the head. It is considered more proper to shave all the hair in the first year. A little tuft of hair should be left on the head when Chudakarma Samskara is performed in the third year.
The barber is given the four earthenware containers filled with cereal grains together with clothes, money etc. The barber carries the cut hair together with the Darbha grass, Shami leaves etc.to some remote place e.g., river side or in the woods; there to bury these in the ground. A member of the family or a friend can accompany the barber.
The father then rubs a little butter or curd on the head of the child. The child is then bathed. When the child is dressed, the father sits with the child facing eastward and chants Mahadeva Gana. The guests, before leaving, bless the child saying:
"Om Tvam Jeeva Sharadah Shatam Vardhamaanah."
O Child! May you live a hundred autumns growing in strength and vigour.
From Katyayana Griyhasutra 1.2
An experienced physician who is a specialist and who has studied the treatise of Charaka and of Sushruta is invited to this ceremony.
In the morning, after bathing and getting the child dressed with clothes and ornaments, the mother brings the child to the Yajnashala. A Havan ceremony (Sacred Fire Ceremony) is performed with Mantras from the Samanya Prakarana.
The physician then should pierce the right ear first with the following Mantra:
From the Yajurveda: 25.21
O sociable learned persons, may we with our ears listen to what is good, and with our eyes see what is good. With limbs and bodies firm may we, extolling God lead a life conducive to the good of the sages. [Translation by Devi Chand, M.A.]
He physician should pierce the left ear with the following Mantra:
From the Yajurveda 29.40.
This bow string strained on the bow whispers like a woman, and protects us in the combat, as a wife fain to speak, offering advice, embraces her affectionate, praiseworthy husband.
The physician then inserts thin wire like objects in the freshly pierced ears to prevent the holes from closing up. The physician then applies healing ointments to the ears.
10. A. Upanayana and B. Vedarambha
Investiture of Sacred Thread (Janoi)
The thread giving ceremony is performed in the eighth, eleventh and twelfth years of the male child calculated from the date of conception, for the first three Varnas (Brahman eighth year, Kshatriya eleventh year and Vaisya twelfth year) respectively. Etymologically, the word Upanayana means taking the child to the teacher or to Gayatri Mantra, according to some.
This ceremony gives the child a second birth (Dwija), as it were, where the Guru (teacher) becomes his father and Gayatri becomes his mother. The investiture with the Sacred thread entitles the child to study the Vedas and participate in Vedic functions. In essence, the child commences his journey on the road to spiritual life. This is contrasted with a life of eating, sleeping and procreating, which kinds of life animals also live. The Gurukula (Boarding school) type of education seeks to mould the child for an ideal life.
Gayatri is the most powerful of the Mantras. Initiation into it is described as Brahmopadesa. It leads to the realisation of Brahman (the Supreme Reality). Along with this Mantra the Guru imparts his Shakti (power) too to the child; hence the Guru and the disciple are insulated by means of silken clothes at the time of the initiation.
The materials used in this ceremony are full of mystical significance. The Yajnopavita or the holy Thread consists of three folds, symbolising the three Gunas Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas. It reminds one of the threefold debt one owes to ones manes (ancestors), Rishis (Seers who realised spiritual wisdom), and gods. The three threads also reminds one of the three letters of Pranava- AUM as also Brahma, Vishnu and Siva (Creator, Sustainer and Destroyer).
While investing it, the Acharya (the principal teacher) asks for strength, illumination and long life for the boy. The deerskin attached to the thread signifies spiritual and intellectual pre-eminence. The Kaupina or undercloth is the garment of immortality. The girdle (Mekhala) shows that the three Vedas (Rigveda, Samaveda and Yajurveda) encircle the boy. Mekhala is "the daughter of Faith and sister of Rishis," protecting his purity and warding off evil.
The staff (stick) of palasa wood given to the boy to hold makes him a guardian of the Vedas, and gives him long life, lustre and holiness.
Before initiating the boy into the Gayatri Mantra, the Guru (the spiritual father) pours water in the joined palms of the boy. This is to symbolise purifying him before receiving the Mantra.
The boy is asked to see the Sun. He is asked to learn from the Sun unswerving duty and discipline. The boy offers prayers to the Sun for attainment of virtues.
By mounting a stone the boy is asked to develop firmness of resolve and steadfastness in his duties and studies, and develop physical strength and excellent health.
During the performance of the Samskara of Upanayana, certain Vratas or vows are undertaken. These are the vows 1. To uphold vows 2.To attain prominence in the world 3.To engage in creative activities 4.To perform charity 5.To please the gods 6.To please fellow-men 7.To protect subjects or dependants 8.To procreate when married 9.To keep equipoise 10.To serve the elders etc.
The invocation of the three entities Pranava, Medha and Sraddha God, Intelligence and Faith in this function is the coping stone of the edifice of Brahmacharya or bachelorhood, whose daily chore is regulated by good habits, collectively going by the name Ahnika (Sandhya, Samidadhana Havan etc.). One cannot conceive of a more thoughtful scheme of time-table calculated for the development of character in the young.
From Ashvalayana Grihyasutra 1-19-1-6.
"Ashtame Varshe Brahmanamupanayet (1). Garbhaashtame va (2). Ekaadashe Kshatriyam (3). Dvaadashe Vaishyam (4). Aashodashaad Braahmanasyaanateetah Kaala (5). Shraadhhaavimshaatkshatriyasya, Aachaturvishaaddvaisyasya, Ata urdhvam Patitasavitrikaa Bhvanti." (6)
The Brahman, the child of the Brahman, or the child promising to be a Brahman, should be invested with the sacred Thread in the eighth year from the date of birth or from the date of conception. The Kshatriya, the child of Kshatriya, or the child promising to be Kshatriya, should be invested with the Sacred Thread in the eleventh year from the date of birth or from the date of conception. Vaisya, the child of Vaisya or the child promising to be Vaisya, should be invested with the Sacred Thread in the twelfth year from the date of his birth or from the date of conception. Positively the children of Brahmana, Kshatriya and Vaisya should respectively be invested with the Sacred Thread before the years 16th, 22nd and 24th of their age. If they are not invested with the Sacred Thread during these years, then they are regarded or treated as having fallen from their duties.
Similar sayings are found in the Paraskara Grihyasutra etc.
"The time for the Savitri (Gayatri) initiation of a Brahmana does not pass until the completion of the sixteenth year (after conception), of a Kshatriya until the completion of the twenty-second year, and of a vaisya until the completion of the twenty-fourth." 2.38.
"After those periods, men of these three castes who have not received the sacrament at the proper time, become Vratyas (outcastes), excluded from the Savitri initiation and despised by the Aryans." 2.39.
"With such men, if they have not been purified according to the rule, let no Brahmana ever, even in times of distress, form a connection either through the Veda or by marriage." 2.40.
The time for the Yajnopavita Samskar.
From Shatpath Brahmana, 2.13.5.
"Vasante Braahmanamupanayet. Grishne Raajanyam. Sharadi Vaishyam. Sarvakaalameke."
The child of Brahmana in the spring season. The child of Kshatriya in the summer season and the child of Vaisya in autumn be respectively be invested with Sacred Thread. Or the investiture of Sacred Thread can be performed in all seasons. (Morning time is the best period for the performance of this ceremony.)
"Payovrato Braahmano Yavaagoovrato
For three days (or for at least one day) prior to the day of the ceremony, the child should drink only milk (once a day or more than once a day). The child of a Kshatriya should eat only barley gruel (Yavaag), prepared from crushed barley, boiled in water with sugar to taste. The child of Vaisya should complete his fast by eating only Aamikshaa. This is sometimes called Shrikhanda or Sikhanda. This is prepared from cottage cheese four parts, milk one part, sugar to taste and saffron (Keshar). This preparation is strained through a piece of cloth. The children of the three Varnas, as describes above, should eat only those foods prescribed for them respectively when they feel hungry and should not eat or drink any thing else.
The utensils to be used in the Yajna etc. should be collected and appropriately sorted and cleansed a day before the ceremony. On the day of the ceremony, everything that is needed for the Yajna as mentioned in the Samanya Prakarana should be arranged by the Yajna Kunda. The boy to be invested with the Sacred Thread should have his head shaved, bathed and should dress appropriately. Either the father of the child or the Acharya, having fed the child with sweets, eatables etc. leads him to his seat to the west of the Yajnavedi (Havan Kunda) , keeping his face eastward. The father of the child and the priests of the Yajna as mentioned in the Samanya Prakarana, should take their seats in the prescribed manner perform Aachaman (sipping of water) and Angasparsha (touching various limbs with water). (Om Amrito Pastaramasi Swaha etc. and Om Vangme Asyestu etc.)
Thereafter, the Acharya conducting the ceremony should make the child pronounce the following sentence from the childs own mouth.
"May I observe the discipline of celibacy and thus may I be a celibate."
The Acharya then pronounces the following Mantra and gives to the child a garment and a Upavastra to wear.
From Paraskara Grihyasutra, 2.2.7.
"Om yenendraaya brihaspatirvaasah Paryadadhaadamritam.
Ten Tvaa Paridadhaamyaayushe Deerghaayutvaaya Balaaya Varchase."
O Child! I give this garment to you to wear for your long life, strength and vigour. This is in accordance with the tradition whereby the Acharya gives a strong and durable garment to his disciple.
Thereafter the child holds the Sacred Thread in his hand and sits in front of the Acharya. The Acharya invests the child with the Sacred Thread with the following Mantra and places (makes the child wear) the Sacred Thread on the left shoulder and slung across under the right armpit.
"Yagnopavitam Param Pavitram Prajaapatayeryatsahajam Purastaat.
Aayushyamagr Yam Pratimuncha Shubhram Yajnopavitam Balamastu Tejah.
Yajnopaveetamasi Yagnasya Tvayajyapayaveetenopanaahayaami."
This Yajnopavita (Sacred Thread) is very sacrosanct. Prajapati Himself has sanctioned this Sacred Thread. I invest you with this white Yajnopavita (Sacred Thread). This is the main (most important ) article for you. May it bring you strength and vigour.
This sacred Thread is really a Sacred Thread.
The Acharya then performs the Yajna (Havan) ceremony with the child seated on the right side of the Acharya. Some of the oblations (ahutis) are to be offered by the child.
Some of the Mantras used during this ceremony:
"Om Agne Vratapate Vratam Charishyami Tatte Prabraveemi Tatchhakeyam.
Tenrdhyaasimidamahamarnritaat SatyamUpaimi Svaaha. Idamagnaye Idanna Mama.
Om Vayo Vratapate Svaaha. Idam Vaayave Idanna Mama.
Om Surya Vratapate Svaaha. Idam SuryaayaIdanna Mama.
Om Chandra Vratapate Svaaha. Idam Chandraaya Idanna Mama.
Om Vrataanaam Vratapate Svaaha. Idamindraaya Vratapataye Idanna Mama."
O Self-refulgent God! Thou art the master of vows. I declare before Thee, I shall observe the vows and disciplines of celibacy. May I be enabled to observe this vow. May I prosper with this vow and attain the highest truth. Whatever has been uttered herein is true. The oblation offered is meant for Agni and it is not for me.
(Oblations are offered to all moving god Vayu, All effulgent Surya, all blissful Chandra, the lord of all vows and laws Indra).
The Acharya then sits to the north of the Yajna Kunda keeping his face eastward. The child sits in front of the Acharya keeping his face westward. Looking at the child, the Acharya should recite the following Mantra. The meaning of the Mantra :
O Self-refulgent God! We have received excellent cooperation from this child. Kindly lead us to the company of good men and good teachers. Together with this youth, may we follow the path of knowledge with ease. May this child do whatever is auspicious for him and for all.
Addressing the Acharya, the child says :
O Acharya! I have resolved to observe the disciplines of continence. Kindly admit me and invest me with the Sacred Thread.
The Acharya says:
What is your name?
The child states his name.
The Acharya makes the child hold water in his right hand palm. The Acharya recites Mantras.
The waters are the source of happiness. May the waters be helpful to us in attaining grains and may they help us to retain good eye sight.
Let the pleasant essence of waters be useful to us, like the mothers who, for the well-being of their children, give them their breasts to suckle..
Let the waters enable us to grow cereals and herbaceous plants. Let these be used for the welfare of our progeny.
The Acharya then takes water in his right hand palm and empties this water in the right hand palm of the child, mixing the two waters. This is done while the Acharya chants Mantra.
For our maintenance we accept whatever good food has been provided by God, who is the mighty power and Creator of the world. We also accept the strength and might of all-powerful God who maintains and preserves the existence of all the objects of creation.
The Acharya, chanting Mantra, then makes the child empty the water from his palm into a container.
O Child! I admit you in this life so that you can attain power and prosperity bestowed by God, who is the Creator of the world. I hold your hand in my own with the firmness and strength of the vital breaths called Prana and Apana and with the firmness and strength of Pushan, the all preserving vitality of the body.
The Acharya takes water in his right hand palm and empties it into the childs right hand palm. Holding the childs hand the Acharya chants Mantra.
O Child! Your hand has been grasped by Savitar, the mighty teacher who is the preserver of all knowledge.
The child then empties the water from his palm into the container.
For the third time, the same procedure is followed, the Acharya giving water into the palm of the child.
O Child! Again, the Self-refulgent God is your Acharya. (God is your real teacher).
Thereafter, the Acharya takes the child outside and while standing and facing the sun shows the sun to the child with chanting of Mantras.
O Creator and Lord of the world! This child is the Brahmacharin (student observing celibacy) of Thine. Please protect and preserve him. May he perform his duties well.
The Acharya returns to the Yajna Mandap with the child; both seating to the north of the Yajnakund. The child sits facing the Acharya. The Acharya pronounces the following two Mantras.
"Om Yuvaa suvaasaahaa Pariveeta Aagaatsa oo Shreyan Bhavati Jaayamanah"
This child (pronounce the name of the child), possessing strong physique, dressed in nice garments, wearing the sacred Thread, and who seated before me, has taken the second birth. May he (successfully study) the Vedas and acquire respect."
"Om Suryaasyaavritamanvaavarttasva Asou."
O Child, You circumambulate yore Acharya who is the sun (source) of knowledge. (As the sun is the source of life so the Acharya is the source of knowledge.)
The child circumambulates the Acharya.
The Acharya then places his right hand upon the right shoulder of the child, covering his hand with a piece of cloth. A Mantra is chanted about the vital airs.
Then the Acharya touches the childs belly, heart, again the right shoulder with
The Acharya touches the childs left shoulder, breast, saying Mantras.
Let the learned men of firm intentions and swift intellects, attaining the highest feats of knowledge through their minds and spirits, elevate this student to high status of genius and character.
O disciple! Make one (fine tune) your mind and heart with my mind always, and becoming fully attentive grasp my words with affection and understand the meaning of these words. May God, who is the Master of Vedic speech, unite you with me in thought and action according to your vow from this very day.
And the child replies in the affirmative.
Then the Acharya asks the student: "What is your name?"
The Student says : "Sir, my name is "
Acharya: "Whose Brahmachari are you?"
Student: "Yours, Sir."
The Acharya pronounces the following Mantra.
"Indrasya Brahmah Achaaryyasya, Agnihi Achaaryastvaahamaachaaryastava Asou."
O Child! You are the Brahmachari of Almighty God. The Self-refulgent God is your Acharya. I am your Acharya as Gods representative.
O Child! You are the Brahmachari of Prajapati. You are the Brahmachari of Prana, God who is the all pervading Soul. Prajapati invests you with the Sacred Thread for your happiness. I also urge you to follow the command of Prajapati.
O Child! I urge you to attain the knowledge of Prajapati who is the Lord of all creatures. I urge you to attain the knowledge of the might sun. I urge you to attain the knowledge of liquids and herbs, of the earth and the heavenly regions, of all the physical and spiritual forces. May you be successful in maintaining peace and tranquility among all beings.
Upon the completion of the Upanayana ceremony, if time permits, the Vedarambha (commencing the study of the Vedas) ceremony should preferably take place on the very same day. Otherwise, the Vedarambha ceremony can take place on another day.
The mother, the father, the Acharya and other guests then bless the child together with the following words.
"Om tvam jeeva Sharadah Shatam Vardhamaanah.
Aayushmaan Tejasvee varchasvee Bhooyaaha."
O Child! May you grow in strength and vigour and live a hundred autumns. May you become long lived, brilliant and radiant.
[Related article: "Sacred Thread" <Click here]
To observe the disciplines and to commence and undertake the studies of the Vedas and their branches (systems and limbs known as Sangopanga) is called Vedarambha.
In the morning, the student, after bathing and wearing clean clothes, sits to the west of the Yajnavedi (Havankund), keeping his face eastward. The Acharya begins the ceremony with Achaman Mantra (sipping of water) and Angasparsha Mantra (touching various organs with water) followed by Ishwar Upasana (prayer), Svatsivachan, Santikarana.
The Havan ceremony (Sacred fire ceremony) is then commenced. The student participates in the Yajna and offers ahutis (oblations). During the Havan ceremony, before the Purnahuti, Vishesh Mantras (Mantras used for Vedarambha ) are used.
Some of these Mantras are described below.
O famous Acharya! Please make me earn fame in the field of education. O Acharya! Enable me to attain to your status of learning and prominence and a preserver of knowledge, Yajanas etc.
The student then standing on the south side of the Yajnakunda and keeping his face northward, takes a samidha (small wooden stick), dips it in ghee, and offers it in the middle of the fire as oblation with the following Mantra.
I am offering this ahuti (oblation) to add to the burning flame of the Yajna that is mighty in nature and present in all the created beings and objects of the world. As this fire blazes forth with the samidha (wood-fuel), so may I shine with wisdom, knowledge of the Vedas and of Brahman (God) and may I be endowed with vigour, long life, progeny and wealth. Grant long life to my Acharya and to his sons. May I be enriched with high intellectual power. May I not be arrogant to anyone. Grant me prominence, vigour, divine merits and food and grains.
Two further oblations are offered with samidha dipped in ghee.
The student now sits in the west side of the Vedi facing the east. Applying a little of the shesh water on the palms of his hands, holds them by the fire warming the hands. With each of the seven mantras, he should apply the water over his face and on the head.
1.This fire is the preserver of the body. May it preserve my body.
2. This fire is the giver of life. May it grant me long life.
3. This fire is the giver of brilliancy. May it grant me brilliancy.
4. Whatever gets exhausted in my body, let this fire replenish that.
5. May Savita grant me wisdom.May the goddess Saraswati grant me wisdom.
6. Let the teacher and preacher, wearing garlands, give us knowledge.
The student then touches various organs with various Mantras.
"Om Vak Cha Ma Aapyaayataam." (touches the mouth)
O Lord! May my organ of speech be sound and well developed. May my nose, eyes, ears be sound and well developed. May my arms, which are the source of fame and strength, be strong and develop properly.
The student then meditates (offers prayer) with the following Mantra.
May Agni, the Self-refulgent God give me wisdom, progeny and strength, May Indra, the almighty god, bestow upon me the favour of wisdom, progeny, and properly developed organs. May Surya, the all controlling god, grant me wisdom, progeny and brilliance. O effulgent and powerful Lord, grant me effulgence, power and prominence.
Now the student walks to the north side of the Yajnakunda. Facing the east, he kneels on his knees before the Acharya.
Balakoktihi: (The student says:)
"Aadhihi Bhuhu Savitri Bho Anubroohi."
O Acharya! Please instruct me The Gayatri Mantra, the subject matter of which is Savitar, the sun. Please teach me.
The Acharya then places a piece of cloth on his own shoulder and on the shoulder of the student, and holding both hands of the student in his hands, teaches the Gayatri Mantra to the student in three parts.
The Acharya makes the student pronounce the following, word by word.:
"Om Bhurbhuvah Svah Tatsaviturvarenyam."
"Om Bhurbhuvah Svah Tatsaviturvarenyam Bargo Devasya Dhimahi."
"Om Bhurbhuvah Svah Tatsaviturvarenyam
The Acharya then explains in short the meaning of the Gayatri Mantra.
Thereafter the student affirms vows. (The same vows as for the Sacred Thread ceremony).
The student is given a girdle and a wooden staff (rod, well- made, smooth and free of any defect). For the Brahmana boy, the girdle be made of Darbha or Munja grass, for the Kshatriya boy, the girdle be made from Dhanusa grass and for the Vaisya boy, the girdle be made from Jute.
The Brahmana boy should be given a rod (stick) made of Palash or Bilva wood. The length of the rod to extend from the ground to top of the head.
The Kshatriya boy should be given a rod made from Vat or Khadir wood. The length of the rod from the ground till his eyebrow.
The Vaisya student should be given a rod made from Peepul or Gular wood. The length of the rod to reach from the ground till the tip of his nose.
In addition the student is given a deerskin to sit on, one pot or container to hold water, and two small pots or containers.
The student, holding the rod, says:
This staff (rod) that I hold, I accept it specially for the attainment of long life, knowledge of the Vedas, for (adherence to) disciplines and strength of continence.
The father of the celibate student then gives general information regarding the life of a Brahmacharin (celibate student) and preaches the code of conduct. [Scriptural sources Gobhil Grihyasutra, Ashvalayans Grihyasutra, Paraskar Grihyasutra]
You realise that you are a Brahmachari (celibate) from today. You must always sip a little clean (pure) water and say your food prayer before taking meals.
Always keep away from evil acts and do all pious and righteous acts. You do not ever sleep in day time.
Remaining under the guidance and control of your Acharya, you will always with perseverance learn the Vedas with all their limbs and sub-limbs.
Always follow the rules of Dharma (righteousness) under your Acharya. You do not ever do anything of Adharma (unrighteous), even if such request be made by your Acharya even (to do anything of adharma).
You must abstain from anger. Always speak the truth (do not tell a lie.)
Always keep away from the eight kinds of acts of passion.
[Note: these eight acts of passion are: 1.To think of a woman. 2.To gossip about woman. 3.To touch a woman. 4.To play with a woman. 5.To gaze at a woman. 6.To embrace a woman. 7.To be alone with a woman. 8.To cohabit with a woman.]
Sleep only on the ground and not on beds with four legs.
Never be in the habit of Kaushilava (bad songs sung or played on musical instruments, dances; abominable acts, use of perfumes etc.).
Always observe rules of moderation in bathing, eating, sleeping, and keeping awake. The same applies to greed, undue indulgence, fear and grief.
Always wake up and rise from bed during the early hours of Brahmamuhurta (between 4 and 6 in the morning). Perform your daily ablutions. You must take a bath everyday. Twice every day you must do acts of communion with God, pray, meditate and practice Yogic systems.
Do not eat meat. Do not eat dry, coarse cereals. Do not drink intoxicating drinks.
Do not ride on bullocks, horses, elephants, camels etc.
You are not to stay in any village (any place inhabited by people) except in Gurukula (Gurukula is a system of boarding school within the compounds of which stay only the teachers and the students).
As a Brahmachari you do not use shoes or umbrella.
Do not play with the organ of procreation (so as to prevent the discharge of semen). By conserving the semen in the body it transforms into Ojas, opening the full potential of your mind and intellect, becoming the source of attaining knowledge of the Vedas and all their branches. Do not massage your body with oil etc. Do jot use mustard-paste (cosmetics) for the beauty of the body.
Do not eat foods that are very sour like tamarind etc., very pungent like chilies etc., very astringent like haldi, very purgative like Jamalgota, very saltish foods, or very acidic foods.
Do your daily chores with care and regularity and be fully attentive to the task of learning (acquiring knowledge and wisdom).
You will always possess good character. You should never be extravagant in talk. Cultivate good behaviour and develop courtesies when meeting people, sitting in assemblies.
Keep yourself bound by the duties of wearing the girdle, keeping the wooden staff (stick) and the rules of mendicancy.
[Note: A Brahmans child, when asking for alms from a man should address him "Bhavaan Bhikshaam Dadaat." When asking for alms from a woman, he should address "Bhavati Bhikshaam Dadaatu." The Kshatriya student to men "Bhikshaam Bhavaan Dadaatu." To women "Bhikshaam Bhavati Dadaatu." Vaisya student should address men, "Bhikshaam dadaat Bhavaan" To woman, "Bhikshaan Dadaat Bhavati."]
Do not deviate from the daily performance of: your daily bath, daily prayer and meditation, Prostrate with reverence before your Acharya every morning and every evening.
These are the deeds of your daily performance. You should abstain from acts that have been prohibited.
The student then with folded hands bows (or prostrates before his father). The student addressing his father says:
"I shall certainly act according to your instructions and advice."
Thereafter the celibate student circumambulates the fire of the Yajnakunda and stands in the west of the Yajnavedi. He then asks for alms from his mother, father, brother, sister, maternal uncle, mother's sister, uncle etc., who do not hesitate in giving alms. The student hands over all the alms to the Acharya. The Acharya takes some wheat cereals from the alms and gives to the student.
The Acharya then asks for some cooked rice for offering oblations. Mixing with a little ghee, three oblations are offered with the following Mantras.
Having worshipped with truthful action and speech, God, who is wondrous, the lovely
friend of the soul, May I acquire wisdom that discriminates between truth and untruth.
"Tatsavituvarenyam Bhargo Devasya Dhimahi Dhiyo Yo Nah Prachodayaat" Svaha, Idam Savitar Idam Na Mama.
"O creator of the universe! O All holy and worthy of adoration. May we contemplate
Thy adorable Self. May Thou guide our understanding." Whatever has been uttered
herein is true. The oblation offered is meant for Savitar and it is not for me.
"Om Rishibhyah Svaaha. Idam Rishibhyah Idam Na Mama."
We pay homage to Rishis (seers) who study the Vedas and understand their meanings.
Whatever has been uttered herein is true. The oblation offered is for the Rishis and it is
not for me.
Thereafter the Acharya offers a fourth ahuti with the Swishtakrit Homahuti Mantra "Om Yadasya Karmanah Tyariricham "
Thereafter the Havan ceremony is brought to conclusion with the rest of the Mantras and the Purnahuti.
The student seats facing the east, addresses the Acharya:
"Amuk (mention here the name of the family) Gotrotpanno Aham Bho Bhavantam Abhivaadaye" - Gobhil Grihyasutra 2/10/25
I, born in the genealogy of ..(name of family) salute you (prostrate before you), O my teacher.
The student then prostrates before the acharya.
The Acharya says:
(O my dear disciple!) May you be long lived and may you attain knowledge with wisdom.
After the Acharya has given his blessings to the Brahmachari, some of the food remaining from the Yajna (cooked rice, cereals, sweetmeats etc.) should be give to the Acharya, and to the student to eat.
Thereafter, all the guests are served meals prepared for this function.
Before leaving, people bless the student with the following sentence:
"O Child! May you, by the grace of God, become learned, strong in body and soul, blessed with skills, vigour and excellent health. After having attained knowledge of the Vedas and all their branches, may you come back from the Gurukula, with the desire of seeing us."
(From The Atharvaveda)
The qualified student
The Brahmachari (celibate student), shining with knowledge, becoming fully fledged, upon completion of his studies in the Gurukula, completing the state of Brahmacharya called Purvasamudra, enters immediately into the householders life called Uttarsamudra (gets married). He encourages all people to achieve their goals. He exerts continuously to achieve the goal of life (Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha). He makes the world happy with his speech of righteousness and truth.
Only that is the king who by observing austerities, strict disciplines of celibacy, has become a perfectly learned man (with knowledge and wisdom), perfectly educated (in arts and sciences) and who is a symbol of good conduct, who is self controlled and can rule the country in various ways (all the various departments of government).
In the same manner, only that is the Acharya who by observing austerities and strict disciplines of celibacy, leading a life of continence, has become a perfectly learned man (with knowledge and wisdom), perfectly educated (in arts and sciences) and who is a symbol of good conduct. Only such a person can desire to teach a celibate student . Only such a person can become the Acharya in the real sense.
Education for girls
As the boys, completing the life of perfect Brahmachari, attaining the complete knowledge of the Vedas and all their branches, knowledge of all the sciences, and in the full bloom of youth, are now fit to wed girls, so the girls, completing the courses of all sciences with perfect disciplines of continence, in the full bloom of their youth, should wed young men.
[Note: Women are barred from the study of the Vedas. Therefore, study of the sciences
only is mentioned. Study of the Vedas is not mentioned here. The Laws of Manu, IX, 18
states: "For women no sacramental rite is performed with sacred texts, thus the law
is settled; women who are destitute of strength and destitute of the knowledge of Vedic
texts, are as impure as falsehood itself, that is a fixed rule."
Translations by Swami Nikhilananda, Sri Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, New York
Having taught the Vedas, the teacher thus instructs the pupil:
Speak the truth. Practise Dharma (religious duties; righteousness and ritualistic worship). Do not neglect the study of the Vedas. Having brought to the teacher the gift desired by him, (enter the householders life and see that) the line of progeny is not cut off. Do not swerve from the truth. Do not swerve from Dharma. Do not neglect (personal) welfare. Do not neglect prosperity (refers to righteous actions by which wealth is earned). Do not neglect the study and teaching of Vedas.
Do not neglect your duties to the gods and the Manes. Treat your mother as god (Matru Devo Bhava). Treat your father as god (Pitru Devo Bhava). Treat your teacher as god (Aacharya Devo Bhava). Treat your guest as god (Atithi Devo Bhava). Whatever deeds are faultless, these are to be performed- not others. Whatever good works have been performed by us, those should be performed by you- not others.
Those Brahmins who are superior to us- you should comfort them by giving them seats. Whatever is to be given should be given with faith, not without faith- according to ones means, with modesty, with fear (of the scriptures or of sin), with sympathy.
Now, if there arises in your mind any doubt concerning conduct, you should conduct yourself in such matters as Brahmins would conduct themselves- Brahmins who are competent to judge, who (of their own accord) are devoted to good deeds, and are not urged to their performance by others, and who are not too severe, but are lovers of Dharma.
Now, with regard to persons spoken against, you should conduct yourself in such a way as Brahmins would conduct themselves- Brahmins who are competent to judge, who (of their own accord) are devoted to good deeds and that are not urged to their performance by others, and who are not too severe, but are lovers of Dharma.
This is the rule. This is the teaching. This is the secret wisdom of the Vedas. This is the command of God.
This you should observe. This alone should be observed.
last rites of the dead
The last rites of the dead body are called the Antyeshti Samskara. There is no other Samskara thereafter for this body. This Samskara is also called by the names of Naramedha, Purushmedha, Narayaga and Purusheayaga.
From the Yajurveda 40.15 (also Isa Upanishad).
"Vayurnilammamritamathedam Bhasmantam Shariram
Om Krto Smara. Klibe Smara. Kritghvam Smara."
O active soul, at the time of death, remember OM, remember God for thy vitality and thy eternity, remember thy deeds. Know that soul is immaterial and immortal but the body is finally reduced to ashes. (translation by Devi Chand)
Source Ashwalayana Grihyasutras
Kesar, Saffron One masha in each one Seer of Ghee
Kasturi, Musk One Ratti in each one Seer of Ghee
Agar Acquilaria Malaccensis- One Seer in each one mound
Tagar Veleriana Walichli - One Seer in each one Maund
Sandal-wood powder -One Seer in each one mound
Camphor - As the circumstances permit
I Length of the Kunda should be equal to the length of a man standing with his hands stretched upwards.
II The breadth (width) should be equal to the a person sleeping with his two hands stretched outwards (more than 1 ½ yards).
III Depth should be chest high (taking into account average heights of men).
IV The bottom should be one yard in breadth.
Oblations should be offered in the blazing fire with the following Mantras.
"Om Agnaye Svaha/ This oblation is for Agni. Whatever is uttered herein is true.
Om Somaaya Svaha/ " " " Soma. " " " "
Om Lokaaya Svaha/ " " " This world Loka) " "
Om Anumataye Svaha/ " " Earth " "
Om swargaaya Lokaaya Svaha/ " the other world (heaven) "
"Om Suryam Chakshurgacchatu Vatimaatmaa Dyaam Cha Gachchha Prithivim Cha Dharmana/
Apo Va Gachchha Yadi Tatra Te Hitamoshadhishu Pratimtishtha Sharirai svaha."
O Jiva (Soul)! After thy death, (may all the components of thy body be merged into the five elements). May the power of thy sight be absorbed in the sun and thy breath be absorbed in the air (atmosphere). May thy other parts be absorbed in appropriate elements. And in accordance with the meritorious deeds thou hast performed here, may thy spirit dwell in the appropriate body.
From the Yajurveda 40.15 (also Isa Upanishad).
"Vayurnilammamritamathedam Bhasmantam Shariram
Om Krto Smara. Klibe Smara. Kritghvam Smara."
(Translations by Pandit Nardev Vedalankar assisted by Mr.Sookraj Chotai, B.A., B.Ed.)
The spirit which is immortal is not made of the five elements and does not perish. This body will be reduced to ashes. Therefore, O mortal! (At the time of death) remember the almighty Om, remember God, and remember thy past deeds, as by so doing can one attain salvation.
From the Atharvaveda
O effulgent God! Thou art the dispenser of justice. Thou recompense every one according to his or her deeds. Peace be to the spirit of this dead body in the westward direction. May there be peace to this spirit in the east, the north and the south and all the other directions. O Omniscient and all-illuminating God! Thou art the Creator, the Sustainer and the destroyer of this universe. May thou bestow a worthy abode to this soul.
From the Rigveda
O Jiva! By thy austerity and enlightenment, and by they good deeds, attain the bliss in heaven and join the company of thy forbears. Be free from all sins and once again may thy spirit acquire (reside in) noble body full of lustre. And once again may thou come to this world to perform noble deeds.
"Everything perishes with the death of the body. It is only Dharma (righteousness) that is our real friend, which even after death remains with the spirit. Therefore do not allow the Dharma to perish, for Dhrama (when) perished brings about our (own) destruction."
From The Bhagavad Gita 11/38
Thou are the primal God, the ancient Being. Thou art the final resting place of this universe. Thou art the Knower and That which is to be known and the Ultimate Goal. By Thee is the universe pervaded, O Thou of infinite form.
From The Bhagavad Gita 2/22
Even as a person casts off worn-out clothes and puts on others that are new, so the embodied Self casts of worn-out bodies and enters into others that are new.
From The Bhagavad Gita 2/20
It (the Self ) is never born, nor does It ever die, nor, having once been, does it again cease to be. Unborn, eternal, permanent and primeval, It is not slain when the body is slain.
[Note: The Self is destitute of the six kinds of modification inherent in every living thing: birth, subsistence, growth, change, decay and death. The Self is altogether changeless.]
From The Bhagavad Gita 2/23
Weapons cannot cut It (Self or the individual Soul), fire cannot burn It, water cannot wet It, wind cannot dry (wither) It.
[Note: Weapons can destroy an object by cutting it into parts; but the Self is without parts and is therefore indestructible. The same applies to the other methods of destruction. Only a material object consists of parts and is therefore destructible.]
From The Bhagavad Gita 2/27
For to that which is born, death is certain, and to that which is dead, birth is certain. Therefore you should not grieve over the unavoidable (inevitable).
From The Bhagavad Gita 2/28
All beings are unmanifest in their beginning, O Arjuna, manifest in their middle state, and unmanifest again in their end. Why, then, lament (grieve) for them?
[Note: Commentary by Swami Shivananda, Divine Life Society, Rishikesh: The physical body is a combination of the five elements. It is perceived by the physical eye only after the five elements have entered into such combination. After death the body disintegrates and the five elements return to their source. The body cannot be perceived now. Therefore, the body can be perceived only in the middle state.]
From Yajurveda 2/54
May we get in future births again and again the mind, for doing virtuous deeds, for acquiring strength, for longevity, and contemplation of God for long.
The shaving of the head of the male whose near relation has died is customary and practised in many Hindu homes. It may be a voluntary custom because we have not come across reference to this practice in scriptural texts. The period of impurity (Asaucha) or pollution or defilement is generally for ten days (from the day of last rites or cremation) for near relations. The rules to be observed during the period of impurity are of two kinds- negative (passive) and positive. The negative rules require the mourners to forego the many pleasures and comforts and even the routine business of daily life, thus exhibiting the feelings of grief and sorrow. They forbid certain things such as cutting of the hair and beard; forbid the study of the Vedas (during this period), Grhya offerings etc. The positive rules have also their origin in the aggrieved feelings of the survivors. They enjoin for a period of three days, to observe continence, to sleep on the ground, to live on begged or purchased food, to eat only in the day time etc.
The collection of the bones (a day after cremation of the body) is the ceremony known
as 'Asthi-Sanchayana'. These are either dispersed in waters of sacred rivers or buried in