In the Hindu Sanatan Dharma rituals, 16 samskaras are prescribed during the life of a human being, beginning with conception all the way till the death of the person. These rituals mark the various prominent stages of a person’s life. The main purpose of these rituals is to cultivate positive qualities, purifying the soul, leading all the way to self realisation. These important turning points in one’s life are marked with celebration. Five different stages of one’s life are categorised – the prenatal years, the childhood years, the student years, the adulthood years and the old age or wisdom years.
The first four of these are performed before the birth of a child, the next 11 after the birth and the last one, after the death of the person. Vedic mantras and chanted while performing these Sanskars, along with offering prayers to one’s Ishta Deva (Personal Deity). Let us look at the first four of these in detail.
1. Garbhadan (Conception) – “Garbha” means a womb, and “Daan” means – to donate. This is the ritual of placing a man’s seed in the woman’s womb (or conception) The objective of Garbhadan ritual is the development and continuance of the progeny. One prays for a noble and intelligent child.
2. Punsavan (Nurturing the Foetus) – This is aimed at the good physical and mental development of the baby in the womb of the mother. A healthy and intelligent child is prayed for. This is performed during the 3rd or 4th month of conception when the first signs of the foetus are seen.
3. Simantonayan (Parting hair / Baby Shower) – Performed during the later stages of pregnancy, around the 6th or 7th month, this Sanskar is marked by parting the hair of the expectant mother by her husband in order to keep her spirits high and positive. This is the stage when the child’s mind is being developed and thus the mother is advised to have good and saintly association, and read scriptures and think of God.
- Jatakarma (Childbirth) – Performed at the birth of the child, when the navel string is cut from the mother. The father feeds the child a mixture of honey and ghee to mark the auspicious moment, when the child enters the world. Vedic mantras are chanted and prayers are offered for the long and healthy life of the child. The father blesses the child –
“You may become strong like a stone, brave against the enemies like the great sage Parshuram and you may remain pious forever like the gold”.
Read Part 2 of this article series on Sanskaras.