Continuing with our series on 16 Sanskars in the Hindu Sanatan Dharma Tradition, here we explore the next ones beginning with the formal education of a person. These Sanskars are meant to inculcate positive qualities and lead one to self realisation. This is done by purifying one’s existence. After the childhood stage, one enters the student years followed by the adult years, wherein one marries and lives the life of a householder following one’s Dharma, Artha and Kaam.
10. Upanayan (Entrance to school) – “Upa” means “near” and “Nayan” means “to take near”. This Sanskar is meant to take a child to his teacher in literal terms. This helps a child in his or her mental or physical development and also spiritual progress. This is achieved by being under the guidance of a learned teacher and leading a disciplined life. One also follows the brahmacharya vrata (celebate life) from now onwards. After accepting and wearing this Yagnopavit (sacred cotton thread), a person is known as Dwij – born second time. This stage occurs when the child reaches the age of 8. Traditionally a student would also begin to live in a gurukul from now onwards.
11. Vedarambh (Learning of the Vedas) – This marks the start of learning of the Vedas and Upanishads. It was a fire ritual where the teacher and the student sat together reciting hymns. This is different from entering a school, since now the actual Vedic studies have commenced and the spiritual life of a student begins. This was different from learning other basic things such as Vocabulary and Grammar. Another ceremony called Keshani is performed where the hair is cut and Guru Dakshina is given. Keeping the head clean is considered an important part of brahmacharya. Ritushuddhi ceremony marks the coming of age for girls when her first menstruation occurs.
12. Samavartana (Graduation) – This marks the end of the student life and Brahmacharya phase for the person. This ends the formal education and the student leaves the Guru’s Ashram. One is called Viyasnataka (Bathed in knowledge) after one reaches this stage. He is now considered eligible to marry and enter Grihastha Ashram (Householder stage). This usually happens after completing 12 years of study, when the student has reached the age of 21.
13. Vivah (Wedding) – This is perhaps the most extensive ritual out of all. It is the stage when a person enters a Grihastha Ashram or married life (Vivah). This sacred ceremony takes place in the presence of family, friends, and elders. Mantras are chanted by a priest in the presence of fire. It is a lifelong commitment to each other. This stage marks the transition from the 1st ashram of Brahmacharya wherein the main focus was on Dharma, to Grihastha where in the main aim is Artha (pursuit of wealth) and Kam (pursuit of pleasure).
Read Part 4 of this article series on Sanskaras.