16 Samskaras or Sanskar as they are usually called are central to anyone’s life in Hinduism. They mark, train, and celebrate the beginning of a significant period of someone’s life. So in this post, we will discuss all 16 Sanskar of an individual’s life in Hinduism.
What is a Sanskar (Samskaras)?
1. As a Psychological Concept
In the context of Karma theory, Samskara is dispositions, characters, or behavioral traits either as inherent from birth (previous lives imprints). Samskara is a behavioral trait perfected over time through Yoga, through conscious shaping of the inner self, one’s desire, sense of moral responsibility, and through practice.
Sanskar can also be considered as someone’s temperament or nature that evolves through someone’s passing through life. In Samkhya and Yoga schools, samskara – also spelled as Samksara – are impressions or residues that affect an individual’s Gunas (behavior attributes).
According to Nyaya darshan, not all Samskara is psychological. Most actions, diligent preparation, and inner resolutions trigger impressions or dispositions in the psyche of an individual. These influence how the individual acts, perceives self, and those individual responds to or accepts the karmic circumstances and the future.
2. As a Ritual
Samskara or Sanskar can also be described as preparing someone for something i.e. to perform a certain task we need to go through certain training. So ritual Samskara or Sanskar is the training imparted for something important.
Samskaras are means to an end having not much importance of themselves. Samskaras in Hinduism are rites of passage that begin with one’s birth, celebrate certain early steps in a baby’s growth and then various stages of life such as the first learning day, graduation from school, wedding, pregnancy, as well as those related to final rites associated with cremation.
The 16 Sanskars
1. Garbhadhan(pregnancy) Sanskar
Ayurveda says it is necessary to be happy and strong in the body as well as mind for a healthy pregnancy. Therefore the man and the woman who wished to get pregnant should always eat healthy & Satoguni food and should always be happy.
At the time of conception, the mind of man and woman should be filled with enthusiasm, happiness, and joy. To get a good child, first of all, conception-sanskar has to be done. Progeny is produced by the combination of Raja and Semen of the parents. The physical union of a man and a woman is called conception or Garbhadhan sanskar.
2. Pumsavana (nurturing the fetus)
Punsavan Sanskar is conducted after three months because the brain of the fetus starts developing after three months in the womb. At this time, the foundation of the sanskaras of the child born in the womb is laid through the Punsavan Sanskar. According to the belief, the child starts learning in the womb.
3. Simanatonnayana (parting of pregnant woman’s hair in 8th month)
Seemantonnayan is performed in the fourth, sixth, and eighth months of pregnancy. At this time the child grows in the womb and becomes capable of learning. To bring knowledge of good qualities, nature, and actions, the mother behaves in the same way, behaves and behaves in the same way. During this, the mother should study by staying calm and happy.
4. Jatakarman (rite celebrating the birth)
By performing Jatkarma Sanskar as soon as the child is born, many types of defects of the child are removed. Under this, the baby is licked with honey and ghee, as well as Vedic mantras are recited so that the child is healthy and long.
5. Namakarana (naming the child)
After the birth of the child, the naming ceremony is performed. The naming ceremony is performed on the 11th day after the birth of the child. The name of the child should have meaning and should guide the child in what he has to achieve in life.
6. Nishkramana (first outing)
In the fourth month of birth, the Nishkramana ceremony is performed. The meaning of expulsion is to take out. Our body is made up of earth, water, fire, air, sky, etc. which are called Panchabhutas. Therefore the father prays to these deities for the welfare of the child. Also, wish the baby a long and healthy life.
7. Annaprashana (baby’s first feeding of solid food)
Annaprashan Sanskar is performed at the time of teething of the child i.e. at the age of 6-7 months. After this ritual, the feeding of normal food to the child begins. In the beginning, well-prepared food like kheer, khichdi, rice, etc. is given.
8. Chudakarana (first haircut of the baby)
When the hair of the head is removed for the first time, then it is called Chudakarma or Mundan Sanskar. When the child is one year old, or at the age of three, or the age of the fifth or seventh year, the child’s hair is removed.
This sanskar sharpens the child’s intellect. Along with this, the germs sticking in the hair of the baby are destroyed, due to which the baby gets health benefits.
9. Karnavedha (ear piercing)
Karnavedha sanskar means piercing the ear. There are five reasons for this, one- is to wear jewelry. Two, is acupuncture, due to which the flow of blood in the veins going to the brain starts to improve. Third, it increases hearing power and prevents many diseases. Fourth, it strengthens the sexual senses.
10. Upanayana (entry into school)
Yagyopavit also called Upanayana or Janeu Sanskar. Every Hindu should perform this sanskar. Upa means to pass and Nayan means to carry. To be taken to the Guru means to perform the Upanayana ceremony. This is the tradition even today. There are three sutras in the Janeu i.e. Yajnopavit. These are the symbols of three debts every child has- Rishi debt, Pitra debt, and Deva debt.
Keshant means to end the hair, to end them. Keshant or say that Mundan is done even before the study of Vidya. Before attaining education, purification is necessary, so that the mind works in the right direction. In ancient times, Keshant Sanskar was performed even after getting an education from Gurukul.
Samavartan sanskar means to return. After receiving education from the ashram or gurukul, this sanskar was performed to bring the person back into society. It means preparing a celibate person psychologically for the struggles of life.
It is necessary to get married at an appropriate age. The marriage ceremony is considered to be the most important sacrament. After this, both the bride and the groom stay together under one roof and it is accepted socially. The main motto of this sanskar is to bear children and free oneself from the debt of the ancestors (Pitra debt).
14. Vanaprashtha (retirement from worldly life)
After this sanskar, the person retires from the day-to-day works of life. He relinquishes all of his duties of household and goes to the forest where he starts teaching in the gurukuls. There he keeps on preparing for the Sanyasa ashrama.
This sanskara is performed at the age of 50 to celebrate the departure from the stage of the head of the family to the stage of Vanaprastha when the person begins to participate in spiritual activities.
15. Sanyasa (renunciation of worldly life)
This ashram of someone’s life is the most important one. This is the target of everyone’s life. There is a misconception in the minds of most Hindus that the goal of this ashrama is to do meditation and detach from everything and prepare for Moksha. In reality, the goal of this ashrama is to spread the teachings of Vedas and other shastras to every corner of the world. This is the reason, a sanyasi doesn’t stay overnight in one place under normal circumstances.
16. Antyeshti (last rite)
This is the final rite of one performed after the death of the person.