What is meant by Sanskars ? Describe the aim and main types of Hindu Sanskars.
Meaning of Sanskars :- Sanskaras means to purify. According to Manu, Sanskars purify the body. Starting with Garbhadhana they end with Anthyeshti. Every Sanskara starts with a ‘home’ or ‘yajna’. Opinions differ in regard to their number. Whereas Gautama, dharma sutra detail some 48 Sanskaras most Grahsutras put their number at 10. Some of the more important Sanskaras are – Garbhadhana, Punsavana, Jatakarma, Namkarana, Upanayana, Samavartana, Vivaha, Antyesthi.
- Garbhadhana – Garbadhana is the first sanskara of human life. After marriage, the couple make sacrifices to the fire and promising to lead a life of love they pray to Vishnu, Sinjvali Ashwanau, Agni, Indra and other gods to grant to them the most powerful and innocent children to enable them to follow dharma. The first sanskara done with this pure feeling is garbhadhana it being done for the being to come into the womb of a woman.
- Punsavana – The punsavana sanskara is performed in the third month of wife’s pregnancy. The aim is the desire of a powerful son and the safety and health of the embryo.
- Jatakarma – The Jatakarma Sanskara is done when the child is born. In this the father touching the child whispers some mantras into his ears expressing the desire that he be intelligent and live to a ripe old age. Following it, OM is inscribed on the child’s tongue with a pen of gold. The aim is to create an atmosphere for the complete development of the child’s power right from the birth and to remind the parents of their responsibility in his character formation.
- Namakarana – Ten or twelve days after the child’s birth the namakarana sanskara is done. Following it are the nishkramana in the fourth month, and annaprashan in the sixth, chudakarana in the third year, and the karnavedha sanskara in the fifth year. On the subject of namakarana, Manu opines that the names given should be according to the varna and ideals.
- Upanayana – The upanayana sanskara takes place in the eighth year. Of the two parts of the words, it is a combination of two, the former ‘up’ means near while the child is taken to the guru or teacher. In the past, the child used to live with the teacher or study after upanayana. The aim of this sanskara is to establish as close a relation, between the teacher and the taught, as possible. He is given the sacred thread to wear and told the laws of Brahmacharya.
- Samavartana – After the person has finished his studies, observing all the laws of Brahmacharya, he comes home and it is the occasion for the samavartana sanskara. At this stage he is shaved for the first time and given cosmetics to use. He is considered as one possessing the right to spend a domestic life.
- Vivaha – Vivaha or marriage is an indication of the person’s having entered domestic life. According to Valvalkar, the person is thereby socialised because herein reproduction is promised for the furtherance of the race. In the vivaha sanskara rituals like madhuparka, shilarohan etc.are observed to impress the importance of holy wedlock.
After grihastha ashram at fifty, the person enters vanaprastha ashrama and the sanyasa ashrama at 75.
- Antyeshti – The antyeshti sanskara is don at person’s death. In this sanskara the tradition is to burn the body on a wooden pyre. Many mantras are chanted as ghee is sprinkled on the fire. Normally, it is the eldest son who performs the last rites.
Importance of Sanskaras : –
These sanskaras have a great importance from the viewpoint of ethics. According to Valvalkar, the whole system of sanskara points out that some new responsibilities are being put in man for social and individual good and it is his major duty to respect them. Marriage and other sanskaras are not only for individual good, they also represent his responsibility to society. Thus the balance and harmony of individual and society is maintained and progress happens.
In this way, the Hindu ethics maintains a proper balance between the individual and the social good, good of this life and the next, means and end, rights and duty or it would be even better to put it this way, in an integrated approach to life all these combine naturally and exist as mutual complements.