Priest for Weddings, Pujas, and Samskaras performed by
Murari Das Adhikari
Samskaras, or Hindu rites of passage, according to the ancient sage Panini, are the ornaments that decorate one’s personality. They mark the important stages of one’s life and enable one to live a fulfilling life complete with happiness and contentment. They pave the way for one’s physical and spiritual journey through this life. It is believed that the various Hindu samskaras meticulously leads to a purification of one’s sins, vices, faults, and even correction of physical deformities. The Upanishads mention samskaras as a means to grow and prosper in all four Dharma (righteousness), Artha (wealth), Karma (action) and Kama (work and pleasure), and Moksha (salvation).
How Many Samskaras do Hindus have?
The detailed explanation about samskaras is found in the ancient Hindu scriptures – the Smritis andGrihasutras. However, all the different Grihasutrasdiffer on both the names and numbers of samskaras. While the sage Aswalayana lays down 11 customs, Bauddhayana, Paraskar, and Varaha explain 13. Sage Vaikhana has 18 and Maharishi Gautam talks of 40 samskaras and 8 self qualities. However, the 16 samskaras that Rishi Veda Vyas propounded are considered the most important rites of passage in a Hindu’s life.
What are the 16 Major Hindu Samskaras?
Garbhadhana is the conception ritual for having healthy children.
Punswana is the fertilization ritual performed on the third month of pregnancy asking for life and safety of the foetus
Seemantonnayana ritual is observed in the penultimate month of pregnancy for safe and assured delivery of the baby.
Jatkarma is birth ceremony of the new-born baby.
Namkarana is the naming ceremony of the baby, which is observed 11 days after its birth. This gives the new-born an identity with which he or she will be associated all his life.
Niskramana is the act of taking the four-month-old child out for the first time into the open to sunbathe.
Annaprashana is the elaborate ceremony conducted when the child is fed cereal for the first time at the age of six months.
Chudakarma or Keshanta karma is the ceremonious tonsuring of the head made to him. The baby’s head is shaved off and the hair is ceremonially immersed in the river.
Karnavedha is the ritual of having the ear pierced. These days it is mostly girls who have their ears pierced.
Upanayana aka thread ceremony is the investiture ceremony of the sacred thread where Brahmin boys take the life of a bramachari. They are adorned with a sacred thread hung from one shoulder and passed around their front and back.
Vedarambha or Vidyarambha is observed when the child is initiated into study. In ancient times, boys were sent to live with their gurus in a ‘gurugriha’ or hermitage to study.
Samavartana is the convocation or the commencement to the study of the Vedas.
Vivaha is the lavish nuptial ceremony. After marriage, the individual enters the life of a ‘grihastha’ or conjugal life – the life of a householder.
Awasthyadhana or Vivahagni Parigraha is a ceremony where the marrying couple encircles the sacred fire seven times. It is also known as ‘Saptapadi.’
Tretagnisangraha is the auspicious ritual that starts the couple on their domestic life.
Antyeshti is the final rite of passage or funeral rites that is performed after death.
The 8 Rites of Passage or Ashtasamskara
Most of the above 16 samskaras, which originated thousands of years ago, are practiced by most Hindus even to this day. However, there are eight rites that are considered essential. These are known as ‘Ashtasamskaras’, and they are as follows:
Namakarana–the Name-Giving Ceremony
This image depicts the Hindu name-giving ceremony, performed in the home or the temple 11 to 41 days after birth. In this rite, the father whispers the auspicious new name in the infant’s right ear.
Anna Prasana–the Beginning of Solid Food
Here is the rite in which the head is shaven and smeared with sandalwood paste. The rite is performed in the temple or home before the age of age. It is a very happy day for the child. The shaven head is said to denote purity and egolessness.
Vidyarambha–the Beginning of Education
This illustration depicts the formal beginning of primary education for the child. In this rite, performed in the home or temple, the child scribes the first letter of the alphabet in a tray of unbroken, uncooked, saffron rice.
Upanayana–the Sacred Thread Ceremony
Here we see the ceremonial investment of the “sacred thread,” and the child’s inititation into Vedic study, performed in the home or temple, usually between the ages of 9 and 15. At the conclusion of this rite, a youth is considered “twice born.”
This illustration shows the marriage ceremony, performed in a temple or wedding hall around the sacred homa fire. Lifetime vows, Vedic prayers and seven steps before God and Gods consecrate the union of the husband and the wife.
Antyeshti–Funeral or Last Rites
Finally, we see the funeral rite, which includes the preparation of the body, cremation, home-cleansing and dispersal of the ashes. The purifying fire symbolically releases the soul from this world that it may journey unhindered to the next.
Om Tat Sat
It is a ceremony to give and receive blessings,
and also for special dates.
Ceremony to obtain ‘Shanti’ or peace, and also prosperity.
Nirshinga is the most powerful Divinity to give us all kinds of protection,
in any place and circumstance.
Lakshmi, the Goddess of Fortune who
gives wealth and abundance.
This ceremony is so colorful, when it is going to inaugurate
a house, a store, a commercial place, or a company.
Car puja Vahana-Puja
This ceremony, unlike the previous ones, is simpler to perform …
Vahana-puja are the rituals (Yana) that are made to an automobile, motorcycle, truck, etc. To bless it and invoke good influences.
Also the palanquines or carriages are usually made in the religious processions, since these are constructed with the specific measures given in Vastu-shastras.
This ceremony I have done on several occasions.