In the Vedic tradition, there are 16 religious ceremonies known as Samskaars. These are performed for the physical, social and spiritual development of an individual.
These 16 Samskaars are:
GARBHADHAN SAMSKAAR- This samskara is performed for the fulfilment of one’s parental obligation and a continuation of the human race. This samskara is performed after marriage, and before the conception of a child. In this samskara, the couple chants Vedic mantras for a healthy, loving and happy married life and the wish for a child.
PUNSAVAN SAMSKAAR- This samskara is performed during the third or fourth month of pregnancy, for the physical growth of the child.
SEEMANTONNAYAN SAMSKAAR- This samskara is performed during the seventh month of pregnancy. The parents to be and their relatives offer prayers for mental growth of the child.
JATAKARM SAMSKAAR- This samskara is to welcome the new born child. Honey is given to the child with a thin gold bar.
NAMKARAN SAMSKAAR- The child is given a name during this samskara, which takes place after the child is 11 days old.
NISHKRAMANA SAMSKAAR- This samskara is performed 4th month after the birth of the child. The child is taken outside the home for the first time to be exposed to the different elements of nature.
ANNAPRASHAN SAMSKAAR- In this samskara the child is fed solid food for the very first time.
MUNDAN SAMSKAAR- During this samskara, the hair from the child’s head is shaved off for the very first time. Prayers are offered for his good health and development.
KARNAVEDH SAMSKAAR- The piercing of the lower lobes of child’s ear at the age of three is Karnavedh samskara. Prayers are offered for the health of the child.
UPANAYAN SAMSKAAR- In this samskara, the child is made to wear the yajyopavit or the sacred thread which is made from three strands, which represent the three discipline of life- knowledge, action and devotion.
VEDARAMBH SAMSKAAR- This samskara marks the student life for the child. His learning includes Vedas, and other religious books, Mathematics and science, which helps the child to grow spiritually and mentally.
SAMAVARTAN SAMSKAAR- This samskara is when the child completes his education and is ready to start a life of his own independently. This generally happens between the age of 21-25 years.
VIVAAH SAMSKAAR- This samskara is when the child decides to get married. This is a very important samskaar as this is the foundation that forms the very basis of family life.
VANAPRASTH- A person performs the vanaprasth by relinquishing all worldly things that provide personal benefit. The family responsibilities are handed over to the children.
SANYAAS- In this samskara, a person forsakes all material things and starts to lead a life of meditation and practices contemplation.
ANTEYSHTI SAMSKAAR- This is the last samskara that takes place after the death of a person. The body is cremated and once again reunites with the five basic elements (panchmahabhutas) it is made of- prithvi (earth), jal (water), tejas (fire), vayu (wind) and akash (space). The aatma (soul) is immortal.
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