Samskar means “purificatory rite.” The grihastha couple joyfully imparts the Vedic samskaras, right from his/her birth and thus help the child to eventually attain the spiritual platform.
“ Janmana jayate shudrah samskarat bhavet dvijah.”
By birth, everyone is a shoodra, but by performance of samskaras one becomes a brhamana.
These deliberate & positive impressions which help create a deep & lasting impressions on the mind of a person - so as to generate interest in him about the Dharma, help bring out a positive personality and free the mind of its negativities are called ‘Samskaras’.
Samskaras are the turning points of life and need to be celebrated. Celebrations are very important ingredients of Samskaras. They directly or indirectly involve our respected elders, scholars, near & dear ones. Everyone gets together to convey their best wishes & blessings to the person concerned. Apart from scriptural validation, history also proves to us the great effectiveness of these methods.
There are sixteen Samskaras of Hindus which cover the entire life span of a person and take him to the door steps to Truth.
The Sixteen Samskaras
1. Garbhadan: The first coming together of the husband & wife for bringing about conception.
2. Pumsvana: Ceremony performed when the first signs of conception are seen, and is to be performed when someone desires a male child.
3. Seemantonayana: A ceremony of parting of the hairs of the expectant mother to keep her spirits high & positive. Special music is arranged for her.
4. Jatakarma: After the birth of the child, the child is given a secret name, he is given taste of honey & ghee, mother starts the first breast-feeding after chanting of a mantra.
5. Nama-karana: In this ceremony the child is given a formal name. Performed on the 11th day.
6. Nishkramana: In this the formal darshan of sun & moon is done for the child.
7. Annaprashana: This ceremony is performed, when the child is given solid food (anna) for the first time.
8. Choodakarana:Chooda means the 'lock of hair' kept after the remaining part is shaved off.
9. Karna-vedha: Done in 7th or 8th month. Piercing of the ears.
10. Upanayan & Vedarambha: The thread ceremony.(Yajnopaveeta) The child is thereafter authorised to perform all rituals. Studies of Vedas begins with the Guru.
11. Keshanta: Hairs are cut, guru dakshina is given
12. Samavartan: Returning to the house
13. Vivaha: Marriage ceremony
14. Vanprastha: As old age approaches, the person retires for a life of tapas & studies.
15. Sanyas: Before leaving the body a Hindu sheds all sense of responsibility & relationships to awake & revel in the timeless truth.
16. Antyeshthi: The last rites done after the death.