When is the sanskar of Sodmunja performed?

Contents


1. Mahanamnivrat

This vowed religious observance is followed for a year before commencing the study of the Mahanamni mantra. Consequently, the study of the mantra becomes easier.

2. Mahavrat

This vowed religious observance is followed for a year after completion of the Mahanamnivrat and before commencement of the study of the Aranyak named Mahavrat.

3. Upanishadvrat

This follows the Mahavrat. It lasts for a year and facilitates the process of learning the Upanishads from the Guru.

4. Godanvrat (The rite of Keshant)

‘In this sanskar (rite) the celibate is supposed to shave off all the hair on his head as well as the moustache and beard. This sanskar should be performed for the three classes, that is Brahman, Kshatriya and Vaishya. The variation of time according to the class has been described. In the Brahman, the sanskar of Godan is performed at the age of 16 years, in the Kshatriya at 22 years and in the Vaishya at 24 years. According to the Sutras during this rite the head should be shaved off completely without leaving even a tuft of hair (shikha) [Manusmruti 2.65]. However a ritual in which a small portion of hair is retained on the head is also described. According to another school of thought merely performing a fire sacrifice is equivalent to performing Godan; shaving off the head is not necessary. The following day the Guru commands the celibate “गोदानन्वतमाचर ।” meaning undertake the vowed religious observance of Godan. Thereafter for one year the celibate observes celibacy growing his hair and sporting a beard.’ (1)

The four vowed religious observances given above are referred to as the the vowed religious observances of the four Vedas (Chaturveda vrat). The teacher makes one practise these vowed observances in the celibate student stage (brahmacharyashram).

5. Keshant (Keeping a small portion of hair on the head)

This sanskar (rite) of keeping a small portion of hair on top of the head should be performed at an auspicious moment (shubhamuhurt) in the sixteenth year of life. Only a tuft of hair, the size of the hoof of a cow, is retained in the region of the Brahmarandhra, on the crown of the head. The importance of retaining a tuft of hair on the crown of the head is given in point ‘The objectives’.

6. Samavartan [Sodmunja (Giving up bachelorhood)]

6.1 Definition

The return of the student who has accepted the vowed religious observance of the celibate student (brahmacharyavrat) from the home of his Guru to his own is called Samavartan or Sodmunja.

6.2 The ritual

The following acts are performed amidst chanting of mantras – wearing clothes, applying lampblack (kajal), wearing earrings, a garland of flowers, footwear, holding an umbrella and a staff and wearing a gold bead. Now that the boy is returning to the stage of a married householder (gruhasthashram) this ritual teaches him to live like one.

6.3 Sodmunja and the one on whom the sanskar is being performed (munja)

‘If a celibate (brahmachari) Brahman expires there are chances of his becoming a spirit (munja samandha). Hence Sodmunja is performed hurriedly after thread ceremony (Upanayan). However if a celibate expires then before performing his last rites, the sanskars of Samavartan and Arkavivaha are performed. Further it is noticed that inspite of performing the Sodmunja some celibates become spirits and even if it is not performed some of them are reborn in a spiritually evolved state. This makes it clear that becoming a spirit is independent of whether Sodmunja is performed or not, it is dependent on the desires and instincts harboured by that individual. Hence, after the thread ceremony, performing the Sodmunja immediately and heaving a sigh of relief that now “I am liberated from all problems” is ignorance. Sodmunja does not absolve one from the restrictions of ritualistic bathing (snan), sandhya, etc. Those have to be performed in all the four stages (ashrams). On the contrary, it is wrong to perform the Sodmunja immediately after the thread ceremony (Munja) as till marriage one ceases to be in any of the stages (ashrams).’(2)

6.4 The celibate who has returned from his Guru’s home (snatak)

  • A. Meaning: ‘After completion of education at times some time elapses before the marriage of a man. This intermediate bachelor state is known as the stage of a celibate who has returned from his Guru’s home (snatak). Thus it is the stage between that of the celibate (brahmachari) and the married householder (gruhastha). After the ritual of Samavartan, till marriage the twice born (dvij) is a celibate who has returned from his Guru’s home.
  • B. Types: Vidyasnatak, vratasnatak and vidyavratasnatak are the three types of celibates who have returned from their Gurus’ homes. One who completes the study of the Vedas within twelve years and undergoes Samavartan is a vidyasnatak; one who undergoes Samavartan after performing the thread ceremony (Upanayan), the vowed religious observance of Savitri (Savitrivrat) and those of the Vedas is a vratasnatak; and the one who undergoes Samavartan after completion of the entire period of celibacy (brahmacharya) and the completion of the study of the Vedas is a vidyavratasnatak.’(3)
  • C. The regulations to be followed by a celibate who has returned from his Guru’s home
    • ‘I will not bathe nude either in the evening or at night without reason.
    • After marrriage, except during intercourse I will not look at a nude woman.
    • I will not travel or run in the rain.
    • I will not climb trees.
    • I will not climb down into a well.
    • I will not swim across a river.
    • I will not perform any deed which in my opinion is likely to endanger my life.

    I will abide by these rules’. After making this resolve one should remove the loin cloth (langoti) and the girdle (mekhala).

If after performing the thread ceremony, in the stage of celibacy any relative has expired then one should observe mourning (ashouch) for three days, after returning home (Samavartan). Even if more than one relative has expired, mourning should be observed for only three days.

Reference:

Bharatiya Sanskrutikosh. Publishers: Pandit Mahadevshastri Joshi, Secretary, Bharatiya Sanskrutikosh Mandal, 410 Shanivar Peth, Pune 411 030.
Vol. 3 to 10: First edition           Vol. 1 and 2: Second edition
1. Vol. 3, Pg. 134
3. Vol.10, Pg. 204

Shastra Ase Sangate. First edition, fifth reprint – October 94, Vedavani Publications, Kolhapur 416 010.
2. Pg. 129

 

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