Why is Gouriharpujan performed prior to the marriage?


1. The promise of giving the daughter’s hand in marriage (Vagdan/Vanhnishchay)

1.1 Origin and meaning

  • A. The word Vagdan is derived from two words, vak and dan, meaning speech and donation respectively. Vagdan is promising to offer the daughter to the groom. In worldly terms it means the settlement made by the parents of the boy and the girl about arranging the marriage. In short, it is the resolve expressed by both parents.
  • B. Making the commitment of giving the girl’s hand in marriage by the girl’s father, and that of the groom’s father to accept her as a match for his son is called the commitment of arranging the marriage (Vanhnishchay).

1.2 The prevalent custom

It has become customary in the non-Brahman classes to perform the three rituals of Sakshagandha, Sakharpuda and Shalmudi according to the Purans. In reality, these three rituals are incorporated in the single Vedic ritual of Vagdan. Hence, when this Vedic ritual of Vagdan is performed, Sakshagandha, Sakharpuda and Shalmudi need not be performed as prescribed in the Purans.

  • A. Sakshagandha: After the promise (Vanhnishchay) to give the daughter’s hand in marriage to the groom is made, sandalwood paste (gandha) and vermilion (kumkum) is applied to the girl to mark the occasion. This is called Sakshagandha.
  • B. Sakharpuda: After performing the Vanhnishchay (Sakshagandha), the bride is given a cone filled with sugar (sweetmeats), a sari and some ornament.
  • C. Shalmudi: After the Sakshagandha and Sakharpuda, a ritual of presenting the groom a shawl (shal) and a ring (mudi) as a token of confirmation of the engagement is done. This is called Shalmudi.

1.3 The time

Actually, this ritual of promise of giving the daughter’s hand in marriage (Vagdan) should be performed many days before the wedding. This was practised formerly. However, nowadays due to the commencement of new rituals like Sakshagandha, Sakharpuda and Shalmudi, it has become customary to perform this ritual mostly on the day of the wedding or the previous day, at an auspicious time.

1.4 The ritual

First the father (or any guardian in his absence) should send four or eight male relatives to the house of the girl’s father along with married women (suvasinis) dressed in clean attire carrying the materials required for the ritual of Vagdan. This is done at an auspicious moment to the accompaniment of music. Before leaving the house of the groom they should offer obeisance to God. At that time, the groom or his father should pray and chant the mantra which means, ‘O deities ! We have sent our friends by road, to the house of the girl’s father, to ask for the girl’s hand in marriage. May those roads be free of evil elements. May the two deities Aryama and Bhag transport our friends there, safely. May relations build between our family and the family to which they have gone to ask for the girl’s hand in marriage. Also may the married couple lead a happy life’.

The relatives and the father of the bride or in his absence the guardians should welcome the groom’s relatives in the best possible way and offer them the best seats facing the west, as they are the receivers. Opposite them, the bride’s father should offer seats facing the east, to his relatives (as they are giving away the bride). Since they face the east they acquire the energy coming from that direction which is beneficial for the act of giving. Then the groom’s side should ask the girl’s father thrice, for her hand in marriage and the father should reply by saying, ‘I will give’, thrice. Then the groom’s side should pay respects to the girl by offering turmeric, vermilion (kumkum), a sari and a blouse, some ornaments, a packet of sugar, etc. and put some sugar in her mouth. [With relation to physical (adhibhoutik), psychological (adhidaivik) and spiritual (adhyatmik) dimensions it is a practice to ask thrice and a reply in the affirmative is given.]

1.5 The prayer to Indrayani

The prayer to be made by the bride and the groom – ‘By Your grace may my wedding take place without any obstacles. May I be able to acquire good fortune, health and a good son’.

2. Deciding the auspicious time (Muhurtnishchay) and serving a meal to the parents of the bride (Vyahibhojan)

These are just popular customs.

  • A. Deciding the auspicious time (Muhurtnishchay): After approval of the bride, discussion about exchange of gifts takes place. Then the day of the marriage and the auspicious time (muhurt) for the same is fixed in consultation with an astrologer.
  • B. Serving a meal to the parents of the bride (Vyahibhojan): The parents of the bride are forbidden from having a meal at their daughter’s (in-laws) place until she gives birth to a son. Hence the parents of the groom invite them over for a meal before the wedding and dine with them. This is called Vyahibhojan. It is customary to offer gifts to the bride’s parents on this occasion.
  • C. Offering consecrated rice (akshat): The host and the hostess first and foremost invite the family deity, followed by Lord Ganapati, the female deity (devi) and the deity of the village (gramadevata) to solicit their presence on auspicious occasions such as marriage, thread ceremony (Munja), etc. This invitation to which vermilion (kumkum) is applied is placed before the deities along with consecrated unbroken rice grains (akshata) tinged with vermilion, betel leaves, a coconut and a ladu (sweetmeat) of sesame seeds (til). At this time a prayer is made so that the auspicious function takes place smoothly without any obstacles. Then the host couple sets out to invite the others. In Maharashtra in India such invitations are given along with unbroken rice tinged with vermilion (kumkumakshata). It is known as offering akshat.

3. Rituals performed before the wedding

3.1 The ritual of Ganayag

The wedding ceremonies start four days before the wedding at the groom’s place and three days before it at the bride’s place. On the first day excluding inauspicious stellar constellations like Bhadra, etc. at an auspicious time, mostly at night the ritual of Ganayag or Jevnar is performed. Five married householders (gruhastas) are chosen for it and they are made to worship the family deity using oil, turmeric, vermilion (kumkum), flowers, etc.

3.2 The ritual of application of oil and turmeric paste (Tailharidraropan vidhi)

The ritual of bathing the one on whom the sanskar (rite) of marriage is to be performed after an application of oil and turmeric paste is called Tailharidraropan vidhi. The turmeric is put in a mortar and pounded by five married women (suvasinis). The ability to absorb the energy generated by religious rituals is increased by oil and turmeric. The pure spiritual particles in the environment too are attracted by turmeric and remain in the body for a longer duration, due to the oil. The same principle is applied in the offering of oil to Maruti, and turmeric and vermilion to deities.

A popular custom: The bride and her parents are made to sit on a wooden seat (pat) on which wheat grains are spread. Then oil and turmeric is applied to them by married women and they are given a ritualistic bath (mangal snan). The turmeric which is left-over after applying to the bride is sent to the groom. It is called ‘ushti halad’ meaning the left-over turmeric. This turmeric is later applied to the groom and he too is given a ritualistic bath.

3.3 The ritual of Gadagner

On the second day the ritual of Gadagner (or Gadagnhan) is performed. In this, five married women (suvasinis) and their husbands apply oil, perfume, etc. and bathe along with the bride at the bride’s place and along with the groom at the groom’s place.

4. Acts to be performed on the day prior to the wedding

  • A. Definition: If sanskars (rites) like Jatakarma (the rite at birth), etc. have not been performed at the right time then on the day prior to the wedding one has to perform acts such as penance for omission of sanskars, the resolve for marriage (Vivahasankalpa), worship of Lord Ganesh, Punyahavachan, worship of the Matruka deities, Nandishraddha, a sacrificial fire for the planets (grahayadnya), installation of the deity of the pandal (mandapdevatapratishtha), installation of the family deity (kuladevata) and worship of the deity of oil and turmeric (tailharidradevata).
  • B. Preparation: On the day before the wedding the father of the bride and the father of the groom should apply oil and bathe (abhyangasnan), so also should the bride and groom, in their respective homes. Then wearing good clothing and draping the shoulders with a garment they should sit facing the east. The wife should sit to the right of the husband and the one on whom the sanskar is to be performed, that is the bride or the groom, on her right side.

4.1 The resolve (sankalpa) for the marriage of the son and daughter

  • A. The resolve for the son’s marriage: ‘I am performing this rite of marriage (Vivaha sanskar) of my son named ….. to acquire the grace of The Lord and to acquire the ability to generate progeny capable of liberating him from the debts to the deities and ancestors, according to Righteousness (Dharma).’
  • B. The resolve for the daughter’s marriage: ‘I am performing this act of the rite of marriage of this daughter of mine so as to acquire the grace of The Lord by following Righteousness along with her husband, generating progeny, accepting the fire worshipped in the house (gruhyagni) and attaining the right to follow the path of Righteousness.’
  • C. The resolve to be made by both the parties, that is the bride’s and the groom’s: ‘I will perform the rite of marriage of my son named …. or daughter named …., tomorrow. I am performing the worship of Lord Ganapati, Svastivachan, worship of the Matruka deities, Nandishraddha and a sacrificial fire for the planets (grahayadnya) to obtain their favourability, installation of the deity of the pandal (mandapdevata) and of the family deity (kuladevata). I am also worshipping the deity of oil and turmeric.’

4.2 Installation of the deity of the pandal/ installation of deities (mandapdevatapratishtha / devak basvine)

‘It is customary to establish the deity of the pandal and Lord Ganapati, the vanquisher of obstacles, at the commencement of the sanskars (rites) of marriage, thread ceremony, etc. so as to carry them successfully to completion. This itself is known as installation of the deities (devak). For this, sacred grass (durva), leaves of trees such as shami, etc. are rolled in leaves of the mango tree and tied with new cotton thread. Six such bundles are made. The fifth bundle among these represents the pestle (musal). A stick of sacrificial firewood (samidh) is included in this bundle. A blade of sacred grass (darbha) is put in one of the bundles to symbolize a weapon. All these are known as branches (shakha). Then the branches are affixed to a new sifting pan (sup) in the following manner – four on one side, the bundle containing the pestle and the stick of sacrificial firewood is placed to their north and the bundle with the weapon of sacred grass to its north. Then consecrated rice (akshata), turmeric and betelnuts are put into an earthen pot which is painted white. The mouth of the pot is closed with an earthen lid and a cotton thread is wound around it. The pot is also placed in the sifting pan. It is called the pot warding off obstacles (avighnakalash). A coconut draped with cotton thread, symbolising the family deity is placed beside it. Commencing from south to north the deities Nandini, Nalini, Maitra, Uma, Pashuvardhini and Shastragarbha Bhagvati in that order are invoked in the six bundles and Lord Ganapati the vanquisher of obstacles is invoked in the pot. The five deities are then established on the pillars in the four corners of the pandal and the central pillar and are ritualistically worshipped. After this the host lifts the pot warding off obstacles and places it in his wife’s hand while he holds the sifting pan. Then the host couple installs the pot and the sifting pan on three heaps of rice in a clean, decorated north-east corner of the house or near the temple in the house. Various mantras are to be chanted when all these rituals are being performed. This ritual is known as installation of the deity of the pandal (mandapdevatapratishtha).

After the completion of the above ritual the relatives and friends of the host offer presents like clothes, etc. to the host couple. The Marathas and people belonging to some other classes perform the ritual two days before the wedding. The hosts of both sides go to the respective trees where their family deity (devak) is situated and perform ritualistic worship (puja). A small branch of that tree is cut and brought home in a new sifting pan. Later that sifting pan is placed in the temple in the house and the betelnuts representing the various deities of the household are arranged in it and are all ritualistically worshipped. Simultaneously the washerwoman worships the grinding stone. On the day of the marriage the groom is asked to sit on the grinding stone. Vermilion (kumkum) is applied to his forehead and unbroken rice (akshata) over it. This is known as the ceremony of “shes dharne”.’(1) This ritual is also known as the ritual of Devakundi or installation of the deities (devak), that is the ritual of establishing the divine pot (Kalashsthapanprayog).

5. The day of the marriage

The rites prior to marriage

5.1 Installation of the pot denoting the auspicious time (Muhurtghatikasthapana)

  • A. The resolve (sankalpa): ‘I am installing the ghatikayantra to know the auspicious moment for my daughter’s marriage rite (Vivaha sanskar) scheduled for today.’
  • B. The ritual: A copper vessel should be placed on a heap of rice or any other food grain. Then chanting the mantraImam me (इमं मे)’ water should be poured into it and the ghatikayantra should be placed in it. One chants a mantra with the following meaning ‘O yantra (device) you are the chief among the yantras created by Prajapati (Lord Brahma). Hence become the instrument of time in uniting the bride and the groom’.

5.2 Tying a string of flowers or pearls across the brow (mundavalya)

On the day of the wedding after completing his ritualistic actions (nityakarma) the groom should have lunch with his friends. At that time he should wear new attire and have the ‘mundavalya’ tied across his brow. It is made by stringing together flowers or beads. This headgear is tied across the brow so that the ends overhang both the cheeks. In some non-Brahman communities there is a custom of tying a headgear made from paper (bashing).

5.3 Departure (Varaprasthan) and arrival (Agaman) of the groom

These are popular customs.

  • A. Refreshments (rukhvat): ‘Before the departure of the groom (varaprasthan) the members of the bride’s family go to the place where the groom’s side has put up, amidst pomp and fanfare. A decorated vehicle and refreshments (rukhvat) meant for the groom also accompany the procession. After serving refreshments to the groom he is requested to come to the bride’s house. This ritual is also called “mul jane – going to fetch the bride from her home”.’(2)
  • B. Departure of the groom to the bride’s house (Varaprasthan): ‘The groom’s leaving for the bride’s house to wed her amidst playing of auspicious musical instruments is called the departure of the groom to the bride’s house (Varaprasthan). At that time the groom should pay obeisance to the elders and proceed to the bride’s house along with his friends, in the vehicle. The Brahmans should accompany the groom chanting the “Kanikradajjanusham” sukta. Married women (suvasinis) should also accompany the groom.

    The servant walks behind the groom holding a plate of sweetmeats (halva). The groom’s sister walks with the groom holding a metal pot containing water (kara), a coconut and a twig of mango leaves. She is known as the “karavli”. Should one pass a territory of a deity or encounter cross roads, a coconut is moved around the groom’s head and broken. As the groom reaches the decorated lintel (toran) of the pandal the maid servant pours a pot of water on his feet. Rice and curd mixed together is rotated around the groom’s head by a married woman or the bride’s mother. This is followed by moving lit lamps around his head (oukshan). Then the bride’s father comes forward, hands a coconut to the groom and leads him into the pandal (mandap).’(3)

  • C. The ritual of worship while crossing the border (Simantapujan):

    1. Definition: The practice of honouring the groom at the border after he leaves his village (or if the proposal is from the same village, when he leaves his house) and enters the bride’s village by the bride’s relatives offering him clothes, etc. is known as the ritual of worship while crossing the border (Simantapujan).

    2. Welcoming the groom and honouring the elder son-in-law: ‘In this ritual of worship (puja) the bride’s father washes the feet of the groom and offers him clothes and ornaments. At the same time he also offers betelnuts and betel leaves to all other members of the groom’s side. Before the ban on the dowry system by the law, the bride’s father would give the dowry to the groom’s father. The groom’s father would receive the dowry fearing that it may not be given after the marriage. According to the scriptures the offering to the groom (Varadakshina) is given after the giving away of the bride (Kanyadan). At the time of Simantapujan the bride’s father has to offer clothes and honour the elder son-in-law and daughter. This is referred to as the honouring of the elder son-in-law.’(4)

    3. The place: This ritual rather than being Vedic is worldly. As its name suggests it should be performed at the village border. However, at present it has become customary to perform it either at the place where the groom stays after his arrival at the bride’s village, in the temple of some deity like Maruti or any other convenient place.

5.4 Donning the sacred thread (Yadnyopavitdharan)

Before marriage the groom wears one sacred thread (yadnyopavit). After the tying of the headgear (mundavalya) to the groom the bride’s father gives him another sacred thread which is worn along with the previous one. After marriage one has to wear two sacred threads.

5.5 Worship with a mixture of honey and curd (Madhuparka puja)

  • A. Definition: The mixture of honey and curd is called madhuparka. This mixture has a greater ability to absorb pleasant frequencies than either honey or curd alone. [Further details are given in‘Science of Spirituality: Chapter 7 – Path of Devotion (Bhaktiyoga)’.] Some add sugar cubes (khadisakhar), clarified butter (ghee) and water to the above mixture. If curd and honey are not available then milk is used instead of curd and jaggery instead of honey.
  • B. The resolve (sankalpa): ‘I am worshipping the groom who has come to my place to accept my daughter, with madhuparka as a part of giving away the daughter (Kanyadan)’. The bride’s mother should pour water and the bride’s father should first wash the groom’s right, then left and then both the feet and wipe them with a dry towel.
  • C. Sprinkling of the mixture of honey and curd (Madhuparkaprokshan): Using the thumb and ring finger the groom should sprinkle the madhuparka in various directions intended for various deities and then partake of it. The deities get appeased with this act and prevent obstacles posed by distressing energies at the marriage ceremony.

5.6 Worship of Lord Shiva (Har) and His consort Gouri (Gouriharpujan)

This is a popular ritual.

  • A. Definition: Worship of Gouri and Har means the worship of the deities Parvati and Shiva.
  • B. The ritual: On the wedding day the bride should be given a ritualistic bath (mangalsnan) and new clothes to wear. Then on the grinding stone and muller used in the house (or two other stones) pictures of Gouri and Har should be drawn with turmeric. New cotton thread should be wound around the grinding stone. Then four pots should be placed on its four sides and it should be worshipped with the resolve of prolonging married life, etc. The reasons behind worshipping Gouri and Har thus are as follows:

    1. Just as the relationship of the grinding stone and the muller with one another is binding and solid so should that of the bride and groom be.

    2. The energy generated in the grinding stone should enter their system through food and increase their sattvik (sattva predominant) nature.

  • C. The resolve (sankalpa): ‘I am worshipping Gouri and Har so that I may acquire eternal married life, good progeny and plentiful food, wealth, etc.

Until the time of departure to the pandal (mandap) for the wedding, the bride keeps offering rice to Gouri and Har. After this worship when the bride is taken for the ritual of holding the wedding curtain (Antahapatdharan vidhi) the bride’s mother takes over the worship of Gouri and Har until the wedding ceremony is complete so that the bride has a happy life. Consequently she does not see the bride and groom garlanding one another. This rule is followed so that the mother does not feel unhappy thinking “my daughter now belongs to someone else” and mar the spirit of the happy occasion. As men are less emotional than women this rule does not apply to the bride’s father. In some communities the groom’s mother too does not listen to the chanting of the eight auspicious verses (mangalashtakas) thinking that now she does not have a right to her son as before.

5.7 Worship of the card denoting the auspicious time (Muhurtpatrikapujan)

Before the wedding ceremony starts, the card written by the astrologer denoting the auspicious time should be worshipped. This is called worship of the card denoting the auspicious time (Muhurtpatrikapujan).


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.4, Pg. 423, 424
2. Vol 8, Pg. 730
3. Vol 8, Pg 727, 730
4. Vol 8, Pg 727


Which sanskars are vital for overcoming defects in foetus?


1. Garbhadhan/Rutushanti

1.1 The objectives

  • A. To overcome any defects in the ovum and the foetus and to purify the womb.

    2% of all physical and psychological problems are constituted by defects in the ovum and womb, half of them being physical and the other half psychological in nature. The table below gives the percentage of people in whom defects in the ovum are seen and the period when it occurs.

    The time when the
    defects in the ovum
    and the foetus
    become manifest
    The time when the
    defects in the ovum
    and the foetus
    become manifest
    From conception
    till the first
    75 7 to 8 months 1
    1 to 2 months 5 8 to 9 months 1
    2 to 3 months 3 From birth till the
    first year of life
    3 to 4 months 2 1 to 5 years 2
    4 to 5 months 2 5 to 10 years 2
    5 to 6 months 2 10 to 20 years 2
    6 to 7 months 1 Later 1
        Total 100
  • B. The son born through this sanskar (rite) has the capacity to acquire the knowledge of Brahman (Brahmavidya).

1.2 The auspicious time (muhurt)

This sanskar is performed on the first sixteen nights after the first menses following marriage. This period is referred to as the rutu period (rutukal). Excluding the first four, eleventh and thirteenth nights, the remaining ten nights are considered suitable for this sanskar. According to some, the fourth day should also be included. It is said that one who wishes that a son be born to him should have intercourse with his wife on the days with an even number (4-6-8-10-12-14-16) and one who desires a daughter, on odd number days (5-7-9-11-15). The sanskar of Garbhadhan is forbidden on the fourth (chaturthi), sixth (shashthi), eighth (ashtami), fourteenth (chaturdashi), new moon (amavasya) and full moon (pournima) dates (tithis) of the Hindu lunar calendar. On any of the remaining dates and on Monday, Thursday and Friday and during the reign of the lunar asterisms Shravan, Rohini, Hasta, Anuradha, Svati, Revati, the three Uttaras and Shatataraka the ritual should be performed after assessing a good propitious moon (chandrabal). Everything in Prakruti changes with time. Only Brahman is steady. Accordingly the fertilization of the ovum, the birth of a son or daughter, etc. vary with time. Thus based on these rules the dates, days of the week and lunar asterisms favourable for the birth of a son or daughter have been decided.

1.3 The ritual

  • A. Partaking of the juice of ashvagandha or a sacred grass (durva): Chanting the mantra, the juice of ashvagandha or durva is instilled into the right nostril of one’s wife who is seated to one’s left. After that juice is swallowed she should take a sip of water from her palm (achaman). The right nostril comes under the perview of the Pingala nadi (channel). For most actions to be successful it is essential for the Pingala nadi to be operational. The juice of ashvagandha or durva facilitates its activation.
  • B. The main deity of Garbhadhan and marriage (Vivaha) is Prajapati.
  • C. Offering oti: After worship of the sun (Suryastavan), five married women (suvasinis) should offer oti along with fruit to the woman and should hand over a coconut placed on a pair of betel leaves to the husband. Thereafter offering obeisance to the deities and elders they should have their meals. The sun being a symbol of the tej (absolute fire) element is worshipped to impart radiance to the foetus. The womb lies in the lower abdominal cavity. Thus the practice of offering oti is followed so that conception occurs.
  • D. The ritual of intercourse: At night, clad in white clothing the woman should enter the bedroom and sitting on the bed decorated with flowers should eat betel leaves along with her spouse. Then she should lie down on the bed. The husband should place his hand on her navel and chanting the (Upasthasparsh) mantra commence the ritual of Garbhadhan. The mantra means : ‘May your vagina be made potent for conception and may The Lord bestow His grace upon you so that the foetus grows happily and does not abort before ten (lunar) months’. Uttering this he should touch her vagina (upastha) with three fingers. Then he should have intercourse with her and say, ‘I am endowing your ovum with my sperm’. Again he should chant a mantra which means ‘Just as the earth is impregnated by fire, Yahi by Indra and the directions bear the wind as their progeny , I too am impregnating you’. The ritual is finally complete when he touches her heart and then sips water from his palm (achaman). Touching the heart signifies love and affection.

2. Punsavan (Begetting a son)

2.1 The objectives

The word Punsavan (पुंसवन) has originated from ‘punsya avanaha (पुँस्‍य अवन:)’. Punsya means prowess and avanivar means descent onto the earth. Hence after conception, this sanskar (rite) is performed to beget a son.

2.2 The auspicious time (muhurt)

This sanskar should generally be performed after confirmation of pregnancy preferably in the second month, that is before the foetus becomes active and the foetal sex organs develop. With time the effectiveness of the sanskar, decreases. The lunar asterism with masculine gender should be chosen for this rite. Punarvasu, Pushya, Hasta, Mul are the lunar asterisms which are widely accepted. All scholars however do not share the same view about the lunar asterisms with the masculine gender.

2.3 The resolve (sankalpa)

  • A. To overcome any defects in the ovum or foetus.
  • B. To conceive a male child.
  • C. To not just destroy but also liberate the clan of demons who devour flesh and blood.
  • D. To acquire the blessings of Mahalakshmi, the presiding deity for continuous bestowal of opulence (soubhagya).
  • E. Worship of Lord Ganesh, Punyahavachan, Matrukapujan and Nandishraddha.

2.4 The ritual

After the sacrificial fire (hom) the woman should cup her hands and hold them proximal to the knees. On the right hand is placed curd made from the milk of a cow whose colour is the same as that of her calf (or if unavailable, their colour may vary). A cob of barley (jav) with its head facing the east should be placed on it like the male sex organ (penis). Then on either side of it are placed two black grams (udid) which resemble the testes. Then uttering thrice, ‘I am drinking the punsavan’, the woman should partake of it and sip water from her palm (achaman). This procedure is repeated twice. Then this ritual is deemed to be complete. Similar shapes emit similar frequencies according to the law ‘समानशीले व्‍यसनेषु सख्‍यम्‌ ।’ meaning ‘likes attract and befriend one another’.Thus the same assumption is made that the shapes of the penis and testicles attract identical frequencies of the male principle towards the womb.

‘The ritual of squeezing juice from the rootlets of the banyan tree into the left nostril, placing an earthen plate filled with water on the lower abdomen of the woman and chanting mantras such as the ‘Suparno’si (सुपर्णो ऽसि)’ , etc. prove effective in producing a male offspring. Brahmi, somlata, banyan, etc. are trees which prevent bilious humour (pitta), overcome vaginal defects, enhance oja (precursor of divine energy) and protect semen. The cumulative effect of all these is a generation of masculine components in the semen.’ (1)

3. Simantonnayan (Parting the wife’s hair)

3.1 The objectives and the auspicious moment (muhurt)

The word Simantonnayan is derived from two words simant (meaning the line of parting of hair) and unnayan (meaning combing hair from the sides to the top). Simantonnayan thus means parting the wife’s scalp hair, drawing the hair from the sides, upwards. As a result pleasant frequencies enter her body through the Sahasrar chakra and facilitate the proper growth of the foetus.

When performing a sanskar (rite) on the foetus in the womb, a flat earthen plate which represents the uterus is used.

‘Just as for Punsavan a lunar asterism with the masculine gender is necessary so also for Simantonnayan. If this sanskar is performed in a month with an even number preferably in the fourth month then it proves most beneficial. Punsavan is performed to conceive a male child while this rite is for the purification of the foetus. Just as having a son is important it is equally important that he should be born without deformities, good health and intelligence. For overall development of all organs of the foetus Simantonnayan is important during pregnancy.

3.2 The ritual

The offering of the sacrifice (yadnyaprasad) charged with the mantras of Simantonnayan, branches of trees like the holy fig tree (oudumbar) which bear plenty of fruit and also have medicinal value, porcupine spikes (since it procreates in large numbers), etc. are used by the man to part his wife’s hair. As a result of this sanskar which is performed with spiritual emotion (bhav), the latent divine consciousness (chaitanya) present in the pregnant woman has maximum effect on the foetus.’ (2)


Shastra Ase Sangate. First edition, fifth reprint – October 94, Vedavani Publications, Kolhapur 416 010.
1. Pg. 137
2. Pg. 138


When is the sanskar of Sodmunja performed?


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.


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


Why are specific sanskars performed after birth of a child?


1. Jatakarma [Janmavidhi (The rite at birth)]

1.1 The objectives

To eliminate the defects in the foetus arising from intake of liquor (amniotic fluid) and to liberate the father who has glanced at the son’s face, from the three debts (to the ancestors, to the sages and to the deities) as well as the debt to society. When in the womb the liquor enters the foetus through the mouth. Since intake of liquor is forbidden, partaking it is considered to be a sin.

1.2 Preparations

As soon as a son is born, the father should glance at his face and then bathe facing the north. After donning clean attire he should apply sandalwood paste (gandha) to himself. Then before cutting the umbilical cord, the baby who is untouched by anyone except the midwife, who has not suckled the mother’s breast and has been bathed is placed facing the east onto his mother’s lap, by the father.

1.3 The resolve (sankalpa)

‘I am performing this sanskar of Jatakarma (birth) so that this son of mine is freed from all defects from the time of conception including the intake of amniotic fluid, and is granted a long life, spiritual intellect (medha) and so that he may acquire the grace of The Lord. I am also performing worship of Lord Ganapati, Punyahavachan, Matrukapujan (worship of Matruka deities) and Nandishraddha which are a part of it.’

1.4 The ritual

There is no restriction of maintaining seclusion after a birth (soyar) in the family, only for this sanskar (rite). After completing the rituals right from worship of Lord Ganapati to Nandishraddha the mantra with the following meaning is chanted: ‘O beloved son, I am feeding you with honey and clarified butter (ghee) for the first time. May The Almighty bless you with knowledge, food and wealth. May He protect you always and bestow you with a lifespan of a hundred years’. One should then feed the infant a mixture of honey and clarified butter with a gold coin, wash the coin and place it in the baby’s right ear. Then drawing one’s mouth towards that of the son, the father should chant the verse, ‘ॐ मेधाते देव:० ।’ which means, ‘O beloved son, may The Lord bestow you with sharp acumen and intellect to study the Vedas. May the Ashvini deities who support the pran and apan vital energies and the others like Som (Moon) bestow you with perfect intellect’. Then replacing the same coin in the baby’s left ear the same verse, ‘Om medhate devaha (ॐ मेधाते देव:० ।).’ should be repeated. Gold has greater ability to both absorb and transmit frequencies than any other metal. Thereafter, chanting a mantra the father should sniff the child’s head thrice, and decide in his mind what the child should be named. When in the womb the baby’s Brahmarandhra is closed. When the father sniffs the head, it opens. Sometimes instead of sniffing the head the father exhales at the site of the Brahmarandhra, thrice . That too bestows the same benefit. However, it occurs only if the father is of a sattvik (sattva predominant) temperament. Then the mother’s right breast is washed and after chanting a mantra the mother holds the baby to her breast. Since the right breast is associated with the Pingala or Surya nadi (Sun channel), it helps in activating the baby’s right sided channel. Hence the process of digestion of milk commences easily. Nowadays since childbirth occurs in maternity hospitals one cannot perform the sanskar of Jatakarma there. Therefore it is often done along with the rite of Namakaran (naming).

2. Namakaran (The naming ceremony)

2.1 The objectives

This sanskar is performed for longevity and prosperity in worldly life.

2.2 The resolve (sankalpa) and the ritual

This sanskar is performed on the twelfth or thirteenth day of birth. Placing the baby in the cradle (palakharohan) constitutes an important ritual, in this rite. The resolve expressed that day is ‘I am performing this sanskar (rite) of Namakaran (naming) to wipe off any sin generated from the ovum and foetus, to prolong the lifespan, so that the child achieves success in all activities and to acquire the grace of The Supreme Lord. I am performing the worship of Lord Ganapati, Punyahavachan, the worship of the Matruka deities (Matrukapujan) and Nandishraddha which are incorporated in it’.

2.3 Selection of the name

  • A. The name should be selected using the following rules : The first letter should consist of any of the nineteen alphabets viz. g (ग), gh (घ), nh (ङ), j (ज), jh (झ), yan (ञ), d (ड), dh (ढ), n (ण), d(द), dh (ध), n (न), b (ब), bh (भ), m (म), y (य), r (र), l (ल), v (व), excluding the first two alphabets of the pentads in the Devanagari alphabets which are k (क), kh (ख), ch (च), cha (छ), t (ट), th (ठ), t (त), th (थ), p (प) and ph (फ). These alphabets being dominant in the pruthvi (absolute earth) and apa (absolute water) elements as well as in the tama component, the first letter of the name should not begin with them. [Refer ‘Science of Spirituality : Chapter 9 – Path of Chanting The Lord’s Name (Namasankirtanyoga )’.]
  • B. The last letter should be prolonged (dirgha) or should have the visarga [namaha is the visarga (the soft aspirate)]. The less prolonged letters (rhasva) are predominant in Energy (Shakti) while the more prolonged (dirgha) ones or those containing visarga are predominant in Shiv (Brahman). Since the motive in Spirituality is union with the Shiv principle, this rule is followed.
  • C. A boy’s name should consist of two or four letters, for example Bhadra, Dev, Devdatta, Bhava, Bhavanath, Nagdev, etc. while a girl’s should consist of an odd number of letters that is 3, 5 or 7. Letters in odd numbers predominate in Energy (Shakti) while those in even numbers are Shiv predominant.
  • D. The first letter in a girl’s name should not be double, for example Florence should not be spelt as Fflorence. Women predominate in Energy (Shakti) while the conjoint first letter is dominant in The Absolute Being (Purush). Thus this conjoint first letter can have an undesirable effect on the girl.
  • E. If one desires that the child be famous then its name should consist of two letters.
  • F. If one desires excellence in Spirituality, learning and conduct then a name consisting of four letters should be selected. The four letters represent Righteousness (Dharma), wealth (artha), desire (kama) and the Final Liberation (Moksha), the four objectives (purusharthas) of human life.
  • G. The name of a Brahman should suggest auspiciousness, that of a Kshatriya strength, that of a Vaishya wealth and that of a Shudra reproach. (Manusmruti 2.31).Formerly the practice of prefixing the name with ‘Sharma’ in a Brahman (priest), ‘Varma’ in a Kshatriya (warrior), ‘Gupta’ in a Vaishya (businessman) and ‘Das’ in a Shudra (labourer), was prevalent. Thus from the name one could perceive the class to which one belonged.

2.4 The types of names

‘The five types of names which are popularly known are the name according to the lunar asterism at birth (nakshatranam), the name according to the month of birth (masanam), the name according to the family deity, the worldly name and the name according to the star sign (rashi).

  • A. The name according to the lunar asterism at birth (nakshatranam): Including Ashvin the twenty-seven lunar asterisms have twenty-seven corresponding presiding deities. The writings of Shankha state that the boy should be named according to the deity of the lunar asterism, for instance Ashvinikumar from Ashvini. Another type of name according to the lunar asterism also exists. Each lunar asterism is considered to have four parts (charans) and each of the parts is designated a letter. For instance the letters chu (चू), che (चे), cho (चो), la (ला) are associated with Ashvini, li (ली), lu (लू), le (ले), lo (लो) with Bharni, etc. The child is named according to the letter of the respective part of the lunar asterism when it is born, for example Chudeshvar for the first part of Ashvini, Lileshvar or Liladev for the first part of Bharni, etc. According to Boudhayan the name according to the lunar asterism should be kept a secret. The child should be imparted this name on the day of birth itself. Several teachers say that only the parents of the child should be aware of this name and that it should be uttered while offering obeisance unto the Guru at the time of the sanskar (rite) of thread ceremony (Upanayan). Currently, however, it is customary to impart this name during the sanskar of thread ceremony. The objective of maintaining secrecy about this name is to prevent the enemy from doing blackmagic (abhicharkarma) such as Jaran, Maran, etc. on the child.
  • B. The name according to the month of birth (masanam): The name chosen according to the month is based on the presiding deity of the month of birth. According to Gargya’s opinion the deities of the twelve months beginning with Margashirsha are as follows –
    कृष्‍णोऽनन्‍तोऽच्‍युतश्र्चक्री वैकुण्‍ठोऽयं जनार्दन: । उपेन्‍द्रो यज्ञपुरुषो वासुदेवस्‍तथा हरि: ।
    योगीश: पुण्‍डरीकाक्षो मासनामान्‍यनुक्रमात्‌ ।।
    All these names – Krushna, Anant, Achyut, Chakri, Vaikuntha, Janardan, Upendra, Yadynapurush, Vasudev, Hari, Yogish, Pundarikaksha are the Names of Lord Vishnu. From this, it appears that this custom of naming the child after the month of birth began after the Vaishnav sect gained fame in India, that is after the Sutra period.
  • C. The name according to the family deity: Before imparting this name to the child a suffix such as Das, Sharan, etc. is added to the Name of the family deity (kuladevata). If the family deity or the benevolent deity (ishtadevata) happens to be of the feminine gender, then in some places it is the practice to name the boy with the same name. In such cases a suffix ‘ji’ which converts it to the masculine gender, for example Shivaji from Shivai, Banaji from Banashankari, Bhavanrao from Bhavani, etc. is used.
  • D. The worldly name: This name is meant for social, worldly interactions and is the most important. This name is mainly kept to suit the cultural and prestigious background of the family. It should also be auspicious, easy to pronounce and pleasing to the ear.
  • E. The name according to the star sign (rashi): This name can be kept in two ways. 1. According to the lunar star sign (chandra rashi) – Supposing at the time of a child’s birth the moon is in Taurus (Vrushabh) the child’s name should include the letters b (ब), v (व) and u (उ), for example Brijesh, Vasant and Umashankar respectively. 2. According to the solar star sign (surya rashi) – If the same child’s date of birth is 12th March its solar star sign will be Pisces (Min).
  • F. Other names1. The dimunitive name (kutsitnam): If children of a couple do not survive after birth then it is customary to name the child born with a dimunitive name, for instance Dagadu, Dhondu, Bhiku, etc. It is a popular belief that by naming a child so, it will survive and will also attain longevity.

    2. The name amongst the Adivasi tribals: The tribal communities in eastern India name their child after a deceased ancestor. They believe that the soul of the late ancestor has been passed onto the newborn. Some tribal communities name the child according to the tree under which it was born or after a nearby mountain. Others name their children even after the day of the week, for example Soma after Somvar (Monday), Budha after Budhvar (Wednesday), Shukraya after Shukravar (Friday), etc.’(1)

2.5 Astrology and the name

Just as a child’s sex is decided in the womb, so is its name. A sound, touch, form, taste and odour coexist. Hence a child’s name corresponds to its appearance. Only one is unaware of it. Only the spiritually evolved know the matching name. If one cannot get advice from a spiritually evolved person the science of astrology can give guidance on the suitability of the name.

2.6 The ritual and the four types of naming

The host of the ritual should address the priest, ‘O priest, I am naming the child …..’, thrice. Then the priest should convey his approval saying, ‘Name him ….’. The consent given by a saintly priest helps the name and form of the child to blend with each other.

  • A. The first type of naming: After spreading rice in a bronze plate, using a fine gold rod one should write, ‘Devotee of …. [ Name of the family deity (kuladevata)]’ on it. Then one should write the name of the month of birth. The names of the twelve months are – 1. Krushna, 2. Anant, 3. Achyut, 4.Chakri, 5. Vaikuntha, 6. Janardan, 7. Upendra, 8.Yadnyapurush, 9. Vasudev, 10. Hari, 11. Yogish and 12. Pundarikaksha. These twelve names correspond to twelve months of the Hindu lunar calendar beginning from the month of Margashirsha, for instance Margashirsha corresponds to Krushna, Poush to Anant, etc.
  • B. The second type of naming: Then the name with which obeisance has to be offered should be uttered softly. Till the thread ceremony is performed, only the parents should know this name. Others should not come to know it. The reason behind this is that black magic (karni) cannot be done if the real name is not known. After the thread ceremony the son should be told, ‘Pay obeisance using the name…..’.
  • C. The third type of naming: According to astrology, the name should be chosen based on the Avakadaha chakra and the part (charan) of the lunar asterism at birth.
  • D. The fourth type of naming: This name is chosen for day-to-day activities according to one’s wish. The name should be appropriate otherwise it would sound awkward like if the name is Sonubai (sona means gold) and she wears anklets made of tin instead of gold. Even the short form of the name should sound nice, like ‘Shiva’ for ‘Shivadas’ sounds good but ‘Pakya’ for ‘Prakash’ does not.

2.7 The naming of a daughter

The naming of a daughter is done without chanting mantras while that of a son is done with them. The reason for this is that if the naming of the daughter is performed amidst chanting of mantras then there is a 5% chance of her being afflicted with problems. The main problem is the untoward effect on the ovaries. [Refer ‘Science of Spirituality: Chapter 9 – Path of Chanting The Lord’s Name (Namasankirtanyoga) point – Prefixing Shri or Om to the Name’.]

3. Nishkraman (The rite of taking the child out of the house)

3.1 The objectives

The motive behind this sanskar (rite) is to increase the lifespan and wealth.

3.2 The auspicious time (muhurt)

This sanskar is performed in the third month after birth on the same date as the date of birth or the lunar asterism at birth. In the fourth month the baby is made to look at fire, a cow and the moon at an auspicious time.

3.3 The resolve (sankalpa)

‘I am performing this sanskar of Nishkraman (taking the child out of the house) to win over The Lord’s grace so as to increase my child’s lifespan, for acquisition of wealth that is, Lakshmi (Shri) and to overcome the defects generated from the ovum and foetus’.

3.4 The ritual

The benevolent deities (ishtadevatas) should be worshipped with sandalwood paste (gandha), consecrated rice (akshata), flowers, etc. After chanting a mantra, the father and the other relatives should hold the child on their laps. A prayer should be made to The Almighty for the child’s longevity as follows: ‘I am giving the custody of this child unto the moon, the sun, the guardians of the eight directions (dikpal), the eight directions and the sky. So please protect him. Whether the child is vigilant or not protect him by day and by night. May the deities such as Lord Indra perpetually protect him.’

After this, one should worship Lord Mahadev or Vishnu by going to Their respective temples or in the house of any well-wisher. Then the child should be placed in a sitting posture on a heap of rice and other food grains, spread on the floor smeared with cowdung. After chanting a mantra the head and forehead of the child should be sprinkled (prokshan) with holy ash (bhasma) or consecrated rice. This should be followed by worship of deities like Lord Mahadev, Ganesh, etc. with sweets like anarase, etc. The child should then be given some sweetmeats and placed in front of God in the prone position and then brought home.

4. Annaprashan (Partaking of the first solid feed)

4.1 The objectives

This sanskar (rite) eliminates the defects generated by swallowing urine and faeces when in the mother’s womb.

4.2 The auspicious time (muhurt)

The sixth or the eighth month in case of a boy and the fifth or any month with an odd number in case of a girl is favourable for the sanskar of Annaprashan (partaking of the first solid feed). (Even numbers represent the masculine gender whereas odd numbers represent the feminine gender.)

4.3 The resolve (sankalpa)

‘I am performing this sanskar of Annaprashan to win the grace of The Supreme Lord for the destruction of defects acquired by the intake of faeces by the baby when in the mother’s womb, the acquisition of pure food, etc., the acquisition of divine splendour (effulgence), the perfect development of the organs, longevity and to overcome the sins committed by the foetus. I am performing the worship of Lord Ganesh and the Matruka deities, Svastivachan, and Nandishraddha along with it.’

4.4 The ritual

After expressing the resolve the child should be placed to one’s right on a white cloth placed on the mother’s lap, in front of the deity. The child should face the east and should then be fed solid food for the first time. Food containing curd, honey and clarified butter (ghee) should be put in a gold or bronze vessel and the following prayer should be made ‘O God, the presiding deity of food, give us food which promotes health and bestows strength’. Then wearing some gold ornament on the hand one should give the child the first mouthful of solid food. After the child has had its fill, its mouth should be washed and then it should be placed on the ground.

4.5 The test of earning a livelihood

To test the choice of a livelihood, books, instruments, clothes and other tools which sculpt the future should be placed in front of the child. The object touched by the child as the first choice may be considered as the means of his earning a livelihood.

5. Choulkarma [Chudakarma (The rite of keeping a small portion of hair on the front of the head)]

5.1 The objectives

This sanskar (rite) is performed in order to attain longevity, strength and radiance. The small portion of hair facilitates the entry of the sattva frequencies from the universe through the Brahmarandhra. It functions like the antenna of a television set. [Refer ‘Science of Spirituality : Chapter 38 – Path of Activation of Spiritual Energy (Kundaliniyoga)’.]

5.2 The auspicious time (muhurt)

It is customary to perform this rite either in the third, fourth or fifth year of a child after choosing an auspicious time. Nowadays, however it is often performed along with the thread ceremony.

5.3 The resolve (sankalpa)

‘I am performing the sanskar choul (the rite of keeping a small portion of hair on the front of the head) in order to win the grace of The Lord so as to acquire pure food, for attaining longevity, to increase oja (precursor of divine energy) and strength and also to nullify the sins generated by the ovum and foetus. Along with it, I am performing the worship of Lord Ganapati, Punyahavachan, worship of the Matruka deities and Nandishraddha.’

5.4 Javal (Jaul, Jayval)

This is also known as the first haircut. This is customarily performed when the child is about one year old. Only some hair in front of the head is retained. The importance of keeping a small portion of hair will be clarified by point ‘5.1 The objectives’.


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.5, Pg. 32


What is the purpose of doing Oukshan?


1. Offering oti

1.1 The meaning

The part of the body below the chest is called the abdomen and the lower part of the abdomen is the ‘oti’. The womb lies within the lower abdomen (oti). Thus offering oti signifies filling the womb. Married women (soubhagyavatis / savashins) offer oti to other married women with the resolve that the latter may give birth to a baby boy. This ritual is also performed when a newly-wed bride comes home for the first time. Since this ritual signifies procreation, it is performed when a woman goes to her in-laws from her parents’ home. However, the reverse is not practised.

1.2 The ritual

Turmeric and vermilion (kumkum) is first applied to the forehead of the woman on whom the ritual is being performed to signify her marital status. Then a sweetmeat (pedha), sugar, etc. is fed to her. The one who is being offered oti spreads out a little part of the pallau of her sari in the region of the lower abdomen. The woman offering the oti then holds a coconut with both hands and places it along with some rice grains into her pallau. She offers rice grains twice more. The coconut represents the Purush principle (Purushtattva) while the three offerings of rice, the elimination of the three fold sufferings that is physical (adhibhoutik), psychological (adhidaivik) and spiritual (adhyatmik). The motive behind offering oti to a pregnant woman is for the foetus to acquire effulgence. Some offer betelnut, turmeric, flowers and fruits too. Since the betelnut is shaped like the front part of the penis though the word betelnut (supari) has a feminine gender, it implies that a male child should be born. Turmeric grows underground hence it represents the growing embryo in the womb. So also do the flowers and fruits. Oti is offered to the pregnant woman in the fifth month. Thereafter until delivery it is not offered again. At times after offering oti the ceremony of moving lit lamps (arti) is performed to welcome the foetus. A variant is offering oti to a pregnant woman during fulfillment of her cravings (dohale). It is done to please both, the pregnant woman and the foetus.

1.3 The married woman who is offered oti without a meal (kordi savashin)

The married woman who is offered oti and applied vermilion without serving her a meal is known as the kordi savashin. This is a custom practised among non-Brahmans in Maharashtra.

2. Fulfillment of the cravings of a pregnant woman (dohale, dohad)

2.1 The meaning

Dohad means the desire of two hearts. The cravings are both of the pregnant woman and the foetus. Since this craving expresses the desires of the baby, from them one can judge the temperament of the offspring. In the seventh month the foetus starts developing ego and starts having desires. Hence this ritual is performed in the seventh month. When pregnant, Sita had expressed the desire to visit the holy forests on the banks of the river Ganga where ascetics and devotees perform their austerities (tapovan) [Valmiki Ramayan 7.42.31-34]. When an incarnation is growing in a woman’s womb the desires of the mother are suggestive of the mission of that incarnation. Many such incidents are documented in ancient holy texts, for example some Ramayans mention that Rama’s mother, Kousalya expressed the desire to slay Ravan during her cravings of pregnancy.

2.2 The ritual

The one on whom the ritual (dohalejevan) is to be performed is called the ‘dohaltuli’. This ritual is done in the seventh month of the first pregnancy. The ‘dohaltuli’ is gifted with a green sari and blouse and green glass bangles. She is then decked up with flowers, pearl ornaments, necklaces, etc. Then she is made to sit either on a swing or a decorative seat (makhar) and is offered oti by married women (suvasinis). This ritual is then concluded with the ritual of haldikumkum. Usually after offering oti in the fifth month of pregnancy, it is not repeated till delivery as offering oti is associated with procreation. Oti is offered during the cravings of pregnancy to endow happiness to the pregnant woman and the foetus.

3. The rite of Ashtamangalya (Athangule)

This sanskar (rite) is performed among the three classes – Brahman, Kshatriya and Vaishya. This popular sanskar is performed in the eighth month of pregnancy if a woman has conceived without having performed the sanskar of Garbhadhan. The ritual of this rite is similar to that of Garbhadhan.

4. Care of the puerperal woman

A puerperal woman is called ‘nutanprasuta’ for four to five weeks after delivery. Since during this period she is weak she should be specially cared for from the physical, psychological as well as spiritual (with respect to distressing energies) aspects.

5. Piercing the ear lobes (Karnavedh)

5.1 Origin and meaning

Karnavedh is a word derived from karna (ear) and vedh (piercing). Thus Karnavedh is the process of piercing the ear lobes.

‘Those with pierced ears are called “vindha”. Since in the Hindu religion most have their ears pierced they are customarily referred to as “vindha”. Contrary to this, people belonging to sects in which the ears are not pierced are called “avindha”.

5.2 The principle

The Hindu scriptures consider Karnavedh a very important sanskar (rite). Behind the ear lobe there is a natural, small microscopic depression which contains nerve endings linked with diseases like bronchial asthma, cough and tuberculosis. The Chinese science of acupuncture states that the root cause of some diseases lies in the subtle regions of every organ in the body. When that area is punctured, the disease is eliminated. The study of this science was done and recorded in the Hindu scriptures much earlier and the sanskar of piercing the ear lobes was already prescribed.’(1). Refer point ‘What is the motive behind placing the sacred thread over the right ear lobe during urination or defaecation?’ This motive is fulfilled continuously if the ears are pierced.

5.3 The ritual

A Brahman should get his ears pierced with a newly made silver needle having a length equivalent to eight times the breadth of a index finger (angul). A Kshatriya should use a gold needle and a Shudra an iron needle, for the same purpose.

6. Oukshan [Kurvandi (Arti)]

6.1 Origin and meaning



It is performing the ceremony of moving lit lamps (arti), that is moving an oil dish lamp (niranjan) or a brass lamp with a chain (lamandiva) in a circular motion. The word ‘Oukshan (औक्षण)’ is derived from the root uksh (उक्ष्‌) which means to sprinkle. Other synonyms for it are Kurvandi or Narikartukniranjan.



  6.2 The objectives

  • A. Oukshan is done to ward off distressing energies like spirits, black magic, evil eye, etc. Arti is performed for the bride and groom, for a child whose naming ceremony is being done, for a person whose birthday is being celebrated, for the husband on the day of Padva, for the brother on the day of Bhaubij, for an honourable person like a king, for one who has returned after a victory, for a scholar, etc. with the same motive.
  • B. When performing arti for God, saints and the Guru as well as for sacred trees such as ashvattha, bel, etc. some devotees do it out of love and have the same motive as given above. However, the majority of devotees have the following motive. When performing arti with a lit lamp the pure particles in the flame become more active and the one performing the arti is benefitted more. Details about this is given in ‘Science of Spirituality: Chapter 7 -Path of Devotion (Bhaktiyoga)’.

6.3 The procedure

In a circular, shelving metal dish (tamhan) are placed turmeric and vermilion (kumkum), an oil dish lamp (niranjan), sugar or a sweetmeat (pedha), a gold ring, a betelnut for ritualistic worship, etc. First vermilion, sandalwood paste (gandha), etc. are applied to the one on whom the sanskar (rite) is being performed. Then married women (suvasinis) touch the gold ring and betelnut to the forehead of the one on whom the sanskar is being performed and move it around his head. This is followed by arti performed by waving lamps in a circular motion around the person’s face, using the circular, shelving metal dish.

6.4 The method

A. Arti in a circular or semi-circular motion

  • 1. In a circular motion: Here, the motion is clockwise, just like the direction of a circumambulation and is performed thrice. It is akin to a full circumambulation performed for a deity. [The importance of the direction of a circumambulation and that of a full circumambulation is given in‘Science of Spirituality: Chapter 7 – Path of Devotion (Bhaktiyoga )’.]
  • 2. In a semi-circular motion: When commencing the Oukshan the motion is clockwise. However when it is limited to the face the motion is semi-circular from the right to the left shoulder and then viceversa. If it is performed for the entire body then it is started from the right foot and continued till the left and then reversed. In both cases, it is repeated thrice. (This is like performing half a circumambulation around Lord Shiva’s pindi. During the circumambulation of Lord Shiva the flow of energy from the mouth (shalunka) of the pindi is not crossed. In the same fashion the Sushumna channel in the body is not crossed.)

B. The use of gold, silver, etc.: At times the circular, shelving metal dish (tamhan) with the lamp in it is also held in the hand and Oukshan is performed taking mostly a ring from among the gold and silver ornaments placed in it. The ring is then held with the fingers and moved around the head in a semi-circular motion, thrice. When doing so one touches the ring to the metal dish, each time. Some also touch the ring to the Adnya chakra each time that they move it around the head.

7. The birthday

Annual celebration of the birthday is a popular custom.

7.1 The principle

In India, it is customary to perform the ceremony of moving lit lamps for the one whose birthday is being celebrated. The objective behind this is that, what one has learnt throughout life till then may guide one in future life. In western countries, on the other hand a birthday is celebrated by blowing out candles and cutting a cake. This variation is because their concept of life is totally different.

7.2 The method

‘Every month in the first year of life and thereafter every year on the birth date (tithi), according to the Hindu lunar calendar an oil bath (abhyangasnan) should be given and then a tilak of vermilion (kumkum) should be applied on the forehead. Expressing the resolve, ‘आयुरभिवृद्घयर्थं वर्ष (किंवा मास) वृद्धिकर्म करिष्‍ये ।’ which means, ‘I am celebrating the yearly (monthly) ritual with the resolve of prolonging life’, one should place seventeen fistfuls of rice on a wooden seat (pat) or platform (chourang) to invoke the family deity (kuladevata), the lunar asterism at birth, the parents, Prajapati, Surya, Ganesh, Markandeya, Vyas, Parshuram, Rama, Ashvatthama, Krupacharya, Bali, Pralhad, Hanuman, Bibhishan and Shashthidevata. After their invocation they should be ritualistically worshipped with sixteen substances (shodashopchar puja). The Shashthidevata should be offered a sacrament (naivedya) of rice and curd and that offering should be given to a cow or any other animal. The other deities should be offered a sacrament of sugar cubes (khadisakhar) and later it should be distributed as offering (prasad). This should be followed by a prayer. After the prayer one should prepare a mixture of a fistful of sesame seeds, a cube of jaggery and half a glass of milk and partake some of it. On this day relatives and friends should be invited for a meal. Maximum amount of wealth and food should be donated. One should avoid accepting gifts or money from others. On this day, cutting nails and hair, sexual intercourse, travelling, strife, violence, eating forbidden items should be strictly prohibited.

The birthday should be celebrated according to the date (tithi) of the Hindu almanac (panchang). If one intends to celebrate it the modern way then one should perform the ritual of worship (pujavidhi) according to the date of birth from the Hindu lunar calendar and should invite friends for a tea party or for dinner according to the date of birth in the English calendar.’(2)

7.3 The objectives

A. Adulation: The birthday, reception, etc.

B. Blessings

7.4 Shanti according to the age

The average lifespan of man is considered to be a hundred years while that according to the Vedas is a hundred and twenty. Hence the ritual of Shanti is advised after the passage of half the lifespan.

Age in
Name of
the Shanti
Main deity Substances offered in
oblation (havan)
50 Vaishnavi Vishnu Sacrificial firewood-boiled
rice-clarified butter-a sweet
55 Varuni Varun Sacrificial firewood-boiled
rice-clarified butter-a sweet
60 Ugrarath
Markandeya Sacrificial firewood-clarified
butter-boiled rice-durva-a
sweet (payas)
65 Mrutyunjay-
Sacrificial firewood-clarified
butter-boiled rice-a sweet
70 Bhaimarathi Bhimrath-
Sesame oil
75 Aindri
Indrakoushik Sacrificial firewood-clarified
butter-boiled rice-a sweet
80 Sahasra-
Chandra Clarified butter
85 Roudri Mrutyunjay-
Sacrificial firewood-clarified
butter-boiled rice-clarified
90 Kalsvarup-
Surya Sacrificial firewood-clarified
butter-boiled rice-clarified
95 Tryambak-
Sacrificial firewood-clarified
butter-boiled rice-clarified
100 Maha-
Sacrificial firewood-clarified
butter-boiled rice-clarified

* The clarified butter used in the oblation is made from goat’s milk.
** Durva is a sacred grass used in worship.

7.5 The birthdays of saints

Instead of celebrating Their birthdays the day of Their acquisition of a Guru should be celebrated because that day is in fact a day of Their rebirth.


Shastra Ase Sangate. First edition, fifth reprint – October 94, Vedavani Publications, Kolhapur 416 010.
1. Pg. 125, 126
2. Pg. 126, 127


What do the three strands of the sacred thread represent?


Upanayan [Vratabandha, Munja (The rite of thread ceremony)]

1. Definition and synonyms

  • A. The word Upanayan consists of two words, upa and nayan. ‘Upa’ means near and ‘nayan’ means to take towards. In short, Upanayan means taking to the Guru (teacher), who will teach the Gayatri mantra. Nayan also means ‘the eye’. Upanayan thus means the inner vision (antahachakshu). Therefore that rite which facilitates the development of inner vision is called Upanayan.
  • B. Vratabandha is that rite by which one is bound by restrictions of vowed religious observances (vrat), norms of Righteousness (Dharma) and celibacy. Before that, there are no restrictions on the child’s behaviour.
  • C. Upanayan is also named Munja after the grass ‘munja’ which is tied to the waist during the rite.

The one on whom the rite is being performed is called a batu, munjamani, brahmachari, etc. The one on whom the rite has already been performed is called an upanit.

2. The objectives

Every human being is born a Shudra, that is he just learns how to clean himself physically. However, by performing rites (karma) he is reborn (dvij). ‘Dvi’ means two, that is second time and ‘j’ means to be born. Since due to the thread ceremony the boy has a kind of rebirth he is said to become twice born (dvij). The second birth of a celibate (brahmachari) is marked by the rite of the thread ceremony. It is symbolized by wearing a girdle of munja grass. In this birth, Savitri is supposed to be his mother and Acharya (the teacher) his father. (Manusmruti 2.170). Once he becomes twice born he becomes worthy of chanting the Gayatri mantra, that is qualified to do spiritual practice; hence performing the thread ceremony is a must, while marriage is not.

Apararka, the critic of ‘Yadnyavalkya’ writes that the word Upanayan represents the link between the pupil and the Gayatri mantra and is established through the medium of the Guru (Yadnyavalkyasmruti 1.14, Apararka’s definition).

3. Who qualifies for this rite?

3.1 The age according to the class (varna)

According to ‘Ashvalayan Gruhyasutra’ (1.19), this rite is to be performed during the eighth year in a Brahman (priest), the eleventh year in a Kshatriya (warrior) and the twelfth year in a Vaishya (businessman). The reason for this is that for Vratabandha the minimal requirement of the sattva component is 30% and a child of the respective class can achieve it at that particular age as given in the table below.

The Class
The sattva
component at birth %
The age in years at
which 30% sattva
level is achieved
1. Brahman 25 8
2. Kshatriya 23 11
3. Vaishya 20 12
4. Shudra 19 17

In the olden days boys got married before seventeen years of age. After the thread ceremony one had to live with the Guru to learn the scriptures. This was not possible after marriage. Thus performing the thread ceremony was of no use to the Shudra (labourer) and hence he did not have the right to perform it.

Manu (2.37) proposes another explanation: To acquire divine splendour one should perform the thread ceremony of a Brahman in the fifth year of life, to acquire strength it should be performed on a Kshatriya in the sixth year and to acquire wealth, on a Vaishya in the eighth year.

3.2 The girls’ right to Upanayan

‘In the ancient times there was a practice of performing the thread ceremony (Upanayan) in girls as well. A mention of this is made in the Kurma Puran as

पुराकल्‍पे हि नारीणां मौञ्‍जीबन्‍धनमीरितम्‌ ।

Meaning: In ancient times (kalpa) thread ceremony for women was recommended.

Either the father, paternal uncle or brother would impart knowledge to the girl. However, other men were prohibited from doing this task. A celibate girl (brahmacharini) would ask for alms in her own household. Manu (2.66) states that the thread ceremony in girls was performed without a mantra. From this, it appears that since Manu’s times this custom slowly started declining.

In the succeeding age, the Panigrahan sanskar (rite) performed by the bridegroom on the girl was the main sanskar. The Upanayan chapter of the Sanskar-Ratnamala mentions the following two types of women based on the quotes from ‘Haritsmruti’ : 1. Brahmavadini – the one who is desirous of studying the Brahman principle. Her thread ceremony should be performed and she should be allowed to study the Vedas. 2. Sadyovadhu – one who wants a worldly life. Her marriage should be arranged soon after the thread ceremony is performed. Even today followers of the Arya Samaj perform the thread cermony (Upanayan) on girls.’ (1)

4. Preparations

One day prior to the day fixed for the thread ceremony (or three days in advance) the boy should remain only on a diet of milk. This increases the sattva component.

5. The resolve (sankalpa) of the boy undergoing the thread ceremony (batu)

‘I will absolve myself from the sins of my behaving as I wish, talking as I wish and indulging in drinking and eating as I wish by performing three intense penances or by donating money.’ [Refer ‘Science of Spirituality : Chapter 37 – Path of Action (Karmayoga)’]

6. The resolve of the one performing the thread ceremony

‘In the thread ceremony of this child I will perform a sacrifice for planets (grahayadnya) in order to acquire the favour of the planets and to venerate The Supreme Lord’. The father has the first right to perform the thread ceremony of his son.

7. Installation of the deity of the pandal (mandapdevatapratishtha)

First the deity of the pandal is installed. Bruhaspati is the main deity of the thread ceremony.

8. Shaving the head, bathing and tying a string of flowers across the boy’s brow (mundavalya)

Expressing a resolve, ‘Before performing the thread ceremony (Upanayan) of this child I will shave his head (keshavpan), etc. as the first part of this sanskar (rite)’, the boy’s head should be shaved off and after a bath a tuft of hair (shendi) should be tied. [The importance of retaining a tuft of hair is given in point ‘The objectives’] The shendi is also called shikha, its knot shikhagranthi and the act of tying it, shikhabandhan. After this a tilak with vermilion (kumkum) is applied on the boy’s forehead and then a string of flowers (mundavalya) is tied across his brow.

9. Gifts from the family

Entering the house to the accompaniment of auspicious music one must make three heaps of rice in the north-east direction and install the deities Bhagvati, Matruka and a pot to ward off obstacles (avighna kalash), on each heap amidst chanting of the two mantrasTadastu mitra Varuna (तदस्‍तु मित्रा वरुणा)’ and ‘Gruha vai pratishthasuktam (गृहा वै प्रतिष्‍ठासूक्‍तं)’ perform the ritual of worship with sandalwood paste (gandha), consecrated rice (akshata), flowers, etc. Then married women (suvasinis) should move a lit lamp in a circular fashion before the host and his wife and then relatives, friends and well-wishers should offer them gifts. Amidst the chanting of mantras clothes are offered as gifts and then the sanskars which have not been performed hitherto like Jatakarma, etc. are completed. Gifts are offered because the effect of the good wishes accompanying them last longer than just verbal good wishes. If a mantra is chanted during the offering of gifts, then the good wishes are even more effective.

10. The ritual of installation of the pot to denote the auspicious time (muhurtghatikasthapana)

  • A. The resolve (sankalpa): ‘I am installing this ghatika yantra as a device (yantra) to know the auspicious time (sumuhurt) when performing the thread ceremony of my son.’
  • B. The ritual: A copper vessel (such as a ghangal) should be placed on a heap of rice or any other food grain. Then after chanting the mantraImam me (इमं मे)’ water should be poured into the copper vessel and then the ghatika yantra should be placed in it. At that time a mantra which means, ‘O yantra (device) the chief among the yantras Lord Prajapati created you in the beginning. I am now installing you in order to attain good fortune, a long lifespan, health, good progeny and wealth. May we achieve fulfillment of our ceremony on account of this should be chanted’.

11. Eating with the mother (Matrubhojan)

This is the last meal that a boy takes from his mother’s plate as he is going to be reborn and will be away with the Guru. The boy undergoing the sanskar (rite) – the batu, offers a meal to eight other batus. This is called ashtavarga.

12. Performing the thread ceremony

A curtain (antarpat) is held between the father and the son whose thread ceremony is being performed and the eight auspicious lines (mangalashtakas) are recited. The father who teaches him the Gayatri mantra is considered to be the first guru (teacher). The curtain (antarpat) held between the father and the son is removed thus reducing the distance between them. This signifies their coming close to one another.

In the olden times after the rite of the thread ceremony (Upanayan) the children would go to their Guru to undertake their studies. So when one says ‘savadhan (सावधान)’ on the completion of the eight auspicious lines the parents would realise that their son was going to be separated from them and become sad. Since the mother grieved about the separation more than the father, during the recitation of the eight verses it is customary for the mother to stand away from the boy. There is no implied scriptural meaning behind this.

13. Wearing a loin cloth and new clothing (Langoti va Vastradharan)

A triple folded thread is tied onto the waist of the boy and he is made to wear a loin cloth (langoti). The three strands of thread represent the three components (trigunas) while the tying of the loin cloth symbolizes celibacy and keeping these three components in control. Then chanting a mantra the boy should be dressed in new white clothing. Subsequently, repeating the same mantra he should be given a red cloth to drape himself. The white colour depicts purity while the red, penance (tapashcharya). New clothing is used to avoid the influence of impressions caused on clothing used by another.

14. Wearing the hide of a deer (Ajindharan)

The boy should be made to wear a deerskin after chanting a mantra. Usually deerskin is used as later one is supposed to use the hide as a seat for spiritual practice. (Refer ‘Science of Spirituality : Chapter 3 – Practice of Spirituality’.)

15. Wearing the sacred thread (Yadnyopavitdharan)

Then the sacred thread is held in the hand and chanting the Gayatri mantra ten times, is sprinkled with water charged with mantras. This endows it with the tej (absolute fire) element. The boy is then asked to wear it.

Yadnyopavit is a word consisting of two words, yadnya and upavit. Vit means that which is woven, that is cloth and upavit means the upper garment. One is born naked. Then the baby is kept wrapped in one garment. Till the thread ceremony is performed the boy can remain clad in one garment. The use of the upper garment begins after the thread ceremony. After the thread ceremony one garment refers to the loin cloth (langoti) and the second (upper) garment to the sacred thread (janave) which is in a way a condensed form of the shawl on the shoulder (uparne).

The sacred thread is made up of nine fibres. One deity is established in each fibre as follows. 1. Omkar, 2. Agni (deity of fire), 3. Nag (serpent), 4. Som (moon), 5. Pitar (ancestors), 6. Prajapati (deity of procreation), 7. Vayu (air), 8. Yama (deity of death) and 9. Vishvadevata (deity of the universe). Three strands are created by twisting three of the nine fibres in each strand. The three Vedas – Rugveda, Yajurveda and Samaveda are established on each of these strands. Three fibres are woven into one strand and the three strands are then knotted together. This knot is called the Brahmagatha (gatha means a knot) or the Brahmagranthi (granthi means a gland). [The knot of sacred grass (darbha) tied to a gold ring (pavitrak) is also called a Brahmagranthi.] It is the site of establishing the Atharvaveda. This knot is extremely important and one requires skill to tie it. The three strands represent the three stages (ashrams) – celibate student (brahmacharya), the married householder (gruhastha) and retired householder (vanaprastha); the three fires, the fire worshipped in the home (garhapatya), the fire placed in the south (dakshinagni) and the sacred fire lit for a specific spiritual purpose (ahvaniya) as well as spiritual knowledge (dnyan), devotion (bhakti) and action (karma). The one who possesses all these three qualities gets the spiritual experience of Brahman. Based on 96 items listed below, the length of the sacred thread should be 96 times the breadth of a finger (angul).

तिथिर्वारं च नक्षत्रं तत्त्‍ववेदगुणान्‍वितम्‌ ।
कालत्रयं च मासाश्र्च ब्रह्‍मसूत्रं हि षण्‍णव ।।

Meaning: 15 auspicious dates (tithis) + 7 days of the week + 27 lunar asterisms + 25 principles + 4 Vedas + 3 components (gunas) + 3 time periods (kals) + 12 months = 96. Thus, the length of the sacred thread (yadnyopavit) is 96 times the breadth of a finger (angul).

In the Shaiva sect, the three strands of the sacred thread represent the three horizontal lines of holy ash (tripundra) on the forehead of Lord Shankar which symbolize spiritual knowledge (dnyan), purity and penance (tapashcharya). The Brahmagath indicates the origin of these three, that is divine consciousness (chaitanya).

The celibate (brahmachari) and ascetic (yati) should wear one and the married householder (gruhastha) and the retired householder (vanaprasthi) should wear two sacred threads. One thread indicates that an ascetic and a celibate are concerned only with their own spiritual progress while two threads in the married householder and the retired householder indicate that they are also responsible for the spiritual progress of their wives besides their own.

15.1 What is the motive behind placing the sacred thread over the right ear lobe during urination or defaecation?

निवीती दक्षिणे कर्णे यज्ञोपवीतं कृत्‍वा मूत्रपुरीषे विसृजेत्‌ ।
ऊर्ध्‍वं नाभर्मेध्‍यातर: पुरुष: परिकीर्तित: ।।

In short, it means that since the part of the body above the navel is considered pure and that below it impure, during urination and defaecation the sacred thread is worn as a chain (nivit) around the neck and is placed on the right ear. The scriptures often mention the importance of the right ear. Since it is the seat of various deities like Aditya, Vasu, Rudra, Vayu, Agni, Dharma, Veda, Apa, Som, Surya, Anil, etc. mere touch of the right ear bears the benefit of the ritual of sipping water from the palm (achaman). Thus by placing the sacred thread on the right ear which is pure, one is not bound by the restrictions of impurity.

The right ear assumes such scientific importance because the nerve endings and receptors situated here are closely related to the testes. During urination there is a likelihood of passage of sperms in a small quantity. It is well documented by Ayurveda that seminal loss is prevented by encircling the right ear with a thread. The frequency in case of repeated nocturnal emissions can be reduced by keeping the right ear tied during sleep. An animal is subdued as soon as its ear is held. Of the seven causes of scrotal swelling, one is urinary. Encircling the ear with a thread prevents a scrotal swelling due to a urinary cause.’(2)

16. The resolve of establishing discipleship (Avaksharan sankalpa)

The priest expresses the resolve ‘I am performing only ayanjaliksharan to purify the boy and to appease the Savitru deity [Surya (Sun deity)].’

17. Prayer to receive the Gayatri mantra (Upasthan mantragrahan)

One prays, ‘Please teach me the Gayatri mantra’. Then the following mantra is taught.

ॐ भूर्भुव: स्‍व: तत्‍सवितुर्वरेण्‍यं भर्गो देवस्‍य धीमही धियो यो न: प्रचोदयात्‌ ।

Meaning: We are meditating on the Creator, the supporter of the world, the radiant form of That Energy which inspires the attitudes of our mind.

The Gayatri mantra is first taught by the father, hence he is the first Guru. However the father should have chanted the mantra atleast 10,000 times, himself. After this, the ritual of worship (puja) of the Guru, fire (agni) and the sun begins.

18. Application of holy ash (Vibhutigrahan)

Chanting the mantras holy ash should be applied to the forehead (representing Sage Jamadagni), neck (Sage Kashyap), navel (Sage Agasti), right and left shoulder (God) and the head (all deities and sages). The holy ash generates detachment (vairagya). [For more information on holy ash (vibhuti) refer ‘Science of Spirituality – Chapter 7 : Path of Devotion (Bhaktiyoga)’.]

19. Tying of the girdle (Mekhalabandhan)

Three turns of the girdle are wound around the waist of the boy undergoing the thread ceremony (batu). Three knots are tied with both the ends, near the navel. At that time, the boy should realise that he is bound to the study of the three Vedas inclusive of their six parts (angas) along with the ‘Aranyakas’ (one of the parts of the Vedas to be recited in the forest) and the Upanishads. Manu (2.42) states that the girdle should be made from the grass called munja for a Brahman boy, from the string of a bow for a Kshatriya and from the shan tree for a Vaishya.

20. The ritual of holding the staff (Dandadharan vidhi)

The staff is handed over to the boy after chanting the mantra. At that time the boy undergoing the thread ceremony (batu) should say, “I am holding this staff which will suppress I who am impudent (the boisterous one who does not pay heed to anyone) and which will make me follow the righteous path. May it protect me from that which may induce fear”. The staff is an upright straight branch from the top of the palash tree. It converts distressing energy from the atmosphere into pleasant energy. The number of the knots on the staff denote the number of penalties that the initiate has to observe throughout his life. ‘The staff of the Brahman boy should be made from the palash tree and should be long enough so as to reach the hair on the boy’s scalp. The staff of a Kshatriya should be made from the holy fig (oudumbar) tree and should reach the forehead while the Vaishya’s staff should be made of the bel (bilva) tree and should reach the chest at the level of the heart’, as described in Ashvalayan Gruhyasutra.

21. The code of conduct preached by the priest (Acharbodh) and the vowed religious observances to be followed by the boy undergoing the thread ceremony (Batuvrat)

21.1 The code of conduct preached by the priest (Acharbodh)

‘Since you are a celibate (brahmachari) you should observe the following rules:

  • A. Take a sip of water from the palm (achaman) after passing urine or stools, eating, travelling and sleeping, for maintenance of purity.
  • B. Perform the ritualistic actions (nityakarma) of sandhya, spiritual practice, lighting the sacrificial fire (hom), etc. everyday
  • C. Do not sleep during the day.
  • D. Chant the Vedas, under the guidance of the teacher.
  • E. Beg for alms in the morning and evening.
  • F. Offer sacrificial firewood (samidha) to the fire in the morning and evening.
  • G. Observe celibacy for twelve years or until the completion of the study of the Vedas.
  • H. Beg for alms from the man or woman who will not let you return empty handed.’

After explaining this code of conduct that part of the sacrificial fire (hom) from ‘Yadasyeti (यदस्‍येति)’ onwards should be completed.

21.2 The vowed religious observances to be followed by the boy undergoing the thread ceremony (Batuvrat)

This includes following the code of conduct preached by the priest, refraining from eating salty foods, sleeping on the floor, etc.

22. Asking for alms (Bhikshagrahan)

The boy undergoing the thread ceremony (batu) should ask for alms of rice sufficient for the anupravachaniya sacrificial fire (hom) and for a meal of the priest. He should first go to the mother and say, ‘Give me alms’ (‘ॐ भवती भिक्षान्‍देही!’). Then he should repeat the same to the father. Thus, begging for alms from the maternal aunt, elder sister and well-wishers he should take the alms so collected to the priest. (In the absence of parents, a maternal aunt and a sister, alms can be asked from anyone else.) Then he should perform sandhya at noon (or may not depending on the sect). From the next day onwards the Brahmayadnya (sandhya) should be performed only with the Gayatri mantra. Asking for alms helps in reducing the ego. By giving alms (food) to the priest, the boy realises that the responsibility of looking after the needs of his teacher lies on him. He also learns to eat only after offering food to his teacher, to partake of only what is given to him by the teacher and to ask for alms only sufficient for a sacrificial fire and to feed the priest (purohit).

23. The ritual of generation of spiritual intellect (Medhajanan)

One should express the resolve, ‘I am performing this ritual of Medhajanan in order to venerate The Lord for the generation of spiritual intellect to master the Vedas after completion of the sanskar (rite) of thread ceremony of my son. I am worshipping the deity Savitri also known as Medha’.

24. Farewell to the deity of the pandal (Mandapdevakotthapan)

One should bid farewell (utthapan) to the deities (devak) on the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 8th or 10th day from the day of their installation.

25. Comparative importance of various rituals in the sanskar of thread ceremony (Upanayan)

The ritual Importance
1. Supporting rituals 5
2. The resolve of the boy on whom the
    sanskar is being performed
3. The resolve of the one performing the
    thread ceremony
4. Installation of the deity of the pandal 1
5. Shaving the hair 1
6. Gifts from the family (a form of blessing) 1
7. The ritual of installation of the pot 1
8. Performing the thread ceremony 5
9. Wearing new clothing 1
10. Wearing the hide of a deer 2
11. Wearing the sacred thread 8
12. The resolve of establishing discipleship 2
13. A prayer asking for the Gayatri mantra 2
14. Learning the Gayatri mantra 2
15. Application of holy ash 2
16. Tying of the girdle 2
17. The ritual of holding the staff 10
18. The code of conduct preached by the
19. A vowed religious observance to be
      followed by the boy undergoing the
      thread ceremony
20. Asking for alms 10
21. The ritual of generation of spiritual
22. Farewell to the deity of the pandal 2
23. Others 20
Total 100

26. Nivit (A mode of wearing the sacred thread)

Nivit means wearing the sacred thread like a chain (mala) around the neck. This practice is followed when making an offering to sages (rushitarpan) and on retiring to the forest after completion of the duties of a married householder (vanaprasthashram).


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.1, Pg. 660

Shastra Ase Sangate. First edition, fifth reprint – October 94, Vedavani Publications, Kolhapur 416 010.
2. Pg. 14, 15


Why is the earthen pot used in all important sanskars?


Rituals after marriage

1. The bride’s entry into the house (Vadhugruhapravesh) and naming the bride (Vadhuche namakaran)

When the wedding procession reaches the groom’s house, a mixture of curd and rice is moved around the heads of the couple and thrown away. The bride lightly strikes a tall cup filled with rice with her right foot and empties it as she crosses the threshold of the main door. Then worship of Lakshmi (Lakshmipujan) is performed and the bride is given a new name by the in-laws’.(1)

2. Viewing Dhruv (North Star), Arundhati and Saptarushi (the group of seven stars symbolising the seven sages)

At night, the bride and groom should look at Dhruv, Arundhati and Saptarushi in the sky. The bride is asked to look at Dhruv with the intention that she may attain a stable position in the family akin to Dhruv and be endowed with eternal wifehood. Dhruv signifies eternity, Arundhati chastity and Saptarushi is a symbolic reminder of the debts to sages.

In the olden times the marriage ceremony would continue for two days or so. At that time this rite would precede the ritual of taking the idol of Annapurna, etc. which was held on the day following the marriage.

3. The rituals on the day following the marriage

3.1 The sacrificial fire on entering the home (gruhapraveshaniya hom)

This sacrificial fire should be performed at home. The resolve: ‘I am performing the sacrificial fire on entering the house so that the marriage fire (vivahagni) acquires a conjugal status and to appease The Supreme Lord. During the first three oblations (ahutis) in the fire one should offer clarified butter saying, ‘May Lord Brahma generate good progeny from us. May Aryama that is the sun, endow us with a long life. O bride, instead of becoming sorrowful make me, my friends, well-wishers and servants happy. Also look after the animals I have domesticated and make them happy’. At the time of the fourth oblation one should say, ‘O bride, serve well your father-in-law and mother-in-law, become their favourite and gain respect from them. Also gain respect and become the favourite amongst the sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law’, and offer clarified butter (ghee). Here the resolve is that the bride should blend herself with her new home. Nowadays this sacrificial fire is not performed separately. It is completed by offering an oblation in the sacrificial fire of marriage (Vivahahom) itself.

3.2 Taking away a seashell (kavadi), betelnut, or a piece of turmeric

In this ritual, the husband holds a seashell which represents the vagina or a betelnut (symbolic of the phallus) in his hand and the wife releases it. Later on, a piece of turmeric was substituted for the betelnut as a symbol of the phallus.

3.3 The vowed religious observance of the bride and groom (Vadhu-var vrat)

After completion of the sacrificial fire on entering the home, the bride and groom should not eat salt and salty foods for either three or twelve days. Also on the day after the marriage, imagining that the bride is a celestial beauty (apsara) and he himself a celestial musician (gandharva) the groom should worship Mahadevi. On the third day after the marriage presuming that the bride is Svaha (consort of the deity of fire) and he Agni (the deity of fire), he should worship a female deity named Kalika. On the fourth day thinking that he is human, he should worship the female deity Shankari. Thus, right from the beginning, one is taught to keep a control over sexual desires. Contrary to this, in western countries the couple goes on a honeymoon soon after marriage.

3.4 The ritual of Sunmukh

The ornaments and clothes that the groom’s mother gifts to the bride before the ritual of Airinidan are known as “Sunmukh”. In this ritual the mother-in-law first puts sugar into the daughter-in-law’s mouth. This is a popular custom.

3.5 The ritual of Airinidan

On the fourth night following the marriage the father of the bride has to give an offering of sixteen sifting pans woven from bamboo and a big bamboo basket to the groom’s mother. This collection of sifting pans and the basket constitute the “airini”. This offering is made for the fulfillment of the ritual of giving away the daughter (Kanyadan) and the growth of her lineage. Nowadays this is performed on the day of the marriage prior to the departure of the procession of the bride and groom.

There is no sanction for the ritual of Airinidan in the Gruhyasutras. It is performed merely as a popular custom. Another name for bamboo is vansha (lineage). Hence ‘airini’ is a symbolic representation of the growth of lineage. The aim behind gifting the sari to the groom’s mother at the time of Airinidan is to please her.

3.6 Taking the idol of Annapurna

After the offering (dan) to the groom’s mother is made the bride and groom are made to worship Gouri and Har. At that time the groom takes away the idol of Annapurna from the temple in the father-in-law’s house.’(2)

3.7 Gondhal dance

The custom of performing a stormy dance with quick steps called Gondhal in the house, after the marriage, is popular in some places.

4. Farewell to the deities and the removal of the pandal (Devakotthapan and mandapodvasan)

‘After the conclusion of the auspicious function the deities are bidden farewell. The host along with his wife immerses the deities in water (visarjan) amidst chanting of mantras. Then he applies oil to the branches tied to the pillars of the pandal and to those wound with thread and placed in a sifting pan. He then bathes them with warm water and disengages them. After performing Svastivachan and placing them in the sifting pan, Brahmans sprinkle water on them. This is followed by consecration (abhishek) of the host couple with the same water. The thread used when installing the deities is wound to a betelnut and handed over to the host. The host expresses the wish “May such auspicious occasions take place at my home every six months” and the Brahmans bless him accordingly. Finally the sifting pan of the deities is struck upon to produce a sound and the pandal is removed.’(3)

5. Comparative importance of various rituals in the sanskar (rite) of marriage, in the merging together of the bride and the groom

The ritual Importance
1. Arranging a marriage 2
2. Supporting rituals 5
3. The promise of giving the daughter’s hand in
     marriage (Vagdan)
4. The ritual of application of oil and turmeric
    paste (Tailharidraropan vidhi)
5. The acts to be performed on the eve of the wedding  
    A. The penance for omission of rites 1
    B. The resolve (sankalpa) 1
    C. Installation of the deity of the pandal
        (Mandapdevatapratishtha), the ritual of
        installation of the divine pot
6. Installation of the pot denoting the auspicious
    time (Muhurtghatikasthapana) and the ritual
    of worship while crossing the border
7. Worship with a mixture of honey and curd
    (Madhuparka puja)
8. Worship of Gouri and Har (Gouriharpujan) 1
9. The ritual of holding the wedding curtain
    (Antahapatdharan vidhi)
10. Chanting of suktas at the time of marriage 1
11. The ritual of mutual observation (Paraspar
     nirikshan vidhi
12. The ritual of showering the couple with consecrated
     rice (Akshataropan vidhi)
13. The ritual of giving away the daughter (Kanyadan
14. The ritual of winding the thread (Sutraveshtan) 2
15. Tying the thread around the wrist
16. Tying the auspicious thread (Mangalsutrabandhan) 2
17. Tying a knot of the clothes (Vastragranthibandhan) 1
18. The sacrificial fire of marriage (Vivahahom) 2
19. The nuptials (Panigrahan) 5
20. The sacrificial fire performed with parched corn
     (Lajahom) – prayer to Aryama deity
21. The bride standing on the flat grinding
     stone/grindstone (Ashmarohan)
22. The mantra of the seven steps (Saptapadi mantra) 5
23. Viewing Dhruv (North Star), Arundhati and
     Saptarushi (the group of seven stars symbolising
     the seven sages)
24. Vows of the bride and groom (Vadhuvaranchya
25. Taking the marriage fire (Vivahagni) home 8
26. Naming the bride (Vadhuche namakaran)
     [since marriage is a woman’s rebirth
27. The sacrificial fire on entering the home
     (gruhapraveshaniya hom) [for the marriage fire to
     attain a conjugal status]
28. The vowed religious observance of the bride and
     groom (Vadhu-var vrat)
29. The ritual of Airinidan 2
30. Miscellaneous 23.5
Total 100

5.1 Merging of the bride and groom by the rite of marriage

The merging %
A. Physical   5  
B. Psychological     20
C. Spiritual 75
Total 100

In short, the rite of marriage is done with the resolve of making the bride and groom suitable for each other’s spiritual progress.

6. Related information about marriage

6.1 The implied meaning of using an earthen pot in the important sanskars (rites) of birth, thread ceremony (Upanayan), marriage (Vivaha) and death

‘To bury the umbilical cord at the time of birth, to install the deity of the pandal (mandapdevata) during the thread ceremony, while worshipping the deity of the pandal and Gourihar during marriage, so also when taking fire to the crematorium an earthen pot is used. It is however named differently on different occasions, as earthen pot, varun, sankrant, an earthen vessel (mruttikapatra), gadge. The events of birth, marriage and death although distinct with respect to the generation of happiness and sorrow, are just transitional states from the emotional point of view. These transitions of life events occur around just one object, that is the human body. Just as when the vast sky (akash) gets incorporated in the pot (ghata) it is called ghatakash (the pot being the object), so also due to the influence of the Great Illusion (Maya) the Infinite Brahman gets incorporated in the human body. The value of the human body is just as much as the pot. As soon as the sway of the soul principle is over, the pot of this human body is destroyed. The importance accrued by the human body is only by the access of the soul principle. The earthen pot is placed before oneself with some reason or the other with the noble intention of strongly reminding one of this fact.’(4)

6.2 The rules of staying at the in-laws and parents’ home by the bride after the marriage

‘In the first month of Chaitra after marriage the bride should not stay at her parents’ home. It is said to be inauspicious for her father. Staying at the in-laws’ home in the month of Jyeshtha is inauspicious for the elder brother-in-law, in the month of Ashadh for the mother-in-law, in the month of Poush for the father-in-law, in the Kshaya (waning) month for the bride herself and in the intercalary (adhik) that is the additional or waxing month for the husband. However if the person for whom it is inauspicious, is not living then these objections are not valid.

In a newly-wed couple there is still no consistency in marital life and thinking. Their minds have not yet blended with each other. The apparent feeling of harmony is due to physical attraction and sexual gratification. At this time excessive indulgence in sex is harmful to health. Since constant contact of man and woman throughout the year is not advisable, the scriptures have laid down rules for the bride’s stay.’(5)

The explanation given in the above paragraph is from the physical and psychological points of view. The explanation from the science of Spirituality is as follows. Every relationship affects an individual. As change is the law of Prakruti, after a few months a relationship may prove to be happy or sorrowful. Thus the rules with regard to the bride’s stay have been framed considering this fact.

6.3 The marriage proving inauspicious

‘From the time of the engagement (Sakharpuda) till the day of the wedding if any relative in any of the three generations expires then that marriage is thought to be inauspicious. However there appears to be some confusion about this concept or custom since the ritual of engagement has become prevalent only in the last hundred to hundred and fifty years. Generally if a tragedy occurs after the promise of marriage (Vanhnishchay) is made then the marriage is considered inauspicious by the scriptures. The concept of engagement is not included in this. The promise of giving the daughter’s hand in marriage is a part of the rite of marriage and takes place on the eve of the wedding. If a tragedy occurs during this time then the inauspiciousness is understandable. However weddings are fixed six to eight months in advance. Due to social factors, obstacles and booking of the marriage hall obviously weddings have to be fixed quite a few months in advance. If some relative (1st, 2nd or 3rd cousin) expires then breaking the engagement considering it inauspicious would not be rational. However if one’s close relatives like parents, grandparents, great grandparents expire then one feels restless as the marriage is not propitious. If one decides to break the engagement one has to consider the fact that it has been arranged painstakingly. At such times Vinayakshanti and Shripujan are performed and the wedding is held. Generally such events do not point to inauspiciousness as they have just occurred by chance. However if such disasters occur one after another then having the marriage is not appropriate. According to the law of nature if destiny has to give a warning about a bad omen then it does not stop once but repeats it twice or thrice. Hence while deciding about inauspiciousness one should neither delay nor be careless.’(6)


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.8, Pg. 731
2. Vol 8, Pg. 731
3. Vol 4, Pg 423

Shastra Ase Sangate. First edition, fifth reprint – October 94, Vedavani Publications, Kolhapur 416 010.
4. Pg. 134
5. Pg. 133
6. Pg. 136


Why is Kanyadan performed after garlanding of bride and groom?


1. The wedding

1.1 The ritual of holding the wedding curtain (Antahapatdharan vidhi)

  • A. Definition: A folded sheet of cloth having double width held as a curtain between the bride and the groom from the southern direction is called antahapat or antarpat.
  • B. The ritual: Before the marriage ceremony starts, as the auspicious time starts drawing near, the priests should make two heaps of a kilo of white washed rice on two wooden seats (pats) of mango wood and arrange them one facing the east and the other at an arm’s length from it facing the west either in the house (or in the pandal below the mortar in the ground). Taking a clean cloth (dupeta) a svastik should be drawn with vermilion (kumkum), etc. on either side of it, in the centre. Then that wedding curtain (antarpat) should be held horizontally by any two persons as a partition such that its selvedged ends face the north. Energy can enter through these ends (or ends of any object). Since pleasant energies are present towards the north the ends are kept in that direction. (Distressing energies are present in the south.) Out of the heaps made earlier the groom should be made to stand on the heap towards the east facing the west and the bride should be made to stand on the heap towards the west facing the east. Then both should be given a mixture of some rice, jaggery and cummin seeds in their palms. This is the last of the individual sanskars (rites) of the bride and groom.

1.2 The ritual of mutual observation (Paraspar nirikshan vidhi)

  • A. Definition: The ritual performed to make the bride and groom look at each other lovingly is called the ritual of mutual observation.
  • B. The ritual: Both the bride and groom should chant the Name of their family deity in their minds, ‘Amushyai namaha (अमुष्‍यै नम: ।)’ and stand looking at the svastik on the wedding curtain. Pleasant frequencies from the svastik help to generate positive thoughts about one another.

1.3 Chanting of eight auspicious verses (Mangalashtakas) and the ritual of showering the couple with consecrated rice (Akshataropan vidhi)

Although these are only eight, nowadays many are chanted.

Jai ghanta shabda pramanam atyasandhi savadhan.
Ati sulagna savadhan savadhan ati sumuhurt savadhan.
Ati savadhan. Savadhan. Savadhan.

(जय घंटा शब्‍द प्रमाणम्‌ अत्‍यासंधि सावधान्‌ ।।
अति सुलग्‍न सावधान्‌ सावधान्‌ अति सुमुहूर्त सावधान्‌ ।।
अति सावधान्‌ ।। सावधान्‌ ।। सावधान्‌ ।।)’

Thus after the chanting of the eight auspicious verses is complete there should be a thunderous applause and musical instruments should also be played. After chanting the mantra ‘तदेव लग्‍नं सुदिनं तदेव ताराबलं चंद्रबलं तदेव ।
विद्याबलं दैवबलं तदेव लक्ष्‍मीपते तेंघ्रियुगंते स्‍मरामि ।।’ and saying ‘सुमुहूर्तमस्‍तु ॐ प्रतिष्‍ठा ।।’ (meaning – may this be an auspicious moment and an honourable event) the wedding curtain (antahapat) should be drawn from the north. Then the priest should make the couple sprinkle the mixture of rice, jaggery and cummin seeds on each other’s heads and tell both to look at each other lovingly and garland one another. The bride should garland the groom first. In modern times rice, jaggery and cummin seeds are not used, only garlands are exchanged.

Variation: The groom should touch the bride in between her eyebrows with the tip of a blade of sacred grass (darbha) saying ‘Om bhurbhuvaha svaha (ॐ भूर्भुव: स्‍व:)’and then throwing it away sip water from his palm (achaman). The seat of the Adnya chakra is at the root of the nose in between the eyes. This ritual is performed so that the energy generated from the chanting of ‘Om bhurbhuvaha svaha’ penetrates the Adnya chakra. The wife should obey the husband as he alone is her Guru and God. Obeying the husband is her spiritual practice. This is akin to a disciple obeying the Guru as his spiritual practice. Thereafter the groom and bride should sit opposite each other, the groom facing the east and the bride the west. The priest should then place consecrated rice (akshata) in the palms of both and first ask the bride to shower it on the groom’s head and then the groom to shower it on the bride’s head. This should be repeated three or five times. This showering of consecrated rice on one another is to fulfill each other’s desires of Righteousness (Dharma), wealth (artha), desire (kama) and progeny (santati). Then the parents of the bride and groom and the families of both should shower consecrated rice on the couple and pronounce that the marriage has been solemnised. Nowadays mostly when chanting the eight auspicious verses (mangalashtakas), each time when ‘Shubhamangala savadhan (शुभमंगल सावधान्‌)’ is recited only a little consecrated rice is showered on the couple. The rest of the consecrated rice in the hand is showered in the direction of the bride and groom after they have garlanded each other. If they happen to be at a distance then the consecrated rice is showered in their direction.

In olden times after the rite of tying the thread around the wrist (Kankanbandhan) the bride and groom would shower consecrated rice on one another in order to fulfill each other’s desires of Righteousness (Dharma), wealth (artha), desire (kama), progeny (santati), etc. and would apply tilak (kumkum) and garland one another.

The unbroken grain is an embodiment of fertility, prosperity, etc. Besides it also has the energy to overcome distressing energies such as spirits, black magic, etc. Hence unbroken rice grain is used.

1.4 The gathering at the marriage (lagnasabha)

This is a popular custom. ‘After the garlanding of the bride and groom all the guests at the wedding take seats in the pandal. This is referred to as the gathering at the marriage. Then the hosts of both the parties honour the guests by offering them betel leaves and betelnuts, perfume, roses, bouquets, sweetmeats (pedhas), coconuts, etc. The hostess offers oti to the married women (suvasinis).’ (1)

2. Sulking of the groom’s mother (Varamaiche rusane)

This is a popular custom. Once the wedding takes place the groom’s mother returns to her room without seeing the bride. Then the bride’s mother along with other married women follows her and after presenting her with a slab of jaggery, requests her to return. Then the groom’s mother goes to the bride’s home taking along a sari, blouse, ornaments, etc. to be presented to the daughter-in-law in the ritual of Sunmukh.

3. The ritual of giving away the daughter (Kanyadan)




 A. Definition: The giving away of the bride (daughter) to the groom is called the ritual of giving away of the daughter (Kanyadan). People wonder how the ritual of giving away of the daughter is performed after the bride and groom have already wed one another. Every ritual includes the resolve (sankalpa), the ritual according to the resolve, and pronouncing the fulfillment of the resolve, or a ritual to that extent [for instance offering water into a circular, shelving metal dish (tamhan)]. In the same way the promise of giving the daughter’s hand in marriage (Vanhnishchay) always includes the resolve of the ritual of giving away the daughter (Kanyadan). During the marriage the bride and groom garland one another.This itself is the ritual according to the resolve. This is followed by the ritual of fulfillment of the resolve of giving away of the daughter. That is why it follows the wedding.

  • B. The resolve: ‘I named …. belonging to …. pravar and …. lineage (gotra) am giving away my daughter through the rite of marriage (Brahmavivaha) in order to obtain the merit of the ritual of giving away the daughter for all my ancestors like attaining the region of Brahma (Brahmalok) along with Bliss of an unparalleled nature, to obtain purification and upliftment of twelve members of the clan of the father and twelve members of the clan of the groom and myself (a total of twenty-five) and to appease and acquire the grace of Shri Lakshminarayan by way of the children born to the daughter and her groom.’
  • C. The ritual: One should say, ‘I am giving away this beautiful daughter of mine adorned with gold ornaments to you considering you as Lord Vishnu, with the hope of attaining Brahma’s region. I am giving away this daughter to you for the upliftment of my ancestors with The Omnipresent Lord, all elements and deities as witnesses’. Then taking a new bronze plate one should place the cup of the palm (anjali) of the daughter over it, that of the groom over hers and finally one’s own over the groom’s. Then the vessel containing water charged with a mantra earlier for the ritual of giving away the daughter should be handed to one’s wife present to one’s right and she should be asked to pour the water from that vessel onto one’s cupped palms continuously in a fine stream. This is done so that the water from one’s cupped palms falls on the right hand of the groom’s cupped palms and through that onto the cupped palms of the bride and finally into the bronze vessel. As the marriage has already occurred the bride stands to the left of her husband, similarly her cupped palms lie below those of her husband.The groom should say, ‘I accept this girl for the fulfillment of Righteousness (Dharma) and for acquiring progeny. The bride’s father should tell the groom, ‘Do not violate the regulations with regard to Righteousness, wealth (artha), desire (kama) pertaining to her’. The groom should clearly state ‘I will not violate the regulations (naticharami)’.
  • D. The distinctive feature of giving away the daughter (Kanyadan): In all other offerings the recepient gets the object exactly as it is donated for example money, a cow, etc. However, in the ritual of giving away of the daughter when the bride’s father offers the daughter to the groom he gets a wife instead of a daughter.
  • 3.1 Offerings to the groom (Varadakshina)

    The bride’s father gives an offering (dakshina) to the groom. Along with it he also gives a water vessel (tambya), a circular, shelving metal dish (tamhan), a vessel for worship (panchapatri), a plate (tat), etc.

    The dowry system: The Indian (Bharatiya) people have considered marriage as a type of offering (dan). In marriage the daughter has to be offered to the groom. While donating one also has to give an offering either in cash or gold as without such an offering, the donation remains incomplete. Hence it was an ancient tradition to give the groom some amount in cash or a gold ornament for the sake of the daughter, after offering her to him. It cannot be called dowry in the conventional sense of the term as this offering was dependent on the bride’s father’s wish.’(2)

    3.2 The ritual of sprinkling water in which gold is put (Suvarnabhishek vidhi)

    In this ritual some gold is kept immersed in water and that water is sprinkled on the heads of the bride and the groom.

    4. The ritual of winding the thread (Sutraveshtan)

    The bride and groom are made to sit facing each other (the groom’s maternal uncle should sit behind the groom and the bride’s maternal uncle or any other relative should sit behind the bride as supporters.) Then two strands of new, white cotton thread should be soaked in milk and wound around the neck and waist of the bride and groom in five turns from the north-eastern direction. The mantra chanted at that time means – ‘May these words of ours bind you on all sides, bestow you with longevity and endow you with happiness’. Thus after the winding of the thread is over, the thread around the neck should be allowed to fall on the ground and the bride and groom should be asked to stand up. Then the thread fallen on the ground should be picked up. To symbolise the continuity of man’s life (full lifespan), during sanskars (rites) and on other auspicious occasions winding of the thread (Sutraveshtan) is performed. (An earthen pot is used to depict the transitory nature of life.)

    5. Tying the thread around the wrist (Kankanbandhan)

    Vermilion (kumkum) is applied to the thread used in the ritual of winding the thread (Sutraveshtan). It is twisted and a piece of turmeric and wool is tied to it. The groom should say, ‘The relationship of the bride with the evil spirit troubling her is now severed. Its colour has now become bluish red. As it has departed now, the brethren of the bride will prosper and her husband is being bound to her’, and ties it to the bride’s left wrist. Then removing the thread from the waist, wool and a piece of turmeric is tied to it in the same way. The bride then ties it to the right wrist of the groom, chanting the same mantra.

    6. Tying the auspicious thread (Mangalsutrabandhan)




    Married women (suvasinis) from the groom’s side should make the bride and groom sit facing eastwards and should give the bride two yellow attires called ashtaputri and kanchuki (kacholi, choli) and an auspicious thread consisting of black beads (mangalsutra). Then the bride is dressed with one of the ashtaputris and the other is draped around her shoulders. She is made to wear a blouse and then taking the mangalsutra in the hand the groom should say, ‘O chaste wife (pativrata), I am tying onto your neck this mangalsutra which denotes (will increase) your husband’s (my) lifespan. O beautiful one, may you live a hundred years’. Thus chanting the Name of the benevolent deity (ishtadevata) he should tie the thread around the bride’s neck. Then the bride should be presented with ornaments. Among the Brahmans the auspicious thread (mangalsutra) has two cup shaped gold structures. At the time of marriage the auspicious thread is tied in such a way that the hollows of these cups face the front. These are reversed after a year. Some people just have beads. These are variations depending on the customs.

    7. Tying a knot of the clothes (Vastragranthibandhan)

    The betelnuts worshipped by chanting mantras are tied to the end of the shawl draped around the shoulders of the bride and the groom. These two separate knots are then tied together.

    Then the one giving away the daughter along with his wife, the elderly people, married women (suvasinis) and all well-wishers and relatives should apply wet consecrated rice (akshata) onto the foreheads of the bride and groom and bless the couple.

    8. Worship of Mahalakshmi, Parvati and Shachi

    Thereafter making three small heaps of white rice on a plate the three deities Mahalakshmi, Parvati and Shachi should be ritualistically worshipped with sixteen items (shodashopchar puja) amidst chanting of Their Names. To appease Lakshmi and the other deities being worshipped the bride should give coconuts (soubhagyavastu) to the married women.

    9. The sacrificial fire of marriage (Vivahahom)

    A. The materials: A basketful of earth to make the mud altar (sthandil, vedi) for the sacrificial fire, a blow-pipe, sacrificial firewood (samidha), [twigs of trees such as palas, catechu (khair), the holy fig tree (pimpal), etc. measuring a span’s length], parched corn (lahya), a sifting pan, clarified butter (ghee), a flat grinding stone and muller (or a grindstone), water, a pot (kalash), tender leaves of the mango tree, cowdung, burning coals, three betelnuts, four betel leaves, two coconuts and an offering of money (dakshina).

    Prokshani: A vessel of water. The water from this vessel is
    sprinkled on other vessels.
    Struva: A wooden spoon used for the offering. It can
    measure a tola (equivalent to two or two and half
    teaspoonfuls) of clarified butter.
    Pranita: A vessel filled with water
    Ishma: A bundle of 15 sacrificial sticks of firewood of two
    spans length from sacrificial trees like the
    palas,catechu, etc.
    Barhish: A fistful of sacred grass (darbha) and all other
    materials used in the sacrificial fire.

    B. The resolve (sankalpa): ‘I am performing this sacrificial fire of marriage (Vivahahom) to confirm the status of the bride accepted by me in the rite of marriage as my wife and to accomplish the fire worshipped in the home (gruhyagni) and to accomplish it I am also performing all other acts incorporated in it such as smearing of the mud altar (sthandil) for the sacrificial fire.’

    10. The nuptials (Panigrahan)

    The groom’s clasping the hand of the bride including her five fingers with her palm facing downwards, is known as ‘Panigrahan’. The following mantra is chanted on this occasion: ‘O lady, by accepting me as your husband, you will live with me till you attain old age. Hence to endow you with wifehood, I am holding your hand. The four deities Bhag, Aryama, Savita and Pusha have handed you over to me to carry out all the chores in the stage of the householder (gruhasthashram)’.

    11. The sacrificial fire performed with parched corn (Lajahom)



    Laja means parched corn (lahya). Corn flakes (as well as rice grains) represent a swollen vagina and symbolise high fertility. First the groom should take a place to the east and ask the bride to stand up. Then she should be asked to wash both her hands with clean water and asking her to cup her palms he should put a little clarified butter (ghee) with a wooden offering spoon (struva, pali) into the cupped palms, that is smear some clarified butter onto her palms. Then the bride’s brother or his representative should stand up and put fistfuls of parched corn (lahya) from the sifting pan into the bride’s cupped palms, twice. (If he is of the fifth pravar then he should put the corn thrice). This should be followed by the groom’s pouring a stream of clarified butter over the corn in the sifting pan and the cupped palms. ‘May the deity of fire named Aryama worshipped by the bride liberate her from the bondages here (the father’s house), and not liberate her from the bondages of her husband (me)’. Saying this he should hold the bride’s cupped palms with both his hands and throw all the corn from it into the sacrificial fire. Then along with the bride the groom should circumambulate the site of the sacrificial fire, the water pot and the fire, excluding the flat grinding stone and muller. When circumambulating he should hold the bride’s hand and walk ahead and the bride should follow. According to the popular custom the bride’s brother twists the groom’s ear at this juncture.

    12. The bride standing on the flat grinding stone/grindstone (Ashmarohan)

    The meaning of the mantra chanted on this occasion is as follows: ‘Climb this stone and become stable like it. Resist those who may come to quarrel or fight and lure them away’. The stone represents steadiness and solidity.

    13. The mantra of the seven steps (Saptapadi mantra)




     According to a quote from the scriptures friendship develops after walking seven steps together. ‘प्राहु: सप्‍तपदं मैत्रं बुधा: तत्‍वार्थदर्शिन: ।’ Hence the ritual of saptapadi is given special importance in the sanskar (rite) of marriage. The act of taking the bride over the seven heaps of rice made on the northern side of the sacrificial fire (hom) by the groom, clasping her hand is known as saptapadi. As the bride and groom take a step the priest (purohit) chants the following mantras with each step. At that time the bride and groom should make the appropriate resolves.

    13.1 Vows (pratidnya) of the bride

    The bride takes the following consecutive seven vows, one at each step.

    • 1. त्‍वत्तो मेऽखिलसौभाग्‍यं पुण्‍यैस्‍त्‍वं विविधै: कृतै: ।
          देव ! संपादितो मह्यं वधूराद्ये पदेऽब्रवीत्‌ ।।Meaning: O Lord! I have had the good fortune of acquiring you due to the various types of merits acquired by me in various births.
    • 2. कुटुंबं पालयिष्‍यामि ह्यावृद्धबालकादिकम्‌ ।
          यथालब्‍धेन संतुष्‍ठा व्रते कन्‍या व्दितीयके ।।Meaning: I will look after your entire family, from the infant to the aged and will be happy with whatever I get for my sustenance.
    • 3. मिष्‍ठान्नव्‍यंजनादिनी काले संपादये तव ।
          आज्ञासंपादिनी नित्‍यं तृतीये साऽब्रवीव्दरम्‌ ।।Meaning: I will always abide by your directives and will regularly cook delicious food, vegetables, etc.
    • 4. शुचि: शृंगारभूषाऽहं वाङ्‌मन: कायकर्मभि: ।
          क्रीडि ष्‍यामि त्‍वया सार्धं तुरीये सा वदेव्दरम्‌ ।।Meaning: I will embellish myself with clean attire and will indulge in sexual play with you through acts with the mind, speech and body.
    • 5. दु:खे धीरा सुखे हृष्‍टा सुखदु:खविभागिनी ।
          नाहं परतरं यामि पंचमे साऽब्रवीव्दरम्‌ ।।Meaning: I who face sorrow bravely and remain pleased in happiness will share both your happiness and sorrow and will never indulge in adultery.
    • 6. सुखेन सर्वकर्माणि करिष्‍यामि गृहे तव ।
          सेवा श्वसुरयोश्चामि बन्‍धूनां सत्‍कृतिं तथा ।।
          यत्र त्‍वं वा अहं तत्र नाहं वञ्‍चे प्रियं क्‍वचित्‌ ।
          नाहं प्रियेण वञ्‍चा हि कन्‍या षष्‍ठे पदेऽब्रवीत्‌ ।।Meaning: I will happily perform all your household chores. I will also serve my in-laws and will respect other relatives. I will stay wherever you stay. I will never deceive my beloved (master) and will never get deceived by him.
    • 7. होमयज्ञादिकार्येषु भवामि च सहाय्‍यकृत्‌ ।
          धर्मार्थकामकार्येषु मनोवृत्तानुसारिणी ।।
          सर्वेऽत्र साक्षिणस्‍त्‍वं मे पतिर्भूतोऽसि सांप्रतम्‌ ।
          देहो मयार्पितस्‍तुभ्‍यं सप्‍तमे साऽब्रवीव्दरम्‌ ।।Meaning: O master! I will assist you in the rituals of sacrificial fires (hom-yadnya), etc. and will obey you with regard to Righteousness (Dharma), wealth (artha) and desire (kama). Here, in the presence of the deity of fire (Agnidev), the Brahmans, my parents and relatives you have become my master and I have offered my body unto you.’(3)

    13.2 Vows (pratidnya) of the groom

    The meaning of the mantra to be chanted by the groom with each step is as follows

    • 1. ‘इष एकपदी भव-सामामनुव्रताभव-पुत्रान्‍विदावहैबहूंस्‍तेसंतुजरदष्‍टय: ।।Meaning: O bride, you have walked one step with me, so we have become friends; hence you be my provider of food. Help me to fulfill my vowed religious observances (vrats). May we have many sons and may they have a long life.
    • 2. उर्जेव्‍दिपदीभव-सामामनु० ।।
      (The rest should be chanted like the mantra at number 1 and the same should be repeated when each mantra is chanted.)Meaning: O bride, you have walked two steps with me; hence may you become one who will give me strength.
    • 3. रायस्‍पोषायत्रिपदी भव० ।। (Rest as No.1.)Meaning: O bride, since you have walked three steps with me, may you become one who will increase my wealth.
    • 4. मायोभव्‍यायचतुष्‍पदी भव० ।। (Rest as No.1.)Meaning: Since you have walked four steps with me may you increase my happiness.
    • 5. प्रजाभ्‍य: पंच‍पदी भव० ।। (Rest as No.1.)Meaning: Since you have walked five steps with me, may you give birth to children.
    • 6. ऋतुभ्‍य:षट्‌ पदी भव० ।। (Rest as No.1.)Meaning: Since you have walked six steps with me may you give me pleasure in all seasons.
    • 7. सखासप्‍तपदीभव० ।। (Rest as No.1.)Meaning: You have walked seven steps with me, hence our friendship (relationship) has become strong.

    Then the priest should touch the foreheads of the bride and groom to each other and should consecrate them by sprinkling water (abhishek) from the pot placed in the north-east direction, onto their foreheads. Then chanting the fifteen mantras such as Shantirastu…. (शांतिरस्‍तु० ।।) etc. the priests should bless them. Thereafter the bride and groom should sit facing the east and complete the sacrificial fire (hom). Then the knot from the couple’s clothing should be untied.

    13.3 Importance

    Saptapadi are the seven steps taken to liberate themselves, together from the seven regions (lokas) that is earth (bhu), nether region (bhuv), heaven (svarg), maha, jana, tapa, satya and the seven sheaths (koshas). According to the law, marriage is considered as solemnised only after the seven steps (saptapadi) are completed.

    14. The rituals after marriage – feeding a morsel

    On the wedding day the bride and groom dine together. At that time the bride utters the name of the groom in a poetic form and feeds him a morsel of food. After she has given him a morsel of food the groom too feeds her a morsel. This is a popular custom.

    15. Taking the marriage fire (vivahagni) home and the marriage procession (varat)

    On the day following the marriage the sacrificial fire of entering the house (gruhapraveshaniya hom) is performed. The fire required for this ritual is taken by the couple from the marriage fire (vivahagni), to their home. When the members of both parties escort the bride and groom to the groom’s home in a procession it is known as a varat. The entire arrangement of the procession is to be made by the groom’s side. When this procession begins, fireworks like sparklers, etc. are lit.


    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 8, Pg. 730
    2. Vol 8, Pg. 731

    3. Sanskruti – Pujan. Page 221 – 222, Publishers: Shri Vallabhdas Zaveri, Sadvichar Darshan Trust, ‘Vimal Jyoti’, 2nd floor, 6/8, Dr. Wilson street, V.P. Road, Mumbai 400 004.


    Which factors are considered while arranging marriage?


    Vivaha (Marriage)

    1. Meaning and synonyms

    Vivaha or udvaha is taking the bride from the home of her father to one’s own home.

    • A. Panigrahan: The groom should hold the bride’s hand, to accept her as his wife.
    • B. Upayam: Going close to the bride or accepting her.
    • C. Parinay: Holding the bride’s hand and circumambulating the fire.

    All these types are included in the Brahmavivaha method followed in modern times.’(1)

    2. The objectives and their importance

    • A. To liberate oneself from the debt to God and one’s ancestors. Most of the rituals in marriage are associated with procreation which is essential to achieve liberation from these debts. When a son is born he performs ritualistic worship (puja), sacrificial fires (yadnyas), etc. and helps in liberation from the debt towards God. By performing a ritual for the departed (shraddha-paksha) he helps in liberation from the debt to the ancestors. As the daughter goes to her in-laws after marriage her religious acts benefit the ancestors of the in-laws. After marriage, a woman is called a soubhagyavati (सौभाग्‍यवती). This word is derived from the word subhaga (सुभगा), su (सु) meaning good and bhag (भग) the vagina (yoni).
    • B.Righteousness (Dharma), wealth (artha) and desire (kama) are the three pursuits (purusharthas) to be shared by a husband and wife. ‘धर्मप्रजासम्‍पत्ति: प्रयोजनं दारसङ्‌ग्रहस्‍य’ means that acquisition of wealth, Righteousness and progeny are the motives of marriage, according to Mitaksharakar in his commentary on the Yadnyavalkyasmruti. The progeny will be good only if the couple is attached to one another, is righteous and dutiful.
    • C. ‘The sanskar (rite) of marriage is an advanced form of human civilization. In this sanskar, advice given to the newly-weds is to reduce their self-centredness and to foster the emotion that they are a useful part of society.’(2)
    • D. ‘Marriage is the main institution among all institutions of human civilization. In the sixteen sanskars too, emphasis is laid on the sanskar of marriage. Marriage restrains the relationship between a woman and a man. Similarly the social relations of the children born to the couple are decided. The institution of a family is dependent on that of marriage. Hence, the social laws influence this sanskar of marriage. For no other sanskar are so many other factors to be considered as much as for the sanskar of marriage.

      Marriage controls the impetuous behaviour of women and men, which is detrimental to society. A man becomes restrained in his behaviour in the society because of his spouse. A bachelor remains solitary inspite of living in society. He cannot blend with it. However, when he gets married, he blends with the society. Marriage expands his family and relations and he becomes expansive in his attitudes towards life. Now since the responsibilities are defined he cannot behave erratically according to his whims and fancies.’ (3)

    • E. Marriage is a practice to reduce sexual desire. The mind gets diverted from several women to one as a result of marriage. In addition, due to vowed religious observances (vratavaikalyas) and regulations of the married householder’s stage (gruhasthashram), sexual life gradually decreases in a disciplined way. Later, due to each one’s qualities the physical attachment is converted into emotional attachment and sexual desire decreases further. Then conversion of emotional attachment into love without expectation, that is, spiritual love (priti) occurs and sexual desire gets markedly reduced. This makes it clear that the popular notion of the sanskar of marriage being a licence for intercourse, is a misconcept.
    • F. After marriage a woman changes her name. She leaves her home and comes to live with her husband. To sum it up, since marriage is a kind of rebirth for a woman, in the rituals of marriage she gains predominance. A woman considers it her fortune to acquire a husband and calls herself a soubhagyavati. To display this, she either applies vermilion (kumkum) in her husband’s name on her forehead or sindur (a saffron coloured powder) in the parting of her hair (bhang). The word ‘पत्‍नी’ meaning wife is derived from the Sanskrut quote, ‘पत्‍युर्नो यज्ञ संयोगे’ which means ‘one who accompanies her husband in sacrificial fires (yadnyas)’. Here, yadnya refers to Righteousness (Dharma). The main duty of a wife is to accompany her husband in spiritual practice rather than in marital life. The latter includes acquisition of wealth (artha) and fulfillment of sexual desire (kama).

    3. Types

    3.1 The main types

    • A.Brahma: This is the most pure and most progressed type of marriage. In this, the bride’s father himself invites a scholarly and chaste groom. Then performing rituals to honour him, offers his jewel decked daughter (Kanyadan) to him along with gifts (dakshina). However, the father does not take any kind of marriage settlement from the groom.
    • B. Daiva: The father offers his bejewelled daughter to the sage presiding over the sacrificial fire (yadnya). This is called a daiva marriage because this giving away of the daughter was done only in the sacrificial fires done to venerate deities. Though this is considered praiseworthy, it is inferior to Brahmavivaha. Here, the priest gets the offering of the daughter for his services rendered towards the sacrificial fire. Hence, this offering is not pure.
    • C. Arsha: To fulfill various religious rituals like sacrificial fires (yadnya, yag), etc. the father offers his daughter to the groom in exchange for a cow and an ox.
    • D. Prajapatya: When the groom asks for his daughter’s hand in marriage, the girl’s father offers his daughter after placing the condition that, “Both of you should follow the path of Righteousness (Dharma) and carry out your duties, together”.
    • E. Asur (asur): Marrying the bride by giving a gift of money, etc. to the bride’s father. This is akin to buying the girl.
    • F. Gandharva: With the bride’s consent having intercourse with her before marriage. This is considered inferior as here fulfillment of sexual desire is the prime motive.
    • G. Rakshas (demoniacal): Beating up the relatives and taking away the weeping bride forcefully and marrying her.
    • H. Paishach: Raping a sleeping, insane or unconscious girl.’(4)

    3.2 Anulom and Pratilom marriages

    An anulom marriage is one in which a man of a higher class (varna) marries a woman of a lower class while a pratilom marriage is one which involves the marriage of a man of a lower class to a woman of a superior class. The offsprings of the two are called anulom and pratilom progeny.

    In reality anulom and pratilom relationships are not sanctioned by Righteousness. Yet all these offsprings were entitled to the attainment of God. This was proven when Shukacharya accepted Suta as His close disciple. Suta’s father was a Brahman while His mother, a Kshatriya. Suta preached the Shrimadbhagvat and other Purans to sages like Shounak. Though Suta was a great exponent of Righteousness He used to consider Himself a Shudra, due to His anulom birth.

    3.3 Other types

    • A. Sambandham: In Kerala, India a matriarchal family pattern prevailed in the Nayar community. Marriage according to this pattern is called Sambandham.
    • B. Svayamvar: In this, a bride would choose and wed a groom of her choice.
    • C. Panavivaha: Arranging a contest and giving the daughter’s hand in marriage to the one who emerges victorious in it.
    • D. Premvivaha (love marriage): The culmination of the love of a young man and woman in marriage, is premvivaha.
    • E. Sevavivaha (marriage through service): In some tribes it is a custom that if a boy is financially incapable of getting a wife then he should render his services at the bride’s home so as to pay a predetermined amount as the price of the girl and then win her hand in marriage.
    • F. Vinimayvivaha: A man incapable of marrying due to financial constraints or at times due to a physical deformity offers his sister’s hand in marriage to another man in a similar situation and marries the latter’s sister himself.

    Brahmavivaha is superior to all the types of marriages given above. Hence, it will be discussed at length.

    4. Arranging a marriage

    4.1 At what age should a marriage be arranged?

    A. According to the science of Spirituality: After the thread ceremony at the age of eight, a boy would remain at his Guru’s home for study for atleast another twelve years. Thus the parents would not think of getting him married till he was twenty years old. Thereafter to develop the ability to sustain himself financially before entering the stage of the householder in the period of return from the Guru as a celibate (snatak) he would toil for four to five more years. Thus twenty-five to thirty years was the age group considered best for marriage. In case of a girl too, the age group of twenty to twenty-five was considered as appropriate since after the childhood period five to six years were spent in learning how to shoulder the responsibilities of running a household. This holds good today as well. The table below explains how nowadays marrying in a particular age group is conducive from the spiritual point of view.

    The groom The bride
    Spiritually conducive
    Spiritually conducive
    5 – 15 20 5 – 15 20
    16 – 20 30 16 – 19 40
    21 – 24 50 20 100
    25 100 21 – 25 40
    26 – 30 50 26 – 30 20
    31 – 35 30 31 – 35 10
    36 and
    20 36 and

    B. According to physiology: A girl matures faster than a boy in both physical and psychological aspects. Marriage of a boy and girl of the same maturity helps both of them physically and psychologically. For that, obviously the boy should be older than the girl by four to five years.

    C. According to the law: The ability to procreate is the highest in the age group of sixteen to eighteen years in a girl and eighteen to twenty-one years in a boy. Thus in the interest of the nation, to control population explosion the law permits marriage of a girl after eighteen and a boy after twenty-one years of age.

    D. Child marriages: This is a popular custom. Nowadays the wedding is held even after several years of the engagement (Sakharpuda). Formerly it was held soon after the engagement. Marriages were decided on the basis of the family (kul) to which the child belonged. Arranging a marriage based on the family background was a type of engagement by itself, and since in those days there was the practice of celebrating the wedding immediately thereafter, the custom of child marriages came into being. However, according to all the three sciences – Spirituality, psychology and physiology, child marriage is absolutely wrong.

    4.2 According to astrology

    A. The gotra (lineage), pravar (ancestral lineage) and the pinda

    1. The gotra (lineage): When arranging a marriage first one should find out if the gotra and pravar of both the families match and then the horoscopes of the boy and girl should be matched.

    ‘Boudhayan has explained the word “gotra” as follows –

    विश्वामित्रो जमदग्‍निर्भरव्‍दाजोऽथ गौतम: ।
    अत्रिर्वसिष्‍ठ: कश्‍यप इत्‍येते सप्‍त ऋषय: ।।
    तेषां सप्‍तर्षीणामगस्‍त्‍याष्‍ट मानां यदपत्‍यं तद्‌ गोत्रमुच्‍यते ।
    गोत्राणां तु सहस्राणि प्रयुतान्‍यर्बुदानि च ।।

    Meaning: Gotra is the term used to denote the descendants of the eight Sages – Vishvamitra, Jamadagni, Bharadvaj, Goutam, Atri, Vasishtha, Kashyap and Agastya. There are millions of such gotras.

    These eight sages are called gotrakrut, gotrakar, vruddha, sthavir or vanshya, the creators of the gotras. Again in every hierarchy some prominent men were born and the family also acquired fame through them. Although they were included in the original gotra they were considered as independent gotra creators, for example Kapi and Bodha of the Angiras gotra gave rise to separate gotras named after them. Rarely, if the father was unknown then the gotra came to be known in the mother’s name. Thus from one basic gotra various famous gotra makers were created. They were called members of the gotra (gotragan). Thus a list of the eight main gotras and the gotragans derived from these gotras was prepared in the ancient times. These gotras were divided into gans and the gans subdivided again into pakshas (groups), for example from Vasishtha gan were derived four pakshas – Upamanyu, Parashar, Kundin and Vasishtha. They have innumerable further subdivisions. In the period of the Sutras, the gotras acquired importance in various aspects, for instance

    • A. Marriage within the gotra was prohibited.
    • B. It was decided that the inheritance of the property of one without an heir would go to the next of kin of the same gotra.
    • C. The Brahmans (priests) performing the ritual for the departed (shraddha) should as far as possible not belong to the same gotra as the host performing the ritual.
    • D. When pouring water upon the corpse the name of the gotra should be pronounced.
    • E. It was decided that, when performing the sanskar (rite) of Choulkarma a small portion of hair (shendi) should be kept on the head in keeping with the traditions of the gotra and the family.
    • F. When performing the ritual of sandhya one should utter the name of one’s gotra, pravar, branch of the Vedas and the Sutra that one follows.
    • G. When performing any observance ordained by the Vedas (shroutkarma) the gotra and pravar of the host should be uttered.

    A quote from the recent scriptures states that Kshatriyas and Vaishyas should be considered to be of the same gotra-pravar as that of their priest (purohit). This rule holds good only when they forget their own gotra and not otherwise.

    Formerly, after performing the rite of thread ceremony (Upanayan) the boy would live with his Guru to study the scriptures. Just as nowadays a graduate obtains his degree from the university, in the olden times the celibates (snataks) on returning home from the Guru’s place after study, would accept their Guru’s gotra and introduce themselves as the disciples of that Guru. Thus this clarifies the prevailing misconcept that people belonging to one gotra have the same family tree (vansha).

    2. Pravar (ancestral lineage): Pravar refers to the ancestors of the gotras. They are one, two, three or five in number. The root “vru (वृ)” from the word “pravar (प्रवर)” means to select; to accept. The words arsheya or arsha are used synonymously with pravar. Arsheyavaran means acceptance of one of the existing sects of Vedic rites (karma). This makes it clear that pravar represents the name of a founder sage of a sect following particular observances as ordained by the Vedas. Just as the word gotra represents learning (vidya), pravar is associated with a sect of karma. The authors of the Sutras have mentioned specific pravar sages for specific gotras, for example Vasishtha, Shaktya and Parasharya for Parashar gotra. Vasishtha, Maitravarun and Koundinya for Kundin gotra and Vasishtha, Bharadvasu and Indrapramad for Upamanyu gotra. As it was necessary to invoke the three sages who wrote the mantras the number of pravar sages became limited. Thus in all there are forty-nine such pravars. Association of the pravars in relation to the rites performed in the household (gruhakrutyas) are as follows –

    • A. The pravar of the bride’s and bridegroom’s father should not be the same.
    • B. The number of knots tied to the waist girdle (mekhala) of the one on whom the rite of thread ceremony (batu) is being performed should correspond to the number of his pravar.
    • C. When keeping a small portion of hair on the head (shendi) during the rite of Choulkarma the number of pravars related to the boy, should be taken into consideration.’ (5)

    3. Pinda: ‘In order to avoid sexual promiscuity (yonisankar) in man who is always sexually oriented, the Vedic scriptures created the four classes (varnashramdharma) based on the qualities (gunas) and actions (karma) and later established the code of marriage to prevent the generation of interclass progeny (varnasankar). It was decided that with the exclusion of the fifth and the seventh generation, a man should accept as a bride (Panigrahan) a girl of the same class but of a different gotra (such as Atri, Vasishtha, Kashyap, Bharadvaj, etc.) and different lineage (asapinda). As the term sapinda is extremely important in the scriptures its description is essential.

    वध्‍वा वरस्‍य वा तात: कूट स्‍थाद्यदि सप्‍तम: ।।
    पंचमी चेत्तयोर्माता तत्‍सापिंड यं निवर्तते ।।
    पंचमात्‍सप्‍तमादूर्ध्‍वं मातृत: पितृतस्‍तथा ।। – निर्णयसिंधु

    Meaning: An extract from the Nirnaysindhu says that if one has to decide whether an individual belongs to the same lineage as oneself (sapinda) one should take any one of his/her ancestors. If he is a male then six generations from him and in the case of a female four generations from her, are considered to be of the same lineage (sapinda). That means if the father of either the bride or groom is not included in the previous seven generations or if the mother is not included in the previous five generations then the bride and groom are not of the same lineage. Hence there is no objection to their marriage.’(6)

    The offspring of those marrying within the same gotra is known as chandal (meaning one who is weak physically, psychologically and morally) – ‘Dnyantastu sagotradyutpannanam chandaltvamev (ज्ञानतस्‍तु सगोत्रद्युत्‍पन्‍नानां चाण्‍डालत्‍वमेव ।)’ The frequency of genetic disorder is heightened by marriage within the same gotra (sagotra) and same lineage (sapinda). Information about the sequence of gotras and pravars is given in the Hindu almanac (panchang).

    B. ‘Matching of horoscopes or looking into the preordained events of life: When matching horoscopes the following eight aspects are taken into consideration – the class (varna), the matching of the lunar and solar signs (vashya), the lunar asterism (nakshatra), the species (yoni), the planets (grahas), the genus (gan), the lineage (kuta) and one of the three divisions of the lunar asterism (nadi). If all these eight match each other then in all, thirty-six points are said to match. When minimum of eighteen components match, the horoscopes are said to be matching. The greater the number of points matching beyond eighteen the better it is. It is pointless matching the points based on preordained events when the horoscopes of the boy and girl are not available. Deciding upon a suitable match by matching the horoscope is only a popular custom, and is not prescribed by the scriptures.’(7)

    C. An identical sub-division of the lunar asterism (nadi) is prohibited: If one of the three divisions of the lunar asterism of the bride and groom is identical then according to astrology, their ability to procreate is reduced.

    D. The defect of Mangal (Mars): If in the horoscope any of the five positions 1, 4, 7, 8 and 12 are occupied by Mangal then the horoscope is said to have ‘a Mangal’. If the Mangal exists in the horoscope of either the bride or the groom it is considered inauspicious. There are several exceptions to this. For instance if out of the 36 points from the horoscope more than 27 match, then it is said that there is no defect of the Mangal, etc. ‘If there is a Mangal then the bride should ritualistically worship Umashankar and the ritual of marriage to a pot (Kumbhavivahavidhi) is performed to be rid of widowhood, as a preventive remedy. Before the wedding both parties should perform a sacrificial fire for the planets (grahayadnya). After that the marriage can be held.’ (8)

    E. Shadashtak: Those star signs which are situated at six and eight places away from one another are known as shadashtak. Here there are two types, the friendship (maitri) shadashtak and the death (mrutyu) shadashtak. Their varying results according to the star signs are given in astrology.

    F. Matching of points in the horoscope of the bride and the groom and their blending together as husband and wife

    of points
    blending of the
    husband and
    wife %
    of points
    blending of the
    husband and
    wife %
    18 10 30 30
    20 15 32 35
    25 25 36 40

    4.3 Consanguinous marriage

    Though the custom of consanguinous marriages is prevalent the world over and is also accepted, it is not sanctioned by the scriptures. In such a relationship however the groom has to be the sister’s son and the bride the brother’s daughter. In some communities in South India, there is a tradition of marriage of the brother’s son and the sister’s daughter.

    4.4 Ascertaining the credentials of the groom and his family, based on psychology

    When arranging a marriage the groom’s financial status, looks, education, intellect and family background are taken into account. Of these, the financial status is the least and the family background (kula) the most important of all. The remaining points are in ascending order of importance.

    Inquiring about the family: Yadnyavalkya has said that the family which is endowed with renowned Brahmans (priests), versed in the study of the Vedas for ten generations, is superior. With regard to arrangement of a suitable match, all religious men have attributed great importance to the family. The lineage (vansha), class-subclass, financial status, genetic disorders, etc. are carefully probed into.

    One should also not marry interregionally, for example the bride should not be from the coastal region and the groom from the plains. Because of cultural and traditional variations the bride finds it difficult to adjust with the groom’s household.

    4.5 On what does the matching with one another depend?

    1. Destiny 65 5. Desires and
    2. Similarity in
        the three
    10 6. Intellect 4
    3. Temperament
    5 7. Talents 1
    4. Likes and
    10 8. Miscellaneous 1
    Total    100

    If 36 points in the horoscopes match, then the blending of a husband and wife or two average individuals is only 10%. This will make it clear why it is generally said that astrology based on horoscopes according to the time of birth is correct only upto 35%.The average matching of Gurubrethren is 30%.

    4.6 After the death of a family member when should a wedding be held?

    ‘How far is the social custom of celebrating a wedding within a year of the death of one’s parents or a close family member or postponing it by three years if not celebrated within a year, correct according to the scriptures?

    This custom is one among the many dangerous customs prevalent in the society without any scriptural or philosophical basis, or cultural justification. Generally the deceased person remains as a spirit for one year and hence does not become one of the ancestors. Therefore it is appropriate that this year be symbolically considered to be one of mourning just as is practised nowadays. In this period the ritualistic actions (nityakarma), incidental actions (naimittik karma), family tradition of spiritual practice (kulachar), observance of codes of righteousness of the family (kuladharma) and vowed religious observances (vrats) are unavoidable. But those actions (karmas) for which the performance of Punyahavachan, Nandishraddha (Vruddhishraddha) is necessary should be avoided till the completion of a year. If they are inevitable then one should allow the month of Chaitra to pass, so that the action performed is considered to be falling in the next year (sanvatsar). If one is faced with a dire emergency and if the month of Chaitra is not close by then one can perform the sixteen monthly (shodashamasik) shraddhas and the Abdapurtishraddha of the deceased one. Then one is free to perform the rites of marriage, thread ceremony, Vastushanti, commencement of new vowed observances, etc. These can certainly be taken up after the completion of one year. The custom of keeping the marriage pending for three years is totally wrong and contrary to the scriptures.’(9)

    Why are certain rituals performed before commencing any sanskar?



    1. Origin and meaning

    The Vedic rituals performed by the parents and the teacher on the son or daughter from the time of conception till marriage so that they may perform balanced [sattvik (sattva predominant)] actions are referred to as the sanskars (rites). There are sixteen important sanskars.

    ‘A process of increasing the potential. The origin of the word sanskar is sam (सम्‌ ) + kru (कृ) + ghyan (घञ्‌) = sanskar (संस्‍कार). Thus the word sanskar is formed by prefixing the preposition sam denoting balance, to the verb kru and suffixing ghyan to it. It has manifold meanings such as to improve, to purify, to remove shortcomings in an object and to endow a new, attractive form to it. In short, the process by which positive qualities in man are developed and enhanced is known as a sanskar.

    The extent of the concept of sanskars and their number is widely discussed in the Gruhyasutras. Sanskar forms the main topic of discussion in the Gruhyasutras. In these Sutras the sanskars performed on the body from Vivaha (marriage) till Samavartan (Sodmunja) are elucidated. In many Gruhyasutras the sanskar of performing the last rites is not mentioned as a sanskar.’ (1)

    2. Importance

    2.1 Comparative importance of sanskars

    The sanskars Importance %
    1. Garbhadhan (Rutushanti) 2
    2. Punsavan (Begetting a son) 2
    3. Simantonnayan (Parting the wife’s hair) 2
    4. Jatakarma (The rite at birth) 2
    5. Namakaran (The naming ceremony) 5
    6. Nishkraman (The rite of taking the
    child out of the house)
    7. Annaprashan (Partaking of the first solid
    8. Choulkarma [Chudakarma (keeping a
    small portion of hair on the front of the
    9. Upanayan [Vratabandha, Munja (The
    rite of thread ceremony)]
    10-13. Chaturveda vrat (The vowed
    religious observances of the four Vedas)
    14. Keshant (Keeping a small portion of
    hair on the head)
    15. Samavartan [Sodmunja (Giving up
    16. Vivaha (Marriage) 63
    Total 100

    But nowadays, 1. Upanayan (Munja or Vratabandha), 2. Samavartan (Sodmunja) and 3. Vivaha (marriage) are the only three sanskars (rites) in vogue. The rest of the sanskars are performed only as penance (prayashchitta). Prayashchitta means rituals performed as compensation for not having performed the sanskars earlier.

    2.2 Sanskars and other spiritual practices

    Importance %
    1. Sixteen sanskars 2
    2. Religious ceremonies performed on
    one’s own
    3. Spiritual practice done with one’s own
    4. Spiritual practice as advised by the Guru 100

    ‘Goutam incorporates the eight virtues of compassion, forgiveness, absence of envy, purity, self-control, right conduct, non-covetousness and absence of greed in addition to the 40 physical sanskars (rites) that He narrates. According to Him, these eight virtues are of greater importance than the rituals of the sanskars. He further states, ‘‘If man performs all the forty sanskars and yet does not acquire the eight virtues then he does not attain Brahman. Contrary to this, if he performs only those sanskars which are feasible and acquires all the eight virtues then he definitely acquires Brahman”.’(2)

    3. The right to the sanskar (On whom is the sanskar performed?)

    In ancient times sanskars similar to those performed on the boys were performed on the girls as well. Even their thread ceremony (Vratabandha) was being performed. However, during the Vedic period the sanskars performed on a girl began to decline and only the rite of marriage (Vivaha sanskar) continued to be performed on the bride along with mantras. ‘The sanskars (rites) have been mainly prescribed for the three main classes (varnas) that is Brahman (priest), Kshatriya (warrior) and Vaishya (businessman). The ten sanskars prescribed for the Shudras (labourers) as well as those performed on the girls should be done without the chanting of mantras. The Shankhasmruti states that these sanskars should not be performed on the insane and the mute.’(3)

    4. Methods

    4.1 The method of celebration

    Two or three days prior to performing the sanskars, the house should be painted. A picture of Lord Ganapati should be installed at the main door of the house. If there is a compound or courtyard in front of the house then a pandal should be erected, and after smearing the floor with cowdung, designs of auspicious symbols such as the svastik, lotus, etc. should be drawn using special powder of soft white stone (rangoli). Before the ceremony of the sanskar, the one on whom the sanskar is to be performed as well as the relatives should wear new clothes and ornaments. Relatives and well-wishers should present gifts to the one on whom the sanskar is being performed.

    4.2 Combating inauspicious forces

    • A. ‘To prevent distressing energies from attacking the one on whom the sanskar (rite) is being performed, one should make an offering of an animal sacrifice (bali) and pay obeisance to them at the time of the ceremony.
    • B. Some specific remedies: In the ceremony of Mundan (shaving off the child’s hair) the hair thus cut is hidden by mixing in a cake of cowdung and then buried in the cowshed or immersed in the river. This prevents the spirit of a diseased person (pishach) from possessing the child, using the hair as the medium. Sometimes to confuse these spirits an effigy of a sick person on his deathbed, is burnt. The motive behind this is to prevent them from attacking the subtle body of the man after he dies, with the belief that he has already been cremated.
    • C. The third method is to attack and then criticize and abuse them. It is believed that spirits fear mustard seeds. Hence mustard seeds are strewn around the place where the sanskar is to be performed.
    • D. Mantras like ‘Yadatrasanthitam bhutam…. (यदत्रसंस्‍थितं भूतं०)’, etc. are chanted, warning the spirits to vacate the place.
    • E. Celibates (brahmacharis) and celibates who have returned from their Gurus’ homes (snataks) wield a staff for the same purpose.
    • F. At times people selfishly direct the spirit troubling their relative on whom the sanskar is being performed onto someone else.
    • G. The bridal costume is a favourite medium of attack for spirits. No spirit can trouble a Brahman (priest). Hence, that costume is either gifted to a Brahman or hung on a tree or in a cattle shed.

    4.3 Attraction of auspicious forces

    In order to attract deities they are invoked, praised and prayers are offered to them.’(4)

    4.4 Actual sanskars

    Every sanskar is commenced with 1. The ritualistic worship of Lord Ganapati (Ganapatipujan), 2. Punyahavachan, 3. Matrukapujan, 4. Nandishraddha and 5. Acharyavaran. Then the specific sanskar is begun. The relative importance of the supporting rituals and the sanskars is as follows:

    The sanskar Importance %
    1. The supporting ritual 5*
    2. The sanskar 95
    Total 100

    * Since the importance of each supporting ritual is 1%, the sum total of the five is 5%.

    The reasons for using sandalwood paste (gandha), specific flowers, incense, copper, silverware, etc. are explained in ‘Science of Spirituality: Chapter 7 – Path of Devotion (Bhaktiyoga).

    5. Supporting rituals

    5.1 Worship of Lord Ganapati (Ganapatipujan)

    A. The objectives: To prevent any obstacle from disrupting an auspicious occasion, it is begun with the worship of Lord Ganapati, a practice which is prevalent since the last century.

    B. Preparations

    • 1. Bath: The host and hostess performing the religious ceremony should bathe and wear clean attire.
    • 2. The seat: The floor should be wiped clean, smeared with fresh cowdung and two or three wooden seats (pats) should be placed on it. Woollen cloth should be spread out on these seats and the sides should be decorated with designs drawn with special powder of soft white stone (rangoli). The energy generated in the body during worship, instead of escaping into the ground instantly, is conserved in the body for atleast sometime due to the wooden platforms and woollen cloth. More information on seats (asans) is given in ‘Science of Spirituality: Chapter 3 – Practice of Spirituality’.
    • 3. Taking the seat: The host and hostess performing the religious ceremony should sit facing the east, as the east is considered to be auspicious. The wife should be seated to the left of her spouse. The left side of the husband indicates the Chandra nadi (Moon channel). When the wife sits on the side of the Chandra nadi, there is not much activation of energy. In this ritual, activation of energy is undesired. It is the experience of Bliss (Anand) that is desired. The one on whom the sanskar (rite) is to be performed should sit to the left of the hostess. (Variation : Another school of thought states that ‘the wife should be seated to the right of her spouse. Consequently, there is activation of energy. This energy then destroys the distressing energies obstructing the ritual’.)
    • 4. Application of sandalwood paste (gandhadharan): Married women (suvasinis) should apply a tilak of sandalwood paste (gandha) onto the foreheads of the host and hostess performing the religious ceremony, the one on whom the sanskar is being performed and the guests. The energy generated due to the ritual of worship (puja) which flows through the Adnya chakra of the one performing the worship is increased by 5% when sandalwood paste is used. It also obstructs the entry of distressing energy through the Adnya chakra to the extent of 5%. Of the pleasant or distressing energies entering the body 30% do so through the Adnya chakra. Married women represent manifest energy while unmarried girls represent unmanifest energy. The sandalwood paste applied by married women is more effective as due to the manifest energy in them it facilitates the increase of the sattva component in the one on whose forehead they apply the paste. On auspicious occasions widows do not apply tilak to others as the quantity of manifest energy in them has been reduced on account of their married life.
    • 5. Sipping water from the palm (achaman): The host performing the religious ceremony should take a little water from the vessel for worship (panchapatri) with an offering spoon (pali) onto his palm and sip it. This is called achaman. Just as bathing causes external purification, partaking water in this way is responsible for internal purification. Often this act is repeated thrice. Thus physical, psychological and spiritual, internal purification is brought about.
    • 6. Wearing the sacred ring (pavitra/pavitrak dharan): The host performing the religious ceremony should wear a sacred ring made of sacred grass (darbha). As a result, pure particles of spiritual energy (pavitrakas) in the atmosphere get attracted towards him in greater amounts. Pure particles of spiritual energy are the subtlemost particles of divine energy (chaitanyakas) of various deities.
    • 7. Pranayam: Due to pranayam, the raja component decreases and the sattva component increases. (Refer ‘Science of Spirituality : Chapter 29 – Pranayam’.)
    • 8. Salutation to the benevolent deity (ishtadevata) and the family deity (kuladevata): One should offer obeisance to Them offering fruit and betel leaves with betelnut, lime, cardamoms, etc. Thus one obtains Their blessings too.
    • 9. Sipping water from the palm (achaman): One should perform pranayam sipping water from the palm while chanting each Name out of the twenty-four Names of Lord Vishnu, commencing with Keshav.

    C. The resolve (sankalpa)

    • 1. Holding unbroken consecrated rice (akshata) and an offering spoon (pali) with water in the cup of one’s hand one should chant the mantra with the resolve, ‘I of the …..lineage (gotra), ….. Sharma (Sharma refers to the Brahman, Varma to the Kshatriya, Gupta to Vaishya class and Das to the Shudra class.) am performing the …. ritual to obtain the benefit according to the Shrutis, Smrutis and Purans in order to acquire …. result and then should offer the water from the hand into the circular, shelving metal dish (tamhan). Offering the water into the circular, shelving dish signifies the completion of an act.
    • 2. Then taking water again and expressing the resolve, ‘I am hereby performing Punyahavachan, Matrukapujan, Nandishraddha, [the installation of the deity of the pandal (mandapdevata) and the family deity (kuladevata)]’ the water should then be offered into the circular, shelving metal dish.
    • 3. Once again water should be poured into the cupped hand and expressing the resolve, ‘I am worshipping Lord Ganapati so that the ceremony is completed without any obstacle’, the water should be released into the circular, shelving metal dish. In any religious ritual the resolve (sankalpa) made plays a role in acquiring the benefit from the ritual.

    D. The ritual of worship

    • 1. Installation of the idol: A betelnut washed with water should be placed on a small heap of rice. (In Goa instead of betelnut a coconut is used.) This is similar to the installation of the idol of Lord Ganapati which is done on rice, heapedup on a wooden seat (pat) during the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi. In a religious ritual, rice refers to consecrated, unbroken rice grains (akshata). Rice grains have the ability to attract very distant pure particles of spiritual energy (pavitrakas). Betelnut too possesses the potential of attracting them from both male and female deities. This potential is activated by a mantra.
    • 2. The mantra to invoke Lord Ganapati: After saying, ‘Gananam tva Ganapatim havamahe….. (गणानां त्‍वा गणपतिं हवामहे०)’ one should say ‘ॐ भूर्भुव: स्‍व: ऋद्धिबुद्धिसहितं सांगं सपरिवारं सायुधं सशक्‍तिकं महागणपतिमावाहयामि ।’ meaning ‘O great Ganapati come along with Ruddhi, intellect, Your entire family, all Your weapons and might’. Then consecrated rice should be offered to invoke Lord Ganapati on the betelnut. In between ‘Om Bhurbhuvaha svaha (ॐ भूर्भुव: स्‍व:)’ is chanted like the three step (tripad) Gayatri mantra. To prevent an obstacle of any sort in the ritual, Lord Ganapati is invoked (avahan) with all His weapons and might.
    • 3. Ritualistic worship with sixteen substances (shodashopchar puja): When any offering like food (naivedya), betel leaves with a betelnut, lime, cardamoms, etc. (tambul) or money (dakshina) is made one should repeatedly remind oneself, ‘This is not mine, I am offering unto You, what is Yours (इदं न मम)’. This is important from the point of view of making spiritual progress. The importance of ritualistic worship with sixteen substances is given in ‘Science of Spirituality : Chapter 7 – Path of Devotion (Bhaktiyoga).’
    • 4. Offering of flowers (pushpanjali): Finally chanting, ‘(अनया पूजया सकलविघ्‍नहर्ता महागणपति: प्रीयताम्‌ ।)’ meaning, ‘May Shri Mahaganapati, the vanquisher of all obstacles be appeased with this worship of mine’, water should be released. This completes the ritual. For details about Ganapati refer ‘Science of Spirituality : Chapter 19 – Ganapati’.

    5.2 Punyahavachan (Svastivachan)

    A. The objectives:Punya (पुण्‍य) + aha (अह) + vachan (वाचन) = Punyahavachan (पुण्‍याहवाचन) which means getting the Brahmans to pronounce that the day of commencement of the ritual is an auspicious one. The day of commencing any auspicious ceremony is chosen after referring to the Hindu almanac (panchang). However the Brahmans proclaiming the day to be auspicious and blessing the host accordingly augments the benefits obtained from it.’(5)

    B. The importance: Due to their utterance that day acquires energy.

    C. The material required

    • 1. Those used for usual ritualistic worship (puja)
    • 2. Five foliages – branches of mango, fig (umbar), the holy fig tree (pimpal), jamun and banyan trees.
    • 3. Nectar of five ingredients (panchamrut) – a mixture of milk, curds, clarified butter (ghee), honey and sugar.
    • 4. Five gems – gold, silver, diamond, pearl (rajavarta) and coral.

    D. Preparation: The wife should sit to the right of the host and the one on whom the sanskar (rite) is to be performed should be seated to her right. The aim behind sitting to the right of her husband is to generate more energy during the ritual. The right side corresponds to the Surya nadi (Sun channel).

    E. The resolve (sankalpa): After uttering the name of the place and the time one declares the resolve by saying ‘कार्यांतर्गतं पुण्‍याहवाचनं करिष्‍ये ।’ which means ‘I am performing Punyahavachan for …. sanskar’.

    F. Touching the earth (bhumisparshan): Chanting the mantra, first the earth (ground) on the right hand side (since the host performing the religious ceremony is facing the east, the hand touching the ground is in the southern direction) and then the earth on the left hand side, in front of oneself (that is the northern direction) should be touched. Energies from the south are distressing. To prevent them from causing distress, one offers obeisance to them by touching the earth. The energies from the north are however saluted as they are pleasant.

    G. Installation of the pot (kalashsthapana): Two small heaps of rice should be made on the ground amidst chanting of a mantra. Later, chanting the mantra two pots of either gold, silver, copper or unbroken earthen pots should be placed on these two heaps. [The varying ability of various metals to absorb pleasant energy is given in ‘Science of Spirituality : Chapter 7 – Path of Devotion (Bhaktiyoga)’.]

    • 1. Holy water (tirthodak): Clean water either from rivers like the Ganga or elsewhere should be filled in both the pots. They should then be worshipped with sandalwood paste (gandha), a sacred grass (durva), five foliages, fruits such as the coconut, five gems, offering of money (dakshina) and the ritual of tying of a thread (sutraveshtan). A pot filled with water represents a fulfilled life.
    • 2. The water vessels (purnapatra): One betelnut should be placed in each of the two vessels filled with rice. These vessels should be placed over the two pots as their lids. One of the pots symbolises the right side of Lord Varun and the other the left. After saying, ‘कलशे वरूणं सांगं सपरिवारं सायुधं सशक्‍तिकं आवाहयामि ।’ which means ‘The deity of rain Varun, please come along with Your entire family, all Your weapons and might’, consecrated rice (akshata) should be sprinkled on the betelnut. Then Lord Varun should be worshipped with five substances namely sandalwood paste, consecrated rice, flowers, incense and a lit lamp.

    Prayer made to the pot: Lord Vishnu is at the mouth, Lord Rudra at the neck and Lord Brahma at the bottom of the pot. In the middle are the assistants of the Matruka deities, etc. Then consecrated unbroken rice should be put in the pot facing the north.

    After paying obeisance to everyone (‘मातापितृभ्‍यां नम: । इष्‍ट देवताभ्‍यो नम: । …….. सर्वेभ्‍यो देवेभ्‍यो नमो नम: ।’ that is obeisance to the mother deity, father deity, the benevolent deity and all other deities) one should sit with knees touching the ground. Then cupping the hands in the shape of a lotus, one should carry the pot facing the north and touch it to one’s forehead, that of one’s wife and that of the priest, thrice. This is obeisance offered to the pot so as to be able to absorb the energy generated in it. Then the priest should say ‘May this day be an auspicious one’. Chanting the Niranjan mantra, married women (suvasinis) wave a lit lamp in a circular motion in front of the host and hostess of the religious ceremony and the one on whom the sanskar (rite) is being performed. Then lifting the right pot with the right hand and the left pot with the left the water from it should be poured into a vessel in a continuous stream. (Variation : The right hand should be used to lift the pot on the left and the opposite hand for the pot on the right.) Then the hostess should sit to the left of her husband and the priest should stand facing the north and should sprinkle water (abhishek) on the host and hostess of the ceremony and the one on whom the sanskar is being performed with five types of foliages and a sacred grass (durva), amidst chanting of mantras. Consequently, the energy generated in the pot is transmitted to all. Finally the host should sip water from the palm twice (achaman). This marks the end of the ritual.

    5.3 Worship of the Matruka deities (Matrukapujan)

    A. The objectives

    • 1. It is a custom to worship the Matruka deities along with Lord Ganesh at the beginning of any ceremony in order to prevent any obstacles. Matrukas are a type of female deities and are twenty-seven in all. [Variation: There are sixteen Matrukas namely – Gouri, Padma, Shachi, Medha, Savitri, Vijaya, Jaya, Devsena, Svadha, Svaha, Mata, Lokmata, Dhruti, Pushti, Tushti and the family deity (kuladevata) of the host. Another variation: Brahmi, Maheshvari, Koumari, Vaishnavi, Varahi, Indrani, Chamunda in addition to the above and Ganapati, Durga and the guardian deity of the territory (kshetrapal) as substitutes.]
    • 2. Since the worship of the Matruka deities (Matrukapujan) is a part of the ritual of Nandishraddha, it is performed along with the latter.

    B. The ritual of worship (puja): Twenty-seven small heaps of rice should be made and a betelnut should be placed on top of each one of them. Ritualistic worship is performed as usual and then water is released to mark the end of the ritual.

    5.4 Nandishraddha (Abhyudayik/Abhyudayik/Vruddhi-shraddha)

    A. The objectives: The Nandishraddha is performed as an offering to the ancestors and their deities (Nandimukh and others) just as Lord Ganesh is worshipped before commencing any auspicious ceremony to ward off any obstacle.

    B. Preparations: In Nandishraddha (Vruddhishraddha) instead of one sacred grass (darbha), another (durva) is used. However, if the shraddha is a part of the rite of a sacrificial fire (yadnya) then grass without roots or a combination of both the sacred grasses (durva and darbha) is used. Substances which have the ability to attract pure particles of spiritual energy (pavitrakas) of a deity are used in the ritualistic worship (puja) of that particular deity.

    C. The ritual: The worship is performed with five substances namely sandalwood paste (gandha), consecrated rice (akshata), flowers, incense and a lit lamp and then some money (dakshina) is offered in a circular, shelving metal dish (tamhan). One copper coin (paisa) is thrown towards the south as an offering to the ancestors in the region of ancestors (pitrulok) situated in the south and to the distressing energies from that direction so that they do not cause trouble. Another copper coin is thrown towards the north as an offering to benevolent deities.

    5.5 Acharyavaran (Accepting the priest)

    A. The objectives: Accepting the priest (purohit) in order to perform any ritual.

    B. The ingredients required: White mustard seeds, a mixture of milk, curd, butter, urine and dung of cow (panchagavya) and a betelnut.

    C. The ritual: The betelnut is offered to the priest after the chanting of a mantra and he is requested to be the officiating priest. The priest then saying ‘yes’ accepts the proposal.

    D. Sprinkling the ingredients with holy water (prokshan): The ingredients required for the ritual and the place where the ritual is to be performed is sprinkled with a mixture of the five substances mentioned above (panchagavya) using sacred grass (durva or darbha). Also, to prevent spirits from causing any trouble mustard seeds are scattered in all four directions.