Why is Gouriharpujan performed prior to the marriage?

Contents


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).

Reference:

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

Contents


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
    Effects
    %
    The time when the
    defects in the ovum
    and the foetus
    become manifest
    Effects
    %
    From conception
    till the first
    month
    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
    1
    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)

Reference:

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?

Contents


1. Mahanamnivrat

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

2. Mahavrat

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

3. Upanishadvrat

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

4. Godanvrat (The rite of Keshant)

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

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

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

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

6. Samavartan [Sodmunja (Giving up bachelorhood)]

6.1 Definition

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

6.2 The ritual

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reference:

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

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

 

Why are specific sanskars performed after birth of a child?

Contents


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’.

Reference:

Bharatiya Sanskrutikosh. Publishers: Pandit Mahadevshastri Joshi, Secretary, Bharatiya Sanskrutikosh Mandal, 410 Shanivar Peth, Pune 411 030.
Vol. 3 to 10: First edition           Vol. 1 and 2: Second edition
1. Vol.5, Pg. 32

 

What is the purpose of doing Oukshan?

Contents


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

Oukshan

Oukshan

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

* 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.

Reference:

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?

Contents


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
(varna)
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
2
3. The resolve of the one performing the
    thread ceremony
1
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
      priest
10
19. A vowed religious observance to be
      followed by the boy undergoing the
      thread ceremony
5
20. Asking for alms 10
21. The ritual of generation of spiritual
      intellect
5
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).

Reference:

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

Contents


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)
1
4. The ritual of application of oil and turmeric
    paste (Tailharidraropan vidhi)
1
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
        (Kalashsthapanaprayog)
1
6. Installation of the pot denoting the auspicious
    time (Muhurtghatikasthapana) and the ritual
    of worship while crossing the border
    (Simantapujan)
1
7. Worship with a mixture of honey and curd
    (Madhuparka puja)
1
8. Worship of Gouri and Har (Gouriharpujan) 1
9. The ritual of holding the wedding curtain
    (Antahapatdharan vidhi)
1
10. Chanting of suktas at the time of marriage 1
11. The ritual of mutual observation (Paraspar
     nirikshan vidhi
)
0.5
12. The ritual of showering the couple with consecrated
     rice (Akshataropan vidhi)
1
13. The ritual of giving away the daughter (Kanyadan
     vidhi
)
2
14. The ritual of winding the thread (Sutraveshtan) 2
15. Tying the thread around the wrist
     (Kankanbandhan)
1
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
5
21. The bride standing on the flat grinding
     stone/grindstone (Ashmarohan)
5
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)
2
24. Vows of the bride and groom (Vadhuvaranchya
     pratidnya
)
2
25. Taking the marriage fire (Vivahagni) home 8
26. Naming the bride (Vadhuche namakaran)
     [since marriage is a woman’s rebirth
2
27. The sacrificial fire on entering the home
     (gruhapraveshaniya hom) [for the marriage fire to
     attain a conjugal status]
10
28. The vowed religious observance of the bride and
     groom (Vadhu-var vrat)
2
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)

Reference:

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