Why Consecration or Ceremonies?
Like cotton that
has to be purified, converted to cloth and tailored to make a dress, so also a
Hindu undergoes many consecrations at each stage in life for removal of
impurities and seek blessings from the gods.
The 16 CONSECRATIONS
GARBHADHANAM PUNSAVANAM SIMANTO JATAKARMA CHA|
NAMAKRIYA NISHKRAMANO ANNA PRASHAN VEDAGYAKRIYA, KARNVEDYO VRATADESHO VEDARAMBH
KRINYA VIDHIH, KESHANTO SNANMUOVAHO VIVAHAGNIPARIGRAHA, JETAGNI SANGRA SHCHETI SANSKARAH
the seed and all the other impurities are destroyed. Mother's consecration is
also completed. PUNSAVAN ceremony is
done so that first born is a son. SIMANTONNAYANA
or parting of wife's hair also purifies the fetus. With JATAKARMA ceremony, all the disorders related to the eating habit
of the mother are removed. With NAMKARAN
(naming ceremony) life and glory are improved and an independent
existence comes into being. In NISHKRAMANA
ceremony, the child is shown to the sun that the source of life on earth.
With this, life and prosperity increases. With ANNAPRASHANA, those flaws are removed, that arise due to intake of
impure food in fetus. Increase in force, life and glory, is the result of the CHUDAKARMA ceremony. With UPANYANA, the body comes in the DWIJA class, and gains the right to
study the Vedas. After marriage, doing AGNIHOTRA
ANUSTHANA with, he gains access to the heaven. A good son is also a
result of an excellent marriage. Such a son serves his living parents which
pave the way to salvation for his dead ancestors through SHRADDHA, TARPANA etc. All there are
the result of marriage.
- Garbhadana. All sources recognize
this as the first Ceremony. It consists of rites performed before
conception in the belief that it ensures a healthy child. This is the
enthusiastic prayer for a child. This is done for fulfillment of parental
duty to continue the race. This is performed by husband. With conception,
the seed and all the other impurities are destroyed. The atma stays 55
days inside the father and 270 days inside mother before birth.
- Punsavana or putting few
drops from crushed bud of peepul tree. This
second Ceremony is performed during the third or the fourth month of
pregnancy. The significance of this Ceremony is to invoke divine and
good qualities in the child. According to our ancient Shastras,
this ritual is performed in the desire for the first child to be a
male. The reason for expecting male child is believed to be in the belief
that it is the male child who carries the Vansh
- Simantonayana or parting of wife's
hair by husband also purifies the fetus: This ceremony is performed by the
husband for the wife to protect her from evil spirits and from ill health
during the pregnancy. This Ceremony is performed during the seventh
month of pregnancy and prayers are offered for the healthy physical and
mental growth of the child. The other importance of this Ceremony is
to free the expectant mother free from worries since the last 3 months are
very difficult for pregnant woman -- both physically and mentally. On
the day of this Ceremony, the expectant mother gets food of her desire.
Only women are invited for this ritual and the gathering is kept small The husband performs this ritual.
Jatakarma all the disorders related
to the eating habit of the mother are removed. This Ceremony is performed
at the birth of a child as a welcome sign to the new born child into the
family. Brahmins chant Mantras for a healthy, long life of the child.
During this Ceremony, the father feeds honey to the baby and pierces the
baby's ear. This ear piercing is supposed to enhance the memory of the
- Namkaran. This Ceremony is
performed on the tenth, eleventh or twelfth day after birth, with
recitation of Mantras. The baby child gets name on completion of this Sankar. The first male child is usually named after
his paternal grandfather, the second male child after maternal
grandfather. The first female child is usually named after paternal
grandmother and the second female child after maternal grandmother. The
rest of the children carry names of uncles, aunts, gods and goddesses. By
this naming ceremony, life and glory are improved and an independent
existence comes into being. While good music like bell tinkling
is on, whisper name of the child in its right ear.
- Karnavedha or piercing the
ear. Although this was done originally only to beautify the child, it
acquired the belief that it would protect the child against disease.
Karnvedh. This Ceremony is performed in the firth or the seventh year or
at the end of the first year with Chudkaram Ceremony.
- Nishkarma or the child's first outing, performed to protect the child
from evil spirits and other malevolent forces that are considered to exist
outside the home. Nishkramana Ceremony is performed when the child is
taken out of the home for the first time. S/he is taken to the temple
first time. The reason for this Ceremony is to show obedience to the sun,
moon, fire, water and wind - the Panchmahabhut. This is supposed to
enhance the age and physical and mental development of the child. In
Nishkramana Ceremony, the child is shown to the Sun which is the
source of life on earth. With this, life and prosperity increases.
- Annaprasana. This Ceremony is performed on sixth month, when the child
gets solid food for the first time. Mantras recited and oblations are
offered to the various deities. With Annaprasana, those flaws are
removed, that arise due to intake of impure food in fetus.
- Chudkaram or tonsure. This Ceremony is shaving the head of child. This
is done in first or third year of the child. The body of the child is
protected and harmonized by this ceremony. Increase in force, life
and glory, is the result of the Chudkaram Ceremony.
or thread ceremony. This is the most important
Ceremony, which marks the beginning of the next stage of life – Youth. The
word Upanayana means bringing near. The child is bought near to the Guru.
This Ceremony is second birth for child – a spiritual birth. This Ceremony is performed during 5th,
7th or 9th year of child. With Upanayana, the body comes in the DWIJA class,
and gains the right to study the Vedas.
- Vedarambha or the beginning
of Vedic study, performed during the Brahmacharya
stage of life at the home of the guru. This Ceremony is done along with
Upanayana. The wearing of the Sacred thread
entitles the child to study the Vedas and participate in Vedic
functions. The child commences his journey on the road to spiritual
life. This is contrasted with a life of eating, sleeping and procreating,
which kind of life animals also live. The child is sent to Gurukul.
- Smavartan Ceremony is
performed before entering the grahstha ashram or
the life of a householder. This is performed at the end of child’s
study in Gurukul. The student has to take the
permission of his guru before entering the grahastha
ashram. After this the guru gives him important guidelines or tips for the
grahstha ashram. Samvartana or Snana, the end of studentship.
This ceremony marks the end of the Brahmacharya
stage of life. The boy returns to live at home after living in his guru's
home. Snana or bathing constitutes an important part of this ceremony, symbolizing
the crossing of the ocean of learning. Therefore the ceremony itself is
often referred to as Snana.
- Vivaha. This ceremony is
entry into the second Ashram. The life as individual family begins.
Entering this stage of life, man has to take on his duties and has to pay
spiritual debts by sacrifice, by procreating children and study. The bride
and groom walk around Agni hand in hand 7 rounds. The bride sacrifices
grains in the fire and the bridegroom chants mantras. The bridegroom
marries the bride, not vice versa. After marriage, doing AGNIHOTRA
ANUSTHANA with, he gains access to the heaven. A good son is also a
result of an excellent marriage. Such a son serves his living parents
which pave the way to salvation for his dead ancestors through SHRADDHA,
TARPANA etc. All there are the result of marriage.
withdraws himself from all worldly activities, retires into the forest and
prepares himself for taking sanyas. This is the
life of a Vana prastha.
sanyasi renounces the world and leads a
life of study and meditation by living on alms.
- Antyeshti. When death is
imminent, a small piece of gold, tulsi leaf and drops of Ganga water are
put in the mouth of the person on the death bed. The body is laid on the
ground with the head towards the North. The eldest son generally performs
the last rites before which he takes a purificatory bath amidst the
chanting of mantras. The dead body is washed, perfumed and wrapped in a
new white cloth and decked with flowers. For ten days following death,
food is not prepared at home and relatives and friends take the
responsibility of getting food for the family.
ceremonies are believed to sanctify the mind, body and intellect of the
individual so that he can become a more complete member of the community. They
provide a spiritual aspect to the important events in a person's life, from
birth till death.
The Jaiminisutras explain that the ceremonies are acts that
prepare a person for a specific purpose, like studentship or marriage. The Tantravartika says that they are those rites that result in
the generation of new qualities in an individual, like fitness, education, and
responsibility. According to the Viramitrodaya, the ceremonies
can be categorized into two sets. One set consists of those ceremonies that
make a person eligible to perform other actions. For example, after the Upanayanam, a person is eligible to study the Vedas. The
other set of ceremonies remove impurities from an individual. For example, Jatakarma removes the impurities of the womb from the baby.
According to the Ashvalayana Grihyasutra the ceremonies
from Jatakarma to Chudakarana
are performed with Vedic mantras if the child is male,
and without Vedic mantras for female children. The Shudras
were allowed to perform some ceremonies but without Vedic mantras. There is
some inconsistency over which ceremonies they could perform. According to Veda Vyasa, they could perform all except the five educational
times, the ceremonies have been considered necessary as the physical
representation of a symbolic change in the life of an individual. They also
impress upon the individual the importance of his new role, and inspire him to
observe the accompanying rules. The ceremonies provide opportunities to express
love and affection, and to be festive. The Hindus believe that each individual
requires protection, consecration and refinement. For this, they depend upon
god, as well as their knowledge of the natural world. Ceremonies, therefore,
are a mixture of religious and secular aspects. Each ceremony was to be
performed at a certain time in the life of a man, in a certain manner, and
required specific components. The main components for the performance of ceremonies
Agni: The fire is the protector and messenger between men and gods.
Appeals and Blessings:
Prayers and appeals are made and blessings sought of both the gods and elders. Lustration:
Water forms a very important part of all ceremonies. Because of its constant
motion and sound, and its power, water was believed to be a living force. In
addition, many lakes, rivers, and other water bodies had healing powers, which
made water even more mystic. Therefore its ritual use was incorporated into all
ceremonies. Bathing is a precondition to performing a ceremony, to cleanse
oneself of all physical, mental, and spiritual impurities. Sipping water and
being sprinkled with water are essential to many ceremonies and symbolise ceremonial bathing. For example, during Vivaha, the bride is sprinkled with water to rid her of any
sins committed in the past and cleanse her for her new life.
Sacrifice: Born of the natural human impulse to
thank Nature or a Supreme Creator, domestic yagyas
evolved as gestures of thanksgiving, except during Antyeshti
when sacrifices are made to propitiate the gods on behalf of the deceased.
Orientation: The east is associated with light,
warmth, life and happiness because the sun rises in the east. The west is
associated with darkness and cold because the sun sets there; the south with Yama because he is believed to come from the south; the
north is not malevolent but irrelevant in this respect. For an auspicious ceremony,
the individual faces eastwards. For Antyeshti alone,
which is an unhappy event, the direction is reversed. Symbolism: The presence
of certain objects, usually material, symbolise
specific qualities and have spiritual significance. It is believed that contact
with these objects results in the individual imbibing similar qualities. For
example, a stone is a symbol of steadfastness. Anyone who stands on a stone is
believed to imbibe the stone's stability in his character, and this notion
appears in Upanayanam and Vivaha.
Taboos: These sprang from the fear of things
going awry during sensitive and difficult times, like pregnancy, marriage and
death. 'Safeguard' taboos hence appeared, which over time became rigid beliefs.
For example, for 10 days after the birth of a child, the home is considered
impure (see Jatakarma). This belief developed out of
the need to confine the mother and child in a room to protect them from
infection in the days before chemical antiseptics and disinfectants. However,
now the practice has a religious sanction and is rigidly followed, especially
in rural areas.
elements: There are
certain rules about ethics, hygiene, and other social customs to be observed
when performing ceremonies, like purifying the site before the ceremony begins.
This means a thorough cleansing and sometimes performing havan.
Spiritual atmosphere: A pre-requisite for any ceremony. The person for whom the
ceremony is being performed and others involved should think of god and of the
duties and responsibilities that will be part of their life after the ceremony.
They should be in the correct frame of mind to understand and appreciate the
solemnity of the ritual.