Ayurveda advocates disciplined life to remain healthy. The life of a person can be happy (sukhayu), unhappy (dukhayu), wholesome (hitayu) or unwholesome (ahitayu) depending on the awareness and endeavour for what is good and what is bad for self. For personal and social upliftment certain actions are performed during specific transitional phases of life. These are called Samskaar ( Sacraments) and are sixteen in number, thus termed Shodash Samskaar or Sixteen Sacraments.
These are the methods of conditioning or purification of accumulated instincts and inculcation of virtuous disposition. The Shodash Samskaaras bestow a positive effect on the subtle levels of human consciousness and hence have an impact on the physical and mental attributes.
Classification: The Sixteen Samskaar can be classified into five categories:
1) Gaarbhika Samskaar (Related to pregnancy) :
a) Garbhadhaan Samskaar b) Punswana Samskaar c) Seemantonnayan Samskaar
(These are done by the couple to become parents)
2) Shaishavika Samskaar ( Related to child ) :
a) Jaatkarma Samskaar b) Naamkaran Samskaar c) Nishkaraman Samskaar d) Annaprashan Samskaar e) Chudakaran Samskaar f) Karnavedhana Samskaar
(These are done by the parents for the child)
3)Shaikshnika Samskaar( Related to education ) :
a) Upanayan Samskaar b) Veda Arambha Samskaar c) Samaavartan Samskaar
(These are done by the teacher for the student)
4) Aashramika Samskaar (Related to married life) :
a) Vivaah Samskaar b) Vaanprastha Samskaar c) Sanyaas Samskaar
(These are done by the person for self)
5) Prayaan Samskaar( Related to death ) :
a) Antyeshti Sanskaar
(After death this is done by the child)
Let’s have an insight into the significance of the Sixteen Samskaaras.
1) GARBHADHAN SAMSKAAR : This is performed after marriage. It is the ground work for planning parenthood. It is a ritual for preparing husband and wife, physically and mentally, to beget a healthy progeny.
2) PUNSWANA SAMSKAAR : This is done before and after conception for fertilization and stability of pregnancy respectively. This strengthens the healthy development of gross (physical), subtle (mental) and astral (conscious) body of child.
3) SEEMANTONNAYAN SAMSKAAR : This is done mainly in 4th month , can be done in 6th or 8th month of pregnancy . In this ceremony the pregnant lady is given gruel made with rice and lentils with ghee ( clarified butter ) to eat and encouraging words are whispered in her ears e.g your child is intelligent / healthy etc.
During 4th month, proper development of fetus begins. The heart also starts functioning . During this time period the pregnant lady is called ‘Dauhridini’ i.e having two hearts – one of the fetus and other of herself. The fetus becomes receptive and culminates it’s desires through mother. The development of brain and nervous system also starts.
The blessings and encouraging words create an atmosphere of assurance to the pregnant lady. She is advised to avoid factors that are harmful for the well being of fetus.
As the nutritional requirements of fetus and pregnant lady are increased, the rice gruel is given to eat as it is a complete and balanced food.
4) JAATKARMA SAMSKAAR : This is done immediately after birth. The mouth of the child is cleaned with moist cotton swab . Anterior fontanelle (Brahma randhra) is covered with tampon soaked in ghrita or oil. Then umbilical cord is cut. Striking sound or mantras (hymns) are chanted softly in the child’s ears. Ghrita mixed with rock salt is given orally for clearing mucous.
With these procedures the child is relieved from the troubles caused by compression in the vaginal canal or instruments used at the time of delivery.
5) NAAMKARAN SAMSKAAR : This is performed on 10th day after birth or within a month. The name to be kept should have auspicious meaning e.g symbolizing progress or any great personality etc . By the 10th day child recovers from trauma, if any, during child birth and it is the appropriate time to examine the child properly.
6) NISHKRAMAN SAMSKAAR : This ceremony is done in 4th month after birth. The child is taken to a place of worship.
At birth , a newborn’s vision is immature , brain is not ready to process all the visual information . By 3 – 4 months , baby is able to move the eyes together and can track moving objects . They also start to gain depth perception and develop full color and distance vision.
At four months the baby reacts to sounds, smile on hearing familiar voice. Tries to reach objects with hands. Holds and let go of an object . Increased eye contact with parents and others . So, this is the period when all the motor and sense organs of the baby are becoming mature.
This samskaar is aimed at improving the health of the child and to inculcate the feeling of respect for the natural powers like sun, wind, moon etc.
7) ANNAPRAASHAN SAMSKAAR : This ceremony is performed in the 6th month after birth . In this ritual , solid food is administered for the first time with the aim of sowing seeds of purity in Annamaya kosha of the child . It increases the healthy growth and development of the baby. By six months , the digestive system is developed and teeth start appearing.
During this ceremony, Kheer ( a porridge made with milk and rice ) mixed with honey , ghee ( clarified butter), basil and water of Ganges river is given to eat in very small quantity . With this food, the traits indocrinated in the child are Kheer–health, Honey–sweetness, Ghee–congeniality, Basil–destroyer of diseases/evils, Water of Ganges river–purity. It teaches piousness of food