HINDU SAMSKARAS (Socio-Religious Study of the Hindu Sacraments)

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Item Code: NAB336
Author: Rajbali Pandey
Language: English
Edition: 2018
ISBN: 9788120804340
Pages: 354
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.5" X 5.5"
Weight 390 gm
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Shipped to 153 countries
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Book Description

About the Book:

    The Hindu Samskaras give expression to aspirations and ideals of the Hindus.They aim at securing the welfare of the performer and developing his personality. They go back to a hoary antiquity. The Vedas, the Brahmanas, the Grhasutras, the Dharmasutras, the Smrtis and other treatises describe the rites, ceremonies and customs here and there but they do not present them in their historical evolution

    The present work is a systematic study of all the Samskaras enjoined to be performed at the various epochs in the life of an individual from conception to crematorium. The author has cited parallels in other religious to show that they are universal and have a recognised place in ancient cultures and are still represented within the limits of modern religion. He has also shown that the sacramental beliefs and practices, far from being an irrational priestcraft, are consistent and logical and have practical utility and intention.

    This work discusses the source, meaning, number, Purpose and the constituents of Samskaras grouped under five heads: prenatal, natal, educational, nuptial and funeral. Besides being a landmark in Hindu culture, it presents patterns of life based on high ethical, spiritual and humanistic values.


In the following pages an attempt has been made to trace the Hindu Samaskãras through their origin and development. They have a long and varied past. Many of them go back to a hoary antiquity and some of them still survive. In course of time, they have undergone many changes and modifications. The Samaskaras are described in some hymns of the Vedas, a few Brahmanas, the Grhyasutras, the Dharmasutras, the Smtis and the later treatises. But as these works were intended to be manuals or codes for a particular time and locality, they do not present the Samaskãras in their historical evolution. So, an Endeavour has been made here to link and piece together these scattered materials into a comprehensive whole and to supply a historical perspective for their proper understanding.

For doing so not merely chronological sequence is traced but the connection between various changes is also shown. It has also been explained that the Samaskaras were based on religious beliefs and social conditions. What was in the beginning purely natural became more cultural. Here it will be found that many social elements entered into the precincts of religious ceremonies and many cultural devices were introduced to mould the Samaskaras in order to produce the desired effects.

The Samaskãras are, in a fact, expressive and symbolic performances. They also contain dramatic utterances and theological gestures. Without an inkling into these aspects of the Samaskãras they appear as fanciful puerile pranks. In order to make them intelligible, the symbols are unfolded and explained and suggestions are made more articulate. This has been done without over rationalizing. The Samaskaras give expression to aspirations and ideals of the Hindus. They are brought out wherever found.

Many constituents of the Samaskãras were meant to be means of intercourse with, and influence upon, spiritual beings that were believed to guide and interfere with the course of human actions. But while the mind of the performers was bent on religious intent, their knowledge of the arts of life helped to bring about the object in view. In this connection the religious beliefs of the Hindus are analyzed and their knowledge of the arts of life shown. As the aim of the Samaskaras was to secure the welfare of the recipient and to develop his personality, every contrivance towards the same is pointed out.

All the rites, ceremonies and customs, that form the Samaskaras, are, more or less, universal. They have all a recognized place in ancient cultures and they are still represented within the limits of modern religions. So, in order to make the historical development of the Samskaras more comprehensible, parallels in other religions are referred to wherever possible.

Many people, looking at the Samskaras from the modern practical point of view, regard them as ridiculous and meaningless. But few, who will care to understand the general principles of ancient religions, will ever think them so. They will also find that their knowledge is not superfluous to the common stock of human interest. The sacramental beliefs and practices, far from being an irrational priest-craft are consistent and logical in a high degree, though working under a mental condition which was different from what it is to-day.

As regards the intrinsic merits of the study of the Samskaras, it has been made clear that these had practical utility and intention when and wherever they originated, though they, now, appear obscure and purposeless, for they have been carried on, without adaptation, into a new state of society where their original sense is lost. Therefore, a study of the Samskãras forms an important part of investigation into the origin and development of civilization.

For treatment in the present thesis, only those Smãrta Samskaras are taken which were performed at the various epochs in the life of an individual from conception to crematorium. Their theatre was the home, their chief actor the householder and the presiding deity the domestic Fire, by the side of which they were staged. The Srauta sacrifices, for the performance of which the administration of priests was required, the Yajamana being a passive agent. are excluded from the list of the Samskaras. They being Kámya (optional) ceremonies, were not binding on every individual, and so they do not come tinder the Samskaras proper, which were compulsory:

The whole work can be divided into two parts. In the first part, sources of inquiry, the meaning and the number of the Samskaras, the purpose of the Samskãras and the constituents of the Samskaras are discussed in their historical growth. in the second part of the work the entire Samskaras are grouped under the following heads and the conclusions are given in the end:

1. The Prenatal Samskaras
2. The Samskaras of Childhood
3. The Educational Samskara
4. The Marriage Samskara
5. The Funeral Ceremonies

While dealing with a particular Samskara, first its origin is traced and then its subsequent development discussed. The creative period of the Samskaras has passed away. Many of them, e.g. the pre-natal Samskaras and a few of the childhood are not generally performed at present; so they have become a thing of the past. The rest are performed by orthodox families only and, here too, in a distorted form. The only current Samskaras are the Upanayana (Initiation) not performed by all the twice-torn today, the Vivaha (Marriage Ceremonies) and the Antyesti (Funeral Ceremonies). The revival of the Samskaras by reform societies like the Arya-Samãja is very recent, but times do not seem to be propitious for such attempts.

As the Samskaras include many essential preliminary considerations and ceremonies relating to social rules, taboos, restraints and, as they are well recognized by authoritative works, they have found their proper place in the treatment of the subject. In the end the ritual proper is described with possible interpretations and significance thereof.

This work was originally written as a thesis, which was approved by the Banaras Hindu University for the degree of Doctor of Letters in 193G. It could not be sent to the press earlier for various reasons, but mainly due to the press and paper difficulties during the Second World War, which started in 1939. The long gap has, however, been utilized in the revision and the improvement of the original work.

It is a pleasant duty of the author to acknowledge his deep gratitude to Dr. A. S. Altekar, MA. LL. B., D. Litt, Head of the Department of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Banaras Hindu University, under whom he worked as a Research Scholar and whose learned guidance and help were available at all times. He also owes grateful thanks to Dr. R. S. Tripathi. MA., Ph.D., Head of the Department of History, Banaras Hindu University, who readily offered many valuable suggestions on various topics in this work. His indebtedness to individual authors is cknow1edged in the footnotes. The author is deeply indebted to Pt. Nagesh Upadhyaya M.A the proprietor of the Vikram Panchang press, Banaras and his staff for undertaking the publication of this work in the midst of their multifarious and pressing duties. His thanks are due to Shri Nemi Kumar, B.A. for taking great pains in preparing the Index of this work. The author more than any body else is conscious of many defeats and blemishes especially typographical which have crept into the book. For these he craves the indulgence of the reader.





I. The Sources of Inquiry
1 Introduction 1
2 The Vedas 1
3 The Brahmanas 4
4 The Aranyakas and the Upanisads 5
5 The Ritual literature proper the Grhyasutra 6
6 The Dharmasutras 7
8 The Epics 9
10 Commentaries 10
11 The Mediaeval treatise 10
12 The Customs 11
13 Indo-Iranian Indo-European and Semitic sources 12
14 The Relative Importance of Sources 13
II The Meaning & The Number of the Samskaras
1 The Meaning of the word Samskara 15
2 The Extent and Number 17
  (i) The Grhyasutras 17
  (ii) The Dharmasutras 20
  (iii) The Smrtis 21
  (iv) Treatises 22
  (v) The Paddhatis and the Prayogas 23
3 The Sixteen Samskaras 23
III The Purpose of the Samskaras
1 Introductory 25
2 Two-fold Purpose 25
3 The Popular Purpose 25
  (i) The Removal of Hostile Influences 26
  (ii) The Attraction of Favorable Influences 27
  (iii) The Material Aim of the Samskaras 29
  (iv) Samskaras as Self expression 29
4 The Cultural Purpose 29
5 The Moral Purpose 31
6 The Formation and Development of Personality 32
7 Spiritual Significance 34
8 Different Stages 35
IV. The Constituents of the Samskaras
1 Introductory 36
2 Fire 36
3 Prayers Appeals and Blessings 38
4 Sacrifice 40
5 Lustration 40
6 Orientation 42
7 Symbolism 42
8 Taboos 43
9 Magic 44
10 Divination 45
11 Culture Elements 46
12 Common Sense Elements 47
13 A Spiritual atmosphere 47
V. The Prenatal Samskaras
1 The Garbhadhana (Conception) 48
  (i) The Meaning 48
  (ii) The Vedic Period 48
  (iii) The Sutra Period 50
  (iv) The Dharmsutra the smrti and subsequent periods 51
  (v) The Time of Performance 51
  (vi) A Polygamous householder 54
  (vii) The Performer 54
  (viii) Whether a Garbha or ksetra samskara 56
  (ix) A Sacred and a compulsory duty 56
  (x) Exceptions 57
  (xi) Significance 58
2 The Punasavana (quickening of Male child) 60
  (i) The Meaning of the term 60
  (ii) The Vedic Period 60
  (iii) The Sutra Period 61
  (iv) The Later Rules and Considerations 61
  (v) The Proper Time 61
  (vi) Whether performed in every pregnancy 62
  (vii) The Rituals and its Significance 62
3 The Simantonnayana (Hair Painting) 64
  (i) The Definition of the Term 64
  (ii) The Purpose 64
  (iii) Early History 65
  (iv) The Time of Performance 65
  (v) The Object of Purification 65
  (vi) The Ceremonies 66
  (vii) The Duties of a pregnant woman 67
  (viii) The Duties of the Husband 69
  (ix) The Medical Basis 69
VI. The Samskaras of Childhood
1 The Jatakarma (Birth Ceremonies) 70
  (i) The Origin 70
  (ii) The History 70
  (iii) Preliminary Precautions 71
  (iv) The Time of Performance 73
  (v) The Ceremonies and their Significance 74
2 The Namakarana (Name Giving) 78
  (i) The Importance of Naming 78
  (ii) The Origin 78
  (iii) The Vedic Period 78
  (a) The Composition of the name 80
  (b) Naming a girl 80
  (c) Status a Determining Factor 81
  (d) Fourfold Naming 81
  (1) Naksatra name 82
  (2) Name after Month deity 83
  (3) Name after family deity 83
  (4) Popular Name 83
  (5) Repulsive Name 84
  (v) Ceremonies and their Significance 84
3 The Niskramana (First outing) 86
  (i) The Origin 86
  (ii) The History 86
  (iii) The time of performance 86
  (iv) The performer 87
  (v) The Ceremonies and their Significance 88
4 The Anna Prasana (first Feeding) 90
  (i) The Origin 90
  (ii) The History 90
  (iii) The Time of Performance 91
  (iv) Different kinds of food 91
  (v) The Ritual and its Significance 92
5 The Chuda Karana (Tonsure)  
  (i) The Origin 94
  (ii) The Purpose of the Samskara 94
  (iii) The Vedic Period 95
  (iv) The Sutra and Subsequent Periods 96
  (v) The Age 96
  (vi) The Time of Performance 97
  (vii) The Choice of the place 98
  (viii) The Arrangement of the top hair 98
  (ix) The ceremonies 99
  (x) The Main features of the Ceremonies 100
  (xi) The Association of Top hair with long life 101
6 The Karnavedha (Boring the Ears)  
  (i) The Origin and Early History 102
  (ii) The Age and Time of performance 102
  (iii) The Performer 103
  (iv) The Types of Needle 103
  (v) A Compulsory Ceremony 104
  (vi) The Ceremonies 104
  (vii) Susruta on the boring of ears 104
  (viii) Later phases 105
VII. The Educational Samskaras
1 The Vidyarambha (learning of Alphabates)  
  (i) Names Meaning and purpose of the Samskara 106
  (ii) The Sources of Information 106
  (iii) The Later Origin and its Cause 107
  (iv) The Age 108
  (v) The Ceremonies 109
2 The Upanayana (Initiation) 111
  (i) The Origin 111
  (ii) Forms of Initiation 111
  (iii) The Hindu Initiation 111
  (iv) The Antiquity of the Upanayana 112
  (v) The Vedic Period 112
  (vi) The Sutra and Later Periods 114
  (vii) The Meaning of the term Upanayana 115
  (viii) The Purpose of the Samskaras 116
  (ix) The Age 117
  (x) The Vratya 120
  (xi) The Upanayana not compulsory in the Beginning 122
  (xii) The Upanayana becomes Compulsory 123
  (xiii) Ridiculous consequences of Compulsion 123
  (xiv) The Upanayana partly neglected during the mediaeval period 124
  (xv) Who took the child to the teacher 124
  (xvi) The Section of the teacher 125
  (xvii) The Ceremonies and their Significance 126
  (a) The Time 127
  (b) Preparations 128
  (c) The Joint Meal 128
  (d) The Bath 129
  (e) The Kaupina 129
  (f) The Girdle 131
  (g) The Sacred Thread 131
  (h) The Ajina 133
  (i) The Staff 134
  (j) Symbolical performances 135
  (k) Touching the heart 136
  (l) Mounting the stone 136
  (m) Taking the charge 137
  (n) The Commandments 137
  (o) The Savitri Mantra 137
  (p) The Sacred Fire 138
  (q) The Rounds for Alms 139
  (r) Late Features 139
  (s) Tri Ratra vrata 139
  (t) The Dawn of a new era 140
3 The Vedarambha (Beginning of the Vedic Study) 141
  (i) Introductory 141
  (ii) The Origin 141
  (iii) A new Samskara 142
  (iv) The Ceremonies 142
4 The Kesanta (Shaving of Beard) 143
  (i) Different names and their significance 143
  (ii) The Origin and early History 143
  (iii) Later History and Confusion 144
  (iv) Ceremonies 145
5 The Samavartana or Snana (The End of Studentship) 146
  (i) Introductory 146
  (ii) Importance 146
  (iii) The Normal course 147
  (iv) Three Types of Snataka 147
  (v) A passport to Marriage 148
  (vi) The Age 149
  (vii) The Permission of the Teacher 149
  (viii) The Ceremonies and their Significance 150
  (ix) The Respect paid to the Snakaka 152
  (x) An absurd simplification 152
VIII. The Vivaha (Marriage Ceremonies)
(i) The Importance of Marriage 153
(ii) The Origin 156
(iii) Pre Marital stage 157
(iv) Marriage proper 158
(v) The Forms of Marriage 158
(vi) The Historical growth of eight forms 159
  (a) Paisacha 159
  (b) Raksasa 160
  (c) Gandharva 162
  (d) Asura 164
  (e) Prajapatya 166
  (f) Arsa 167
  (g) Daiva 168
  (h) Brahma 169
(vii) Some other forms 170
(viii) Popular forms 170
(ix) Religious Ceremonies essential 170
(x) Limitations of Marriage 171
  (a) Exogamy 172
  (b) Endogamy 176
  (c) Hypergamy 176
  (d) Pratiloma 177
  (e) Later History of Inter Caste Marriage 178
  (f) Inter caste Marriage Forbidden 179
  (g) Examination of the family 180
(xi) The Marriageable age 182
(xii) Qualification of the Bride 191
(xiii) Qualification of the Bride groom 191
(xiv) The Ceremonies 199
  (a) Original Simplicity 199
  (b) Gradual Complexity 199
  (c) The Vedic Period 200
  (d) The Sutra period 203
  (e) Later Innovations 205
  (f) The Present Form 205
  (g) Description and Significance 207
  1. Betrothal 207
  2. Marriage Day 209
  3. Mrdaharana 209
  4. The worship of Ganesa 210
  5. Ghatika 210
  6. The Nuptial Bath 210
  7. The Marriage Party 211
  8. The Madhuparka 211
  9. The Bride groom Honored 213
  10. The Presentation of a Garment to the Bride 213
  11. The Anointment 214
  12. Gotrochchara 214
  13. Kanyadana 214
  14. The Condition 215
  15. The Significant question 216
  16. Protection cord 216
  17. Evolution of the Bride Suggested 216
  18. Rastrabhrta and other Sacrifices 218
  19. Panigrahana 218
  20. Mounting the stone 218
  21. The Praise of woman 219
  22. Agni Pradaksana 219
  23. The Sapta Padi 219
  24. The Bride sprinkled 219
  25. Touching the heart 220
  26. The Bride Blessed 220
  27. Sitting on Bull’s Hide 220
  28. Local Customs 221
  29. Nuptial Fees 221
  30. Looking at the sun and the pole star 221
  31. Triratra vrata 221
  32. The Bride Carried and Blessed 224
  33. Domestic fire Established 224
  Chaturthikarma 224
  34. The Common Meal 225
  35. Removal of the Nuptial Canopy 225
(xv) Symbolism of Hindu Nuptials 225
  (a) The Meaning of the Symbol 225
  (b) Sacramental Marriage and Symbol 226
  (c) Marriage a Union of the fittest couple 226
  (d) Marriage a New Bond 227
  (e) Marriage a permanent and stable Union 228
  (f) Biological Symbolism of Marriage 229
  (g) Marriage should be fruitful and prosperous 230
  (h) Marriage a Crisis 231
  (i) Marriage not a licence 232
  (j) Marriage a social Change a Sacrifice 232
IX. The Antyesti Samskara (Funeral Ceremonies)
1 Introductory 234
2 The Origin 234
  (i) The Horror of Death 234
  (ii) The Conception of the Soul after Death 235
  (iii) The mixed feelings of Dread and love 235
  (iv) Physical Needs 236
3 Different kinds of Disposal 236
4 The Funerals 243
  (i) The vedic Period 243
  (ii) The Sutra Period 245
  (iii) Later Additions and Omissions 245
5 The Approach of Death 246
6 Pre Disposal Ceremonies 246
7 The Bier 247
8 The Removal of the corpse 248
9 The Funeral Procession 248
10 Anustarani 249
11 The Cremation 251
12 Lying of the window on the funeral pyre 251
13 Cremation of Sacrifice 253
14 The Return 255
15 The offering of water 255
16 Regaling the mourners 256
17 Impurity 256
18 Asthi Sanchayana 259
19 Santi Karma 261
20 The Smasana 263
21 Offerings to the dead 263
22 Sapindi Karana 267
23 Special Cases 267
24 The Primtive Nature of the Ceremonies 274
X. Conclusion
1 Life a Mystery and an art 275
2 Life a Cycle 275
3 Dogma a conscious Development 275
4 The Procedure of the Samskaras 276
5 The Place of the Samskaras in Hinduism 276
  (i) Samakaras took life as a whole 276
  (ii) Samskaras and the Three Paths of life 276
  (iii) Philosophical Indifference and Hostility towards the Samskaras and their reconciliation with philosophy 277
  (iv)Samskaras and puranic Hinduism 277
6 The Achievements of the Samskaras 277
7 The Decline of the Samskaras 278
8 Revivalism and the Samskaras 280
9 Prospects 280
  Bibliography 283
  Index 303


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