May we ever follow, unswervingly, the path of dutyand service as do the sun and the moon

Rig Veda 5.51.15

The Sixteen Sanskaars Of Aryas

All religions have important sacraments i.e. important religious ceremonies such as the Christian baptism and the Jewish bar/bat mitzvah. The Vedas describe the following 16 sacraments for Aryas.

  1. Garbhaadhaan sanskaar (The Sanskaar of conception):
    This takes place after the wedding, when the couple pray for a healthy and noble child
  2. Punsavan sanskaar (The sanskaar performed for the physical health of the foetus):
    This is performed when the pregnancy is three months old. The parents pray for the normal development of the baby in the mother's womb
  3. Seemantonnayan sanskaar (The sanskaar performed for the mental development of the foetus):
    This is performed at 4, 6 or 8 months of pregnancy. The parents pray for the normal mental development of the foetus.
  4. Jaatakarm sanskaar (The sanskaar performed on the day of the child's birth)
  5. Naamakaran sanskaar (The sanskaar of giving the child a name):
    It is performed on the eleventh day after birth, the 101st day or on the first birthday whereby the child is formally given its name.
  6. Nishkraman sanskaar (The sanskaar of taking the infant outdoors into the open air for the first time):
    Done at the beginning of the fourth month. The child is exposed to the health-giving rays of the sun and there is a prayer for long life.
  7. Annapraashan sanskaar (The sanskaar of giving solid grain to the infant for the first time):
    This is done between the ages of six to eight months, when its teeth begin to appear.
  8. Choodaakarm sanskaar (The sanskaar of shaving the child's head for the first time):
    It is done between the ages of one and three. A prayer is carried out for good health and sound mental development.
  9. Karnavedh sanskaar (The sanskaar of piercing the ears):
    It is done at the age of three, and a prayer is said for the child's physical well-being.
  10. Upanayan sanskaar (becoming close to another person) (The sanskaar of introducing the child to the concept of having another parent-like figure, the teacher):
    It is symbolized by giving the child the sacred thread (yajyopaveeta). It is performed between the ages of 5 to 8 to herald the child's introduction to the teacher. The thread consists of 3 separate strands each symbolizing the three disciplines of life; knowledge, action (conduct) and worship of god.
  11. Vedaarambh sanskaar (The ritual of initiating Study of the Vedas and all branches of knowledge):
    It is performed immediately after the Upanayan; in order that the child can prepare to seek progress in the material world, at the same time to become spiritually stronger.
  12. Samaavartan sanskaar (The sanskaar of graduation i.e. completion of education):
    This is performed between the ages of 21 to 25.
  13. Vivaah sanskaar (The wedding sacrament i.e. moving into the next stage of life of being a married householder):
    The male should be at least 25 and the female at least 16 years of age before they enter the Grihastha ashram.
  14. Vaanaprasth sanskaar (The sanskaar of leaving household for a life or austerity):
    It is performed at the age of 51 or at the time of birth of grandchildren. A person is now free to hand over all his family responsibilities to the next generation, and instead devote himself to a life of living austerety, by performing meditation and charitable work.
  15. Sanyaas sanskaar (The ritual of renouncing all worldly attachments e.g. all wealth, family attachments and desire for fame):
    The saffron robe of the sanyaasi is the symbol of a life of total austerity.
  16. Antyeshti sanskaar (The cremation ceremony):
    This is the last ritual and is performed when the body ends.