About Samskaras

A samskara is a rite of passage, and virtually every world culture has such ceremonies. Rites of passage are ceremonies that mark important events in the life of an individual. A Baptism, a wedding, a Bar Mitzvah, a Confirmation, and a funeral are all examples of rites of passage. Such important events generally include pre birth ceremonies, birth ceremonies, life ceremonies, death ceremonies and even after life ceremonies. In Sanskrit the word samskara literally means, “making perfect” or “refining,” and so a samskara is a ceremony of refinement, which is to say, refining or raising an individual beyond his or her mere physical existence and marking a higher spiritual existence. Samskaras bind an individual into his or her social group.

In Hinduism, as with most religious cultures, samskaras are sacred ceremonies performed with the help of a priest and in the presence of family and friends. Traditionally there are twelve samskara, but some later traditions raise this number to sixteen. In practice, however, there are only about eight samskaras that are regularly performed. This number varies from family to family and from region to region. The most common ceremonies are a pre-birth ceremony (Simantoyannayanam), the name giving ceremony (Nama Karana), a first grains ceremony (Anna Prashanna), the first hair cutting (Mundan), starting school (Vidyarambhana), the thread giving ceremony (Upanayana), marriage (Vivaha) and the funeral (Antyesthi). As I briefly describe these ceremonies, be aware that there is a lot regional variation, and how a ceremony may be preformed in one community may vary a lot from how it is performed in another community.

There are 42 samskaras one has to do in his/her life:

01. Garbhadana
02. Pumsavanam
03. Seemantonnayana (Baby Shower)
04. Jatakarma
05. Namakarnam (Name Giving)
06. Nishkramana  
07. Annaprashanam (First Solid Food)
08. Choulam (First Hair Cut)
09. Upanayanam (Thread Ceremony)
10. Veda Vratham - Prajapatya  
11. Veda Vratham - Sowmya  
12. Veda Vratham - Aagneya
13. VedaVratham - Vaishvadeva
14. Samavartanam(Snanam)
15. Vivaham(Marriage)
16. Antyeshti (Funeral)
17. Pancha Maha Yagyam - DevaYagya
18. Pancha Maha Yagyam - Pithru Yagya
19. Pancha Maha Yagyam - Bhota Yagya
20. Pancha Maha Yagyam - Manushya Yagya
21. Pancha Maha Yagyam - Bhrama Yagya
22. Sapta Paka Yagyas - Ashtaka
23. Sapta Paka Yagyas - Parvana Stalipaka
24. Sapta Paka Yagyas - Masika Shraaddha
25. Sapta Paka Yagyas - Shravani
26. Sapta Paka Yagyas - Aagrhayani
27. Sapta Paka Yagyas - Chaitree
28. Sapta Paka Yagyas - Aashvayuji
29. Sapta Soma Yagyas - Agnishtomam
30. Sapta Soma Yagyas - Atyagnishtomam
31. Sapta Soma Yagyas - Ukthyam
32. Sapta Soma Yagyas - Shodashi
33. Sapta Soma Yagyas - Vajapeyam
34. Sapta Soma Yagyas - Aptoryamam
35. Sapta Soma Yagyas - Atirattram
36. Sapta Havir Yagyas - Agni Aadheyam
37. Sapta Havir Yagyas - Agnihotram
38. Sapta Havir Yagyas - Darshapoornamasam
39. Sapta Havir Yagyas - Aagrhayanam
40. Sapta Havir Yagyas - Chaturmasyam
41. Sapta Havir Yagyas - Nirudha Pashu Bandham
42. Sapta Havir Yagyas - Soutramanee