samskara (Sanskrit: "patterned or conditioned behaviors; subconscious tendencies; worldly life; impression.") — 1. The imprints left on the subconscious mind by experience (from this or previous lives), which then color all of life, one's nature, responses, states of mind, etc. 2. A sacrament or rite done to mark a significant transition of life. These make deep and positive impressions on the mind of the recipient, inform the family and community of changes in the lives of its members and secure inner-world blessings. The numerous samskaras are outlined in the Grihya Shastras. Most are accompanied by specific mantras from the Vedas.

The Sixteen Samskaras

  1. Garbhadan — The first coming together of the husband & wife for bringing about conception.
  2. Pumsvan — Ceremony performed when the first signs of conception are seen, and is to be performed when someone desires a male child.
  3. Seemantonayan — A ceremony of parting of the hairs of the expectant mother to keep her spirits high & positive. Special music is arranged for her.
  4. Jatakarma — After the birth of the child, the child is given a secret name, he is given taste of honey & ghee, mother starts the first breast-feeding after chanting of a mantra.
  5. Nama-karana — In this ceremony the child is given a formal name. Performed on the 11th day.
  6. Nishkramana — In this the formal darshan of sun & moon is done for the child.
  7. Annaprashana — This ceremony is performed, when the child is given solid food (anna) for the first time.
  8. Chudakarana — Cuda means the 'lock or tuft of hair' kept after the remaining part is shaved off.
  9. Karna-vedha — Done in 7th or 8th month. Piercing of the ears.
  10. Upanayan & Vedarambha — The thread ceremony. The child is thereafter authorized to perform all rituals. Studies of Vedas begins with the Guru.
  11. Keshanta — Hairs are cut, guru dakshina is given
  12. Samavartan — Returning to the house
  13. Vivaha — Marriage ceremony
  14. Vanprastha — As old age approaches, the person retires for a life of tapas & studies.
  15. Sanyas — Before leaving the body a Hindu sheds all sense of responsibility & relationships to awake & revel in the timeless truth.
  16. Antyeshthi — The last rites done after the death.


1. Hinduism's Online Lexicon, Himalayan Academy

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