“SamskAra संस्कार” means “refining” or “forming well”.
But the more common understanding of the word “samskArA” is “mental impression” or “culture”. This impression on memory is what we think and do, so that decides what we would become.
While man is free to act according to his will, he should nevertheless forget that he is a role model for his children and for the society around him and that they are always learning from him. The quality of a home decides the quality of a society. It is with this larger perspective, that the sages, the maestros of the VedAs contributed to the vast library of dharmashAstrAs (collection of smRutis) and purANAs, as a guide to conscious living.
The samskArAs are an extract of the precious texts listed above. They are simple sensible sanctifying rites and duties to be performed by man in the presence of the vEdic sounds so that he keeps his mind pure and unshaken thereby retaining good impressions at the soul level. As we go through these pages, we would realise that the mantrAs are filled with blessings, care and positive vibes.
We have listed 46 samskArAs here.
- The first 20 samskArAs, the 5 pancha mahAyagyAs and the 7 pAka yagyAs are classified as smArta karmAs. They are karmAs which are done with the “gruhya agni” otherwise called “aupAsana agni” which is lit from the “vivAha agni” during the wedding. This gruhya agni is also called “EkAgni“. Since the smArta karmAs are mostly performed at home, they are also called gruhya karmAs. smArta karmAs are meant for the householder and his family. The mention of the smArta/gRuhya karmAs are found in the smRutis, hence the name “smArta”. The procedures of the smArta karmAs and the vEda mantrAs to be used are explained in the gRuhya sootrAs. Some gruhya sootrAs also explain shrauta karmAs.
- The last 7 havir yagyAs and 7 sOma yagyAs are classified as shrauta karmAs.They are karmAs which are done with 3 agnis called “trEtAgni“, namely the gArhapatya agni, Ahavaneeya agni and dakshiNAgni. These 3 agnis are called shrautAgnis. This agni is also derived from the one lit during vivAhA (wedding). shrauta karmAs are elaborate, some are done at home and many include large scale yagyAs which require special yAga shAlAs. These are perfomed for the benefit of a race or the mankind in general. The explanations of the shrauta karmas are found in the shRutis (vEdAs), hence the name “shrauta”. They are supported and backed up by shrauta kalpa sootrAs.
It is to encompass all the schools of thought that we have put all the available samskArAs in one place. The number and classification may vary. But the difference is worth analyzing.
It is also worth noting here that in places where there are 2 different opinions by Rushis on the same topic, then either of them can be followed and both of them have equal authority. This has been advised by Sage Manu as follows:
श्रुतिद्वैधं तु यत्र स्यात्तत्र धर्मावुभौ स्मृतौ ।
उभावपि हि तौ धर्मो सम्यगुक्तौ मनिषिभि: ॥
shrutidvaidhaM tu yatra syAttatra dharmAvubhau smRutau |
ubhAvapi hi tau dharmo samyaguktau maniShiBi: ||
Strictly going by the smritis, there are 40 SAMSKAARAAS that one must perform and 8 Atma guNAs that one must possess.
Sage gautama says in Chapter 8, saMskAra varNanam, of his dharmashAstrA,
गर्भाधानपुंसवनसीमन्तॊन्नयनजातकर्मनामकरणन्नप्राशनचौडॊपनयनं चत्वारि वॆदव्रतानि स्नानं सहदर्म्मचारिणॊ सम्यॊग: पञ्चानां यज्ञानामनुष्ठानं दॆव पितृ मनुष्य भूत ब्रह्मणामॆतॆषाञ्चाष्टका पार्वणश्राद्ध श्रावण्याग्रहायणी चैत्राश्वयुजीति सप्त पाकयज्ञसंस्था अग्न्याधॆयमग्निहॊत्र दर्शपौर्णमासावग्रहणं चातुर्म्मास्यनिरूढपशुबन्ध श्रॊत्रामणीति सप्त हविर्यज्ञसंस्थां अग्निष्तॊमॊऽत्यग्निष्टोम उक्थ: षॊडशि वाजपॆयऽतिरात्रॊप्तॊर्य्याम इति सप्त सॊमसंस्था इत्यतॆ चत्वारिंशत् संस्कारा: | अथाष्टावात्मगुणा: दया सर्वभूतॆषु क्षान्तिरनसूया । शौचमनायासॊमङ्गलमकार्पण्यं स्पृहॆति | यस्य तु खलु संस्काराणामॆकदॆशॊऽप्यष्टावात्मगुणा अथ स ब्रह्मण: सायुज्यं सालॊक्यञ्च गच्छति गच्छति । —-गौतम धर्मशास्त्रम्, अष्टमोऽध्याय:
The list of 40 samskArAs are
1. garbhAdhAnam 2. pumsavanam 3. seemantOnnayanam 4. jAtakarmA 5. nAmakaraNam 6. annaprAsanam 7. choodAkaraNam 8. upanayanaM , the 4 vEda vratAs – (9-12) 9. prAjApatya 10. sowmyam 11. AgnEyam 12. vaisvadEvam 13. snAnam 14. vivAhA, the pancha mahAyagyAs – 15. dEva yagyam 16. pitRu yagyam 17. bhoota yagyam 18. brahma yagyam 19. manushya yagyam and the 7 pAka yagyAs- 20. aShTakA 21. parvaNam 22. sthAli pAkam 23. shrAvani 24. AgrahAyaNee 25. chaitree 26. Ashvayujee and the 7 havir yagyAs – 27. agniyAdhAnam 28. agnihOtram 29. darshapourNamAsam 30. agrahAyana 31. chAturmAsyam 32. nirooDapashubandhanam 33. shautrAmaNee and the 7 sOma yagyAs – 34. agniShtOmam 35. atyagnishTomam 36. ukthyam 37. ShODashi 38. vAjapeyam 39. aptOryAmam 40. atirAtram.
The 8 Atma guNAs or spirtual virtues or values that one must possess and inculcate always are:
- dayA sarvabhootEShu – kindness to all living beings men, animals, etc.
- kShAnti – forbearance or patience
- anasooyam – not being jealous of anybody
- shoucham – purity of mind
- anAyAsam – not troubling oneself and also others, cheerful diposition
- mangalam – auspiciousness or goodness, in the blessing mood
- akArpaNyam – sympathizing and showing pity, being generous
- aspRuham – free from desire
Those who are consecrated with most of the 40 samskArAs and possess most of the 8 Atma guNAs attain “sAlOkyam” of the supreme being (brahmaN). (i.e.) they live in the Supreme being’s abode.