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Hindu samskArAs --part 2

From: V. Sadagopan (75041.3037_at_compuserve.com)
Date: Sun Sep 07 1997 - 05:36:57 PDT

Dear Members of the Bhakthi /Prapatthi Group :

I will now continue with the final section on 
the samskArAs .

Upanayanam
***************

A child normally starts schooling at the age of five. When it
reaches the age of eight , it possesses a grip on the language 
and therefore is considered eligible for receiving Vedic Instruction .
A sacred thread ceremony known as Upanayanam is performed 
by the father and the boy is blessed with the initiation into reciting
the sacred Gayathri Manthram . Next , his Vedic instruction begins
with the proper guru . 

Upanayana means bringing one close to the guru or the teacher ,
who initiates the child into Veda vidyA . The boy learns one VedA with 
its limbs (angAs ) . It takes 12 years to complete the learning of 
one Veda with its angAs . The boy stays in the house of the guru
and observes the ancient practise of gurukulA and performs services
to the guru and his family in return for receiving his education . He also
practises celibacy ( Brahmacharyam ) during these 12 years . 
Brahmacharya is the first of the four aasramAs for a Hindu .
The recitation of the VedAs with swarAs (proper intonations ) 
from a qualified  guru is the goal of thsi aasramA .

The BrahmachAri observes four addiitonal samskArAs 
during this period of receiving Vedic instruction . These 
four samskArAs are linked with the completion of each of
the four khAndAs (sections ) of the individual VedA .

For  instance , a celibiate receiving instruction in KrishNa Yajur
VedA has to complete the four khAndAs of PrAjApathya , 
Soumya , AagnEya and VaisvadEva . During the completion 
of each of the four khAndhAs , the brahmachAri observes 
the samskArAs of each of the above  four khAndAs . Similarly ,
Rg VedA has a set of four samskArAs known as MahAnAmni ,
MahAupanishad and two GodhAna vratAs that have to be 
performed by the student . Recent postings on UpAkarmA
relate to the Khanda rishi tarpaNam connected with our 
thanks giving to the rishis of the khAndams . 

At the conclusion of the samskArAs associated with the final
khAndhA of the VedA , the bachelor is adjudged as having 
completed hisVedic instructions successfully . He offers his
homage to his guru and returns home to perform a samskArA 
known as samAvartanA , which literally means return to home
at the end of his studies . He takes a ritual bath called SnAnA 
and is thereafter he is known as SnAtakA , who has completed his
gurukula vaasam .He goes on pilgrimage to Kaasi kshEthram
and on return from that journey is ready for marriage or VivAham .
He is now ready to enter into the second aasramam known as 
GrihasthA ( house-holder ) . From UpanayanA to VivaahA , we have 
thus  witnessed seven samskArAs . After VivAhA , he is expected
to observe BrahmacharyA for one year and thereafter , he is qualiifed 
to perform the samskArA of garbhAdhAnam associated with 
the conception of a child . 

VivAhA for women is equivalent to the Upanayanam ceremony .
After VivAham , she participates in all the Yaj~nAs with her 
husband as sahadharmachAriNi . Hence , VivAham is called
SahadharmiNi SamprayOgam . It may be pointed out that both
the VivAham and Upanayanam should be conducted during 
the UttarAyaNa puNya kaalam . I have covered the individual 
stages of Vedic VivAham in other postings connected with
AanDAL's VaraNamAiyram earlier ..

Pancha MahA Yaj~nAs 
*************************

We have so far covered 14 samskArAs for the period leading 
up to VivAham .In the married state , the householder has to 
observe five more samskArAs daily and they are known as 
the five great yaj~nAs ( pancha mahA yaj~nAs ) .The performance 
of these five samskArAs helps the householder to discharge 
his debts to DevAs , his ancestors and all living beings .

These pancha MahA Yaj~nAs are :
 
1. Brahma Yaj~nam , which is performed through the recitation
of the VdAs and helps to discharge the debt to Vedic rishis or
manthra drashtAs . They collected the Veda samhithAs through
their spiritual powers .

2. Deva Yaj~nA, which requires the performance of pujAs 
and Yaj~nAs for Gods .

3. Pithru Yaj~nAs : The debt to one's ancestors is discharged 
through the offering of pindAs during the tarpaNAs as oblations.

4. Maanushya Yaj~nA : The athithi sathkAram or feeding of 
one's guest with respect , discharges one of his debts to 
the community .

5. BhUta Yaj~nA : This samskArA consists of feeding 
the living entities other than human beings . Offerings are made 
to them as they are an extended set of human family .

We have described 19 samskArAs so far .The remaining 21 fall
into three distinct subsets : Paaka , Havir and sOma Yaj~nAs . 
There are a seven of each of the three subsets . Brief descriptions
of these 21 yaj~nAs will be presented here. The various kalpa
sUtrAs and GrihyAsUtrAs describe these Yaj~nAs in great detail .


Seven Paaka Yaj~nAs 
*************************

These are small yaj~nAs . The nams of these are :
1. sthAlipAkA 2. ashtakai 3. anvashtakai 4. paarvaNi srArdhA
or sarpa bali 5. agrahAyaNi 6. Chaitri or EesAna bali
and (7) aswayuji . Most of them are done at home in 
GrihyAgni , which is the Agni  in which the husband and 
wife perform their daily OupAsanam . We will not go into 
the details on the performance of these yaj~nAs here. 

The procedure for the paaka Yaj~nAs are described in Grihya sUtrAs
belonging to Smrithis . Hence , these Paaka Yaj~nAs are
referred to as SmArtha karmAs . These are thus distinct 
from Srautha karmAs ( Havir and sOma Yaj~nAs ) , since 
the latter derive their authority from Sruthis . It must be pointed out
that the SmArtha and Srautha karmAs are equal in importance .

Havir Yaj~nAs 
****************

These are also seven in number and are a little more
elaborate in performance than paaka yaj~nAs . Their 
names are : 1. Agni aadhAnA 2. AgnihOthrA 3. darsa 
pUrNa maasa 4. AgrAyANaa 5. ChaathurmAsyaa
6. NiruDa pasubhandha and (7) SouthrAmaNi .

These yaj~nAs are performed in SroudhAgni , which is
also known as TrEtAgni . Aapasthampa sUtrAs in their 
trEthAgni khAndham (section ) give the details of construction 
of the Yaj~na kundAs and the maintenance of trEtAgnis or the 
three sroudhAgnis revered as gArhapathyam , dakshiNAgni
and aahavaneeyam .

Soma Yaj~nAs 
****************
These are also seven in number . There are fewer hOmAs
in these sOma Yaj~nAs , but more eulogies or sthuthis ( sAma ghAnam ) .
SaamaVedidc recitation is central to these seven Yaj~nAs .
Saama Vedam has been identified as " VedAnAm
Saama vedOsmi " by GeethAchAryan . The four KhandAs 
of Saama Vedam ( AgnEya KhAnA , Aindra KhAndA ,
PaavamAna khAndhA and aaraNyaka KhandhA )
provide the sama riks or dashtis ( collection of ten
verses ) for the following seven sOma Yaj~nAs :
 
The individual names of these seven Yaj~nAs are :

1. AgnishtOmA or JyOthishtOmA 
2. AthyagnishtOmA 
3. UkthyA 4. ShOdasi 5. VaajabhEyA 
6. AthirAtrA and (7) abhthOryAmA 

One who completes a sOma yaj~nA is hailed as a
sOmayAji . Even if one can not do all of these
seven Yaj~nAs , it has been recommended that  
atleast one of the seven ( agnishthOmA ) should be
performed in one's life time .

SanyAsins
*************

For sanyAsins , there are no samskArA of cremation .
They are buried in BrindhAvanams  by the riverside 
or enar a holy spot . A peepul sapling or TuLasi bush
is planted over the site . 

Conclusion 
*************

The importance of the samskArAs can not be underestimated
in the Hindu sanAtana dharmA . They from the core of the Hindu
life cycle rituals and guards the practioners from swerving into
paths not sanctioned by the VedAs . They protect them from the time
of conception to the last moment on this earth of our Lord . 
The samskArAs prescribed for the four successive/separate
aasramAs can not be abandoned until one's last breath.Through
the knowledge of these ancient samskArAs  , it is our hope 
to incorporate them into our lives within the limits of our
abilities and help others keep up the tradition with Sriman
NaarAyaNA's krupA . 

Oppiliappan Koil VaradAchAri Sadagopan