What inspired for BRĀHMĀṆYĀM™ Initiated?
The belief that people born in brahmin caste, automatically become brahmins, is a much later concept in the very ancient land of India. In the pre-Gita period (before the beginning of the Christian era) a Brahmin was a person who had attained highest spiritual knowledge (brahmavidya). This was an extremely difficult path of discipline of body, mind , and intellect, and people irrespective of their birth or class, who dedicated to such an austere life were recognized as brahmins.
A great example of this tradition (that a person becoming a brahmin, rather than born as one) is the case of Vishwamitra, a warrior (kshatriya), who became a brahmin after attaining brahmavidya, and composed the Gayatri Mantra, the most sacred hymn of the Hindus.
A smritis, or code of conduct composed by sage Atri defines brahminhood very clearly:
"By birth, every man is a Shudra (an ignorant person). Through various types of disciplines (samskaras), he becomes a dwija (twice born). Through the studies of scriptures, he becomes a vipra (or a scholar). Through realization of supreme spirit (brahmajnana), he becomes a brahmin."
The Bhagavad-Gita divides the class of people into four categories of Brahmana, Kshtriya, Vaishya, and Shudra depending on the traits (svabhava) inherent in individuals.
It is the culture or refinement distinguishes mankind from its fellow creatures. It took a very very long time for the human beings to evolve certain norms or disciplines which were considered 'a must' in a civilized society. Slowly such social norms were transformed into religious rites or rituals typical of each community. Hindu samskars (a.k.a. samskaras) which symbolize disciplinary rites, were evolved over four millennia to make a house-holder's life refined and useful. From birth to death, sixteen samskars or rites of refinement are laid down by sastras and religious texts.
These samskars (or samskaras) are considered stepping stones in shaping a perfect individual in Hindu society. They were meant to be purify the person by observing of which a person became 'susamskrit' (civilized or refined).
The word samskar is evolved from the root 'samskri' which means to purify or form thoroughly. Samskriti (civilization) and Sanskrit are derived from this root 'samskri'. Sanskrit was considered the most refined and grammatically perfect language compared to other regional languages in ancient times.
The sixteen samskaras laid down by Hindu religious texts are:
- Garbhadhan - Conception (women) – Maharishi Charaka has said that the conception of rites is necessary for the conception of the mind to be happy and strong, so the woman and the man should always eat satvik food and always be happy. At the time of the birth of the womb, the mind of man and woman should be filled with enthusiasm, happiness and health. To get the best children, first of all conception-rites have to be done. Parental childbirth is the result of childbirth. After pregnancy, many types of natural defects are attacked, to avoid them, this ritual is performed. Which keeps the womb safe. A good and well-deserved child is born out of a conceptually ritualistic conception.
- Punsavana - Fetus Protection (women) – Pusvan sanskar is held after three months because after three months in the womb, the brain of the fetus starts developing. At this time, the foundation of the rites of the infant born in the womb is laid by the Punsavan ceremony. According to the belief, the infant starts learning in the womb, an example of this is Abhimanyu who received Chakravyuha's education in the womb of Mother Draupadi.
- Simantonayana - Satisfying Wishes Of The Pregnant Mother (women) – Seemantonnayana rites are performed in the fourth, sixth and eighth months of the womb. At this time, a child growing in the womb is capable of learning. Knowledge of good qualities, temperament and karma should come in it, for this, the mother conducts ethics, living and behaving in the same way. During this time, the mother should study while remaining calm and happy.
- Jatakarma Rituals - Many types of defects of a child are removed by performing Jatakarma rituals as soon as the child is born. Under this, the baby is licked with honey and ghee as well as Vedic mantras are chanted so that the child is healthy and longevity.
- Namakarana (shown) - Name Giving – The naming ceremony is performed after the Jatakarma. As it is known from its name, the child is named in it. The naming ceremony is performed on the 11th or 21st day after the birth of the infant as per the local customs. According to astrology, the name of the child is decided. Many people name their child anything that is wrong. It has an impact on his mindset and his future. Just as wearing good clothes enhances one's personality, in the same way, having a good and pithy name has its effect on the whole life. The thing to keep in mind is that the child should be named so that he is called or known by the same name at home and outside.
- Nishkramana - Taking The Child Outdoors – After this, Nishkramana (Exodus ) rites are performed in the fourth month of birth. Exodus means to eject. Our body is made up of earth, water, fire, air and sky etc. which are called Panchabhut. Therefore the father prays for the welfare of the child from these deities. At the same time wish that the babies live long and be healthy.
- Annaprashana - Giving The Child Solid Food – Annaprashan Sanskar is performed at the time of grown of child's teeth i.e at the age of 6-7 months. After this rite, the child begins to feed food. Initially, a well-made grain like kheer, khichdi, rice etc. is given.
- Chudakarana- Hair Cutting – When the hair from the head of the child is removed for the first time, then it is called chudakarma or shaving ceremony. After the child becomes one year old, then the child's hair is removed at the age of one, three, fifth at the age of seventh. The child's head is strengthened and the intellect is sharpened by this ritual. Also, germs sticking to the baby's hair are destroyed, which provides health benefits to the baby. It is believed that after coming out of the womb, only the hair remains on the child's head. Cutting them leads to purification.
- Karnavedha - Ear Piercing – The meaning of Karnaveedh is to pierce the ear. There are five reasons for this - one - to wear jewelery. Second- According to astrology, the bad effects of Rahu and Ketu are stopped by ear piercing. Thirdly, it is acupuncture due to which the flow of blood in the veins leading to the brain begins to recover. Fourth, it increases hearing power and prevents many diseases. Fifth, it reinforces the sexual senses.
- Upanayana(Yajnopavit) Sacred Thread ceremony (boys) – Yajnopavit is also called Upanay or Janeu rite. Every Hindu should perform this ritual. Up means pass and take away. To be taken to the Guru means Upanayana rites. It is still a tradition today. There are three sutras in Janeu i.e Yagyopavit.These are the symbols of the three gods - Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh. With this sanskar, the baby gets strength, energy and fast. At the same time spiritual spirit is awakened in him.
- Vidyarambha - Study Of Vedas And Scriptures – Under this, the person is given knowledge of Vedas and various education.
- Samavartana - Completing Education – Samvartana sanskar means returning again. After receiving education from Ashram or Gurukul, this rite was performed to bring the person back to the society. This means that a celibate person is psychologically prepared for the struggles of life.
- Vivah - The Marriage – It is necessary to marry at the appropriate age. The wedding ceremony is considered to be the most important ceremony. Under this, both the bride and groom stay together and pledge to follow the religion. Not only does marriage contribute to the development of the universe, it is also necessary for the spiritual and mental development of the person. By this ritual, a person is also free from Pitrurin.
- Vanprastha - Preparing For Renouncing – As old age approaches, normally when a person attains at an age of 50, this sanskara is performed to celebrate the departure from the householder stage to the Vanaprastha stage when the person begins to engage in spiritual activities.
- Sanyasa - Renunciation – Before leaving the body a Hindu sheds all sense of responsibility and relationships to awake and revel in the timeless truth. Much like attaining Nirvana and enlightenment.
- Antyeshti - Last Rites of the dead body – The last rites done after the death. The first ritual after death is to place a few tulsi leaves and a few drops of water in the mouth of the dead person. It is then laid on the floor which has been purified by applying the sacred cowdung. The old clothes are removed and the body is bathed with sanctified water. The body is then covered with one piece of a new, unbleached, uncut cloth (kafan). It is then laid on a bier (nanami) made of bamboo canes tied with jute strings and the body is kept on a pyre. According to the scriptures, after the death of a human being i.e., body sacrifice, the dead body is dedicated to fire. Even today, fire is taken from the house in front of the funeral procession. The pyre is lit by this.
The samskaras vary in ceremonial details from one community to other. All the sixteen rituals are hardly observed now-a-days except among highly conservative pockets of rural India. Here we came up with a solution for all our religious events needs to be taken care by an Pundits/Purohits.
"God dwells in human body" was the ancient belief. It became a befitting place (Brahmi) for Brahma – the supreme spirit only when sanctified by various samskaras, sacrifices, Vedic study and observation of vows, declared Manu, the Law-giver. Another law-writer Shankha commented "Refined by samskaras a person, who was able to cultivate the eight noble qualities viz., mercy, forbearance, freedom from envy, purity, calmness, right behavior and freedom from greed and coveting would rise up in the world of Brahman from where he has no fear of fall."
Atri's statement is famous. "By birth every one is a shudra, by samskars he becomes a Dvija (i.e., twice-born). By learning (studying Vedas), he becomes a Vipra and by realizing Brahman, he attains the status of a Brahmana" (Janmana jayate ....etc.)
Shabarand Kumarila summarized thus "Samskars are those rites which impart fitness and eligibility to perform certain actions.
In short, Upanayana, the eleventh samskar was a passport for education and openings. Vivaha (marriage), the fifteenth samskar was a door way to house-holder's duties and social obligations. According to Manu this stage was the most important one. A householder depended on all the other ashrams. Hence, wedding ceremony alone made an individual fully responsible to undertake social obligations.
All the samskars have lost their religious important nowadays and recitation of mantras are either mechanical or half-uttered. Samskars number two, three, four, six, ten, twelve, thirteen and fourteen have disappeared. Seventh or Annaprashan is important in Bengal and Eastern Regions and the eleventh has become optional! Even when performed, we are just ritualistic. Upanayana and marriage have become big socializing events of status where feasting and gifts have taken priority. But it is worthwhile to know the hidden precepts of samskaras to understand how our ancients determined an individual's behavior in society. To be disciplined, faithful and charitable were virtues which made a person good citizen.