Sacred Samskaras: Hindu Rites of Passage
Samskaras--Hinduism's answer to the sacraments--sanctify life's transitions from birth to death.
This is the betrothal ceremony in which a man and woman are declared formally engaged by their parents with the exchange of jewelry and gifts. Based on this commitment, they and their families begin planning a shared future.
The literal meaning of the term pumsavana is "the quickening of a male child." Not practiced today, this ceremony was performed by the husband for the wife beseeching the birth of a son, primarily as an assurance for the continuance of the family line.
This is the "hair-parting" rite. Not commonly practiced today, this ancient ceremony of parting the hair of the pregnant wife was performed to bring cheer as well as ward off evil spirits.
During the later days of pregnancy, a woman may have the Jatakarma samskara performed. This rite, based on a verse from the Atharva Veda written specifically to assure safe child birth, was designed to yield blessings for life as well as protection from harm for both mother and child.
A hundred years ago, when a young brahmin began his Vedic studies, this initiation was common. In recent times, however, with the growing importance, popularity and use of non-Vedic liturgy, this practice is fading into obscurity, except among priests.
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