Various stage of human life has been marked with a series of sacraments and rituals which are referred to as ‘Rites of Passage’ or Samskaras in Vedas and Hindu kinds of literature which enable us to lead a Dharmic or righteous life.
In this article, let us discuss the Samskaras in general but giving importance to Prenatal Samskaras. There are 16 Samskaras described in our Vedic literature which we will discuss in detail in another blog post. So, what are Samskaras?
Samskaras are those religious rites and ceremonies which sanctify the body, mind, and intellect, so that person becomes fit for the society.
In Ayurveda, the word Samskara is introduced as “SamskaraohiGunaantradhyanam” which means qualitative improvement carried out by incorporating the specific qualities (transforming of the qualities).
From the moment of conception to the final scattering of funeral ashes there is certain personal sacrament traditionally observed in life.
Here we are going to discuss about the prenatal ceremonies.
The most generally accepted list of 16 traditional samskaras begins with the prenatal ceremonies of garbhadhana (for conception), pumsavana (to favour a male birth), and simantonnayana (“hair-parting,” to ensure safe delivery).
Stages of Prenatal samskaras
- Garbhadana(conception of the child)
- Pumsavana (bringing forth a boy)
- Simantonnayana(Parting of hair)
Samskaras begin even before the birth of the individual, since it is believed that the state of the parent’s mind during conception affects the well-being and ‘quality’ of the offspring. Narada Purana, an ancient hindu sculpture says, ‘The state of mind during the placing of the seed into the womb determines the type of child to be born.’
A similar reference is mentioned in Susruta Samhita, an ancient classic of Ayurveda. Susruta says, ‘The quality of diet, actions etc of the man and woman lead to an offspring with similar qualities.’
The proper time of conception is from the fourth to the sixteenth night after the monthly periods begin. That is the time when the woman is physically ready to conceive.
Garbha samskara is a method for a worth full child, to endow future generations with good health, noble quality and high intelligence by improving the innate quality of mankind.
- The preparation of achieving a healthy progeny starts before the selection of partner. It is said that the couples should be of different gotra (clan), of proper age with maturity of all Dhatus (seven body tissues) and should not be suffering from diseases.
- The couple should undergo body purification by body purification (Panchakarma) procedures like Vamana, Virechana, and Basti and should be brought to normalcy by prescribed diet.
- The couples should perform Putresti yagna, which is to bring spiritual powers.
- Celibacy for 3 months and especially during the first three days of menstruation is must to avoid offspring with less longevity and deformed parts and ensuring best quality of male and female gamets (shukra and rajah).
- The female should observe strict regimen during menstruation period (rajah kala) – Rajaswala paricharya.
- The best period for conception is ritukala that is 12 days from 4th day of menstruation. Selected days for coitus, odd days for achieving female progeny and even days for male progeny (except 11th day and 13th day) are to be considered.
- Particular Hymn is to be recited at the time of coitus with desirable position (supine) of the couple to achieve diving blessings from Brahma, Vishnu, Soma and Surya to procure a courageous son.
It is believed that Observance of all these methods before conception ensures beeja shuddhi (healthy sperm and ovum), kshetra shuddhi (healthy uterus) and mano shuddhi (purified mind) of the couple.
The procedure to be adopted for achieving progeny of desired sex is known as ‘Pumsavana karma’. This procedure can be done before conception or immediately after conception for achieving a healthy progeny.
Pumsvana Karma is done with three aims –
- Garbha grahanaya – Before conception for achieving healthy progeny. Garbha sthapanartha
- For proper implantation and stability immediately after conception
- Putra apatya jananartha – For desired sex of child before three months of pregnancy
The procedure is done during Pushya Nakshatra which is considered an auspicious occasion as per Ayurveda.
The karma includes nasal instillation (Nasya) of certain herbs like Vata Shunga, Laxmana, Shivlingi etc with cow’s milk.
In the fourth or fifth month of pregnancy, the mind of the fetus begins to develop. This is when simantonoyana Samskara is performed. Its purpose is to protect the fetus–especially its newly forming mind–from all negative influences, and also to stimulate the development of the unborn child’s intellect.
Current practices of Prenatal Samskaras – The rite of passage
Planned pregnancy makes the couple well prepared physically, psychologically, socially and emotionally for future events. Hence, the concept of garbha Samskara in a planned pregnancy has increasingly gained popularity.
The Prenatal Samskaras laid down various rules and regulations regarding the duties of the expectant mother as they realized that every action and behavior of the mother influenced her unborn child. Hence her diet, positioning of her body during sleep, the activities that she could undertake, the places to visit, the thoughts to be cultivated and those to be eschewed, her speech and actions, everything was mentioned in the Ancient texts to ensure smooth delivery and virtuous and noble progeny. Even in the present scenario, this is relevant because the diet and healthy mental and physical status of the mother is important for a healthy progeny.
Article by Arya Krishna
- Arun Raj GR, Shailaja U, Prasanna N Rao. The childhood samskaras (Rites of passage) and its scientific appreciation. Ayurpharm Int J Ayur Alli Sci. 2013;2(12):372-383.