Samskaras Origin and Significance

Pre-Natal Samskaras

Notes on Individual Samskaras – It is not possible to cover the social religious significance of each S in its totality but what I have tried to do is to share is the origin and significance of each S.

1. The Garbhadhana (conception) – The rite through which man placed his seed in a woman was called Garbhadhana. In the beginning, procreation was a natural act. This S, however, presupposed a home, regular marriage, and a desire of possessing children and a religious idea that beneficent gods helped men in getting children. The origin of this S belongs to a period then the people were far advanced from their primitive conditions. According to Sushrut marriageable age was to be 25, 15 for man/woman.The study of this S is very interesting from the cultural point of view. Here we come across a people who approached their wives with a definite purpose of having children, in a definite manner calculated to produce the best possible progeny and with the religious serenity which, they believed, would consecrate the would be child.

2. The Pumsavana (quickening of a male child) – this means the rite by which a male child was produced. The Vedic hyms recited on this occasion mention Puman or Putra (male) and favor the birth of a son. The significance of the S lay in its mail features. It should be performed when the moon was on a male constellation. This time was regarded as favorable for producing a mail issue. Inserting the juice of a banyan tree was a device meant for preventing abortion and ensuring the birth of a male child. In the opinion of Susruta, the banyan tree has got the properties of removing all kinds of trouble during pregnancy. He says “Having pounded with milk any of these herbs, Sahadevi, Visvadeva etc one should insert three or four drops of juice in the right nostril of the pregnant woman for the birth of a son. Insertion of medicine into nostrils is a common thing in the Hindu system of treatment. Thus, the ritual was based on the medical experience of the people. Putting a dish of water on the lap was a symbolical performance. A pot full of water denoted life and spirit in the would be child. The hymn Suparna etc or of would beautiful wings expressed the wish that a handsome child be born.

3. The Simantonnayana (hair parting) - The third S of the embryo was Simantonnayana. That rite was called Simanta, in which the hairs of a pregnant woman were parted. The purpose was partly superstition and partly practical. People believed that a woman in her pregnancy was subject to attacks of evil spirits and some rite should be performed to ward them off. The religious intention of the S was to bring about prosperity to the mother and long life to the unborn child. Physiological knowledge was also responsible for this rite. From the fifth month of pregnancy the formation of child’s mind begins. So the pregnant woman was to take utmost care to avoid any physical shock to the foetus. This fact was symbolized by parting of the hair. Another reason of the S was to keep the woman in good cheer. The ceremony is to be performed in the fourth (preferable), sixth and eight month of pregnancy.

The Duties of a Pregnant Woman – The Smriti writers realized that the conduct of an expectant mother influenced the unborn child. So they prescribed duties of a pregnant woman and her husband. Duties can be grouped into three classes. The first is based on a superstitious belief that evil spirits try to injure a pregnant woman and she needs to be protected from them. The second class contains rules aiming at the preventing of physical overexertion, and the third class was calculated to preserve the physical and mental health of the mother.

The Duties of the Husband – The first and foremost duty was to fulfill the wishes of his pregnant wife. According to Yajnavalkya, “By not meeting the wishes of a pregnant woman, foetus becomes unhealthy, it is either deformed or it falls down. Therefore, one should do as desired by her”.

The Medical Basis – The rules laid down for the health of the pregnant woman are based on the medical knowledge of the Hindus. Said Sustruta “From the time of pregnancy, she should avoid coition, over-exertion, sleeping in the day, keeping awake at night etc”. Thus every possible care must be taken to preserve the physical 
and mental health of the pregnant woman. This is as true today as it was then.

Receive Site Updates