The 16 Sanskars
The 16 Sacraments of Life
In the Vedic Tradition, there are sixteen religious
ceremonies known as Sanskars or the Sacraments of Life. The Sanskars are
performed for the physical, social, and spiritual development of the
individual. These are:
- Garbhadhana: Performed shortly after the conception of a child, to
ensure a healthy beginning for the new life.
- Punsavana: Performed during the second or third month of pregnancy,
to ensure the healthy development of all the extremities and vital organs of
- Simantonnayana: Performed during the last phases of pregnancy, to
ensure the correct functioning of all the sensory organs and to bring the
development of the fetus to a successful close.
- Jatakarma Performed after the birth of the child, to welcome the
newborn as a new member of society.
- Namakarana Performed on the 11th or 12th day after birth, to give
the child the name he or she will forthwith be known by.
- Niskramana Performed when the child is 2 to 4 months old, to invoke
God's protection and blessings as the child leaves the home for the first time.
- Annaprasana: Performed when the child is 4 to 6 months old, to
celebrate the child's first consumption of solid food.
- Chudakarma: Performed when the child is 1 year old, to support the
development of self-awareness and autonomy in the child.
- Karnavedha Performed when the child is 3 to 5 years old, to support
the development of self-esteem and self-respect.
- Upanayana: Performed when the child is 5 to 7 years old, to
celebrate the entrance of the child into the institution of formal education
and the investment with the sacred thread, signalling the beginning of
Brahmacharya or Student Life. Also known as Yajnopaveet.
- Vedarambha: Performed when the child is 5 to 7 years old, to
solidify the commitment of the child to receiving a good education.
- Samavartana: Performed upon the completion of studies, to welcome
the young adult as a valued member of society, ready to embark on the next
stage of life, known as Grihastha or Household Life.
- Vivaha: The marriage ceremony (usually undertaken around 25 years of
age), to celebrate the happy union of the individual with a spouse of their
choice who is suited to their nature and ready to embark upon Household Life.
- Vaanaprastha Ashram: Undertaken upon retiring from one's chosen
profession (usually between 50 and 75 years of age), to celebrate the
completion of the duties of Household Life and the entrance into the phase of
reflection and meditation known as Vaanaprastha Ashram.
- Sanyaasa Ashram: Undertaken either after the completion of
Brahmacharya (Student Life) or Vaanaprastha (Retired Life), to celebrate the
renunciation of all worldly desires and absolute dedication to the service of
mankind through spreading Vedic Wisdom.
- Antyesti: Performed upon the death of the individual, when the body
is consumed by fire and it's constituent elements are returned to Nature. This is
the last ceremony. Also known as Antyesti, Naramedha and Purusmedha.