Hindu householders perform a few Samskaras (religious rites), such as annaprashana, upanayana, marriage, shraddha etc. Some say, there are, in total, 10 Samskaras (Dasha Samskaras), whereas some say there are 16 (Shodosha Samskaras). How many Samskaras are there? Is there any reference?

1 Answer 1


Shodasha sanskāras:

Garbhādhāna - This is mainly concerned with the purification of the seed and the womb so that the progeny will be endowed with good health and intelligence.

Pumsavana - This is performed with the specific desire of getting a male offspring. The pregnant woman is made to undergo this during the third or the fourth month of pregnancy.

Simantonnayana - This consists in the parting of the hair above the forehead ceremonially. It is said to protect the baby in the womb..

Jātakarma - This is performed immediately after the baby is born and before the umbilical cord is cut..

Nāmakaraṇa - This is the naming ceremony. It is generally performed on the eleventh or the twelfth day after birth..

Niṣkramaṇa - During the fourth month, the baby is brought out of the house for the first time where it was born and is blessed by the relatives and friends..

Annaprāśaṇa - Performed after the sixth month, this sacrament of feeding the baby with solid food is primarily meant to wean it away from breast-feeding and gradually get used to normal food..

Cudākarma - This is the first hair-cutting ceremony for the male child performed generally during the third year and before the seventh. A śikhā1 is to be kept..

Vidyārambha or the beginning of primary education by teaching the alphabet is a subsidiary rite..

Upanayāna - This is of primary importance in the life of a dvija.[2] Investiture with the yajñopavīta[3] and imparting the Gāyatrī-mantra are the most important steps..

Samāvartana - This signifies the return of the brahmacārin, after the completion of his student hood, he is now called a snātaka to his house..

Vivāha - Through vivāha or marriage, the snātaka enters into the second stage of life viz., gārhasthya.[4] This stage is considered as very important, since the householder is the prop of the whole society..

Antyesti - This stands for all the post-death ceremonies performed by the survivors of the dead-person for his future welfare. In later dharmaśāstra literature, the four Vedavratas were omitted and the following four were added:.

Karṇavedha - piercing the ear-lobes Vidyārambha - same as akṣarābhyāsa, learning the alphabet.

Vedārambha - first study of the Vedas Keśānta - cutting the hair or shaving the beard
The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, RK Mutt , source

In fact, there are 40 samskaras for householders according to the Gautama Dharmasutra (8.14-21).

गर्भाधान पुंसवन सीमन्तॊन्नयन जातकर्म नामकरण अन्नप्राशन चौड उपनयनं चत्वारि वॆदव्रतानि स्नानं सहदर्मचारिणी सम्यॊग: पञ्चानां यज्ञानां अनुष्ठानं – दॆव पितृ मनुष्य भूत ब्रह्मणां ऎतॆषां च अष्टका पार्वणश्राद्ध श्रावणि आग्रहायणी चैत्र आश्वयुजी इति सप्तपाकयज्ञसंस्था अग्न्याधॆय अग्निहॊत्र दर्शपौर्णमास अग्रयणं चातुर्मास्य निरूढपशुबन्ध श्रॊत्रामणी इति सप्तहविर्यज्ञसंस्थां अग्निष्टॊम अत्यग्निष्टोम उक्थ: षॊडशि वाजपॆय अतिरात्र अप्तॊर्याम इति सप्तसॊमसंस्था इत्येतॆ चत्वारिंशत्संस्कारा: । अथ अष्टावात्मगुणा दया सर्वभूतॆषु क्षान्ति अनसूया। शौचम् अनायासम् मङ्गलं अकार्पण्यं अस्पृह इति। यस्य तु खलु संस्काराणाम् ऎकदॆश अपि अष्टावात्मगुणा अथ स ब्रह्मण सायुज्यं सालॊक्यं च गच्छति गच्छति॥ गौतमधर्मशास्त्रम्, अष्टमोऽध्याय:(Gauthama smrithi)

The forty samskaras which are meant to purify the individual self are: garbhadhana, pumsavana, simanta, jatakarma, namakarana, annaprasana, caula, upanayana, the four rites like prajapatya (Vedavratas) performed during gurukulavasa (the years the celibate student spends in the home of his guru), the ritual bath on completion of gurukulavasa, marriage, the five mahayajnas performed everyday by the householder. We have listed nineteen so far. Then there are seven pakayajnas, seven haviryajnas and seven somayajnas to be conducted by the householder. Thus 19+21=40 The seven pakayajnas are: astaka (anvastaka), sthalipaka, parvana, sravani, agrahayani, caitri, asvayuji. The seven haviryajnas: agniyadhana, agnihotra, darsa-purnamasa, agrayana, caturmasya, nirudhapasubandha, sautramani. The seven somayajnas: agnistoma, atyagnistoma, uktya, sodasi, vajapeya, atiratra, aptoryama. Rites done to the chanting of mantras are more beneficial than those done without it - a sacrament involving mantras is a samskara. the five mahayajnas (brahmayajna, devayajna, pitrayajna, manusyayajna, bhutayajna) together with agnihotra and aupasana are to be performed everyday; darsa-purnamasa and sthalipaka once a fortnight; parvani-sraddha once a month. The other yajnas are to be conducted once a year or at least once in a lifetime.(Hindu Dharma the universal way of life, part 8)

These are the forty sanskara (sacramentary rites). (8.21) Next, the eight virtues of the self: (8.22)Atma gunas Compassion towards all creatures, patience, lack of envy, purity, tranquillity, having a positive disposition, generosity, and lack of possessiveness. (8.23) A man who has performed the forty sanskaras but lacks these eight virtues does not obtain union with Brahman. (8.24) A man who may have performed only some of the forty sanskaras but possesses these eight virtues, on the other hand, is sure to obtain union with Brahman. (8.25) — Gautama Dharma-sutras,

PS - Shrauta karmas are generally performed for the benefit of the world , whereas smartha karmas are done for one's family

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    There is a term Dashakarma. Any idea what it means? Is this the principal 10 samskaras? Commented Mar 27 at 12:57
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    @AmritenduMukhopadhyay , I surmise it could be due attributed to the difference in number of samskaras across various smrithi texts followed by different traditions/(deshachara). I am not sure if there is anything like principal 10 samskaras
    – Athrey
    Commented Mar 27 at 14:32

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