Thursday, July 24, 2014


Hindu Samskaras for Children performed by their Parents
(Compilation for a discourse at Sri Ganesha Temple, Nashville, USA, July 2014)


Our sages realized while death was a journey for the soul birth was its return journey with the purpose of exhausting its Prarabdha Karma and elevate itself progressively. While they thought of several mantras (antyeshti) for elevation of soul on its onward journey, they also contemplated on several mantras welcoming back the soul which could find an abode through the help of the retas (semon) of a man in the womb of a woman.   We have seen several mantras from Upanishads and scriptures on Garbhadharana pleading to gods for its initiation and good progress for its safe and healthy delivery by way of Jaatakarma.  The sages were equally concerned about the growth and well-being of the child during its dependency on its parents before moving to a Gurukula for higher studies. Grihyasutras later regularized many Samskaras in which prayers were offered to gods for its healthy progress and initiation to Aparavidya (secular studies) and Paravidya (spiritual studies) to become a worthy citizen serving the society   while elevating oneself spiritually. These depended on the physical and psychological growth of the child.  These samskaras were performed at each turn of a child’s growth in human society. They also took care   to keep the society informed about the progress the child was making by way of rituals and celebrations. In their thinking the whole world visualized by them was one family—Vasudheka Kutumbakam.  Influenced by the wisdom of Vedas Grihyasutras later codified and standardized   many sacraments.   Among them those pertaining to Balyaavastha or childhood are Jaatakarma, Naamkarana, Nishkramana, Annaprasana,   Mundan, Choulopanayana or Choti, Karnavedhi,  Vidhyaarmabha and Rajaswala (first menstruation of girls).  Signifiance of these ceremonies is discussed below without going into the actual practice by priests and parents. All these Samskaras are aimed at Dharma (ethical duties of individuals) and Moksha (emancipation from desire) the two Purusharthas or goals prescribed for all Hindus as goal in life. Later the child   when grown has to focus on other two Purusharthas, Artha(acquisition of  wealth) and Kaama(family-life affairs).
Any Samskara must be performed at the right time to be absolved of sins.  Samskaras are   believed to wash away our past sins because our body, mind and speech are involved in the Samskara pleading for the divine help and being grateful. Samskaras from Jatakarma to Vidhyarambha described here are performed by the father specifically for the sake of his child.  Rajaswala for girl’s is resorted to by only certain traditions and castes, purely a ladies’ function      initiated by the mother.  The good done by father and mother goes to protect the children say our scriptures. It is our duty in turn to do what our ancestors did to us by way of good which is serving us as the foundation of our moral and intellectual uplift.  


The birth of a child is an occasion for great celebration from very early days.  It is an occasion to feel relieved from anxiety, thank god for his kindness, and to build future  hopes for the family. The time of birth is meticulously noted to prepare the horoscope of the child which Hindus consider is the diary in the life of child for all good and bad happenings which also affect them. Hindus often rejoice at the birth of a son for he would be taking over all the responsibilities from the father and believed   also to release him from ancestral debts.  A sensible Hindu at the same time feels the girl is not less meritorious as she will be providing him the great   opportunity for charity in life called Kanyaadaan or gift in marriage which is considered as a   very sacred act of charity and Maanavaa (Human) Dharma. It is the girl’s contributing factor  and not boy’s. A girl is also considered as Lakshmi bringing luck to the family.

After the birth, father goes to the mother to see the face of the child which is considered as a sacred act.  He then takes a holy bath and performs Naandi shraddha and Jaatakarma ritual. Nandi Sharaddhaa is an auspicious ceremony here though it is called Shraddha. This is to pay respect to immediate deceased ancestors from both sides. This is considered as ancestral debt which should be exhausted by appropriate ritual. The Jaatakarma ritual essentially consists of Punyaha- vachana (purification) ceremony, Sankalpa (resolution), Prokshana (sanctification) and Ishtadevata worship.

Unlike in modern days where the birth takes place in Hospitals,  in olden days the delivery took place at home when the  expectant lady retired to a private room called Sutika Griha a day or two before the delivery, which    was well protected from all sides. Various  gods, the vedic scholars and the cows were worshiped   amidst sounds of conch shells and other musical instruments followed by  the recital of auspicious verses. Many other women also, who had given birth to children, who were capable of bearing hardships, of pleasing manners and reliability, accompanied the expectant mother. They cheered up the woman, and prepared her for safe delivery by means of useful anointment and   diet and living care. When the time for actual delivery came, they made the mother lie on her back. Some rites were then performed for the protection of the house from evil spirits. The place was sanctified to ward off demons. A Brahman loosened all the knots in the house. It symbolized the loosening of the fetus in the womb of the mother. Fire, water, staff, lamp, weapons, mace and mustard seeds were kept in the house. Turyanti plants were also placed before the mother. It was believed that in their absence, terrible bloodsucking demons would kill the new born.

Before the Jaatakarma  proper  a ceremony named Soshyanti karma was performed to expedite the delivery by the grace of God by chanting  the   verse from  Brihadaaranyaka Upanishad as  given below.   If the delivery was safe and the child was born alive a fire was lit in the room to warm utensils and to expose the child to incense fumes as well as mother. This fire was kept burning for ten days in a trough (Agnikunda). Grains of rice and seeds of mustard were thrown into it with appropriate formulas to drive away various kinds of evil spirits. The Sutika fire was regarded impure and it was removed on the tenth day and replaced by domestic fire (garhapatya) after the purification ceremony (Punyahavarchana) of the mother and the child was concluded. The Jaatakarma ceremony is performed only after severing the naval cord. The important part of the ceremony in Jaatakarma was called Medhjanana for imparting intelligence to the child. It is performed chanting the Upanishad mantras.  It is appropriate here to chant Medhasookta given in an appendix. The father with his fourth finger and an instrument of gold gives to the child honey with other prescribed ingredients   chanting the mantra "Bhuh I put into thee: Bhuvah I put into thee; Suvaha I put into the; Bhur bhuvah suvaha, everything I put into thee."  Hindus give top-most importance for intellectual development of the child and so the importance of this ritual.  The mantra employed being part of 
Gayatree mantra as stated below contains prayer for stimulating intellectual talent. The substances, with which the child was fed, were also conducive to mental growth. According to Sushruta,   ghee honey   mixture  developed  beauty; it is greasy and sweet; it is remover of hysteria, headache, epilepsy, fever, indigestion, excess of bile; it  increases digestion, memory, intellect, talent, luster, good voice, semen and life. The properties of honey and gold are equally favorable to the mental progress of the child.   At this function a sacred name was also given to the child namely, "Thou art the Veda," which was   uttered in its ear. This is the secret name known to the parents only and not made public as in Naming Ceremony.

The next part of   the Jaatakarma ceremonies is the Ayushya Homa   or the rites for ensuring a long life to the child. Near the naval or the right ear of the baby the father murmurs, " May you live long  like Agni, trees, sages, ocean, sacrificial fire and others that live long”  He also requests  Vedic scholars to bless the child similarly praying for long life and to witness hundred winters.  He then prays for the strength of the child: "Be a stone, be an axe, be an imperishable gold. Thou indeed art my Self called Aatmaj or Atmaja; May you  live a hundred autumns."   It is believed Gods are invisible spectators to   hear these prayers. On their behalf Vedic scholars are fed followed by charity (daanam) and merriment and receiving the blessings of elders gathered.

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad contains the following Mantras describing the Jaatakarma ceremony   including mantras for recital and prayer.  Jaatakarma   is a post-natal ceremony. The mantras mentioned here are employed for offering oblation to the fire  in Jaatakarma Homa. When the lady is about to deliver the following Mantra is chanted for easy and smooth delivery offering oblation to the fire:

Soshyantee-madhbhir-abhyukshati | Yathaa vaayuh pushkaraneem-samingayati sarvatah Evaa te garbha ejatu sahaavaitu jaraayunaa|| Indrasyaayam vrajah kritah saargalah saparisrayah | Tamindranirjahi garbhena saavaraa(m) saheti ||(6-4-23)

“Just as the wind causes vibration intensely in the lotus pond on all sides, let your fetus also grow and shine! Let it develop with the outer cover! This abode of Indra has been made with the door bolted and fenced all round. O Indra! Dispel the restriction as well as the offence caused by the fully developed child in the womb”—so chanting the husband sprinkles the consecrated water on his wife who is about to deliver the child.

Jaate agnim-upasamaadhaayaangka aadhaaya ka(m)se prishadaajyam samneeya prishadaajyas-yoshaghaatam  juhoti-asmin sahasram pushyaasamedhamaanah sve grihe asyopasadyaam maacchetseet-prajayaa cha pasubhischa swaahaa | Mayi praanaa(m)s-tvayi manasaa juhomi swaahaa |  Yat-karmanaat-yareericham yadvaa nyoonam-ihaakaram | agnishtat-svishtakrid-vidvaansvishta(m) suhutam  karotu nah swaahaa-iti (6-4-24)

When the son is born he brings in the fire, by his side, takes the infant on his lap. He mixes clarified butter with curds in a cup and then offers oblations again and again in the fire reciting the following mantra: “Becoming great in this house of mine may I maintain a thousand people in the company of this child! May I be in the company of this child always! May I never depart with children and animals—Swaahaa! The vital force that is in me, I offer by my mind unto you—Swaahaa!” If I have done anything too much or too little in this ceremony, may the all-  knowing beneficent Agni make it just right for me, neither  too much nor too little, Swaahaa.

Athaasya dakshinam karnam-abhinidhaaya vaag-vaag-iti triratha dadhimadhu ghrita (m) samniyaananatar-hitena jaataroopena praasayati | bhootaste-dadhaami bhuvaste dadhaami swaste dadhaami bhoor-bhuvas-suvah sarvam tvayi dadhamiti   ||   (6-4-25)

Then putting his mouth near the right ear of the child he says thrice, “Speech; Speech; Speech”. Next, mixing curd, honey, clarified butter, he feeds the child with a spoon of gold saying, “I put the earth into you. I put the sky into you, I put heaven into you. I put the whole of the earth, heaven and sky into you”

Athaasya naama karoti Vedo aseeti | tadasya tadguhyameva naama bhavati || (6-4-26)

And then the father gives a name: “You are Veda”. This is   your exclusive  secret name.
Athainaam maatre pradaaya stanam prayacchati – yaste stanah sasayo yoe mayobhooryo  ratnadhaa  vasuvidyah sudatrah  | Yena viswaa pushyasi  vaaryaani sarswati tamihaa dhaatave kariti || (6-4-27)

Then he hands him over to his mother to be breast feed saying: “Oh Saraswati! That breast of yours which is inexhaustible which  is the source of satisfaction, which is full of milk  and which  is the obtainer of wealth  and which is generous   and by which you  nourish all who are worthy of it –  May you transfer all this to my wife to suckle her baby!”

Athaasya maataram-abhimantrayate | ilaasi maitraavarunee veere veeram-ajeejanat | saa tvam  veeravatee bhava yaasmaanveeravato akarad-iti | tam vaa  etam-aahurati-pitaa  bataa-bhoorati-pitaamaho bataabhooh paramaam bata kaashthaam praapachchriyaa yasasaa brahma-varchasena ya evam vido braahmanasya putro jaayata iti || (6-4-28)

Then he addresses the mother of the baby thus (if she delivers a male child): “You are the goddess of speech and Arundhati the wife of Vasishta; you have brought forth a male child with the help of me, who is a man as I am.  Be a mother of many sons, for you have given me a son. Of him who is born as a son of Brahmana with this particular knowledge they say—“you have excelled your father; you have excelled your grand-father; you have reached the highest point by wealth, reputation and Vedic glory”


The importance of naming ceremony can be well summarized by the following verse of Brihaspati, the mythical Guru of the Hindus:   “Indeed all transactions in the world take place through name; name is the cause for   auspiciousness in all actions.  Through name alone a person gains fame; therefore indeed the naming ceremony is praise-worthy”. In the Hindu tradition, naming of a child is not a mere legal formality or a secular social function but also a sacred ritual.

It is a religious sacrament in which identity is not only conferred upon a child for the rest of his life but also passed down to the next generation. Often the middle name is the father’s or mother’s name, thus establishing a connection with one’s parents as a part of self-identity. The last name is indicative of one’s community. It may also indicate the place where the ancestors lived, thus giving an identity within a wider social structure.   In certain communities, it is common to have a name suggesting one’s family profession like Aachaarya, Gupta, Banerjee, Patel etc.   Unfortunately, such names also indicate one’s caste, and give the color that Hindus always cling to their caste title. Sometimes the last name could also be the ‘Gotra’ of the individual, the father’s lineage carrying the name of the sage from whom one’s forefathers descended from. This seems to be the most logical last name as Gotra is required in all religious functions while undertaking the religious vow; every Hindu belongs to a particular Gotra.  Gotra provides an identity with one’s heritage and an intimate bond with child’s ancestors and parents.

Naamakarana is usually done after eleventh day of birth.  The child is made to lick honey, then gently talked to and made to suck, seeking the blessings that the child may be brilliant and glorious like Sun. The child is then made to touch the ground to devotionally surrender to Hindu culture or Dharma. The name of the child is then announced and all the relatives and friends bless the child with good health, happiness and good life.  When a woman is blessed with a child, it is also customary for the child’s maternal uncle (Maama) and maternal Grand-father (Naana) to present clothes, ornaments and other things to the baby, its parents and close relatives. This custom is celebrated as ‘Chhochak’ ceremony in the North.  In South Indian practice it goes as Aaseervaadam by uncle and aunt and Grand Parents on Namakranam Day. Father and Mother are also blessed profusely with gifts. It is usually   performed along with the Naamakarana ceremony. In many families, this ceremony is performed even when a daughter is born. Manu says: “Just as soul and son are alike, so are a son and daughter”.  Namakaranam calls for invoking the family deity as guardian angel for the child throughout his life. So the ceremony introduces the child to Gods, Devatas and sacred elements. The child is invariably taken to temple and often the function itself is performed in the temple. For more details see my detailed discourse on Hindu Naming Ceremony. [Please read the more elaborate discourse on the blog—Namakaranam Ritual   Hindu Naming Ceremony]


Every important step in the progressive life of the child is a joyous and festive occasion for the parents and the family and it is celebrated with appropriate religious ceremonies.  The social fabric in India is so knit that no human activity is segregated from the Divine. In early days there were taboos and mother was confined to small maternity house.    The mother after some months moved out of the small room and began to take part in the family life again and the child whose world was bound with the mother     was also widened. The child could then on be carried to any part of the house. The parents and senior members of the family fondled it and the small children played with it.  After a few months the child gets introduced to the openness of the world.   This is a land mark in the life of the child and the parents give expressions to the sense of joy on this occasion. Life outside the house, however, is not free from natural and supernatural dangers.   Therefore they resort to divine help through prayers  for  of the child’s safety  and to protect it from inadvertent dangers. This celebration is called Nishkramana Ceremony. Nishkramana literally means going forth or going out. This ceremony is performed the first time the child ventures out of home or crosses the door steps.

The time for performing the Niskarmana Samskara varies from the twelfth day after the birth to the fourth month.    According to the Grihyasutras and the Smritis   this Samskara may take place either in the third or in the fourth month after the birth. Hindu scriptures say: "The ceremony of looking at the Sun should be performed in the third, and that of looking at the Moon in the fourth month."   Niskramana   ceremony can also be performed with the First Feeding in the opinion of Asvalayana. There are specific astrological dates when the ceremony should be performed based on the convenience of the parents, the health of the child and suitability of the weather. On the day of performing the Samskara, a square portion of the court yard, from where the sun could be seen is smeared with cow dung and clay, the sign of Swastika is made on it and grains of rice scattered by the mother.  (In olden days these were mud floors in villages which needed plaster as often as possible. Cow dung was also considered as disinfectant.)  The child is fully dressed and bejeweled and brought to the family deity in the house. Then the deity is worshipped with instrumental music. The guardians of eight directions, the sun, the moon, vasu devatas and the sky are all propitiated. Vedic scholars as well as family priest are fed and appropriate mantras are chanted. The child is carried out with sounds of conch shell (Sankha) and   Vedic hymns are chanted. At the time of outing, the father repeats the Sakuntala hymn or the following verse, "Whether the child is conscious or unconscious, whether it is day or night, let all the gods led by Indra protect the child." Then the child is brought to the Pooja room or temple   to perform the worship.   The child is made to bow to the deity and the priest   who in turn blesses the child for long life intelligence and health. After this the child is placed on the    lap of the maternal uncle who brings it back   home. The child is pampered with   toys  and other gifts  with hearty blessings.  Since the child is made up of five elements it is customary for the parents to   propitiate these divine elements and seek blessings form them as the child gets exposed to them besides the main deities Sun  and the Moon.

In the Atharva Veda 8/2/14 it is said:

Sive te staam dyaavaaprithivee asamtaape abhisriyau | sam te soorya aa tapatu sam vaato vaatu te hride | sivaa abhi ksharantu tvaapo divyaah payasvateeh || O Child! At the Nishkramana ceremony may the earth and the whole world shower welfare and benevolence upon you! May the Sun shine brightly upon you! May your chest be filled with fresh life-giving air! May the divine waters quench your thirst!

It is customary to chant the mantras “Trayambakam Yajaamahe” and “asato maa sadgamaya” on this occasion.

Hindu scriptures say: Nishkramanaad-aayusho vriddhir-appyuddishtaa maneeshibhih || The Nishkramana ceremony aims at wishing the child a long and healthy life.


Feeding the child with solid food is the next important stage in the life of the child. So long it was breast-fed with mother’s milk. But progressively its body develops and requires greater amount and different types of food, as the quantity of the mother’s milk diminishes. So, for the benefit and health   of the child and the mother both, it is necessary   to wean away the child   from the mother and substitute her milk externally with food.  Scriptures say: “Annaasanaan matrugarbhe malaasaadyapi suddhayati”—the food reaching the child through the mother may not be good as it should be. The child needs to be introduced to suitable food. Annaprasana Samskara is connected with the task of satisfying the physical and timely need of the child.   

Sushruta, the Ayurveda exponent advises weaning of the child after the sixth month and describes the types of food to be given.  Scriptures suggest that the food reaching the child through the mother in the womb may not be ideal. When the baby is in the mother’s womb, nature provides nutritional requirements through the mother. Even after the birth, when the mother breastfeeds the baby, whatever she eats influences the child.  This ceremony is conducted when the child is six to seven months old and is first introduced to solids. A family Homa and prayer is organized with the participation friends and relatives with the uncle as the special guest and the child is given the first morsel of solid food.  Chandogya Upanishad says:  “Aahaara suddahau sattvasuddhih”-- With pure food the best abilities are generated within the body.  In course of time this ancient practice of feeding the child for the first time with solid food as recommended by Ayurveda assumed a religious shape. What was originally a personal affair became a social affair. The entire social set up   of   Hindus for any significant event in life ends in festivities and rituals.  The social fabric of a Hindu is so knitted that no human activity is segregated from the divine.   Anna Food is life giving substance. It is glorified in Upanishads as Vyaahriti of Brahman and meditated upon as Brahman. Early Hindus therefore thought that there was something mysterious about food from which life emanated in mother’s womb through the retas (semen) of the father through the medium of food. They thought the source of energy and five elements were infused into the child with the help of gods.

But how did Hindus get the idea of this celebration? The corresponding Parsi custom of feeding the child ceremoniously influenced Hindus.  Hindus adopted the Annapraasana an Indo-Iranian ceremony which originated when both of them were living together.  No doubt mantras praising    food are found in the Vedas and the Upanishads, but whether they were sung at an ordinary dinner or on the occasion of the first feeding of the child is debatable.  It seems that the ceremony of feeding the child for the first time came during the Sutra period. The Grihya Sutras contain prescriptions about the time of performance, the types of food and the verses to be recited based on Smritis, the Puranas and other scriptures.

According to the Gihyasutras, the ceremony is performed in the sixth month after the birth of the child based on Early Smritis like Manu and Yajnavalkya.  “The feeding ceremony should be performed in the sixth solar month after the birth; if postponed, it could be  in the eighth, ninth or tenth month; but some learned people are of the view that it might be performed even at the expiry of one year  according to  Grihya sutras.   Further postponement would have adverse effect on the physical well-being of the mother and the digestive capacity of the child. The even months for boys and odd ones for girls are prescribed based on the conviction that Garbhadana on even days resulted in son and odd days in girls.

The types of food are also prescribed in  the scriptures. The general prescription was that food of all kinds and of different sorts of flavors should be mixed together and given as porridge for the child to eat.  By the time child is seven months old teething begins. The child’s digestive system is ready to accept solids. Whatever food is introduced to the child, the body adjusts to it. The body and mind begin to shape in harmony with the kind of food the child eats.  A person is made up of what he eats. So says Geetaa also. A person’s thoughts, feelings desires and the inner self (antahkaranas) are governed by the kind of food one eats. Cereals constitute the basic food. One obtains nutritional requirements from food. Blood, bones, muscles and every part of the body are formed through the food one eats. Therefore one must accept it as gift from god or venerate it as God itself. That is how food is glorified in Taittareeya Upanishad. Our gross body is addressed as Annamaya Kosa, Food Sheath in Upanishads.
Some scriptures prescribe   a mixture of curd, honey and ghee. Different kinds of food, including meat, are recommended for different end results.  In ancient days   father fed the child with the flesh of the bird Bharadvaja, if he wished   the child to be fluent in speech; with flesh of Kapinjala and ghee for  abundance of  nourishment,; with fish for swiftness; with the flesh of the bird Karkasa or rice mixed with honey for long life: with the flesh of the bird Ati and partridge for  holy luster (Tejas), with ghee and rice for brilliance; with curd and rice for strong senses, and with all if he desired everything for the child. From the above it is evident that Hindus were not strict vegetarians like Jains during the Grihyasutra period. They would not refrain from taking meat if that brought physical and mental strength to them. The Gruhyasutras were strongly influenced by   the Vedic idea of animal sacrifice and animal food as Prasadam, so they did not feel any hitch in recommending meat and flesh. The later day tendency however was towards vegetarianism influenced by the philosophy of non-violence and the thinking that the same atman abides in all living beings.  Jainism and Buddhism   influenced the Hindu diet to a great extent but Buddhist also later changed. They now eat beef as well as pork. But animal products like curd, ghee and milk are still retained and regarded as the choicest articles of food for the child.   Markandeya purana recommends porridge of milk and rice with honey and ghee. The popular practice today is that of giving milk and rice.  Scripture on ritual, however, still insist on animal food. Many of the traditions contain the prescriptions go by the guidelines of Grihyasutras.  Probably the reason is that though the   orthodox Hindu religion forbids animal  killing based food,  it is permissible for general category of Hindus. Sastras also say Aapatkaale naasti maryada one can bend the rules when absolutely needed. Hindus can find a reason for everything and objections too! Whatever it is   Ayurveda expert Sushruta says: “One should feed the child in the sixth month with light and suitable food.”

On the day of the feeding ceremony the materials required for preparing the sacred food are first of all sanctified   and then cooked with appropriate Vedic mantras.    When the food is prepared, the first  oblation is offered to Speech with words, “The gods have generated the Goddess Speech, manifold animals speak  prompted by  her. May she, the sweet-sounding, the highly praised one, come to us; Svaaha!” The next oblation is offered to Vigor deified: “May Goddess Vigor come to us today.” Having made the above sacrifices, the father offers further four oblations with the following phrases: “Through up-breathing (Udaana) may I enjoy food, Svaaha! Through down-breathing (Apaana) may I enjoy food; Svaha! Through my Eye Organ (Indriya) may I enjoy visible things. Svaha! Through my Ear, may I hear fame; Svaha!” Here the word “food” is used in a broader sense.  The prayer is offered in order to gratify all the senses of the child so that it may live a happy and contented life. But one thing should be kept in mind. One in search of gratification should not violate the rules of health and morality, because it would spoil the reputation of the man. In the end the father   recites the following mantra from Atharva Veda 8/2/8: Sivo te staam vreehi –yaava-balaa-saavadomadhau | etau yakshmam vi baadheteau munchato  aham sah || O Child!  May barley and rice give you the strength and nourishment! Both destroy serious diseases. Being divine both destroy sin.  Seeking the blessings of the gods, the mother and the father feed the child with kheer (the rice-milk sweet pudding with a silver or gold spoon known for its medicinal values.

The significance of the Annaprasana Samskara is to focus that children should   wean away from their mothers at proper time. They should not be left to the mercy of their parents who often injure their children by overfeeding them in their anxiety without taking into consideration the   digestive capacity of their children. The feeding ceremony also cautions the mother that at a certain time she should stop breastfeeding.   The ignorant mother, out of love for her child, goes on breastfeeding up to a year or more. But she little realizes that thereby she allows her own energy to be sapped away without doing any good to the child. A timely caution is given by the ceremony for the benefit of both the child and the mother.


Face is the index of mind says an English proverb; but a Tamil proverb says, for an eight   measures-of-hand (distance from the tip of little finger to the tip of thumb) body of each individual the prominent part is head.  Human beings are blessed with plenty of hair on head. The nearest living being is Lion, So, we have Narasimha avatar.  Man’s concern was how to make his hair attractive to woman. He started to realize the necessity of keeping short hair for health and beauty.  There was yet another worry.  He was bogged down with hair diseases--Ring worms were a great trouble to primitive people; so also the infection from lice was a concern.   Ayurveda started cutting hair to cure   ringworm.  It even recommended a shaving when the child is about a year old.  Some Hindus resorted to this first shaving of head. "According to Sushruta, shaving and cutting the hair and nails is to remove impurities and give delight, lightness, prosperity, courage and happiness. Charaka opines, "Cutting and dressing of hair, beard and nails give strength, vigor, life, and purity”.   Development of suitable razors and scissors took place along with surgical instruments for Ayurveda.   This human activity of beautification without pain relief being a novel thing became an important event in the life of an individual.

Chopping the hair by means of a sharp instrument was a new and exciting scene.  Shaving often created fear in the mind of the parents. People knew that it would clean the head, but at the same time they were afraid that it might injure the person. Necessity and fear both mingled together gave rise to the ceremonies of Mundan and Chudakarana ceremonies invoking divine blessings.  This needed   celebration.   Hindus always believe that no celebration should be segregated from the divine. So Mundan or complete shaving of head for a child when it reaches the first year became a regular ceremony in many Hindu traditions. Swami Chandrasekahranada Saraswati seems to be not in favor of Mundan for he does not recommend one but recommends Chudakarana or Chaula for baby boys. Chuda Karma is the first cutting of hair on the child’s head.  Chuda means lock or tuft of hair kept after the remaining part is shaved off.  Obviously this is not favored for baby girls and so Mundan for early childhood hair removal seems to be logical.  It is believed since the hair on child’s head is formed in the womb of the mother it is likely to be affected by bad influences of the mother (Gunas) that are not good for the child’s development.  Removal of the first hair on the child’s head aims at development of the mind, mental capabilities, dense hair growth, good health, charm and long life. These sentiments of horror, fear, anxiety and beauty consciousness were responsible for giving the Chudakarana a  prominent role among Samskaras  keeping an eye on   Purusharthas of  later Samskaras of Brhmacharya (Celibacy),  Grihastaasrama (householder), Vanaprastha (retirement) and Sanyasa (spiritual path of recluse).

The purpose of tonsure Samskara as given in the scriptures is for the achievement of long life for the recipient.  Scriptures say life is prolonged by tonsure; without it, it is shortened.  Tonsure is shaving or clipping a portion of the head. This sacrament   is also mandatory in Eastern or Roman Catholic rite of admission to the clerical state probably inspired by Hindu scriptural wisdom. The act of shaving of the head, offering cut off hair as a sacrificial offering to some deity   as a symbol of doing away with ego and surrendering at an advanced   age  may not sound appropriate since tonsure is also resorted to defame adult  persons as in the case of prisoners   or criminals.  But it makes sense if the individual resorts to tonsure to renounce the world and take to sainthood for he no longer cares for beauty. Further this Mundan Ceremony is not necessary for those who go through Choodikarana or Choula and also for girls even though popular in North Indian Hindu Traditions.   Grihyasutra talks about tonsure for the purpose of cutting hair only. Sastras even glorify the barber as Savita or the Sun. This can apply to the temple barber in to-day’s practice of Mundan ceremony invariably performed in temples based on the vow taken. Often these barbers are also Nadaswara Vidwans (musicians of wind pipe instrument). Grihya sootras are more inclined for Chudakarana ceremony for boys. Wetting the head for tonsure is also mentioned in the Atharvaveda indicating shaving and not clipping. The shaving razor is prayed upon to be harmless: "Thou art friendly by name. Thy father is hard iron. I salute thee; do not injure the child."  Father did the cutting often initiating the ceremony which was completed by the barber. Cutting the hair by the father himself was intended for abundance of food, progeny, wealth and strength as mentioned in scriptures.  

The Mundan or complete shaving ceremony is not as popular as Chudakarana or Choulo-panayana. Most have a quiet ceremony at home. Many Hindus travel to places of pilgrimage and perform the ceremony there. The hair is shaved off and offered to a holy river or stream.   After shaving off the hair the sacred symbol AUM is written on the child’s head with turmeric-sandal paste (Antiseptic) and the child is given a holy bath. Ashvaalya Grihyasootra has the following mantra for blessing the child either by grand-father or maternal uncle or family priest as follows: “Tena te aayushe vapaami suslokaaya svastaye”—with the shaving the child is blessed with a long life. May the child develop charm and be inclined towards useful occupation. Yajurveda 3/63 reads: Nivartta –yaamyaause-annaadyaaya prajananaaya | Raays-poshaaya suprajaatvaaya suveeryaaya || Oh Child! I perform the shaving ritual so that you may be blessed with long life!  I perform the ritual so that you may be able to digest the food you eat! May you be productive in what you do! May you be blessed with a happy family and children in your life! May you be meritorious wherever you go!

This function is symbolic, signifying that the acquired malefic or negative influences in the past   have been got rid of and the child is motivated to start a new life with good deeds which would influence the rest of its life.  Hindu life hovered around temple township in olden days. The barbers usually conducted their business on the river bunds. The cut off hair were thrown into the running waters of the river intentionally or otherwise. The bunch of cut off hair of this ritual   was believed to be tainted with bad influences from mother which was now subjected to washing in the sacred water to get rid of negative contributions of the past. This practice gradually assumed an independent role for those who did not aspire for Dwija or twice-born status.
Mundan is normally a quiet ceremony confined to the immediate family members. Now-a-days it is invariably performed at a pilgrimage center like Tirupati and hair is offered as sacrifice. If there are no rivers to dispose of the hair, it is collected by the temple and sent to wig industry, land fill or composite manure. The temple therefore employs its own barbers and the revenue collected enriches temple coffers. This takes care of environmental issues arising out of this ritual.

Chaula is also known as Chudakarma.  Chuda means the lock of tuft of hair kept after the remaining part is shaved off. Sometimes this term is also used to Mundan which is much shorter ritual than Chaula.  It is called Choti in North Indian tradition. It is normal practice for Hindus to keep a choti or Sikhaa—a braid of long hair on top of the head which is considered essential to conduct all auspicious religious rites. The Sanayasis who renounce the world like Sankaracharya do not keep Sikhaa and are completely shaven headed. Now-a-days boys keep the Sikha during the chaula ceremony and then change over to Western style hair-cut due to the changed cultural habits and public life which does not find favor from orthodox circles. However those who practice as priests in temples and who work as ritual guides (Vadhyars) try to keep Sikhas but very learned scholars with western hair style are seen often in this group also. In the North   this class while having Western style haircut try to keep few locks of hair as strands of braid at the back to enjoy best of both sides. It is strange that it is a fashion for some Westerners to completely shave the heads mocking Sanyasis, while some others resort to long braid of hairs who are bracketed with hippy cult. Yet our orthodoxy laments Hindus have lost their culture focusing all their thoughts on tuft of hair and not what contains under it? Sikha is believed to protect Brahmarandra, aperture in the crown of the head where the Sushumna naadi terminates. This naadi is situated between the Ida and Pingala   of the spinal column. Sikha is supposed to generate noble thoughts within the mind. The head houses the brain and pituitary gland that control not only whole body, but also our thoughts, feelings and emotions that guide us through life. It is believed the roots of the hair framing the tuft go down to the control centers in the brain. This is the seat of wisdom and thoughtfulness. It is believed when a   knot is tied with the tuft at the time of the prayer the energy generated within the mind is not lost. With no energy loss there is better growth of mental faculties, wisdom and noble thoughts. This keeps desires and passion within control, boosts self-confidence and increase physical strength and stamina. It also protects one form harmful influences, prevents laziness, improves eyesight and generally helps in attaining success.  With all these virtues it is hard to live in isolation in the society which does not believe in it and jeer at those who practice. All this   is ideal for a real Brahmin who plans to conduct and guide Vedic functions. In theory all Brahmins are expected to follow Dharma but such followers are few and far between among Brahmins who claim their status from birth but not practice. Today even as student-bachelors or as householders we have ceased to chant the Vedas and practice Vedic rites. So, naturally, we do not wear the Sikha also and as such this Samskara is fading out.

Chudakarma is performed between the third and fifth year (I had it in my fourth year) though Grihyasutras prescribe it to be performed at the end of the first year or before the expiry of the third year.   Manusmriti says   "According to the rules of the Vedas, the Chudakarana of all the twice born should be performed either in the first or the third year of the child."       Upanayana is the next important Samskara after Annaprasana most popular among the Brahmin castes today. They combine chudakarma and Upanayana together normally performed in the     seventh or eighth year with Upanayana.  Some postpone to a later period with the concurrence of the priest    because its purpose has become   ceremonial instead of real. In practice, hair is dressed early in the life of the child with Western style  but Chudakarma  ceremonial performance is  postponed up to the time of the Upanayana when it is performed   before the initiation  of Gayatree mantra with all the stipulations  of the scripture.

If desired Chaula ceremony is performed during Uttarayana on an auspicious day and only during day time for boys only. Elaborate Veda mantras are prescribed in Grihyasutras. As normal with such ceremonies Sankalpa, Nandishraddha, Homa and Brahmin feeding are resorted to.

Mother gives a holy bath to the child after the initial rituals, dresses up with new clothes and places the child on the lap of the father sitting before the sacrificial fire who has partaken   blessed sacrificial Prasdam.   Then   looking at the barber he pours down warm water into cold water with the words, "With warm water come hither, Vayu! Aditi, cut the hair." He adds a bit of fresh butter or ghee or some curd to the water and with that water   moistens the hair and says near the right ear: "On the impulse of Savitr may the divine waters moisten the body in order that long life and splendor may be thine." Having disheveled the hair with a porcupine’s quill that has  three white spots he puts three tender sacred  Kusa grass into it with the formula, "Herb, protect this child. Do not inflict pain on it." The father then takes a steel razor and chants   "Thou art friendly by name. Thy father is iron; Salutation   to thee. Do not hurt the child," and cuts the hair with the words, "I cut off the hair for long life, proper digestion of food, productivity, prosperity, good progeny and valor. The razor with which Savitr, the knowing one, has shaven the beard of the Lord Soma and Varuna, with that Oh! Brahman, shave his head, in order that he may be blessed with long life and may reach old age."

Katyaayana smriti says: Without a tied up   Sikha,   Yajna, charity, penance and other auspicious acts are prohibited.

Sadopaveetinaa bhaavyam sadaa baddhsikhena cha |
Visikho vyupaveetascha yatkaroti na tatkritma

Maharshi Vedavysa proclaims without a Sikha even virtuous deeds become demonical:

Vinaa yachchikhayaa karma vinaa yajnopaveetam |
Raakshasam taddhi vijneyam samastaa nishphalakriyaah ||

When bathing, giving charity, meditating, offering oblations to fire and praying to the gods the   end of the Sikha must be tied in a knot:

Snane daane jape home sandhyaayaam devataarchane |
sikhaagranthim sadaa kuryaad-ityetat manuraabraveet ||


Karnavedhi means piercing the ears.  It is one of the sixteen Hindu Samskaras. This ceremony is performed when the child is 1 to 3 years when the child’s ear is tender.  Piercing is done with silver wire. Royalty does it with gold wire too. Steel wire is also in vogue. In the mid-point of the ear lobe is the point that cures convulsions.    This serves as vaccination or immunization and antibodies are created in the body and the child gets natural immunity. This is often equated with acupuncture technique used to ward off sickness. It is believed that the working of the both sides of the mind is enhanced with gold in the ears. It is also believed that the rays of light pass through pierced hole increasing the intelligence for both boys and girls. The child is also made to wear a gold chain. All the chains and necklaces worn on neck activate Vishuddhi and Anahata Chakra Nadis.  It is further believed wearing of gold earrings by women helps to regulate menstrual periods and also provides relief in problems like hysteria. The wearing of   gold nose rings protects women from nasal problems and provides relief in cough and colds. Sushruta says, "Ears of a child should be bored for protection (from diseases in his opinion) and decoration." Piercing of ears and making a hole   prevents hydrocele and hernia. Thus it is preventive measure to avoid some diseases. A hymn in Atharvaveda mentions about the piercing the ears of a cattle during the ceremony of earmarking the cattle and nowhere it is mentioned as sacrament for children. Sushruta gives a wise advice that a surgeon should pierce the ears. Normally this is done by experienced family goldsmith in India.  Voluntary piercing was   made compulsory  by Hindu society during the Muslim occupation  of the country to identify Hindu children from Muslim children.

On an auspicious day the ceremony is performed in the first half of the day. The child is seated facing towards the east and given some sweet candy to chew.  Then right ear is pierced for the boy first followed by left chanting the Shanti Mantra from Upanishads:

Bhadram karnebhih srunuyaama devaa bhadram pasyaema-akshabhiryajatrah |   sthirairangaistushtuvaam sastanoobhirvyasomahi devahitam yadaayuh  || 

Oh Ye Gods! May we hear with our ears what is auspicious; Oh worshipful Ones! May we with our eyes see what is auspicious! May we live the entire length of our allotted life hale and healthy, offering praises unto thee! [This reminds me of our priests applying sandal paste to deities with the Mantra Gandhadvaaraam just because the word Gandha appears in the mantra. Here the Mantra is addressed to Mother Earth identified with odor. In the above mantra   the word Karna meaning ear is the motivator.]

For girls, the left ear is pierced first followed by right ear.  In some traditions left nose of the girl is also pierced for wearing nose ring.

The ceremony concludes with honoring the family goldsmith and   feasting   the family priest and Vedic scholars. It is customary to keep the child on the lap of maternal uncle during piercing ceremony. In some traditions the ritual is more elaborate offering prayer to several deities and inviting close relatives.


We do not find much details as to how this Sacrament was motivated. In Uttarakanda of Valmiki Ramayana there is a lone reference to this ceremony being performed by Sage Valmiki    to Lava and Kusa after the Chaula (tonsure) ceremony starting primary education in many sciences before the commencement of the study of Vedas. Vedas mention briefly the need for Medhajnaana (Apara Vidya) for all individuals before Brahmajnaana (Para   Vidya).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              
Swami Vivekananda’s ideas on education are astonishingly the same as expressed by many Western savants.  Paravidya helps one to be fully prepared for the life hereafter by the acquired spiritual wisdom. Aparavidya is needed to live a comfortable life in this life however short lived it may be, for which the latter educationists went all out exclusively to the utter neglect of the former. A balanced combination of both is needed to lead a comfortable life for cultural progress and spiritual evolution. Einstein said: “Religion without science is lame and science without religion is blind”.  Bhagaveeda’s saying “Na hi Janaanena sdarisam” No knowledge is greater than spiritual knowledge is the motto of Mysore University.

The lower knowledge (Apaara Vidya) is the realm of science which is based on the measurement and observation of the external. It allows us to better understand and control forces of nature. The higher knowledge is based upon meditation and direct perception of the workings of the mind. This alone brings liberation and the attainment of immortality whereby one goes beyond the realm of time and space. Though science has its place, it has limitations and where the material science ends, the spiritual science begins. The wise statesman of India Rajaji said: “The greatest of our inventions cannot reach the border lines of metaphysics”.   To be truly scientific minded, we must recognize both levels of truth and give each its respective place. Our wise sages called Rishis created an integral science for all humanity including both in their proper places.

Vidyarambha Is also known by other names as Aksharaabhyyasa, Akshara Sweekarana and Akshara Lekhana.  Vidhyaarambha is a very important step in a child’s life to start the process of   Apara Vidya or Secular Education.  After few years Para Vidya or Spiritual Education also is initiated at another ceremony called Upanayana while the Apara Vidya also continues side by side. Therefore in the opinion of many Vidhyarambha starts at Upanayana.   So Vidhyaarambha is clubbed together with Upanayana. Hence Vidhyarambha though a very important sacrament did not attract the focus of Hindu scriptures like Grihyasootras  as it did with Garbhadana, Upanayan, Vivaha, Sanyasa, Anthyeshthi. It seems very strange that the Grihyasutras and the Dharmasutras deal with even insignificant ceremonies like the Nishkramana and Annaprasana of a child, but lukewarm towards Vidyaarambha, which marks the beginning of the primary education and is the most important landmark in the life of a child.   There may be yet another reason as to the indifference shown in scriptures to this Samskara though included in the list. Sanskrit was spoken language in those days.    Initiation of the child to recitation of slokas (religious hymns)   as we do to infants in Baala  Vihars or at homes (nursery rhymes) to-day was in vogue earlier too. The actual initiation to writing could have started only after Upanayana. Actually   writing mode started at a very high stage of civilization, when alphabets were evolved and utilized for writing purposes. We hear for the first time Ganesha writing Mahabharata as dictated from memory recordings of Veda Vyaasa in scriptures. Therefore Vidyarambha may even mean initiation oral initiation and memory building.
For a child, having proper attitude towards knowledge is at least, if not more, important as the learning itself.  
Therefore it is considered as a sacred religious ceremony in which prayers are offered to the Lord.  Lord is   invoked in the form of deities such as   Saraswati, Medhaadevi, Datrtatreya (universal Guru), Vedavyaasa (he is considered as an incarnation of Vishnu) and Subhramanya (Guruguha). Vishwaksena or Ganesha are also invoked as they are propitiated before starting any religious act.

The Vidyarambha samskara is performed in the fifth year of the child according to Visvamitra.   It can be postponed to a later year but must be performed some times, before the Upanayana ceremony. When the sun is in Uttarayana after Makara Sankranti, an auspicious day is chosen for its celebration.   The child is given a holy oil bath, exposed to incense (dhoopa), and dressed up with new clothes and jewels. Vaishnavites   propitiate Narayana, Lakshmi and Saraswati after worshiping Vishwaksena to remove all obstacles.  Homa is then performed with Medhasookta  as given below. After this Homa the teacher, facing towards the east, performs the Akshara Aarambha of the child who faces   west. The Samskara consists of writing and reading both. Saffron, turmeric and other substance are scattered on a silver plank and letters are written with a gold pen.  When not affordable it is done on grain of rice in a silver platter. I did it on sand and my Guru was my mother. Normally father does that in the absence of the family Guru.     Followers of Siva start the worship with Ganesha pooja and propitiate Siva and Parvati, universal parents and Lord Subhrahmanya, Guruguha.   Then the child worships the teacher or whosoever initiates writing.    The teacher makes the child write three times each letter starting with AUM and Aa and the first alphabets of names of Gods. The child is made to read   what it wrote thrice.  The child is then   made to offer clothes and money to the teacher (as Gurudakshian).  It then goes round the deities three times in circumambulations.  The teacher and the elders then bless the child.  Elderly married woman living with husbands wave colored water of vermillion in which a lamp glows before the child and bless the child with turmeric colored rice (Akshata). The teacher is honored as the chief guest by tying a turban on his head and the invitees are lavishly feasted as is customary in any happy occasion or ceremony.


Historically, a menstruating girl in Hindu concept is considered sacred and powerful with increased psychic abilities, and strong enough to heal the sick. Rajaswala means one who is in periods; Raja means blood.

In South India, girls who experience their menstrual period for the first time are given presents and celebrations to mark this special occasion. After the purification   bath (Ritusnaana) on the fourth day the girl wears new clothes and ornaments, worship Devi and honor Mother and  Suhasinis (married ladies living with their husbands). The mantra for Ritusnaana runs as follows;

Yaasaam  devaa divi krinvanti pakshamyaa bahudaa nivishthah |
Yaa agnim garbham tadire suvarnaas taasta aapah sak(ga)syonaa bhavantu ||

The waters that provide food to the divines, the water that divines planned for many of their purposes and  the waters that can bear fire contained in them, may those waters provide you happiness and good coupling!

She should then pray and make offerings to Gods. After that only she should see her family members.  The girl is then made to sit and blessed by elderly married ladies (Suhasinis) who anoint her with Haldi, and sandal paste and  apply  Kumkum and flowers.  The girl is honored as Goddess Lakshmi, Parvati, Gowri etc., just as bridegroom is honored as Vishnu.  The elderly ladies are given green gram salted lentils and sweet puddings offered to Goddess as prasadam. If the girl is already married before the first menstruation she should see her family physician or family Guru and then see her husband. It would be ideal day for her to have her first night with her husband if married. (In Vedic tradition the girl was given in marriage near about the age of puberty to a boy who had just completed Gurukula studies, but not after her puberty which later got into the practice of child marriage.  This is prohibited by law under Sarada Act now). The child born to her will be like the first person she sees after the purifying bath.  

Poorvam pasyet ritusnaataa yadrisaa naramanganaa |
tadrisam janayet putram bhartaaram darsyet  tatah ||

This ceremony above draws its inspiration from divine Devi Traditions. In Shaktism the Earth's menstruation is celebrated during the Ambubachi Mela, an annual fertility festival held in June, in Assam, India. During Ambubachi, the annual menstruation course of the Goddess Kamakhya is worshipped in the Kamakhya Temple.  The temple stays closed for three days and then reopens to receive pilgrims and worshippers. It is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in the world, attracting millions of visitors each year, particularly for Ambubachi Mela which draws upwards of 100,000 pilgrims per day during the 4-day festival.

Rajo Parba or Mithuna Sankranti is a four day long festival and the second day signifies beginning of the solar month of Mithuna from which the season of rains starts. It inaugurates and welcomes the agricultural year all over Odisha, which marks, through biological symbolism, the moistening of the sun dried soil with the first showers of the monsoon in mid-June thus making it ready for productivity. It is believed that the mother goddess Earth or the divine wife of Lord Vishnu undergoes menstruation during the first three days. The fourth day is called as Vasumati gadhua or ceremonial bath of Bhudevi. The term Raja has come from Rajaswala (meaning a menstruating woman) and during medieval period the festival became more popular as an agricultural holiday remarking the worship of Bhudevi, who is the wife of lord Jagannath. A silver idol of Bhudevi is still found in Puri Temple aside Lord Jagannatha.

UPANAYANA SAMSKAARAM FOR BOYS—this is the last Samaskara which is parent’s responsibility to perform and send the child to Gurukula. Please visit the Blog for a detailed discourse on the subject—Upanayan Samskara (August 2011) [At present in Hindu Society  this  sacrament is confined to  Brahmins and few  Upper castes like Saurashtra community, Vaisya, Kshatriya etc.,  for   boys only though was universal to all. I believe both Rama, a Kshatriya and Krishna, a Soodra born as men underwent Upanayana Samskaara.  Vedic scholars like Maitreyi  and Gargi underwent Upanayana samskaara too.]


This contains a bunch of Vedic Mantras for meditation on Medhaa-Devi for granting intelligence. Medha means intelligence and Sookta means good sayings. With the blessings of Goddess after chanting these mantras we will be speaking nice and good words only to others that will carry force and make life pleasant and more meaningful and make us useful citizens. This is also a prayer to grant us wealth.  

“Yaschchandasaam rishabhoe viswaroopah | Chhandoebhyoe- adhyamritaat sambabhoova || sa mendroe medhayaa sprinoetu || Amritasya deva dhaaranoe bhooyaasam| sareeram may vicharshanam | jihvaa may madhumattamaa | karnaabhyaam bhoori visruvam | brahmanah koesoe asi medhayaapihitah | srutam may goepaaya  ||

He whose form is manifold, who is pre-eminent among the sacred hymns of the Vedas, and who has sprung up from the sacred hymns that are immortal—that  symbol of OM (referred to as Indra here) may fill me with intellectual vigor!  O Lord! May I become the possessor of the immortal revelations! May my body become able and active, my speech sweet and agreeable to the utmost! May I listen abundantly with my ears! Thou art the sheath of Brahman. May you preserve my learning! 

 Medhaa devee jushamaanaa na aagaad-viswaachee bhadraa sumanasya-maanaa |
Tvayaa jushtaa jushamaanaa duruktaan brahmad-vadema vidadhe suveeraah ||

May the Goddess of Intelligence who pervades all things and who is always associated with good-will towards all, come to us with love. Oh Goddess! May we who were previously indulging in vile words, speak words that are good and virtuous, after being blessed in that endeavor!

Tvayaa jushta  rishir-bhavati devi tvayaa brahma-aagatasree-ruta tvayaa \
Tvayaa jushtas-chitram vindate vasu saa noe jushasva dravineno na medhe ||

Oh Goddess!  one becomes a wise  person (seer) being blessed by you; one becomes Brahma,one who attains spiritual wealth and knowledge; one who  gains fabulous wealth blessed by you; Oh Goddess Medha of that fame, please bless us with that wealth!

Medhaam ma indro dadaatu medhaam devee sarasvatee |
Medhaam me asvinau devaa vaa-dhattaam pushkara-srajaa ||

May Indra grant us intelligence!  May Goddess Sarasvati grant us intelligence1! May the Asvin twins grant us intelligence adorned with lotus flower garlands! [Goddess Lakshmi is the presiding Goddess for Indra and others]

Apsaraasu cha yaa medhaa gandharveshu cha yan-manah |
Devee  medhaa manushyajaa saa maam medhaa surabhir-jushataam ||

May the glorious intelligence that abounds in the divine nymphs (apsaras), gandharvas and divines and noble men come to me! [In essence may the intelligence found in all others come to me]

 Aamaam Medhaa surabhir-visva-roopaa hiranya-varnaa jagatee jagamyaa |
Oorjasvatee payasaa pinvamaanaa saa maam medhaa suprateekaa jushataam ||

May the Goddess Medhaa who is the most celebrated, who is the cosmic energy with golden hue and who is ever on the move come to me!

Mayi medhaam mayi prajaam mayaa-agnis-tajoe dadhaatu | mayi medhaam mayi prajaam mayeendra indriyam dadhaatu | mayi medaham mayi prajaam mayi sooryo  bhraajo dadhaatu ||

May Agni the God of Fire bless me with intelligence, progeny and fame! May Indra the God of the Divines bless me with intelligence, progeny and sense organs! May Soorya bless me with intelligence, progeny and brilliance!


Pranoe devee Sarasvatee | Vaajoebhih vaajaneevati | dheenaam  avatri avatu ||

Oh Sarasvati! Bless me with plenty and opulent life and be the controller of our thoughts!

Paavakaa nah Sarasvatee | Vaajoebhih vaajaneevati yajnam vashtu dhiyaavasuh ||

Sarasvati is our purifier. She is the giver of plenty and opulent life. She is the treasure of intelligence and thoughts.

Choedayitree soonritaanaam | Chetantee sumateenaam | yajnam dadhe Sarasvatee ||
She  bestows good speech. She brings good thoughts to mind. May she bless this sacrifice (Yajna)!

Mahoe arnah Sarasvatee |pra chetayati ketunaa | dhiyoe visvaa viraajati ||

May you awaken the great truth in me by helping me to visualize consciousness! May you brighten all my thoughts! (Sarsvatisooktam of Rigveda)
1.      Prem Bhalla, Hindu Rites, Rituals, Customs and Traditions, Pustak Mahal, New Delhi, India.
2.      Swami Bhaskarananda, The Essentials of Hinduism, Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, India.
3.      Chandrasekharananda Saraswati, Hindu Dharma, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai, India.
4.      Swami Nityanand, Symbolism in Hinduism, Central Chinmaya Mission Trust, Mumbai, India.
5.      Sanathana Dharma.Org, and other Internet sources.
6.      Ananta Rangacharya, N.S., Principal Upanishads, Bengaluru India.

[This discourse material is a compilation from the reference materials above as well as other sources for a prepared lecture for delivering at Vedanta Class of Sri Ganesha Temple which is gratefully acknowledged. I do not claim anything as original though I have included my explanations and comments elaborately suitably editing. Anybody is free to download partly or fully this discourse, modify and redistribute this as well as other  discourses from the blog Hindu Reflections <> for spreading the wisdom of Vedas and scriptures further.  These  lectures are  posted on the blog for the benefit of those who are not able to attend my lectures personally due to personal reasons or due to not living in Nashville or able to go through the various sources as I have done.]


Why Do Hindus Wear the Tuft of Hair Called Shikha
Posted by The Editor | May 25, 2015 | IndiaDivine.Org  
Shikha is a tuft of hair at the back of head specifically kept by Vaishnavas and Brahmanas. According to the Vedic culture, when a person undergoes the chuda-karana-samskara (hair-cutting ceremony) and upanayana (Vedic initiation), he must shave his head, leaving a tuft of hair called a sikha.
It is an established rule that anyone who recites Vedic mantras should not have hair on face and head. So, those who need to perform Vedic rituals are advised to remove their hair.
Our human body has seven energy centers, or chakras, starting from the first at the base of the spine (Mooladhara Chakra) to the seventh and last one – the Sahasrara Chakra. The kundalini is the snake like subtle energy lying coiled at the base chakra, which through yogic exercise can be made to uncoil and rise up through the chakras, finally to the top one, the Sahasrara. The master, one who has achieved the final goal, or enlightenment or perfection or union, is one wherein the kundalini would have reached the Sahasrara chakra.
A Brahmin is one who after all his interim intellectual pursuits, is in ultimate search of this final union or state of perfection. At this point he is said to be one with the Brahman. This is the brahmin’s final goal.
The shika covers that part of the skull wherein lies the final chakra – the Shasrara  Chakra. He retains the hair to protect it. Then the question would arise, why shave of the rest of his head?
One of the main rituals of the Brahmin’s practice is the Surya Vandana, and Sandya Vandana. It is believed that the sun is the primary source of clean energy not just to the physique, but also to the mind. He wants the uninterrupted rays of the sun to fall on his brain and soak in. (Remember, hair, like our nails, is dead matter.) He stands in the sun three times a day to pray, chant his mantras and meditate – facing the sun.
However, there are many reasons for having Shikha:
1.) When a devotee leaves his body Krishna pulls the soul from the top most chakra which is on the head under the shikha.
2.) It is said that according to the karma of a soul, the living entity at the time of death leaves the body from different places, from mouth, nose, etc… But a devotee who leaves this body from that chakra (sahasrara at the shikha) attains high planets of the Spiritual world.
3.) Also hair is needed to protect that chakra. Women do not cut their hair, because their other lower chakras are not protected well, but if they have long hair they protect them with their hair.
4.) Shikha is also like a spiritual antenna on the top of the head meant to show to the Lord and that we are aspiring recipients of His causeless mercy.
5.) One must have a sikha to perform any kind of yajna. Therefore in Indian tradition all the brahmanas, Vaisnava or otherwise, keep a sikha. Although there seem to be no sastric injunctions regarding the size of the sikha, Gaudiya Vaisnavas traditionally keep the sikha about the size of a calf’s hoof-print, approximately 1.5 inches (5 – 6 cm.) in diameter.
6.) Srila Prabhupada mentioned this in a conversation with some of his disciples in Hawaii (6.5.1972): “Gaudiya Vaishnava shikha is an inch and a half across — no bigger. Bigger shikha means another sampradaya…. And they have to be knotted.”
7.) The shikha may be any length, but it should be kept tightly knotted and only untied when you are washing, The Hari Bhakti Vilasa observes that members of the upper classes even tie the sikha before taking the final ablutions of a bath. This particularly applies when bathing in a body of water such as a river or a lake, in which case to not tie the shikha prior to bathing is considered low class and disrespectful to the sacred rite of bathing.
You may tie it in a simple manner for bathing, retying it more carefully after the bath. Also, when going to sleep, attending funeral rites, or observing a period of mourning, you should keep the shikha untied. Since an untied shikha is a sign of a death in the family, it is inauspicious to go about one’s daily duties with an untied shikha. It is also said that if one keeps the shikha untied, the body may become weak.
While tying your sikha after bathing, chant the Hare Krishna mantra, or, if initiated with Gayatri mantras, silently chant the Brahma-gayatri (first line of Gayatri). The shikha should not be braided (traditionally only women braid their hair), nor should it be kept long and disheveled. Naturally, if the shikha is too short to be tied, it is all right to leave it open, but it should not be disheveled.
8.) Significance of Shaving head – It is a symbol of renunciation. If you see materialists, they are extremely fond of hair. Decorating hair etc pulls us into bodily consciousness. This is not good for practicing spiritualists. So as an indication of renunciation from material consciousness devotees shave head.
9.) Significance of shikha – Another view: It is a symbol of duality of souls and supreme Lord. Impersonalists believe that there is no duality between the supreme and the living entity and they are expected to shave their heads completely. Vaishnavites believe in the philosophy that there is clear and eternal distinction between supreme god Krishna and living entities. The shikha is symbol of Krishna which is large and the remaining very little hair is the symbol of insignificant and innumerable conditioned living entity
10.) Scientific Reasons for Having a Shikha:
(A) A person who keeps Shikha attracts cosmic energy which imparts enlightment.
(B) The small portion of hair that hangs from behind our head applies little pressure on our brains that helps one to improve concentration and mind control and improve memory.
From the time of the Vedas, the shikha was a distinguishing feature of the Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas. It signified the ‘twice-born’ or all those Upanayanam has been performed. At the time of Chudakarana, a tuft of hair was left on the head, never to be cut. This shikha covered a large part of the brain. According to Sushruta, the reason that a few tufts are left on the head is that at the crown, an artery joins a critical nerve juncture. Since an injury to this part of the head is believed to be fatal, it was considered necessary to protect the area by keeping a tuft of hair over it. The shikha was a symbol of superiority and of cleanliness.
Any religious or auspicious ceremony required the shikha to be tied in a knot. The knot was tied to the accompaniment of the Gayatri Mantra. An untied shikha was a symbol of disgrace, impurity and mourning.