Hindu views on Conception and Child-birth , and Nisheka Samskara?
(Compilation for a discourse by N. R. Srinivasan, Nashville. TN, USA, May 2014)
Hindu samskaras cover an individual’s entire life span from conception to funeral rites—“Nishekaadi smasaanaantakam”—from the time one is conceived in mother’s womb to the time when one’s body is offered to Agni. Nisheka (copulation) is a rite performed with sacrificial fire as the witness. Nisheka literally means sprinkling. This is the Hindu religious licensing ceremony for conception after the marriage ceremony.
This Samskara is not very seriously taken as a ritual though life starts here. Mostly it is included with marriage ceremony along with Grihapravesam chanting few Vedic mantras clubbed with marriage ceremony. I believe this ritual is also meaningful to surrogating parenting looking at the incidences and circumstances of parenting in Mahabharata. Though not a popular Samskara to-day this is mentioned as the very first Samskara, a Hindu has to go through. Its religious part is usually added on today as the concluding part of Grihapravesam ceremony, a part of marriage ceremony, among the orthodox or Brahmin community. Others make it a social event wishing couples a Suhag Rath, a beginning of First Good Night enjoyment of married couples together in privacy.
At the moment conception takes place, an immortal soul enters the universe for the first time. This unique human being is touched by the Divine and is a gift from the Creator. God places this beautiful gift into the womb of a mother for protection. In Hindu tradition when married couple think of a baby for the first time and desire to have successful union to fulfill their desire they first offer their prayers to God. A couple enters Grihastaasrama Dharma on being married and get licensed to lead a lawful married life in the society. Their first desire to beget a child is considered as sacred act of charity because such a conception also helps a soul to re-enter the world because of its past Karmas and eagerly waiting for a suitable abode. This charity initiated by the husband though interpreted as solely a charity by the husband, its religious benefits are equally shared by the wife who willingly and happily cooperates as Sahadaharmini or equal partner. The human born of that conception gets an entry to the world to work his or her way to elevate the soul in her or him and reduce the burden of past Karmas if not tempted to accumulate fresh karmas. Hence it is considered as an act of charity. Human pair copulates whenever there is a physical urge. But this union must be constrained and regulated unlike in animals. Animals multiply enormously during mating season but unlike humans they have very short span of life.
Aahaara-nidraa-bhaya-maithunam cha saamaanyametat pasubhirnaraanaam |
Dharmo hi teshaam adhiko visesho dharmena heenaah pasubhih samaanaah ||
Eating (or things needed for survival), sleep, fear from somebody and sex life (for reproduction), these habits are common between human beings and animals. (In this respect we can’t differentiate between man and animal). It is "dharma" which is additional important quality of man, without which he is same as an animal.
First Night Union of Humans begins with prayers to the Supreme with noble intentions. It is quite clear that this rite as it started was not a religious fiction but a ceremony corresponding to facts, though its adherents, later on, fought shy of, and ultimately, abandoned it.
The derivation of the word “Garbhaadhaana” is “garbhah sandhaarayate yena samskaara-karmanaa tat” –that act by which the Jeeva (individual soul) embryo is well borne. Where does Jeevaatman travel after so called death? After the death of a previous form, the Jeeva is offered unto the piru-loka, the world of ancestors, from where it is offered unto the parjanya, rains. Through the rains the Jeeva travels to the Oshadhis, the plant kingdom, from where it is offered unto the Purusha, the father. By garbhadhana the Jeeva is offered unto the mother’s womb. Each stage of the Jeeva’s travel brings about a transformation of the form and is considered to be a Yajna or sacrifice. In this five stage Yajna, Jeeva is the aahuti or offering--The fire altar (Agnikunda), the ancestral world, rains, plant kingdom, father and the last mother’s womb. Garbhaadaana is thus a samskaara or sacrament for sanctification of conception.
Sage Saunaka defines Garbhadana as “the rite by the performance of which a woman receives the rethas (semen) scattered by her husband called Garbhalambhanam or Garbadaanam. In popular practice, the bride and the groom have a special function coupled with Grihaprvesam where they engage in sexual activity on the very first night at a pre-determined auspicious time. Nishekam is the ritual associated with first sexual intercourse among Hindus. First intercourse is allowed only in the night of 4th day after Vivaham (marriage) in many religious traditions. Nishekam ceremony depends upon which Grihya Sutras the locality and family follows. Majority of the North Indians follow Shukla Yajurveda, so they do it on 4th day after Vivaha (marriage). Those who follow Kalpasutras observe it just after Griha Pravesham, which occurs next day of marriage in many areas. After Griha Pravesha and before Nishekam the couple is not allowed to talk or see each other. The bride is kept in the company of ladies up to Nisheka. This first night of mating is called Suhag Raat in North India and Prastam in Tamil Brahmin practice.
The main purpose of marriage is to have worthy children. It is the fond hope of married couples to bring forth healthy children intelligent and capable who learn good moral values and bring happiness and credit to the family. If a man and woman desire a child of their wish it needs to be planned. This thought lingers even if they are reminded of theory of karma. Strangely Upanishads, Hindu Scriptures and the Ayurveda manuals say the birth of worthy child can go according to plan.
A background study of the Garbhadhana Samskara as described in Upanishads and scriptures are very interesting from the cultural point of view. Here man is neither expressing a desire at the prospects of a child and only seeking the help of gods to secure it, nor conception here is a haphazard accident without any desire for the progeny. Here we come across people who approached their wives with a definite purpose of procreating 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. Marriage is considered as an act of charity called Kanyaadana in Hindu way of life in which girl’s father gives away the bride in an act of charity to boy’s family for an everlasting bondage bringing the two families together. Similarly Garbhaadan is considered as another act of charity by the husband to bring forth progeny with good planning and intentions to serve the society and promote Dharma.
There is a reference to conception in Smriti sangraha:
Nishekaad baijikam chaino gaarbhikam chapamrijyate |
kshetra samaskaarasiddhischa garbaadaana phalam smritam ||
A well planned mating of the couple ensures a suitable conception that results in a capable child. The negative qualities in the semen and the ovum become ineffective. A good conception is the fruit of understanding and mutual planning.
In Sushruta Samhita 2/46/50 it is said:
Aahaar-aachaara-cheshtaabhir-yaadrisobhih samanvitee |
Stree-pumso samupeyaatam tayoh puthro-api taadrisah ||
Depending on the diet, temperament and behavior, of the man and woman at the time of physical intimacy, the son born of such a union will also have a similar temperament. (Sushruta is the famous ancient physician of Ayurveda)
Planning does not only confine to time when the couple desire to have a child after marriage but also the physical and emotional harmony between the couple. It also depends on the health of the parents. Emotions of the couple at the time of mating pass on to the fetus. Hindus often call the son as Aatmaj and daughter as Aaatmaja, meaning the self or their own image.
Lord Dhanvantari and Upanishads say choice of son or daughter or their complexion and intellectual capability can be planned as described later in this discourse. Dhanvantari says when a lady has physical intimacy midway between menstrual cycles she will be blessed with a son. Hindu scriptures say that the sex of the child is subject to change with Pumsavana ritual. This ritual is performed during the third month of pregnancy praying for a male child. Scientific facts are not in agreement with this. Ovum of the mother carries chromosomes that are all marked X. Sperms of the husband carries both X and Y. At the time of conception if a sperm carrying X chromosome meets the ovum it is fertilized to produce a girl. If the sperm carries Y chromosomes a boy is born. This is by chance and not by choice. But the early prediction of the gender of the fetus is possible.
It is believed the best time to conceive is between 12 o’clock in the midnight and 3 p.m. A child conceived during day is said to be mean and of bad habits. We are all familiar with the Puranic story of the birth of Hiranya Kasipu. The demon Hiranyakssipu son of Kasyapa and Diti was conceived in the evening. Same is the story of Ravana who though born to Saatvic Brahmin parents turned out to be Rakshasas. This shows in olden days Hindus attached importance to the time of mating and season of mating.
Medical research reveals that the mental state of the couple at the time of intimacy affects the characteristics conveyed through the semen and the ovum. A child is a product of the emotional bonding of the parents.
Hindus believe sexual intimacy between married couples is a sacred act. Therefore Garbhadana is given the top consideration amongst Sixteen Samskaras or sacraments prescribed for Hindus. This samskara derives its strength and religious injunctions from Brihadarnyaka Upanishad and Bhagavadgeetaa. In Hindu marriages, the bride is symbolized as Vishnu and the bridegroom as Lakshmi, and they are honored as such during the ritual.
A child is first born of a good father and mother, and then he is born again of the spiritual Guru and the Vedas. The first mother and father bring about his birth into the world; then the spiritual Guru and the Vedas become his second father and mother. According to the Vedic system of marriage for producing children, every man and woman is to be enlightened in spiritual knowledge, and at the time of their conjugation to produce a child, everything is done scrutinizing scientifically.
Physical union of Man and woman should not be based on mere sex life. There are many other considerations, especially character and taste. If the taste and character differ between the man and woman their combination will be unhappy. Twelfth Canto of the Bhagavatam prophesies that in this age of Kaliyuga married life will be accepted on the consideration of sex only; when the boy and girl are pleased in sex, they get married, and when there is deficiency in sex, they separate. That is not actual marriage, but coming together of men and women like animals. Therefore, the children produced in the modern age are often not exactly human beings. Human beings must be twice-born.
According to Vedic principles, the first phase of life (asrama) should be utilized in Brahmacharya or celibacy for the development of character and spiritual qualities. In the next phase of life, one may accept a wife and beget children, but one should not beget children like animals. There are two kinds of children born of good fathers: one is a spiritually inclined so that he can be delivered from the clutches of Maaya in this very life and the other is a ray of the Supreme Personality of Godhead who can teach the world the ultimate goal of life.
Great householders pray to God to send His representative so that there may be an auspicious movement in human society. This is one reason to beget a child. Another reason is that a highly enlightened parent can train a child so that the child will not have to come back again to this miserable world. Parents should see to it that the child born of them does not enter the womb of a mother again. In this age, neither parents nor their children are trained; both are animalistic and simply eat, sleep, mate, defend, and gratify their senses. This disorder in social life cannot bring peace to human society. In other words, sex life should be utilized only to produce a worthy child. Human life is especially meant for complete devotion to the service of the
Lord to elevate oneself to minimize or avoid future births.
Hindu scriptures often say human birth is rare and it provides great opportunity for one to elevate and even liberate too. Even those who have chosen spiritual way of life want to beget a child who could preach the philosophy and teachings of Lord like them. They are also considered as practicing celibacy with their disciplined life by Bakhtimarga exponents. You will find some of the modern spiritual heads like Jeer lead a Grihastaasrama dharma, the third phase of human life. Such practices are seen in other religions of the world too.
Death generally involves soul remaining in trance for some time. According to its own action, it is allowed to enter into the womb of a mother by the vehicle of a father’s semen and thus it gets its desired body. This is the law of birth in specific bodies according to one’s past actions. When one is awake from trance one feels the inconvenience of being confined within the womb. The sanctification activities begin even before the birth of a child, and the seed-giving reformatory process is called Garbhadhana-samskara. One who has not undergone such Garbhadhana-samskara, or spiritual family planning, is not accepted as being of an actual twice-born family or Dwija. The Garbhadhana-samskara is followed by other purification ceremonies of spiritual initiation of Upanayana as the child advances in age. In Vedic days even girls went through Upanayana ceremony. We hear of many renowned Vedic scholars like Gargi and Aitreyi. After this particular sacrament, one is rightly called twice-born. One birth is calculated during the seed-giving sacrament called Garbhaadaana and the second birth is calculated at the time of spiritual initiation called Upanayana. One who has been able to undergo such important Samskaras can be called a bona fide twice-born or Dwija. According to Rishabhadeva, one should not become a father or mother unless one is confident that he can beget children whom he can deliver from the clutches of birth and death. Human life is the only opportunity to get out of the material scene, which is full of the miseries of birth, death, old age and diseases. Every human being should be given the opportunity to take advantage of his human form of life, to beget good children for the purpose of liberation.
The birth of a human being is a great science, and therefore reformation of the act of copulation according to the Vedic ritual called Garbhadhana-samskara is very important for generating good population. Our focus should not be to check the growth of the population, but to generate good population on the level of Vidura, Vyasa and Janaka whose life stories we are all familiar with. There is no need to check the growth of population if the children are born as human beings with all precautions regarding their birth. Then the so-called birth control is not only vicious but also useless. That is why religions are against abortion.
The conditions for having good progeny in society are that the husband should be disciplined in religious and regulative principles and the wife should be faithful to the husband. In Bhagavad-gita (7.11) it is said that sexual intercourse according to religious principles is a divine act. Krishna says Bhooteshu kaamosmi-- I am lust (Kaama) among beings. Lust with proper application was a virtue and not a sin and that is what Krisjhna means. Before engaging in sexual intercourse, both the husband and the wife must consider their mental condition, the particular time, the husband’s direction, and obedience to the demigods. According to Vedic society, there is a suitable auspicious time for sex life, which is called the time for garbhadhana; personalities like Ravana and Hiranyakasipu were actually born of Brahmanas (those who meditate on Brahman), but they were not accepted as Brahmanas because their fathers did not follow the regulative principles for their birth. Such children are called demons, or Raksasas. Raksasas in the previous ages were few and far between. During the age of Kali there is no discipline in sex life. How, then, can one expect good children? Certainly unwanted children cannot be a source of happiness in society, but they can be raised to the human standard by spiritual outlook and up-bringing. Vidura though born as an illegitimate unwanted child was brought up with discipline who later became a legal expert on social matters.
Upanishads are not only full of spiritual instruction but are also instructive in how to prosecute material existence very nicely, with the ultimate aim of spiritual perfection. Sex life is especially meant for having good children. The circumstances for creating good children are mentioned in Kama-sastra of Vatsyaayana, the scripture in which suitable guidelines are provided for a glorious sex life. Everything needed is mentioned in this scripture —what sort of house and decorations there should be, what sort of dress the wife should have, how she should be decorated with ointments, scents and other attractive features, etc. With these requisites fulfilled, the husband will be attracted by her beauty, and a favorable mental situation will be created. The mental situation at the time of sex life may then be transferred into the womb of the wife, and good children can come out of that pregnancy. . . . Sexual intercourse in which the husband is attracted to the wife is sure to produce a male child, but sexual intercourse based on attraction of the wife for the husband may produce a girl. That is mentioned in the Ayurveda. When the passion of the woman is greater, there is a chance of a girl’s being born. When the passion of the man is greater, then there is the possibility of a son. Devahuti wanted the passion of her husband to be increased as found in the advices mentioned in the Kama-sastra. It is said in the smritis as well as in the Ayurveda that when the discharge of the male is greater, male children are begotten, but when the discharge of the female is greater, female children are begotten.
We come across many prayers in the Vedic hymns pointing to the act of conception, "Let Vishnu prepare the womb; let Tvastar adorn thy form; let Prajapati pour on; let Dhatar place the embryo. Place the embryo, O Sarasvati; let both the Asvins garlanded with blue lotus set thine embryo." "As Asvattha has mounted the Sam-- there is made the generation of male; that verily is the obtainment of a son; that we bring into women. In the male indeed grows the seed. That is poured along into the women; that verily is the obtainment of a son; that Prajapati said." A verse in the Atharvaveda contains an invitation to wife to mount the bed for conception: "Being happy in mind, here mount the bed; give birth to children for me, your husband." Descriptions of actual copulation are also found in the pre – sutra literature. From the above references we gather that in the pre – sutra period the husband approached the wife, invited her for conception. Prayed to gods for placing the embryo into her womb and then finished fertilization. The procedure was very simple. No other details are available. It is just possible that some kind of ceremony was performed on this occasion, but we are quite in dark about it. The reason why this ceremony is not described in details seems to be that originally it formed a part of the marriage ritual.
Brihadaaranyaka Upanishad in its fourth section describes the Putramanthana mantra rites by which a house-holder can get a worthy son or a worthy daughter. Only the performer of the Srimantha ritual later is eligible to conduct this rite. The myth that the Hindus in olden days always craved for sons and looked down upon daughters has been exploded in the mantra 6.4.17 wherein the parents desire for a learned daughter (Panditaa duhitaa) has been clearly mentioned.
Esham vai bhootaanaam prithavee rasah |prithavyaa aapo aappam oshadhayah | Oshadheenam pushpaani pushpaanaam phalaani phalaaanam purushasya retah || (6-4-1)
The earth is the basis of all these beings. Water is the product of earth. Herbs are the products of water. Flowers are the products of herbs. Fruits are the products flowers. Man essentially comes out of fruits and seed (rethas) is the essence of man.
Sa ha prajaapatir eekshaam chakre hantaasmai pratishthaam kalpayaaneeti | sa striyam sasrije tamsrishtvaadha upaasta | tasmaat striyamadha upaasate | sa etam praancham graavaanam-aatmana eva samudapaarayattenainaam-abhyasrijat ||6-4-2
Prajaapati thought of making an abode for the Retha (seed or semen). He created a woman and kept her under. Therefore woman should be thought of being under. He accomplished union with her with his male part.
“………...sa yaavaanha vai vaajapeyena yajamaanasya lokoe bhavati taavaanasya lokoe bhavati ya evam vidwaanadhopahaasam charatyaasaam) streenaaam sukritam vringkte atha ya idamavidwanadhoepahaasam charatyasya striyah sukritam vrinjate || (6-4-3)
If a person copulates conceiving it as a holy sacrifice, he becomes the recipient of as much respect in the world as a man gets performing Vaajapayee fire sacrifice. He gets all the good fortunes of those women. But if a person engages in this copulation without thinking of it as a holy sacrifice (Homa) the women will take away all his merits. It is ordained here that a person should view copulation with woman as an act of vaajapayee homa (fire sacrifice). [We come across people having more than one wife in Vedic days and hence women.
[Even the sages in those days had more than one wife. Sages were often given away girls as charity by the religious parents as Kanyaadaana which the sages accepted with grace and took care of them with equality. So the text mentions wives. Polygamy was prevalent in those days. Here I have omitted the first quarter of the mantra which describes the female organ which may sound obscene to many in a Veda mantra. To a spiritual thinker such description only shows how the rishis of Upanishads were free and frank in discussing social themes like sex education. This they have done, by fearless spirit of enquiry to logical conclusions. On the subject matter of Upanishads I occasionally touched upon socio-religious life of Hindus. Hindu religion of present days is against any sex education in school curricula viewed as obscene.]
Etadva sma vai tadvidwanuddaalaka aaruniraahaitadwa sma vai tad-vidwan-naako moudgalya aahaitaddha sma vai tadvidwan-kumaara-rahita aaha—bahavo maryaa braahmanaayanaa nirindriyaa visukrito-asmaal-lokaat-prayant |ya idamavidwaamso-adhopahaasam charanteeti | bahu vaa ida(m)suptasya vaa jaagrato vaa retah sphandati (6-4-4)
The sage Uddalaka Aruni, sage Naakomoudgalya and sage Haarita who knew this said like this: Many humans born in the category of Brahmopaasakas (Brahmins) are devoid of the strength of this kind of knowledge and Karma, who are devoid of merit, not knowing the wisdom to copulate. In respect of a person who is firmly rooted in the wisdom, if the semen were to eject in the waking state or dream state (accidental ejaculation as it happened to Siva during the birth of Skanda)) he is enjoined to recite the following mantra.
Tadabhimrisodanu vaa mantrayeta | yanme adya retah prithaveemaskaantseedya doshadheerapya sardyadapah | idamaham tadreta aadade | punarmaamaitvindriyam punastejah punarbhagah | punaraagnirdhishnyaa yathaasthaanam kalpantaamitynaa mikangushthaabhyaa madaayaantarenastnau va bhuvau vaa nimrijyaat || (6-4-5)
The learned person should touch the seed and repeat the two mantras: The seed which has been spilt to the earth today and which flowed towards, the plants or water, let that again attain me. Let it attain its original place with vigor and its original strength.” –saying so and touching it with his thumb and the second finger should put it in the midst of his chest or the eye brow.
Atha yadyudaka aatmaanam pari pasyottadabhimantrayeta | Mayi teja indriyam yaso dravina(m)sukritamiti |Sreerha vaa esha streenaam yanmalodvaasaa stasmaanmalod-vaasasam yasasvineemabhikrama yopamantrena || (6-4-6)
If the husband sees his reflection in the water he must recite the following mantra: “May the gods grant me luster, manhood, reputation, wealth and merits! This wife of mine who has come of age is indeed the goddess of beauty.” Then he should approach his handsome wife and talk to her for an overture.
Saa chedasmai na yadyaat-kaamam-enaamavakreeneeyaat | saa chedasmai naiva dadyaat-kaamam-enam yashtavyaa vaa paaninaa vopahatyaayaati kaamedindriyena te yasasaa yasa aadada ityaayasa eva bhavati || (6-4-7)
If she does not yield to his overture, he should cajole her, and if she is still unyielding, he should push her away with hand or armrest, and ask her to go away uttering the following mantra “I take away from you your reputation (as my sahadharminee or partner). Then she actually becomes discredited and he goes away.
Saa chedasmai dadyaad-indriyena te yasasaa yasa aadadhaamiti yasasvinaaveva bhavatah || 6-4-8)
If she is willing and yields to his overture he recites the mantra: “By the strength and glory vested in me I transmit my reputation to you. May both of us become reputed!”
Sa yaam-icchchet-kaamyetam-eti | tasyaam-artham nishthaaya mukhena mukha(m)-sadhaamyopastham-asyaa abhimrisya japed-“angaad-angaat-sambhavaci hridayaad- adhijaayase | sa tvamangakashaayo asi digdhaviddhaamiva maadaye-maam-amoom mayeeti ||” (6-49)
If the husband loves the wife and desires he gets into the mood of mating and recites the mantra: “You are born from every one of our limbs and also sprung from our intellect. You are the essence of our limbs. May this wife of mine be anointed with happiness! May she be happy with me!”
Then in the act mating he recites the following mantra: “…..Indriyena te retasaa reta aadhadaameeti garbhinyeva bhavati ||” “By my strength and seed, I make you bear your seed” and she verily becomes pregnant. (6-4-11)
[Sexual act description part in this mantra has not been included.]
Sa ya ichchet putro me suklo jaayeta vedamanubraveeta sarvam-aayuriyaaditi ksheerodanam paachayitvaa sarpishmantam-asneeyataam-eeswarau janayitavyai (6-4-14)
If one wishes to have a fair child, study one Veda and attain full term of life; he and his wife should eat rice cooked in milk mixed with clarified butter. Then they will succeed in their mission.
Sa ya ichchet-putro me kapilah pingalo jaayeta dvau vedaa-vanubraveeta sarvamyuriyad-iti dadhyodanam paachayitvaa sarpish-mantam-asneeyataam eeswarau janayitavai ||[6-4-15]
He who wishes his that their son should be born with reddish yellow complexion, that he should master two Vedas and lead a full term of life, he and his wife should eat rice cooked in yogurt with clarified butter (ghee). Then they will fulfill their ambition.
Atha ya ichchet-putro me syaamo lohitaaksho jaayeta dvau treen-vedam-anubraveeta sarvam-aayuriyaadityud-audanam paacahayitvaa sarpishmantam- asneeyataam-eeswarau janyitavyai ||(6-4-16)
He who wishes that their son should be born with dark complexion with red eyes, study three Vedas and live full term of his life should have rice cooked in water and he and his wife should eat it with clarified butter (ghee). Then they will succeed in their ambition. (Vedavyasa was one such.)
Atha ya ichched-ooduhitaa me panditaa jaayeta sarvamaayuriyaad-iti tilaudhanam paachayitva sarpish-mantam-asneeyantaam-eeswarau janyitavai ||n (6-4-17)
If husband and wife wish that a daughter should be born and that she should be learned and live full term of life, they should prepare rice cooked in sesame and they should eat with clarified butter. Then they will fulfill their desire.
[Contrary to the wrong notion that Hindus always wanted a male and that a girl need not be educated this mantra leaves the choice to their parents to have a girl and bring her up as a scholar.]
Atha ya icchet putro me pandito vigeetah samitimgamah susshrooshitaam vaacham bhaashitaa jaayeta sarvaan vedaan anubraveeta sarvam-aayur-iyaaditi maa(m)s-audanam paachayitvaa sarpishmantam-asneeyaataam-eeswarau janayitvaa aukshena vaarshabhena vaa || (6-4-18)
Those who aspire for a son should be born to them, who should be a reputed scholar, who should be frequenting the assemblies of learned scholars, who would be speaking delightful and valuable words, who will be a master of all the Vedas and who will live a long life, then both husband and wife should eat with clarified butter meat of a young bull or of a bull advanced in years. Then they will succeed in their ambition.
Atha-abhipraatareva sthaaleepaakaavritaa aajyam cheshtitvaa sthaaleepaakasyopa-ghaatam juhoty-agnaye swaahaanumataye swaaha devaaya savitre satyaprasavaaya swaaheti | hutvod-dhritya praasneeti | praasyetarasyaah prayachchati | prakshaalya paanee udaapaannam poorayitvaa tenainaam trirabhyukshat-utthishtaato viswaavaso-anyaamichcha prapoorvyaam sam jaayaam patyaa saheti ||n (6-4-19)
Then in the morning he purifies the clarified butter according to Sthalipaka rites and offers Sthalipaka oblations to the sacrificial fire repeatedly reciting the mantras as follows: “Swaaha to Fire God, Swaahaa to Anumati, Swaahaa to the radiant Sun who produces infallible results”.
After this holy offering of clarified butter to the fire he mixes the remnant clarified butter with the boiled rice, eats part of it and gives the rest to his wife. Then he washes his hands, fills the water vessel and sprinkles her thrice with the water saying, “Get up from here Viswaavasu (Gandharva) and find another young woman who is with her husband”.
[Anumati—it is the fifteenth day in the Moon’s age on which Poornima day he rises one digit less than full when the Gods and the manes receive oblations with favor personified as the goddess and worshipped.]
Athainaam abhipadyate amo-aham-asmi saa tva(m)sa tvamasyamo-aham saamaham-asmi riktvam prithivee tvam taavehi sa(m)rabhaavahe saha reto dadhaavahai pu(m)se putraaya vittaya iti || (6-4-20)
And then the husband embraces the wife saying: “I am the vital breath; you are that speech. You are that speech and I am that vital force. I am Saman and you are Rik. You are the earth and I am the heaven. Come let us strive together; bear the seed so that we may have a male child!”
hen husband recites the final Mantra before Garbhaadan or the First Night or Suhaag Raat as follows:
……Vishnoryonim kalpayatu tvashtaa roopaani pimsatu | aasinchatu prajaapatirdhaataa garbham dadhaatu || Garbham dhehi sineewaali garbham dhehi prithushtake | garbham te aswinau devaa-vaadhattaam pushkarasrajau || (6-4-21)
May Vishnu prepare and make ready your womb! May God Twastru make the form resplendent! May Prajaapati sprinkle the seed! May all supporting Dhata help you bear the embryo! O Prutustuka, sustain the embryo! May two Aswins adorned by lotus garlands sustain your embryo!
[Critics may not view in the right perspective the socio-religious practical aspect dealt in Upanishads that is contained in early part of this mantra describing the act of union as in the previous 6-4-11 which may be viewed as obscene and sexy and so has been deleted. Also mantras not directly referring to Garbhadan but concerning the woman in her periods which are included in this section have not been included.]
Hiranmayee aranee yaaabhyaam nirmanthaam-aswinau | tatte garbham havaamahe dasame maasi sootave || yatha-agni garbhaa yathaa dyaur-indrena garbhinee | vaayurdisaa yathaa garbham evam garbham dadhaamite asaaviti || (6-4-22)
Just as the two golden pieces of wood generating fire are rubbed by friction (Arani) let Aswini devatas stir the embryo with them. We offer this fetus of yours as an oblation to the fire for being delivered on the tenth month. Just as earth is pregnant with fire, heaven is pregnant with Indra (clouds) and Vayu makes the quarters pregnant so do I the husband says offering the oblation to the fire.
[After reciting this mantra wife is addressed as asau (such and such)]
Then the Upanishad prescribes Veda mantras for chanting when his wife is about to deliver the child (in labor pains) the following and Jatakarma which are post natal ceremonies.
Good sexual relations have been considered as a sacred responsibility in Hindu way of Life and have been ceremoniously observed offering prayers to their favorite gods and goddesses. This is based on the mantras in Upanishads for the sacred ceremony above and as cited in several scriptures. Bhagavadgeeta which is a compendium of all Upanishads reflects the contents of the above mantras of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. In Hindu Brahma marriage the bridegroom symbolizes Vishnu and the bride Lakshmi. Geetaa repeatedly says it is the divine energy that is manifested through the entire creation.
Geetaa says in 7-11 Dharmaviruddho bhooteshu kaamosmi” –I am the lust (sexual desire) in all living beings not conflicting with Dharma for the sacred and sole purpose of creation. The same idea is repeated in 9-18 and 10-39. In 9-18 Geeta says “nidhaanam beejam avyaayam” meaning the Supreme being is the seed of all beings. All manifestations remain in the eternal Being and become manifested during the creation (birth) and un-manifested during dissolution again and again. God is in human beings and human beings in God. In 10-38 Geetaa againsays: “sarvabhootaanam beejam tad aham” meaning the Supreme Being is the origin or seed of all beings. In 9-17 Geetaa says: “”Pitaaham asya jagato maataa dhaataa pitaamahah”—I am the mother, father and grandfather.
Third chapter of Dharma Sindhu contains elaborate details as Garbhadhaana ritual. One should familiar with Shrouta and Smarta Karmas prescribed in Vedas as these are to be performed during these ceremonies or should be guided by a knowledgeable priest.
A reference to conception can be found in Smritisangraha as follows:
Nishekaad baijikam chaino gaarbhikam chaapamrijyute |
Kshetrasamskaarasiddhischa garbhaadaanaphalam smritam ||
A well-planned union in the lawfully wedded couple guarantees a suitable mating that results in an accomplished child. The negative contributory factors in the ovum become ineffective. A good conception is based on understanding and planning by the couple.
Planning includes emotional harmony between couples. The emotional harmony passes on to the child. Hindu sastras clearly mention how that can be achieved to make the child Aatmaj I(male) or Aatmaja (female) which is derived from the word aatma or one’s own self.
Hinduism is a Way of Life in which every event in Hindu life gets sanctified by sacraments of which Garbhadaana or Nisheka starts the series of rituals and so mentioned as the first Samskaara. Changing times and altered life styles have made it not possible to observe all the Samskaras mentioned in the scriptures or followed earlier. In foreign lands Hindus are not able to strictly observe the scriptural injunctions and prohibitions and therefore they are subject to condoning. This is happening even in India. Our religious seers feel such lapses can be condoned under special circumstances as per Dharmasastra. Hinduism also prescribes several expiation (praayaschitta) rituals for the lapses due to unavoidable circumstances.
Supplementary Mantras for Nisheka samskaara:
n Vedic tradition, husband wife slept together for four days after wedding, but practiced celibacy. In order to observe this vow they pray to Lord Viswavasu to give them enough strength and determination who keeps watch on them. Then they send off Viswavasu with the following mantras;
Udeershavaado viswaavaso nama sedaaahe tvaa| anyaa miccha pravavya(ga)m a sanjaayaam padya srija ||
Oh Lord Viswavasu Gandharva! Please get up from this bed. We pay our obeisance to you. Please seek other girls who have come of age and see that you unite both of us. [This is thanking him for the vigil he kept for 4 days]
Udeershvaadah pativatee hyeshaaa visvaavasun namasaa geerppireette | anyamichcha pitrupadam vyaktaa(ga)m sa te bhaago janushaa tasya viddi ||
Please get up from this bed. You know now that this girl has her husband. Oh Lord Viswavasu! We thank you and pay obeisance to you ! You please leave and go to another home where the unmarried girl lives with her father. We know it is your divine right to keep possession of unmarried girls. (It is believed Gandharva deity possess the girl till she is married)
Apasyantvaa manasaa chegidaanam tapaso jaatam tapaso vibhootam |
Iha prajaa miha rayi(ga)m raraanah prajaayasva putrakaama ||
The wife addresses the Husband: You know my intentions; you are an outcome of my penance; you have acquired also wealth by penance—I behold such a person. You who are desirous of children bring forth progeny seeking children from me and wealth in this house.
Apasyantvaa manasaa teetyaanaa(ga)m svaayaam tanoo(ga)m ritviye nadamaanaam |
Upamaamuccha yuvatir babhooyaah prajaayasva prajayaa putrakaame |
Husband addresses his wife: I watch you with all my heart who has lustrous body and desirous of having children in the right season. Youthful as you are enjoy me from above. Oh desirous of Children! Beget children!
Samajjantu visvedevaah samaapo hridayaani nau |
Sam maatarisvaa sam taataa samudeshtree titeshthunau ||
May the Viswedevas make our hearts amicable! May the water deity make us friendly! May Vaayu and Brahma make us friendly! May Goddess Saraswati who is responsible for conversation between personalities inspire us to engage in conversation!
Prajaapate tanvam me jushasva tvashtar devebhis saha saam indra |
Viswair devai raatibissa(ga)m raraanah pu(ga)msaam bahoonaam maadarassyaama | |
Oh Lord Prajapati! You should attain my body. Sucessful Tvashta and Indra, along with other friendly deities attain my body giving all that we need. May we become parents for many boys!
Aanah prajaam janayatu prajaapati raajarasaaya samanagatavaryamaa |
Atur mangaleeh patiloka mavisa santo bhava dwipade sama chatushpade ||
May Lord Prajaapati motivate us to beget children! May Lord Aryama make us live together till we get old. May he enter the abode of my husband who is not ugly! May he take care of the welfare of all two legged and four legged beings related to us!
Taam Poosan sivatamaa merayasva yasyaam beejam manushyavapanti |
Yaana ooru usatee visrayaadai yasyaamusantah brahmarema sepam ||
Oh Lord Surya! May you inspire my wife for my enjoyment; men like me are endowed with potency and are responsible for the continuity of humanity.
Kama Sutra is an ancient text widely considered to be the standard work on human sexual behavior in Sanskrit written by Vatsyaayana. It includes a section on practical advice on sexual intercourse. "Kaama” which is one of the four Purushaarthaas or Human goals of life, means sensual as well as sexual pleasure and "Sootra” literally means a thread. Sootra means aphorism. Kama sutra is not just an exclusive sex manual; it presents itself as a guide to Grihastaasrama, family life to lead virtuous and gracious living that discusses the nature of love, family life and other aspects pertaining to pleasure oriented faculties of human life and to serve the society as useful citizens. Historians attribute Kamasutra to be composed between 400 BCE and 200 CE. Probably Brihadaranyaka Upanishad inspired Vatsyaayana.
Upanishads do not have reservation or feel shy to talk on the subject of sex. Brihadaaranyaka Upanishad includes many mantras for copulation, begetting good children healthy, intelligent and prosperous and maternity advice as well as conditions to walk out of the agreed alliance if the wife does not co-operate in getting a worthy son or worthy daughter or have illicit connections. The fourth section of sixth chapter describes this as Putramanta rite. Only the performer of the Srimantha rite is eligible to conduct this rite. Putramanta rite outlines the particular actions that are to be done for the birth of a good son. Married couples seek a good-life of living together for 100 years in their prayers. Probably this rite has given rise to leave the newly Married couple to themselves to enjoy their first night after another religious ceremony still practiced by some orthodox families called Nishekam ceremony. This ceremony is rarely observed as religious rites now-a-days which ends up as socializing event after the strenuous and long wedding ceremony combined with Grihapravesam for the newly- weds to relax in privacy. In the North it is known as “Suhaag Raaat”or pleasant night.
Garbhadana Sacrament clearly indicates marriage is inextricably linked to the fact that man-woman couples, and only such couples, are capable of naturally creating life together, therefore furthering, society’s interests in responsibly creating and rearing the next generation.
What does this argument means for man-woman couples who are not able to conceive naturally? Does this mean their marriage is not society’s interest, and any children not naturally conceived or those adopted are somehow lesser? Can the protagonists of same sex marriage draw support from it? Puranas have dealt at length the problems connected with failure of procreation out of holy matrimony between man and woman and how to perpetuate the dynasty within Saastric injunctions as seen in the history of Raghu, Kuru and Pandu dynasties.
53 Tennessee Legislators say: “Marriage laws have been, and continue to be, about the business of serving society’s child-centered purposes, like connecting children to their biological mother and father, and avoiding the negative outcomes often experienced by children raised outside a stable family unit led by their biological parents. Redefining marriage would transform the institution in a way that threatens to harm its stability to serve those interests”.
We certainly need more stable, committed couples in our communities. The more impediments to fostering those families, the poorer we are. As a bed-rock social institution marriage has always existed to channel the presumptive procreative potential of man-woman relationships into committed union for the benefit of children and society. That is the reason Garbhadana is the first Samskara for religious Hindus. When married person bows to an elder he or she does not fail to bless them to beget good children (bahuputra labham).
1. N.S. Ananta Rangacharya, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Bengluru, India.
2. Prem Bhalla, Hindu rites, Rituals, Customs & Traditions. Pustak Mahal, Delhi, India.
3. Sanatanadharma.com, Internet.
4. Ramanand Prasad, Bhagavad Geetaa, American Gita Society, Fremont, CA, USA.
5. Chandrasekharananda Sarasvati Svami, Dharma, Bharatiya vidya Bhavan, Mumbai, India.
6. Sunita Ramaswamy and Dr. Sundar Ramaswamy, Vedic Heritage Teaching Program, Sri Gangadhareswar Trust, Rishikesh, India.
7. Srinivasachariyar, Vivaaha Mantraartha Bodhini, Lifco Publishers, Chennai, India.
8. Frank Daniels III, columnist Tennessean, Family Tops procreation in marriage debate, June 29, 2014.
[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 Ganeha 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 <nrsrini.blogspot.com> 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.]