Samskaras (New Born Cultural Ceremonies)

    प्राजापत्येनविधिनाजातकर्माणिकारयेत्।।

    Samskaras-New Born Cultural Ceremonies

    The term Samskara generally refers to various cultural ceremonies. The important cultural events in an individual’s life from birth to death are grouped under the term samskaras. The number of samskaras varies in different communities. The customary samskaras are 16 in number.All the samskaras are not medically important; rather they possess much of a socio-cultural perspective. Only the medically important ones are dealt by the ancient medical scholars, which are detailed here.

    Important Samskaras / ShodashaSamskaras

    • Garbhaadaanam
    • Pumsavanam
    • Seemantonnayanam
    • Jaatakarmam
    • Naamakaranam
    • Nishkraamanam
    • Annapraasanam
    • Choodaakaranam

    • Karnavedhanam
    • Upanayanam
    • Vedaarambham
    • Samaavartanam
    • Vivaaham
    • Vaanaprastha
    • Sanyaasam
    • Swargaaroham

    1. Jaatakarma(Birth Ceremony/Immediate care of new born)

    Prevalent from ancient times, jaatakarma was performed in diverse manners by different groups. Retaining the socio cultural aspects and adding on matters of medical importance, acharya Charaka has explained jaatakarma as below.

    • Praasam: The baby is given to ingest a combination of honey and ghee processed with mantras
    • Stanapaanam: The right breast should be advanced to be sucked.
    • Udaka kumbha sthaapanam: Water pot processed with mantras shouldbe kept along the side of his head.

    According to Vagbhata (an ancient Ayurveda scholar),

     

    The first feeding with madhu (honey) and ghrta (ghee) gives sufficient stimulation to gastro intestinal intrinsic nerve plexus, so as to pass meconium at the earliest.This procedure might also have assisted the Acharyas to assess the patency of gartrointestinal tract.

    Ayurvedic reference of Jaatakarma-Birth Ceremony

    2. Naamakarana Samskaara(Naming Ceremony)

    According to Ashtanga Sangraha naamakarana can be done either on the 10th or 12th day. Kasyapa Samhita and Ashtanga Hrudaya mention 10th day as appropriate for naamakarana.

    Preparation of the baby

    Mother and the baby having taken bath in water mixed with aromatic drugs, wearing light and clean cloth and ornaments should worship deity and receive blessings from theBrahmins. Then the baby is made to sit over apad of clothes with the head towards east of north. Thereafter, the father of the baby should utter that the child is offering salutation to the deity and the Brahmins. Having said so, the child should be given two names.

    Features of names

    Of the two names, one is based on the constellation present at the time of birth and the other should be a popular name for day to day use. The name should not be newly established. It should be similar to that of the precedinggeneration. The name should be denotable with baby’s star or devotee.

    3. Nishkraamana(Outing Ceremony)

    It is the ceremony of taking the baby out of the Kumaaraagaara (Baby house). Thissamskaara enables the baby to acclimatize with the external environment. Kasyapa and Vagbhata (ancient scholars of Ayurveda) consider 4th month as the appropriate time forniskraamana karma.The baby having bathed adorned and worn new clothes and possessing the rakshoghna oushadhas (protective medicines) like mustard, honey, ghee and gorochana on his body should be brought out.

    Nishkraamana Vidhi (Method of Outing Ceremony)

    The baby along with the mother should be taken out of the Kumaaraagaara and made to enter the temple. After worshiping the burning fire, the Brahmins, God Vishnu etc. and receiving their blessings they should re-enter their own house. Having entered, the physicians should chant mantras for offering prayer.It is for the first time during Nishkraamanakarma that the child is exposed to some sort of external environment, mainly to visual and auditory stimuli. This karma helps the physician to confirm the proper functioning of the sense organs especially the eye and the ear.

     

    According to modern view, macular fixation and pupillary adjustment is attained during the same 4th month. During the early weeks eye movement and coordination may not be perfect. However, proper coordination should be achieved by 3-6 months. 

    4. Upavesana(Sitting Ceremony)

    Upavesana is a ceremony of making the baby sit without support in a proposed manner to ensure the activity, growth and development of the baby. Kasyapasamhita suggests upavesana to be done at the age of 6th month. Ashtanga Samgraha mentions the same at 5th month.

    Preparation of child

    The baby should be bathed, adorned and dressed in intact cloths. Beforethe ceremony, worshiping of gods and satisfying the Brahmins, by dietsand donations has to be performed.The site where the baby is to be seated should be smeared with cowdung.Toys used by the baby are to be placed nearby.The baby should be made to sit for a muhurta (48 minutes) at a time, facingeastwards in the middle of the site. After completion of a muhurtha, thechild should be carefully lifted up. The whole procedure has to be repeatedeveryday.

    Precautions

    • The duration of sitting should not be too long.
    • The child should always be assisted and never left alone.
    • This need not to be performed while the baby is ill.
    • If the baby is made to sit prior to the prescribed age, vitiation of vatadosha occurs which leads to fever, pain hardness of body parts and even arrest offurther growth and development.

    5. Karnavedhanam(Ear piercing)

    Karnavedhana is one of the important samskaras with medical and socio-cultural relevance.In addition to the cosmetic value, it was believed thatkarnavedhana protects the baby from untoward health complications likegrahas. However, this is not medically proven. 

    Time of karnavedhana

    The site of the puncture shouldbe in the middleof the ear lobe, slightly towards the cheek,where there is maximum translucency from the light source. Thismarked by the colour of Laksha rasa. The puncturing should be done witha single and straight stroke; it should neither be high up, sideward nordownward.If the ear lobe is thicker, Aara sastra should be used instead of needle.By puncturing at the correct site, there will not be severe pain, bleeding andimmediate inflammatory reaction, local rise of temperature,swelling and redness.

    Ayurvedic reference of Karnavedhana-Ear Piercing

    Post-operative measures

    A cotton thread soaked in oil should be drawn through the punctureandthe site bathed with unprocessed oil. On each 3rd day the thread should bereplaced with thicker ones for widening of the puncture. Daily fomentation,massage, bathing with oil and nourishing foods should be adoptedrepeatedly.

     

    Puncturing ear may help to activate immune mechanism so as to bring asecondary immunity against several infections.

    6. Phalapraasana (Feeding fruits/ fruit juices to baby)

    Kasyapa is the only ancient scholar who has explained phalapraasana (feeding fruits/fruit juices to baby). Up to 6 months of age, the child is fed exclusivelywith breast milk. Thereafter, prior to the introduction of solid food, so asto make the gastro intestinal tract accustomed to it, liquid food is given.Among them, fruit juices are considered ideal. Besides, fruits are best sourcesof vitamin C and fibrous material.

     

    The baby who is accustomed with madhura rasa (sweet taste) alone will experiencedifficulty to adjust with tastes like spicy, bitteretc. At this stage, phalapraasanahelps the baby to adapt with other tastes through sweetness, sourness etc.in fruits.Kasyapa considers dental eruption as the endpoint of phalapraasana.

     

    Initially, central incisors erupt during 6-7th month. Eruption of teeth isindicative of GIT maturity to digest, absorb and assimilate nutrients. Thegastro-intestinal functions vary markedly with the maturity of the infant.The current concept of introduction of solid food at 6months of age is strictlyon the basis of nutritional requirement of the baby. 

    7. Annapraasana(Feeding Ceremony)

    It is the samskaara related to feeding of solid food for the first time to the baby.

    Itis evident from this reference that the weaning is not at all a novel concept.However, this does not mean that the baby should be totally detached frombreast milk from the age of 8 months (i.e.age of teeth eruption). Ayurvedagenerally advices breast feeding up to 2 years of age. (ksheerannaada-up to2 years).According to Kasyapa, 10thmonth is the appropriate time for annapraasana.In Ashtanga Sangraha, Vagbhata opines 6thmonth to be the time forannapraasana.Susruta (ancient Ayurvedic scholar) also comments that 6thmonth is the appropriate time for annaprasana. 

    Ayurvedic reference of Annapraasana-Feeding Ceremony

    Procedure

    Annapraasąna should be done on an auspicious day after worshiping gods and the Brahmins by cereals, meat and donations, reciting mantras, smearing the site with cow dung, spreading darbha grass, decorating with fragrances and garlands and placing signs of swastika in fourplaces, preparing all the articles for making toys. After that, the physician gets seated facing east and the child facing west.After igniting fire, a delicious diet comprising of cereals and drinks madefrom meats of laavaka, kapinjala, tittiri, charanaayudha should be first offeredas oblations to fire alongwith enchantment of mantras. After oblation, theremaining food made soft by mashing, is given to the child (3/5 times) in aquantity equal to that of a thumb (angushta maatra).After feeding, the baby should be cleaned.

    Article Written By: Dr. Sahil Gupta, Ayurvedic Allergist

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Question: What are Samskaras?

    Answer: Samskaras refer to certain cultural ceremonies prevailed in ancient India. It has several socio-economic importance as well as medical concerns.

    Question: At what age weaning can be started according to Ayurveda?

    Answer: Most scholars of Ayurveda opine that once tooth eruption has occurred, solid foods can be introduced to the baby. At about 6th month of age, fruit juices can be initiated.

    Question: What is the importance of sitting ceremony?

    Answer: Sitting ceremony is advised to perform at 6th month of age. It helps the baby to sit without support and to improve overall neuromuscular development.

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