A child normally starts schooling at the age of five. When it reaches the age of eight , it possesses a grip on the language and therefore is considered eligible for receiving Vedic Instruction . A sacred thread ceremony known as Upanayanam is performed by the father and the boy is blessed with the initiation into reciting the sacred Gayathri Manthram . Next , his Vedic instruction begins with the proper guru .
Upanayana means bringing one close to the guru or the teacher , who initiates the child into Veda vidyA . The boy learns one VedA with its limbs (angAs ) . It takes 12 years to complete the learning of one Veda with its angAs . The boy stays in the house of the guru and observes the ancient practise of gurukulA and performs services to the guru and his family in return for receiving his education . He also practises celibacy ( Brahmacharyam ) during these 12 years . Brahmacharya is the first of the four aasramAs for a Hindu . The recitation of the VedAs with swarAs (proper intonations ) from a qualified guru is the goal of thsi aasramA .
The BrahmachAri observes four addiitonal samskArAs during this period of receiving Vedic instruction . These four samskArAs are linked with the completion of each of the four khAndAs (sections ) of the individual VedA .
For instance , a celibiate receiving instruction in KrishNa Yajur VedA has to complete the four khAndAs of PrAjApathya , Soumya , AagnEya and VaisvadEva . During the completion of each of the four khAndhAs , the brahmachAri observes the samskArAs of each of the above four khAndAs . Similarly , Rg VedA has a set of four samskArAs known as MahAnAmni , MahAupanishad and two GodhAna vratAs that have to be performed by the student . Recent postings on UpAkarmA relate to the Khanda rishi tarpaNam connected with our thanks giving to the rishis of the khAndams .
At the conclusion of the samskArAs associated with the final khAndhA of the VedA , the bachelor is adjudged as having completed hisVedic instructions successfully . He offers his homage to his guru and returns home to perform a samskArA known as samAvartanA , which literally means return to home at the end of his studies . He takes a ritual bath called SnAnA and is thereafter he is known as SnAtakA , who has completed his gurukula vaasam .He goes on pilgrimage to Kaasi kshEthram and on return from that journey is ready for marriage or VivAham . He is now ready to enter into the second aasramam known as GrihasthA ( house-holder ) . From UpanayanA to VivaahA , we have thus witnessed seven samskArAs . After VivAhA , he is expected to observe BrahmacharyA for one year and thereafter , he is qualiifed to perform the samskArA of garbhAdhAnam associated with the conception of a child .
VivAhA for women is equivalent to the Upanayanam ceremony . After VivAham , she participates in all the Yaj~nAs with her husband as sahadharmachAriNi . Hence , VivAham is called SahadharmiNi SamprayOgam . It may be pointed out that both the VivAham and Upanayanam should be conducted during the UttarAyaNa puNya kaalam . I have covered the individual stages of Vedic VivAham in other postings connected with AanDAL's VaraNamAiyram earlier ..
Pancha MahA Yaj~nAs

We have so far covered 14 samskArAs for the period leading up to VivAham .In the married state , the householder has to observe five more samskArAs daily and they are known as the five great yaj~nAs ( pancha mahA yaj~nAs ) .The performance of these five samskArAs helps the householder to discharge his debts to DevAs , his ancestors and all living beings .
These pancha MahA Yaj~nAs are :
1. Brahma Yaj~nam , which is performed through the recitation of the VdAs and helps to discharge the debt to Vedic rishis or manthra drashtAs . They collected the Veda samhithAs through their spiritual powers .
2. Deva Yaj~nA, which requires the performance of pujAs and Yaj~nAs for Gods .
3. Pithru Yaj~nAs : The debt to one's ancestors is discharged through the offering of pindAs during the tarpaNAs as oblations.
4. Maanushya Yaj~nA : The athithi sathkAram or feeding of one's guest with respect , discharges one of his debts to the community .
5. BhUta Yaj~nA : This samskArA consists of feeding the living entities other than human beings . Offerings are made to them as they are an extended set of human family .
We have described 19 samskArAs so far .The remaining 21 fall into three distinct subsets : Paaka , Havir and sOma Yaj~nAs . There are a seven of each of the three subsets . Brief descriptions of these 21 yaj~nAs will be presented here. The various kalpa sUtrAs and GrihyAsUtrAs describe these Yaj~nAs in great detail

Paaka Yaj~nAs

These are small yaj~nAs . The nams of these are : 1. sthAlipAkA 2. ashtakai 3. anvashtakai 4. paarvaNi srArdhA or sarpa bali 5. agrahAyaNi 6. Chaitri or EesAna bali and (7) aswayuji . Most of them are done at home in GrihyAgni , which is the Agni in which the husband and wife perform their daily OupAsanam . We will not go into the details on the performance of these yaj~nAs here.
The procedure for the paaka Yaj~nAs are described in Grihya sUtrAs belonging to Smrithis . Hence , these Paaka Yaj~nAs are referred to as SmArtha karmAs . These are thus distinct from Srautha karmAs ( Havir and sOma Yaj~nAs ) , since the latter derive their authority from Sruthis . It must be pointed out that the SmArtha and Srautha karmAs are equal in importance .

Havir Yaj~nAs

These are also seven in number and are a little more elaborate in performance than paaka yaj~nAs . Their names are : 1. Agni aadhAnA 2. AgnihOthrA 3. darsa pUrNa maasa 4. AgrAyANaa 5. ChaathurmAsyaa 6. NiruDa pasubhandha and (7) SouthrAmaNi .
These yaj~nAs are performed in SroudhAgni , which is also known as TrEtAgni . Aapasthampa sUtrAs in their trEthAgni khAndham (section ) give the details of construction of the Yaj~na kundAs and the maintenance of trEtAgnis or the three sroudhAgnis revered as gArhapathyam , dakshiNAgni and aahavaneeyam

Soma Yaj~nAs

These are also seven in number . There are fewer hOmAs in these sOma Yaj~nAs , but more eulogies or sthuthis ( sAma ghAnam ) . SaamaVedidc recitation is central to these seven Yaj~nAs . Saama Vedam has been identified as " VedAnAm Saama vedOsmi " by GeethAchAryan . The four KhandAs of Saama Vedam ( AgnEya KhAnA , Aindra KhAndA , PaavamAna khAndhA and aaraNyaka KhandhA ) provide the sama riks or dashtis ( collection of ten verses ) for the following seven sOma Yaj~nAs :
The individual names of these seven Yaj~nAs are :
1. AgnishtOmA or JyOthishtOmA 2. AthyagnishtOmA 3. UkthyA 4. ShOdasi 5. VaajabhEyA 6. AthirAtrA and (7) abhthOryAmA
One who completes a sOma yaj~nA is hailed as a sOmayAji . Even if one can not do all of these seven Yaj~nAs , it has been recommended that atleast one of the seven ( agnishthOmA ) should be performed in one's life time .


For sanyAsins , there are no samskArA of cremation . They are buried in BrindhAvanams by the riverside or enar a holy spot . A peepul sapling or TuLasi bush is planted over the site .

The importance of the samskArAs can not be underestimated in the Hindu sanAtana dharmA . They from the core of the Hindu life cycle rituals and guards the practioners from swerving into paths not sanctioned by the VedAs . They protect them from the time of conception to the last moment on this earth of our Lord . The samskArAs prescribed for the four successive/separate aasramAs can not be abandoned until one's last breath.Through the knowledge of these ancient samskArAs , it is our hope to incorporate them into our lives within the limits of our abilities and help others keep up the tradition with Sriman NaarAyaNA's krupA .

: V.Sadagopan


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