Samskaras is a prescribed set of observances, a religious ceremony or act regarded as an outward and visible sign of inward or spiritual. Ancient Sanskrit literature texts, such as Raghuvamsha, Kumarsambhava, Abhijnan -Shakuntal, Hitopadesha and Manu Smruti, samskara is used to mean: education, cultivation, training, refinement, perfection, grammatical purity, polishing, embellishment, decoration, a purificatory rite, a sacred rite, consecration, sanctification, effect of past actions (karmas), merit of karmas, etc.
The variety of rites and rituals related to the samskar as help in the formation and development of personality. Samskaras impart a higher sanctity to life Impurities associated with the material body are eradicated by performing samskaras.
Various Samskars are:-
Pre -natal Samskaras
(1) Garbhadan :-Conception acceptance ceremony. (After solemnizing marriage ceremony.)
(2) Pumsavana :-Ceremony of graceful care of the embryo to the development of the fetus. Usually it is undertaken during the second or third month of pregnancy, the first trimester
(3) Simantonayana :-Inviting God‟s blessings for the development of the fetus to full birth. Usually it is conducted from the fourth month of pregnancy, and, onwards, into the second, and the third trimester of pregnancy, similar to the ladies shower in the west.
(4) Jatakarma :-Accepting and identifying the newborn as an individual.
(5) Namakarana :-Naming ceremony which is usually on the eleventh day, usually from birth to the twelve days.
(6) Nishkrama :-Ceremony of invoking God‟s blessings to expose the new comer to the outside world and to pray for the well being of the baby. Usually this ceremony is conducted when the child is two to four months old.
(7) Annaprashana :-Offering of solid food to the toddler, usually undertaken from four to six months of age.
(8) Chudakarma (or Chaul) (Shaving of head) :-Self -awareness ceremony. (One year and onwards.)
(9) Karnavedh (Piercing the earlobes):-Self-esteem development ceremony, to help improve one‟s image and self-respect. It further enhances one‟s responsibility. (Usually three to five years).
(10) Vidyarambha (Learning the alphabet)
(11) Upanayana (Sacred thread initiation):-School entrance initiation. To help control the fear of separation from parents, and to help overcome the anxiety of entering a strange place such as school. It is also called Yajnopaveet Sanskar . It is usually conducted at the age of five years and onwards.
(12) Vedarambha (Beginning Vedic study):-The education enrichment ceremony which is undertaken when the child is five years of age.
(13) Keshant (Godaan) (Shaving the beard)
(14) Samavartan (End of studentship):-It is a welcoming ceremony to accept the grown -up as a qualified individual. It is undertaken after completion of studies, to return home, and to prepare for the next stage of life
(15) Vivaha (Marriage Ceremony):-Marriage ceremony. To select an appropriate spouse and to start the second phase, as house-hold life or nuclear familial life. It is usually undertaken at twenty -five years of age which is the beginning of Grihastha Asram.
(16) Antyeshti (Death rites):-This is the last ceremony. When the soul has left the mortal body, the remains are cremated. This ceremony is called Antyesti. Naramedha or Purusmedha are other terms used for Antyesti. The body elements are consumed by fire, and the remains are disposed to nature, Prakrti. The body disintegrates to the five primary elements: earth, water, air, dynamic energy, and space, and the cycle starts all over again.