Category Archives: Householder’s Samskara

Birth Samskaras

Samskaras are sacraments that pertain to the rites of passage in Hinduism. Sacraments are evident in many religious traditions, for example the baptismal rites within the Catholic Church. Sacrament refers to a “religious ceremony or act regarded as outward with a visible sign of inward and spiritual grace” (Pandey 15). As they appear in the Sanskrit language, sacraments are necessary for the successful membership of an individual into their society. Samskaras are important to orthodox Hindus, in that they certify one as a member of the tradition (Rodrigues 131). According to Sanskrit, scriptures such as the Grhya Sutras, the sacraments prepare an individual for the four stages of life, which are student, householder, forest-dweller and renouner. They form an important section of the “Karma-kanda or action branch since they mark the various occasions of one’s life from conception in the mother’s womb to the cremation of the body at death” (Sankar 4).

The Samskaras are said to be forty in number, beginning with the ceremonies that take place from conception (garbhadhana) and ending with the funeral (antyesti) (Sankar 4). However, the following article will describe those pertaining to the birth rites alone. The birth and babyhood of a Brahmin, as prescribed in the Grhya Sutras, present significant transitional points for children as they eventually grow to be independent of their parents’ care. The article will describe prenatal customs common among Indian women that include the simantonnayana sacrament, the welcoming of the newborn within the birthing rites (jatakarman) and the naming of the child (namakarana).

Prenatal Care and the Simantonnayana Samskara

In the nine months it takes to create a life there are many customs in which Indian women like to partake in order to make the pregnancy a happy and healthy one. In India, pregnant women will often find solace from strenuous work and potential harm within the walls of their family home. Not only may a pregnant women do no housework, “but she must do no sewing, or anything else that binds things together: for instance, she must not close up the outlet of the great grain jar, or replaster the earth” (Stevenson 1). Here she will get ready for the baby’s arrival, by preparing a birth chamber where the child will be welcomed into the world. There is much care taken in preparation of the room. The room, if possible, is separated from the common rooms of the home, with the blinds drawn and the bed carefully aligned. For example, “great care is taken that the bedstead not lie exactly under the great beam that holds the house together, since some Hindus believe that the god of death perches on this” (Stevenson 2). In order to ensure the longevity of the mother and child, evil spirits are warded off with the simantonnayana sacrament in which the hair of the wife is parted by her husband.

This sacrament is performed to ensure the physical and spiritual health of the baby by keeping the mother in good morale. In order to keep her content, “she is addressed as full moon and one with beautiful limbs” (Sankar 5). As the husband begins to part the hair of his wife, he ties a small branch of the fig tree around her neck with the words “Rich in sap is this tree; like the tree rich in sap, be thou fruitful” (Sankar 5). Then the following blessings are uttered, “be the mother of heroic sons and be the mother of living sons” (Sankar 5). The seemantonnayana samskara and the prenatal precautions that take place prior to birth promote the well being of both mother and child. The child is brought into the world through the delivery and the welcoming ceremonies which include the Jatakarman sacrament.

Welcoming the newborn: Jatakarman Samskara

Present at the birth is the women’s mother and midwife whom delivers the child and offers spiritual and medical remedies to ease the pain. A medical remedy the midwife may turn to may include, “tearing down the cobweb of a spider, which she will roll into a ball, fill with cloves and place in the womb” (Stevenson 3). After the birth the Jatakarman sacraments take place and are usually performed prior to the umbilical cord being severed. The ceremonies include a series of verses to inspire strength, intelligence, and long life. During this Vedic ceremony, the child is given a gold coin to lick, besmeared with honey and clarified butter (Stevenson 6). The father recites words of strength to his newborn child, “Be a stone, be an axe, and be an imperishable god. From each limb of mine you are born, you are born especially from my heart. You are my own self bearing the name ‘son’; may you live for a hundred years” (Sankar, 5).

It is important to note here that it is not common practice for the man to be present within the birthing chamber so often this ritual is omitted. However, one custom preceding the birth which continues to be popular is the three day feeding of molasses and water, referred to as galasodi. The woman who is in charge of preparing the mixture is evaluated based on her personal characteristics, since it is believed her qualities will be shared with the newborn. Later on in life “if the child turns out badly, its friends reproach it by reminding it of the noble character of the women who gave it its first molasses” (Stevenson 7). Preceding the three day feeding custom, the child is bathed and given to the mother to begin nursing.

As the child is welcomed into the world the precise date and time are carefully noted in order to foretell the child’s life path. Astrology plays a key role in deciding auspiciousness, that is, the fortitude of the child’s future endeavours. For example, a proverb claims “that a girl born on a Wednesday will result in her father or brother dying or suffering loss within a year (she is called their Bhara or burden), but she herself will be very rich” (Stevenson 8). Each day and month within the year is regarded as either auspicious or inauspicious depending on the various proverbs. Should the predictions assume misfortune the parents may take preventive action. For example, “a bronze cup is filled with clarified butter, and a silver coin is put in it. The child is made to look into the cup, which is then taken to the father, who also gazes at his reflection” (Stevenson 8). After which the cup is given to a Brahmin, is it safe for the father to embrace his son. This kind of preventative action allows the son or daughter to overcome their ill-fate of being born on an inauspicious day. Astrology also plays a vital role is determining an auspicious day for the wedding ceremony further on in the child’s life.

The birth of a child is always considered auspicious. However, historically in Hindu culture a first born male seems to induce a more positive celebration by the relatives and especially the parents. The desire for a boy results from the male’s ability to pass on the family name and his ability to save the father from hell by performing his funeral ceremonies. Therefore, the wife bearing a boy ensures her place within the home of her husband. Nevertheless the birth of a girl is also an auspicious event and the parents still rejoice and welcome her however differently. If the first born be a girl the parents will rejoice and claim “Laksmi has come” (Stevenson 4). Laksmi is the Hindu goddess of prosperity. When the girl later takes a husband this “brings her parents as much merit as the performance of a great sacrifice” (Stevenson, 4).

Naming of the Child: Namakarana Samskara

The naming ceremony namakarana occurs on the twelfth day after birth. However this can vary depending in gender as to which day is auspicious for the child whether it is an even or odd day. After the day is chosen the parents invite all the relatives over to share in ceremony, “where a mixture of millet, coconut and sugar is distributed amongst the guests present and sent to the houses of those who are not able to attend”(Stevenson 13). There is a threading procedure that takes place which joins the child to his/her cradle in protection against the Evil eye. The aunt who performs the threading also brings with her two pieces of gold, each weighing perhaps half a gram, one of which she ties on the cradle and one at the waist of the child for luck (Stevenson 13).

As this is taking place, within the common room of the house the family gathers to prepare for the aunt to announce the name of the child. Within the room a “square portion of the floor has been smeared with red clay, and on this pipal leaves have been placed” (Stevenson 13). The naming sacrament is also symbolic of the baby’s transition from the birthing room into the rest of the rooms within their new home. The baby girl is dressed in a red sari and placed in a hammock above the smeared red clay square. The corners of the sari “are held by the four nearest relatives of the child, they sing, and at the strategic moment the aunt pronounces the name” (Stevenson 14). The song runs (in Gujarati), “Cradle and pipala tree and leaves of the same, Aunt has chosen a name (Rama) as the baby’s name” (Stevenson 14). The child’s name takes much consideration. Not only do the first letters have to be synonymous with that belonging to the constellation under which he was born, it should also represent a great god. The child is given two additional names, one of which related to his fathers and that of his family.

Conclusion

The article has provided a detailed description of the preliminaries and celebrations that take place within a traditional orthodox Hindu household throughout birth and babyhood. The article only mentions three of approximately fifteen of those described/prescribed within the Dharma and Grhya Sutras. The first of which was the simantonnayana samskara which highlight the prenatal care of the mother and unborn child. More specifically, the protection of the pregnant mother is emphasized through the parting of the hair from superstitions and the promotion of longevity. As the child is welcomed into the world he/she is celebrated with the jatakarman samskara which inspires strength, intelligence and long life. The three day feeding ritual referred to as galasodi which often takes place after the jatakarman samskara is also a reflection of the child’s character. The final samskara mentioned in relation to birth rites is the namakarana samskara; the naming of the child. This sacrament provides the child with a name of which is symbolic of its astrological sign, the Hindu gods and his/her family name.


REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READINGS

Pandey, Bali Raj (1969) Hindu Samskaras. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

Rodrigues, Hillary (2006) Hinduism: The Ebook. Journal of Buddhist Ethic Online Books.

Saskar, Priyamvada (1992). “The Rites of Passage in Hinduism: Sacraments Relating to the Birth.” Ecumenism No. 108 p. 4-6.

Stevenson, Sinclair (1971) The Rites of The Twice Born. New Delhi: Oriental Books Reprint Corporation.

Related Topics for Further Investigation:

Astrology

Smarta Brahmins

Upanayana

Dvija

Student (sisya)

Householder (grhasta)

Forest-dweller (vanaprastha)

Renouncer (samnyasin)

Moksa

Atman/ Brahman

First Tonsure

Gayatri Mantras

Marriage (vivaha)

Laws of Manu

Laksmi

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic:

http://hinduism.iskcon.com/practice/600.htm

http://www.amritapuri.org/cultural/samskara/shodasha.php

http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-59788/Hinduism

http://www.sanskrit.org/www/Rites%20of%20Passage/RitesPassageIndex.htm

http://www.hinduwebsite.com/hinduism/concepts/samskara.asp

Article written by Barbara Edwards (March, 2008) who is solely responsible for its content.

Samskaras and Pregnancy

Pregnancy in the Hindu tradition is a very important time for a woman, especially if it is her first pregnancy, which it is hoped will take place as soon after marriage as possible. A new bride goes to live with her husband’s family, and in many cases, she has never met them before, so as a newcomer to the household, she has a low status and often feels isolated, homesick and awkward socially and sexually. Pregnancy helps welcome the wife into the husband’s family, and she is made to feel comfortable; eating well, resting often and being relieved of certain tiresome tasks (see Kakar 26 – 27).

Before conception, during pregnancy and following birth, there are many Samskara performed in the Hindu tradition. “Samskara” is a term generally translated as “rite of passage”, but it can also mean, “to perfect, refine, polish, prepare, educate, cultivate and train” (McGee 333). The Samskara performed around and during pregnancy have different purposes, but all are to aid in a healthy, auspicious pregnancy (preferably that of a son). These Samskaras are prescribed in the Grhya Sutras (ancient Hindu texts of householder rites) and are also in current ritual handbooks, even though they are not used very often anymore. The first three Samskaras I will be discussing take place from before conception to birth, and the last two take place within two weeks of the birth.

The first Samskara that is involved in pregnancy is called the Garbhadhana, also known as the niseka (see McGee 339) and relates to conception. Garbhadhana is sometimes thought to be the Garbha Samskara (the Samskara of the embryo) but is generally assumed to be the Ksetra Samskara (the consecration of the wife) (see Tachikawa et. al. 101). In the present day, this Samskara is not performed as a separate ritual but is usually absorbed into the wedding rituals (see McGee 341).

The Garbhadhana is also called the rite of insemination (see McGee 335) and it involves the husband’s seed being placed into the wife’s womb in order to secure the production of offspring. The Garbhadhana should be performed immediately after wedding, but one may also wait until the fourth day after the beginning of the first menstruation after the wedding. This latter time is thought to be when the wife’s womb is ripe for the planting of the husband’s seed. This ritual should be performed on a day that is considered auspicious (see McGee 340).

If a male child is preferred, which is often the case as a son is expected to perform his father’s funeral rites, an even numbered lunar day is considered auspicious. A full moon or new moon are considered inauspicious, as is performing Garbhadhana under Mula or Magha (see McGee 340) which are lunar mansions, or the moon one is born under (see Kapoor 215 & 238). When the night has been chosen, the husband asks his wife to accompany him and recites nine specific Mantras that accompany the husband’s different actions during the act (see Tachikawa et. al. 101). When “a learned daughter who will live out her full life span” is desired, the wife is supposed to cook rice with sesame seeds for them both to eat, together with ghee (see McGee 340).

Ancient texts assumed that gender was not determined when conception took place, but at about half way through the pregnancy. Therefore another way to ensure the foetus was a boy was to perform Pumsavana, “meant to stimulate, consecrate, and influence the fetus [sic] bringing about a male child” (McGee 340), during the third or fourth month, before the foetus could be felt moving. The day for this Samskara must be auspicious and under a male constellation, and the wife must fast and bathe before the ritual begins (see McGee 340).

Pumsavana ought to be performed in a round apartment with the wife facing east (an auspicious direction). The husband places a grain of barley on the wife’s right hand and then places a mustard seed on either side and pours curds or yogurt on top of them. The wife is to eat this mixture without repeating any Mantras. The wife is then to sip some water and the husband places his hands on her belly and recites a Mantra about his seed entering his wife’s womb and a male son being delivered in the tenth month. The husband then pounds shoots or sprouts of a Nyagrodha tree (or for “followers of the Rg Vedic Grhya Sutras, Durva or Asvagandha ‘bent grass’” (Tachikawa et. al. 103)) and mixes the resulting juices with ghee and shoves it up his wife’s right nostril while he stands behind her and she sits with her head against his lap (see Tachikawa et. al. 101 – 103 and McGee 340 – 341).

A Hindu goddess, probably Parvati because she holds a trident and is flanked by lions, is depicted pregnant on this wall at Veeramakaliamman Temple in Singapore
A Hindu goddess, probably Parvati because she holds a trident and is flanked by lions, is depicted pregnant on this wall at Veeramakaliamman Temple in Singapore

The next Samskara that is performed is Simantonnayana, which is prescribed for the fourth month and is the only Samskara during pregnancy that need only be performed once, as the other Samskara are thought to be performed on the embryo, while the Simantonnayana is thought to be performed on the mother (see McGee 341 and Tachikawa et. al. 103). The Simantonnayana could be performed in order to smooth the progress of labour and delivery or to ensure the foetus develops properly and is safely delivered in the final trimester, and is also thought to remove any pollution of the foetus that may have been a result of the pollution of its parents (see McGee 341 and Rodrigues 141). Either way, it is performed by the husband’s symbolic parting of the wife’s hair. In this ritual, the wife is to be facing west, while the husband parts her hair, starting at her forehead and moving toward the back of her head using a porcupine’s quill that has three white spots on it. As the husband parts his wife’s hair, he is to repeat two Mantras and three Vyahrtis (see Tachikawa et. al. 103.) The three Vyahrtis are Bhuh, Bhuvar and Swar, which roughly translate as earth, sky and heaven and are considered a form of Brahma (see Kapoor 420).

The Pumsavana and Simantonnayana are rarely performed today and taking their place is dohala-jevana, which takes place in the seventh month of pregnancy. The dohala-jevana involves a gathering of women who prepare a feast for the pregnant woman of food that she likes (or craves). They also adorn her with flowers or unripe fruits, sing her songs, shower her with gifts, anoint her, massage her, and generally create a high-spirited atmosphere (see McGee 341 and Tachikawa et. al. 104). This can be seen as similar to a baby shower in North America. In her final trimester, the pregnant woman is to be well taken care of and protected and should avoid inauspicious activities, as should her husband, in the interest of the welfare of the foetus (see McGee 341). She should also temporarily move back in with her mother so that she can become closer to her mother and learn from her so that she may be a good mother also (see Kakar 27).

The day and constellation under which the infant is born is noted for the purposes of jyotisa (see Rodrigues 142), which are important for marriage and naming, among other things. Immediately after the infant is born and preferably before the umbilical cord is cut, the Samskara Jatakarman, the birth ceremony, is to be performed. Jatakarman is supposed to give the child intelligence and strength and help him live a long life. Jatakarman is made up of several niceties. There are four preliminaries and then the father places some gold on an axe that has been placed on a stone, and turns them upside down so that the stone is now on the axe. The father then holds the infant over the stone with its head facing east and says two Mantras about his son being strong like the stone, sharp (intelligent) like the axe, and worthy like the gold (see Tachikawa et. al. 104).

The Aupasanagni (household fire) is then taken away, the Sutikagni (birth fire or confinement fire) is brought in, and the father throws rice grains and mustard seeds into the fire eleven times, repeating eleven Mantras as he does so in order to keep away evil spirits (see Tachikawa et. al. 104). The father than washes his hands and touches the earth giving thanks to it for delivering his child safe and healthy. The father then performs medhajanana in order that the infant may gain intelligence and strength. The rite of medhajanana involves mixing ghee with gold and Darbha grass or honey and placing it on the lips of the infant while reciting three Mantras. The father also performs Ayusya, in which he whispers the names into the infant’s ear of people who have had long lives in order to ascertain a long life for the child (see McGee 341 and Tachikawa et. al. 104). The father then bathes the infant in lukewarm water while reciting certain Mantras. He then performs the rite of stanapratidhana, the giving of the breast, where he places the infant on the mother in order that the baby might breastfeed, while he recites another Mantra. He then praises a pot of water that is placed near the head of the mother and infant to protect them both. Jatakarman is rarely, if ever performed nowadays (see McGee 342 and Tachikawa 104).

Although birth is considered an auspicious event, the actual act of giving birth is inauspicious and the naming of the infant, Namakarana, is not to take place until after purification rites, which take place on the eleventh day after birth and include ritual bathing and prayers. Therefore, Namakarana should take place on the twelfth day (see McGee 342 and Tachikawa 105).

The infant has been bathed and is dressed in new clothes and then the Namakarana begins. The father writes ‘salutation to lord Ganapati’ then the four names of his son on a bronze vessel filled with grains of rice. The first name is called the kuladevatanama (‘family-deity-name’) and is based on the family deity. The second name comes from the deity of the month the infant is born in and is called the masanama (‘month-name’). The third name is the name people are to use with him in public and is called the vyavaharikanama (‘ordinary-affairs-name’). The fourth name is based on the constellation under which the infant was born and is called naksatranama (‘constellation-name’). The father then gives honour and praise to the namadevatas, the deities who are in charge of names and then whispers the names in his son’s right ear as the infant sits on his mother’s lap. After the names have been whispered in the son’s ear, the Brahmins gathered are to make a statement about the names being “established” and address him by his names and bless him (see Tachikawa 105).

The Grhya Sutras and Dharma Sastras advise that boys’ names should have an even number of syllables and girls’ names should have an odd number. They also suggest that boys’ names end in an unvoiced aspiration or a short sound, while girls’ names should end in a long vowel such as [i] or [a] and should be easily pronounceable and feminine (see McGee 342 and Rodrigues 142). Naming the infant is thought to release it from sin (see McGee 342).

REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READING

Kakar, Sudhir (2001) The Essential Writings of Sudhir Kakar. New York: Oxford University Press.

Kapoor, Subodh (ed.) (2000) The Hindus Encyclopaedia of Hinduism: Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Hinduism. New Delhi: Cosmo Publications

McGee, Mary (2004) “Samskara.” In The Hindu World. Sushil Mittal and Gene Thursby (eds.). New York: Routledge. pp. 332 – 356.

Rodrigues, Hillary (2006) Hinduism – the eBook. Journal of Buddhist Ethics Online Books, Limited.

Tachikawa, Musashi, Hino, Shoun, and Deodhar, Lalita (2001) Puja and Samskara. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited.

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Sapinda

Naksatra

Gotra

Annaprasana/ Gannaprasana

Niskramana

Tithi

Cudakarana/ Caula

Dohada

Brhadaranyaka Upanisad

Jyotisa

Sutikagni

Medhajanana

Ayusya

Namadevatas

Vyahrtis

Nakshatra/ Nakshastra

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

http://www.shyamasundaradasa.com/

http://www.sanathanadharma.com/samskaras/

http://www.hindunet.com/

http://www.commsp.ee.ic.ac.uk/~pancham/articles/the%20sixteen%20samskaras.pdf

http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/sbe29/sbe29018.htm (keep reading until 25)

Article written by Jenna Boyd (Spring 2008) who is solely responsible for its content.

Birth Rituals in Hinduism

Hindu culture is full of rituals, traditions, and daily routines that seek to enhance and create the best circumstances for an individual while alive. These rituals are very orderly, taking place to move the individual from one stage of life to another. This personal movement, known as samskara, is ultimately to help the individual obtain liberation (moksa), and become free from the birth, death, and re-birth cycle. It is no surprise that birth would have many rituals surrounding it, as parents, extended family, and those involved with a new born would want to provide the best possible conditions for a baby to progress in life and achieve moksa. From the time of pregnancy until the child (if a boy) is ‘born again’ by the performance of the upanayana ritual, people near the new born perform many rituals and rites for the benefit the infant since it is not able to do so for itself. It is the purpose of this paper to describe some of these rituals that are preformed from the beginning of pregnancy until the delivery, as observance to these rituals plays a key part in an individuals life.

Women in Hindu society are complex as they have a duality in their roles. On one hand they are viewed as fertile, compassionate caregivers, yet on the other hand, they can be viewed as hostile, malicious destroyers (Wadley 113).An examination of Hindu women in the context of caregiver shows that along with caring for herself, her primary role is to care for her husband and children; this is why we see such concern surrounding childbearing. When a women suspects she is pregnant, it is not announced immediately, but rather the women leaves it to those around her to notice that, “she has not observed the usual monthly pollution period, is sometimes nauseous, or is widening at the waist”(Jacobson and Wadley 143). Once a women’s pregnancy is known, it is common that her brothers will take her to her parents home for the pregnancy (Tewari 259), however this is not always the case. No matter where the mother is located, she is treated and cared for in a special way to prepare for the coming child. Attention is paid to protect her and her unborn child from coming into contact with evil spirits, even to the point of abstaining from foods that could harm the baby (Jacobson and Wadley 143). The pregnant women, or jacca, is not to be our after dark, is not supposed to walk past pipal, or babul trees (since they are supposed to house evil spirits), and should always keep a piece of iron with her to ward off any spirits (Tewari 258).Upon learing of the pregnancy, one of the first rituals preformed for the jacca is called arathi. Arathi serves the purpose of removing the evil eye, and is similar to a western baby shower, since it primarily centers on the jacca receiving gifts of good fortune, as well as special foods to eat (Dhruvarajan 88).

When the jacca enters into the seventh month of pregnancy, arathi is again preformed, and further attention is given to prepare for the coming of the child. Other rituals such as rit, and kanji may also be preformed, which are very similar in the gift giving nature of arathi. In preparation for the delivery, a special birth-chamber, or sovar, is set up for the jacca and her baby. The sovar is a room that is separate from the rest of the house, preferably without windows, as the delivery should be completely private and away from the public. Much care is taken in the placement of the bed, making sure that it is not placed under the main beam of the house, and that it is not facing south, as these are believed to have a bad effect on the jacca (Stevenson 2).

When the time of delivery has arrives, the jacca enters the birth-chamber accompanied by her midwife (dai), and separates herself from everyone else in the household. This is because labor is a highly polluting experience, so polluting that the jacca is now referred to as a jachcha, or one in “a highly polluted and polluting state, similar to that of the lowest untouchable castes”(Jacobson, 144). Because of the highly polluting nature of delivery, the dai usually lives in a nearby low caste village, and travels to the home of the jacca at the time of delivery (Jacobson and Wadley, 144). If complications arise during delivery, a wide range of action may be taken, from breaking open the mouth of the great grain jar, to putting a lotus flower in water, hoping that as its petals expand, the mouth of the womb will also expand (Stevenson 2). While such traditional methods are preferred, if the jachcha faces complicated problems the dai may turn the pregnancy over to professional medical treatment.

Once the baby has been delivered, attention is given to what time the birth took place, as this will determine an accurate horoscope for the child, which, to a certain extent, will determine when other samskara rituals are preformed. On the day of birth itself, the family Brahmin priest typically holds a small ceremony for the new mother, in which he ritually brews an herbal tea in the company of the women of the extended family (Jacobson and Wadley 146). During the time following the delivery, the mother and child continue to be separated from the rest of the household (as mother and child are still regarded as being in a highly polluted state). It is believed that nine months worth of polluted menstrual blood is discharged at the time of birth, and therefore the mother and child must be purified before the return to the household. The main actions taken during this purification process called sor, are a series of baths and oil massages preformed by the dai, each progressively removing more pollution (Jacobson and Wadley 147). When the mother and child are believed to have been sufficiently cleansed, the dai, “breaks the mother’s old glass bangles…[and] rubs the mother with an ointment of turmeric, wheat flower, oil, and water to cleanse her skin” (Jacobson and Wadley 147). The baby itself is similarly cleansed by being rubbed with a ball of turmeric and dough, and receives an oil message. The mother and child are then changed into clean clothes, with the dirty, polluted clothes and bedding being thrown away. The birth-chamber itself also undergoes a purification by the dai, who “[applies] cow-dung slip to the floor and up onto the base of the walls.”

Upon the completion of sor, the mother and newborn are returned into their household and further rituals are planned, depending largely on the gender of the baby. In the case of a boy being born family and friends are invited to celebrate with the family, however in some instances the birth of a girl has limited celebration, or none at all (Tewari 260). This is based on the fact that a boy is seen as being able to perpetuate the family line and be a provider, where the girl’s role is traditionally less dominant. However while further life rituals are conditional, the birth rituals observed are unconditional as they seek to provide the best conditions for the baby to born into.

References and Further Recommended Reading

Dhruvarajan, V. (1989) Hindu Women and the Power of Ideology. Granby, Massachusetts: Bergin & Garvery Publishers Inc.

Jacobson, D., & Wadley, S. (1977) Women in India . Daryaganj, New Delhi: Manohar.

Jamison, Stephanie (1996) Sacrificed/ Wife Sacrificer’s Wife: Women, Ritual, and Hospitality in Ancient India. New York: Oxford University Press.

Leslie, Julia (1991) Roles and Rituals for Hindu Women. Rutherford: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press.

Rose, H.A. “Hindu Pregnancy Observances in the Punjab.” The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britian and Ireland Jul-Dec 1905: 271-278.

Stevenson, S. (1971) The Rites of the Twice-Born. New Dehli: Oriental Books Corporation.

Tewari, Laxmi. “’Sohar’: Childbirth Songs of Joy.” Asian Folklore Studies 1988: 257-276.

Vats, S., & Mudgal, S. (1998) Development of Women in Modern India. Faridabad: OM Publications.

Wadley, Susan. “Women and Symbolic Systems: Women and the Hindu Tradition.” Signs Autumn 1977: 113-125.

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Samskara

Moksa

Dharma

Jacca

Jachcha

Sor

Arathi

Dai

Sovar

Upanayana

Vivaha

Antyesti

Purusartha

Asrama

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

http://www.deekaypages.com/samskara/default.htm

http://asms.k12.ar.us/classes/humanities/worldstud/97-98/religion/hinduism/Rituals.htm

http://atheism.about.com/od/hindusandhinduism/a/IndiaRituals.htm

http://hinduism.about.com/od/basics/a/rites_rituals_3.htm

http://www.hindugateway.com/library/rituals/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samskara

Article written by: Ken Baker (April 2006) who is solely responsible for its content.