Samskaras are Vedic rites of which generally mark a important step in the lives of us and our family. It means -How we can harmonize our daily Life with the divine.These Rites are generally performed with the guidance of a Priest who is adept in performing them in accordance with the Vedas. Each Veda has his own specific variations but the basic Rites are the same.
The Samskara are a series of Sacraments, Sacrifices and Rituals that serve as rites of passage and mark the various stages of the Human life and to signify entry to a particularAshrama. All Human beings are required to perform a number of sacrifices with oblations for God, Ancestors and Guardians in accordance with the Vedic dictums for a righteous life.Sanskar is a commonly used variant of the Sanskrit word -Samskara- and signifies cultural heritage and upbringing in modern Hindi.
Most Vedic rituals consist of Homa (Hindi -Havan-) - fire sacrifies of elaborate and intrinsic designs and complex methodology, accompanied by recitation of Vedas by qualified Priests in honor of a particular Demigod or god, fire offerings of various ingredients, gifts to be given in charity, presence of elders for blessings, amidst sanctified sacrificial grounds, sacred herbs and so on. Each important milestone of a Human life is to be celebrated by undertaking a particular Samskara wherein the significance of that milestone is ritualistically conveyed.
There are also a number of ceremonies not directly related to family life such as Griha-pravesha which is performed before entering or moving in into a new home or business facility. and in case of building a house, temple and so on prior to that vaastu puja is performed to sanctify the ground and to bring forth prosperity and good luck.
Also there is the narayan-bali rite wich is performed if a person has died of a unnatural cause (heavy sickness like cancer, car accident, murder) to help his soul to pass into the next stage of it's being. the vedic text say that the soull ripped out of the Body it has been in unnaturally may wander around as a buta or ghost and like this suffer even more or cause suffering and distress to it's relatives.
" In the Vedic Culture a vast number of ceremonies are Performed to please the Gods for the welfare and progeny of mankind. These ceremonies are called Yajna or sacrifice these are basically divided into 3 divisions called Puja, Abhisheka and Homa which is also often called Yajna.Homas are powerful ancient fire rituals that have been performed in India by the Vedic sages for over 5000 years.
on the nature of the homa. Certain homas include certain rituals while certain others include a different set of rituals. Sri Krishna in Bhagavad Gita quotes, This creation is a yagna. Yagna also means sacrifice and by this he meant that creation is an eternal flow of birth and death; it is a sacrifice where one s death gives way for the birth of another, continuously, something gets sacrificed for something to arise. This is how the Vedas interpret the creation and in the purview of the Vedas, the homa is but a miniature model of this Universal Sacrifice.
As a sadhaka participates with all his heart and as various offerings like ghee, herbs, sticks of certain trees are offered into the sacrificial fire along with the powerful chanting of mantras, the energy generated enables the sadhaka to tune into the Cosmic consciousness or God whereby his prayers are answered. It is well known that the presence of fire has an immediate bearing on the sadhaka, which makes prayer all the more easier.In the opening of the Rig Vedam it's said:om agnim ile purohitam yajnasya devam ritvijam hotaram ratnadhatamam Om. I magnify God, the Divine Fire, the Priest, Minister of the sacrifice,the Offerer of oblation, supreme Giver of treasure.
The first verse is the opening of the whole Vedic Revelation: the invocation to Agni, the mediator par excellence, the sacrificial Fire, who transforms all material and human gifts into spiritual and divine realities so that they may reach their endless destination.
Agni has a priestly role and a threefold composition, his nature being the anthropocosmic (i.e., divine, human, and earthly at one and the same time). Or, in traditional Vedic terms, Agni has a threefold aspect: adhidaivika, adhyamika, and adhibhautika. This opening verse contains as in a nutshell the whole of Man's sanatana dharma or primordial religiousness: praise, mediation, sacrifice, commerce with the divine, and also remuneration for man, all caught up in an atmosphere of invocation.
All these ceremonies are a core component of Vedic Culture not only to satisfy the Gods and thus gain there favor but ultimatley to keep the balance of giving and receiving.
Puja: which can be very elaborate like we often see in temples or very simple by just burning incense and offering a fruit or flower. As Krishna says in Bhagavad Gita 9:26 patram pushpam phalam toyam/ yo me bhaktya prayacchati tad aham bhakty-upahritam/ ashnami prayatatmanah If one offers me with devotion a leaf a flower or some water, I will accept it.
Abhishekam: Ritual Bath preformed for Deities at home and in temples but also in older days has been performed during coronation ceremonies for Kings.During an Abhishekam various sanctified ingredients are poured over the Deities as a sign of reverence and adoration whilst mantras from the Vedas for the specific Deity are recited by Brahmin Priests. Then there is Homa which in traditional Life is included in everyday action and also for specific Occasions (Temple festivals, Samskaras and so on) The Basic Ritual is always the same but the length and the ingredients offered into the sacred flame can vary from simply offering ghee into the fire to offerings of sweetrice, grains or precious metals, gemstones, flowers and much more.
There are certain steps which are performed during the Homa which are as follows, During a homa, various rituals are performed successively in order to activate various energies and to also develop the right emotion to perform the homa. Some of these rituals are common and must be observed before every homa. After these rituals are performed, the main homa would begin wherein the rituals differ depending on which deity you invoke. The common rituals for every homa are as follows.
At this time, the performer as well as the other persons who are participating in a homa pray for the cleansing of their hearts and seek divine blessings of their ancestors and other divine beings. Having prayed thus, they wear a ring made of Darbha grass, which is known to repel negative energies, on the ring finger of their right hand.
Specially made copper vessels called Panchapatras are kept filled with water. (Note: during a homa, iron or steel vessels are not used because of their low spiritual energies. Silver, copper, bronze, brass or clay [which is afterwards been thrown away] is preferred.) Water is taken with the left hand with a special copper spoon called uddharini on to the cavity of the right palm and sipped three times chanting the names of Lord Vishnu.
This procedure is to cleanse our body and mind & is followed by siromarjanam wherein the performers take water in the uddharini and sprinkles water on their heads with their right ring finger. The mantra chanted here:Om apavitra-pavitro-va sarva-vastam gato api va yah smaret pundarikaksham sah bhayabhyantara suchih. means, whatever be the condition of my body, sacred or unsacred, by the very chanting of your divine names, I sanctify this body of mine in order to receive auspicious energies.
This is a ritual wherein the performer takes water unto his right palm and chants a mantra which says, all you negative spirits who are trying to hinder our spiritual practices, immediately be gone and give way for the auspicious energies to enter our lives. Thereafter, the water is sprinkled all around to ward away these evil forces. Then the performer takes a vessel filled preferably with turmeric water and chants mantras inviting higher beings and sages and simultaneously sprinkles the water with mango leaves or Darbha grass in all eight directions. Sthala shuddhi is a purificatory rite.
In the Hindu scriptures, the elephant headed God, Ganesha is always worshipped in the beginning of any ritual, for his blessings ensure that the whole procedure would move smoothly unhindered by any external obstacles at any stage. Vaishnavas worship instead of Ganesha, Sri Vishvaksena the commander in Chief of Lord Vishnus army. Sri Vishvaksena is invoked into a Kumbha filled with fresh water in which flowers, rice mixed with turmeric, tulasileaf, a goldcoin and 9 precious stones are out inside then covered with 5 leaves and atop a banana or coconut is placed.
Thereafter, a method of worship involving sixteen steps is performed to please Lord Vishvaksena.
This is called Shodashopachara Pooja. All these steps are symbolical representations of the various forms of expressing reverence like offering the deity a golden throne to be seated, washing his feet, washing his hands, offering him water to drink, ceremonial bathing with sacred waters, offering new clothes, anointing him with sandal paste and other perfumes, adorning of jewels, worshipping with flowers, offering of fragrant incense, lighting the lamp, offering food, fruits and sweet drinks, chanting his praises, offering Arati and finally prostrating to him and seeking his blessings. This Shodashopachara Pooja is done to all the important deities in every homa.
This is a very important step in the homa for it is here that we invoke the main deity of the homa. If it is a Gayatri homa, Goddess Gayatri is invoked; in a Sudarshana homa, Lord Sudarshana is invoked and so on. The deity is invoked and worshipped in the Kalasha, which is a copper pot filled with water.
A coconut is placed over the mouth of the Kalasha and the coconut is surrounded by five or seven mango leaves. This kalasha is further decorated with flower garlands and a cloth is draped over it. The Kalasha is placed at the North- Eastern corner of the Homa kunda or the sacrificial pit. Shodashopachara Pooja is performed to the respective deities in the kalasha.
Yet another significance of the Kalasha is that it absorbs all the positive energies generated during the homa and hence the divine water in the Kalasha is sprinkled upon and distributed to the participants at the end of the homa. This water becomes charged with all the divine energies and has immense healing powers.
Here, the sacrificial pit or Homa kunda is sanctified by chanting mantras, before the fire god Agni is invoked. Sticks from select trees and cowpaddys (dried cowdung) are only used for homas .Ghee is offered and the participants meditate upon Agni.
The success of a homa very much depends upon how the participants relate to the fire god Agni , because he serves as the medium between this mortal world and the other supernatural or spiritual worlds.
After Agni dhyanam or meditating on Agni is done, the fire god is decorated by placing flowers on the eight corners or directions of the homa kunda amidst chanting. Water is sprinkled on all the four sides of the kunda and thus Agni becomes ready to accept the offerings offered to him.
This is like the heart of the homa. The entire homa depends upon the Sankalpa or the strong will of the participants. Each homa is performed for a definite purpose and it is this purpose that the performer and participants clearly hold within their hearts as they take Sankalpa.
The Sankalpa mantra itself is a very clear declaration stating According to the Indian Moon Calendar, in this particular year named thus (Indian astrology considers a cycle of sixty years with sixty distinct names), basically each Sankalpa says:
in this month, in this season, on this day of the brighter/darker phase of the moon, at a time when this particular constellation is ruling (each day is supposed to be ruled by one of the twenty seven important stellar constellations called Nakshatras) I/ we perform this (each ceremony is specifically mentioned) Homa for this purpose and by the grace of (the specific Deity usually the Ishta Devata); sometimes usually during Samskaras the performing Priest is also mentioned who performs the Homa.
Pradhana homa means the main homa . This is when the main mantra pertaining to the Pradhana Devata or the main deity is chanted 108 times continuously. Along with the chanting of the Moolah mantra or the main mantra, various Ahutis or offerings like nine grains, medicinal herbs, dry fruits, rice cooked in ghee, cooked rice mixed with jaggery, silver flowers, gold flowers, black sesame seeds and various others are offered into the fire.
The offerings are never the same and differ from homa to homa because each deity responds to a particular offering. All these details about the various ahutis for various homas are already stated in the Indian scriptures and have been followed meticulously over the ages by people. The common offerings for every homa are ghee and rice mixed with sesame.
In the scientific sense, each of these ahutis generate energies or vibrations of a particular frequency and in that frequency, that particular deity becomes accessible. So one must not mistake that how can this food be transported via fire to the deity. It is the vibrations generated that help us communicate to the deities.
The name itself suggests that this homa is for victory; for the success of all that we have done so far. During this procedure, mantras are chanted to appease the various forces of nature like wind, sun, moon, earth, rains, oceans, etc. the performer also expresses gratitude to all these forces of nature for it is with their cooperation that the homa has been possible.
The name itself speaks complete offering , meaning complete offering away of oneself. The participants are here made to feel deep within their hearts as to how finally what they seek for must come as the Divine blessing. They can only put efforts to a certain extent in the physical realm but beyond that things have to just happen and they must only surrender to the divine will and wait in gratitude.
Externally, this feeling is symbolized by the final ahuti which includes dry coconut, nine grains, nine gems, five metals (silver, gold, copper, zinc & brass), betel leaves, betel nuts, dry fruits, medicinal herbs, sandal wood sticks, saffron and any other particular ahutis wrapped up in a silk cloth. The colour of the silk cloth again varies from homa to homa. Like for Vishnu yellow cloth is used for Gayatri, Sudarshana, Narasimha homas, the colour used is red. For, Vidya homa, Rudra homa etc.,
it is white and for Kubera Homa, it is green and so on. This bundle of offerings is drenched in ghee amidst vedic chanting and then offered into the Homa kunda. The offering of the Purnahuti marks the completion of the homa.
Thereafter, the performers and participants get up and go round the homa kunda three times in the clockwise direction and prostrate before the homa kunda. Thereafter Prasthanam is done which is the ceremonious send-off and thanksgiving for all the higher beings and deities who have graced the homa. Mantras expressing gratitude are chanted here and the deities are requested to return to their respective abodes.
The final part of a Homa is the gifting the Priest with new clothes, food and money in order to re compensate him for the efforts he undertook while performing the ceremony. In ancient times the Priests would get land, cows, gold and jewellery but nowadays the general practice is to give the Priest a donation of money and clothes.
The importance of Dakshina is that if the Priest since he is the via medium which performs the offering for the Devata has to be satisfied in any possible sense otherwise the Homa performed will yield not the desired result or not at all. Afterwards Prashadam or sanctified food is honoured and it should be the Priest (or in case of a big ceremony the Priests) should be served first and made comfortable.
Purva Mimamsa deals extensively with the philosophy of yajna. This is also called Karma Mimamsa. Jaimini gave the Purva Mimamsa darsana with 12 chapters. It is primarily an inquiry into the Brahmana portion of the Veda. It deals with various sacrifices, their purposes and methods.It has a four chapter supplement called sankarsha kanda, by Jaimini. It is also called Madhyama Mimamsa, Madhyama Kanda, Devata Kanda and Upasana Kanda.
It deals with purpose of mantras, the nature and essence of devatas, purpose of worshipping devatas.Yajna in Daily life The Panca MahaYajnas A Grhastha is supposed to do five yajnas every day. These are called panca mahayajnas. These are offerings to Gods, Rishis, Pitris (departed fathers), creatures and men. They are called deva yajna, rishi yajna, pitru yajna, bhuta yajna and manushya yajna respectively. Apastamba Dharma Sutras mention these (1.13).
Man has four debts, to gods, pitris, rishis and fellow-men. These are called deva runa, rishi runa, pitru runa and manushya runa. By doing the above yajnas, man repays those debts and fulfills his purposes in life. By praying to gods and offering oblations to them, and through sacrifices one clears his debts to gods. This is called deva yajna. By gaining Vedic knowledge, by teaching, sharing and passing it on to subsequent generations one clears his debts towards the seers.
This is called rishi yajna. By offering oblations to pitris, and by continuing the race by begetting progeny, raising them properly, by getting good name for the lineage, one clears his debts towards the pitris. This is called pitru yajna.By showing compassion towards fellow men, by treating the guests well, by helping those in need, by excusing those by which one has been wronged, by doing actions that are beneficial to men, one clears his debts towards his fellow men.
This is called manushya yajna.Bhuta yajna is showing compassion towards living beings in general. This includes abstaining from inflicting violence and killing, living as a part of nature without harming it