Hindu rituals has long tradition of more than 5000 years ago. A ritual "is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, and objects, performed according to set sequence". Even common actions like hand-shaking, greeting, saluting a flag may be termed rituals.
Non commercial website, for knowledge sharing. Free to copy and use, if you find it useful.
Rituals are a feature of all known human societies. Rituals have evolved over time from Vedic, Shavism, Vaishnavism, Shaktism, Tantra and numerous folk/tribal traditions. Ancient Indians used rituals to resolve human problems. Some considered rituals even superior to God. So, there was demand for ritual knowledge and priestly services. Ritual and spiritual practices are being merged to serve the material and spiritual aspirations of people.
Importance of Samskaras or Rituals
Samskaras or Rituals are part of life.
These samskaras bind an individual to the community that nurtures the feeling of community membership. Samskaras give a sense of belonging and cultural training. Some Samskaras have been developed from health view point, rejuvenate the mind and enhance concentration and intellectual capacity. Though rituals differ greatly among regions, villages, and individuals, they have linked all Hindus into a greater Indian religious system.
Rituals necessary evil
Over time they create problems. Although some may appear exploitative and corrupt, without them many feel they are lost and life is meaningless, so they are “The Necessary Evil.”
Yagnas and sacrifices
Vedic and some local tribes practiced various sacrifices, and some were known as Yagnas.
Yagnas vary from the nature of offerings and the scale of functions. Some consider Yagna as an important aspect of God’s eternal Dharma (set of duties) upon earth and humans were expected to follow. Many believe in divine nature of the sacrifices and attributed every event and activity upon earth to some divine cause or the activity of the gods.
They communicate with divine through prayers and chants. For priestly families, ritual knowledge was the main source of livelihood. They prayed for peace and prosperity, and for a prosperous and bountiful world, so that they could find more patrons and have more opportunities to practice their profession and earn their livelihood.
Three debts are akin to the three mortgages on one’s life. The first debt is to God and the repayment requires regular prayers and worship, and selfless service to all of God’s creatures.
The second debt is to the sages and saints, who have revealed truths in scriptures. The repayment of this debt arises from service to the needy, handicapped, sick and poor, and less fortunate.
The third debt is to one’s ancestors, parents and teachers. The repayment of this debt means raising one’s family in accordance with the moral and ethical principles of dharma.
Karmas (or rituals) to be performed daily is different for different people.
The Karmas are broadly classified into five types as follows:
1) Nitya Karma – Daily Obligatory Duties
2) Naimittika Karma --Occasional Obligatory duties
3) Kamya Karma – Rites done to attain certain desired results
4) Prayaschitta Karma – Rites for expiation of mistakes or sins
(i) Nitya Karmas:
Nitya Karmas representing the major Daily Obligatory Duties are:
- Sandhya Vandanam (3 times)
- Samitadanam ( For Brahmachari)
- Aupasanam, Agnihotram, Agni Sandhanam
- Deva-Rishi-Pitru Tarpanam, Brahma Yajnam,
- Vaisva Devam
- Bhagavad Aradhanam
Major Samskaras or rites to be performed on special occasions are:
- Garbhadana - Conception rite
- Pumsavana and Simantonnaya or seemantha- Rite before Birth
- Jatakarma – At Birth
- Namakaranam – Naming ceremony
- Niskramana – First Outing of the baby and viewing the Sun
- Karna Vedana – Ear Piercing rite
- Annaprasana – Feeding of rice/solid food
- Chaula – Tonsure
- Vidyarambha – Beginning of Studies
- Upanayan – Sacred Thread
- Vedarambha – Beginning of Study of Vedas
- Samvartana – Completion of Studies
- Vivaha – Marriage
- Anthyeshti – Death
- Preta Sraddham
- Masikam and Sodakumbam (monthly for one year for deceased person)
- Amavasya and first day of month....
- Grahana Sraddham ( Solar / Lunar Eclipse)
- Pratyabdika Sraddham ( Yearly Ceremony for deceased person)
- Nandi Sraddham
- Upakarma (Avani Avittam)
- Gayathri Japam
Kaamya karmas refer to those rituals performed with a specific objective not on a daily or regular basis. Putrakameshti yaga for birth of a baby is a good example.
Prayaschitha Karma is one when one repents for his actions. Some are: Living quarters at a temple or holy place; Theertah yatra; Donating large part of wealth like penalty; and repairing the damage caused.
Website maintained by: NARA