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.
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. When a person is not aware of his role in society one leads own selfish life leading to the destruction of self but the entire human community.
Samskaras give a sense of belonging and cultural training. Samskaras are expected to act as code of conduct for the society.
Some Samskaras have been developed from health view point, rejuvenate the mind and enhance concentration and intellectual capacity
Samskaras are expected to reduce vices, pride, ego, selfishness, envy, greed, fear etc
Samskaras give the confidence to face adversities like death bravely
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.
rituals based on an indigenous blend of superstition such as witchcraft, which perpetuates the belief that people can be possessed by malevolent spirits.
These self-proclaimed pastors, often young and charismatic men, indeed have accumulated immense influence in the DRC, and they did so by claiming to possess special gifts endowed by God. Some can speak in tongue, claiming prophetic insights into the future. Others maintain the ability to cure diseases by the mere laying-on of their hands.
Besides a ray of hope and comfort, these churches also offer public services which in many areas are still lacking in post-war Congo. In primary education alone, more than 70 percent of the students go to schools funded by the government but administered by religious institutions. Pongo says that although the churches he experienced may appear exploitative and corrupt, without them people can be left with no fundamental services, which inspired him to name this body of work “The Necessary Evil.”
Yagnas and sacrifices
Vedic and some local tribes practiced various sacrifices, and soem were known as Yagnas. Yagnas vary from the nature of offerings and the scale of functions.
Each sacrifice involved an intention (sankalpa), an altar (yajnakunda), sacrificial offerings of various kinds, utensils, sacred fire, officiating priests, gifts (dakshina) for the priests and guests etc. Their purpose essentially was to fulfill desires, overcome adversity, resolve problems or wash away sins. 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 desired results like Jyotistoma Yaga for reaching Heaven
4) Prayaschitta Karma – Rites for expiation of sins like Candrayana Vrata
5) Nishiddha Karma – Forbidden action like killing, drinking etc
(i) Nitya Karmas:
Nitya Karmas representing the Daily Obligatory Duties for a Grhastha (householder) includes the following:
1) Pratah Sandhya Vandanam (Morning)
2) Samitadanam ( For Brahmachari)
4) Agnihotram (For Agnihotris)
5) Agni Sandhanam
6) Deva-Rishi-Pitru Tarpanam
7) Brahma Yajnam,
8) Vaisva Devam
9) Bhagavad Aradhanam
10) Madhyanikam ( Afternoon)
11) Sayam Sandhya Vandanam (Evening)
12) Pratyabdika Sraddham ( Yearly Ceremony)
The non-performance of Nitya Karmas results in sins.
(ii) Naimittika Karmas:
"naimittikni - putrajanmdyanubandhni jteydni."
Jtei sacrifices (which are performed subsequent to the birth of a son) etc. are called the naimittika-karma or rites to be observed on special occasions [Vedntasra, 10]
Naimittika Karmas representing the rites to be performed on special occasions for a Grhastha (householder) mainly includes the following main 16 Samskaras (40 Samskaras are mentioned in the Scriptures) and other Pitru Karmas:
1) Garbhadana - Conception rite
2) Pumsavana – Rite before Birth
3) Simantonnaya- Rite before Birth
4) Jatakarma – At Birth
5) Namakaranam – Naming ceremony
6) Niskramana – First Outing of the baby and viewing the Sun
7) Karna Vedana – Ear Piercing rite
8) Annaprasana – Feeding
9) Chaula – Tonsure
10) Vidyarambha – Beginning of Studies
11) Upanayan – Sacred Thread
12) Vedarambha – Beginning of Study of Vedas
13) Keshantha – Shaving of Beard
14) Samvartana – Completion of Studies
15) Vivaha – Marriage
16) Anthyeshti – Death
1) Preta Sraddham
3) Sankramana Sraddham ( Monthly)
4) Grahana Sraddham ( Solar / Lunar Eclipse)
6) Nandi Sraddham
1) Upakarma (Avani Avittam)
2) Gayathri Japam
The non-performance of Naimittika Karmas results in sins.
(iii) Kaamya Karmas:
Kaamya karmas refer to those Karmas (or rituals) in Hinduism which are performed with a specific objective in view. Unlike Nitya karmas, these rituals are not required by the Shastras to be performed on a daily or regular basis, but these may be performed only for acquiring some desire. A few kaamya-karmas are listed below:
(iv) Nishiddha Karma:
Nishiddha Karma are heinous acts (declared as immoral).
(v) Prayaschitha Karma;
Prayaschitha Karma is one when one repents for his actions.
Living quarters at a temple or holy place. It also refers to a remote hermitage of a saintly person or sage. An ashram is usually a very peaceful and tranquil place, making it a perfect place to meditate on God. Another meaning has to do with the four spiritual orders of life according to the Vedic social system. This includes brahmacarya (student life), grihastha (married life), vanaprastha (retired life), and sannyasa (renounced order).