Why are these Hindu Rituals / Samskaras?
Hindu Scriptures, places human species as a part of animal kingdom in lines with the modern evolutionary biologists and shows the way to divine and make human life sublime. All the activities of animals are directed towards i) food, ii) sleep, iii) procreation and iv) security. If human beings continue to do the same forgetting the Divine they are no better than animals. The samskaras reinforces the thought of Divine during every stage of human life. If practiced diligently, it ensures that the Summum bonum (achieve Divine consciousness) of human life is accomplished in this very life. Hindu philosophy classifies impacting factors as Adhyathmika (Self), Adhibaudhika (Terrestrial) and Adhidaivika (Extra-Terrestrial). These factors should be in harmony to fulfill any task. The imbalances should be harmonized before we can achieve the desired results. The Vedic rituals whether personal, social or religious aims at balancing these contributing factors.
Human accomplishments are consecrated by these rituals. Shastras extol that by birth a human being attains the status of the living creature and gains the status of twice-born after these sacraments. The second birth is born of the sense of Divine consciousness. The rituals, mantras and the blessings of Divine, priest and well wishers sanctifies the accomplishment. It helps the person to ascertain his/her role in the fulfillment at every stage of life and relate it to the stakeholders and the cosmos. Divine guidance, presence and grace is invoked and felt during all these ceremonies. There are sixteen rituals (Shodasa samskaras) prescribed by scriptures and adhered across the land of Bharath for ages.
What are the 16 Hindu Sacraments?
Garba Aadhana – Pre consummation rites which purify the parents
Pumsavana – Rites for the carrying mother
Simantonnayana – Prenatal rite for the protection of carrying mother and her womb
Jatakarma – Natal rite purifying the new born
Namakarana – Naming Ceremony
Nishkramana – Exposing the infant to outside world
Annaprashana – First Feeding of solid food
Chaulam – Tonsure
Karnavedhana – Piercing the ears
Aksharaabhyasa or Vidyaramba – Beginning of Education
Upanayana – Opening the eye of wisdom. Lit. bringing near the Guru, scripture and God. Investiture of Sacred Thread.
Vedaarambha – Initiation into the Vedic Education
Keshanta or Ritusuddhi – Whole body Shave for boys or Nuptial rites for girls
Samaavartana – Convocation or Completion of Education
Vivaha – Marriage
Anthyeshti – Funeral Rites
The samskaras vary slightly based on the conventions of the community.