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Religion Library: Hinduism

Rites and Ceremonies

Written by: Jacob N. Kinnard

Hindu priest distributes balls of riceOne of the most important rituals associated with death is the pinda pradana, a ritual that is performed at several precise points after death and that involves the offering of small rice balls (pinda), which are thought to feed the deceased prior to his or her rebirth. Additionally, often the family will journey to a tirtha, a "crossing" of a sacred river, at set points after the death and "sink" a portion of the deceased cremated remains, further insuring a safe passage to the next life.


Sixteen major samkaras
Garbhadhanam: the act of conception
Pumsavanam: the expectant mother consumes barley, grain, and curd
Seemantam: ritual in the fourth month of a woman’s first pregnancy
*the expectant mother is anointed with oil, her hair is parted, and bystanders chant the words “om” and “vyahritis”
Jatakarman: birth ritual performed for a male newborn
*the baby receives mixture of ghee, honey, and gold
Namakaranam: naming ceremony
*on the twelfth day after birth, the father repeats the new name three times
Nishkramanam: child leaves the home for the first time
*usually occurs four months after birth
Annaprasanam: ritual for giving child solid foods for the first time
Choodakaranam: ceremony of cutting the child’s hair for the first time
Karnavedham: ritual for piercing the ears (boys and girls)
Vidyarambham: beginning of learning
*a child who is between three to five years old receives these words written on its tongue: "Hari sri ganapataye namah avignamastu"
Upanayanam: eight-year-old boys begin wearing the sacred thread (Yajnopaveetam)
Praishartham: studying the Vedas and Upanishads
Kesantham: ritual marking a sixteen-year-old boy's first shave
and Ritusuddhi: ritual associated with a girl’s first menstruation
Samavartanam: the end of formal education
Vivaham: ritual of first sexual intercourse, performed shortly after the wedding
Anthyeshti: funeral rites
 

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