views updated May 17 2018

Saṃskāra (Skt., saṃ, ‘together’, + kr, ‘make’). 1. The saṃskāras are the rituals through which high-caste or twice-born Hindus mark their transitions through life (and death), and may thus be regarded as rites of passage. The saṃskāras differ in number, depending on how many of the lesser moments which are marked by ritual (e.g. a child's first outing) are included. However, a fairly standard list of sixteen rites includes (i) Garbhādhāna, the securing of conception; (ii) Puṃsavāna, the securing of the birth of a male child; (iii) Sīmantonnayana, parting the hair of the pregnant woman to secure her from evil spirits (this again has reference to the birth of a male child; in W. India it is known as Dohada, and men cannot be present); (iv) Jātakarma, the securing and celebration of safe delivery; (v) Nāmakaraṇa, the giving of the name to the child on the twelfth day after birth; (vi) Niṣkramana, the making auspicious, by seeing the sun and going to a temple, of the child's first outing; (vii) Annaprāśana, the first feeding with solid food; (viii) Cauḍakaraṇa, shaving of the head during the first or third year; (ix) Karṇavedha, the piercing of the ear or nose between 3 and 5; (x) Vidyārambha, the learning of the alphabet; (xi) Upanayana, the sacred thread; (xii) on the day following, for those deemed competent, Vedārambha, the beginning of the study of the Vedas; (xiii) Keśānta, the first shaving of the beard; (xiv) Samāvartana, the end of student life; (xv) Vivāha, marriage; (xvi) Antyeṣṭi, funeral rites.2. In Hinduism the formations in consciousness which accumulate from thoughts and actions in earlier lives, and which constitute individual character. In Buddhism, see SANKHARA.


views updated May 18 2018

sam·ska·ra / səmˈskärə/ • n. Hinduism a purificatory ceremony or rite marking a major event in one's life.