Puranic encyclopaedia

by Vettam Mani | 1975 | 609,556 words | ISBN-10: 0842608222

This page describes the Story of Jatakarmadisamskara included the Puranic encyclopaedia by Vettam Mani that was translated into English in 1975. The Puranas have for centuries profoundly influenced Indian life and Culture and are defined by their characteristic features (panca-lakshana, literally, ‘the five characteristics of a Purana’).

Story of Jātakarmādisaṃskāra

In the ancient days the people of Bhārata observed certain social and customary rites immediately after the birth of a child. They were known as Jātakarmans. Each caste had its own jātakarmans. They are given below:

If it is a male child jātakarman should be done before cutting the umbilical cord. At that time gold is to be rubbed in ghee and honey and the tongue of the child should be touched with it, uttering mantras (spells) (Colloquial name of this rite is giving gold and honey). The child should be named on the tenth or twelfth day after birth, selecting suitable lunar day, good star and auspicious moment. The name should imply prosperity to Brāhmans, might to Kṣatriyas, wealth to Vaiśyas and humility to Śūdras. That is, the word 'Śarman' in the case of Brāhmaṇa, 'Varman' for Kṣatriyas, 'Gupta' for Vaiśyas and 'Dāsa' for Śūdras, should be added to the name. The names given to girls should be of easy utterance, having clear meaning but not cruel, very beautiful, charming, and propitious avoiding long letters as far as possible. Four months after delivery, the child should be taken out of the room of confinement to see the Sun. On the sixth month the rite of 'Annaprāśa' (feeding with rice) should be performed. In accordance with hereditary customs the two rites mentioned above may be performed at any time after the third month. For Brāhmaṇas and Kṣatriyas the ceremony of 'Caula' (tonsure) may be performed at the time of birth or at the age of three. The ceremony of Upanayana (Investiture with the Brāhma string) should be conducted at the age of eight from pregnancy for Brāhmaṇas, at the age of eleven from pregnancy for Kṣatriyas and at the age of twelve for Vaiśyas. But Upanayana could be performed at the age of five for Brāhmaṇas who desire Brāhma-radiance, at the age of six for Kṣatriyas who desire might and at the age of eight for Vaiśyas who desire wealth. There is another opinion that Upanayana could be performed up to the age of sixteen for Brāhmaṇas and twentytwo for Kṣatriyas. Even after the attainment of this age, if this ceremony is not performed, that boy will be considered an out-cast from the mantra (spell) of Gāyatrī, and will have no admittance to the rituals and ceremonies performed by Brāhmaṇas and will be known by the name Vrātya (an outcast, uninvested Brāhmaṇa). These Vrātyas could not be taught Vedas or be given women as wives.

Brāhmaṇa, Kṣatriya and Vaiśya brahmacāris (celibates) could use the hides of black antelope, spotted deer or goat as upper garment and clothes made of silk thread, flax or wool of sheep or red leopard. To tie round the waist, Brāhmaṇas have to make belts out of Muñja (grass), Kṣatriyas, out of Mūrva (grass) and Vaiśyas out of flax. When these are not available, Brāhmaṇas may use Kuśa grass, Kṣatriyas ñānal grass and Vaiśyas Darbha grass called balbaja to make belts of customary three darns or five darns with a knot. A celibate should have a stick. For Brāhmaṇas the stick should be made of Bilva (Aegle marmelos) or "palāśa" (butea frondosa) and for Kṣatriyas, of banyan or blackwood. (Mimosa catechu) and for Vaiśyas, of Dillenia speciosa (Uka tree) or fig tree. For Brāhmaṇas the stick should reach up to the top of the head, for Kṣatriyas up to the forehead and for Vaiśyas up to the nose. Before going for alms, the celibate should take his stick, bow before the sun, go round the fire and only then set out. The alms received should be offered to the teacher as oblation, then he should turn to the east and wash hands and mouth and eat it. Brāhmaṇas should wear the upper garment or their sacred thread (Yajñasūtra) on the left shoulder and under the right arm and then it is called 'Upavīta'; if it is on the right shoulder and under the left arm it is called "Prācīnāvīta" and if it is round the neck it is called "Nivīta".

These Jātakarmans may be done for the female child also at the stipulated times by tantras, without reciting mantras, for the purification of the body. The rituals performed without reciting Vedamantras (spells) are called tantras. For women marriage is to be considered as Upanayana, looking after the needs of husband to be considered as learning at the house of the teacher, and housekeeping as samidādhāna (gathering fuel of Butea frondosa). (Manusmṛti, Chapter 2).

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