Posted November 16, 2008on:
Death & Funeral
Visit to Sacred Sites
Pregnancy, Birth, Infancy
The Simantonnyana is performed during the seventh month. This is the equivalent of a baby shower and means ‘satisfying the craving of the pregnant mother’. Prayers are offered for the mother and child with emphasis on healthy mental development of the unborn child. Hindus believe that mental state of a pregnant woman affects the unborn child.
Once the child enters the world, Jatakarma is performed to welcome the child into the family, by putting some honey in the child’s mouth and whispering the name of God in the child’s ear.
Other rituals include a naming ceremony (Namakarna), the child’s first trip out (Nishkarmana) and the child’s first taste of solid food (Annaprasana).
The ear-piercing ceremony (Karnavedha) and first haircut (Mundan) ceremonies are also considered highly significant. These sacraments are performed on both the sexes. Hindus believe that the piercing of a hole in the lower lobes of the ear have benefits of acupuncture. Head saving is connected to the removal of impurities.
The next important transition in life is marriage. For most Hindus, the betrothal of the young couple and the exact date and time of the wedding are matters decided by the parents in consultation with astrologers. At Hindu weddings, the bride and bridegroom represent the god and the goddess, although there is a parallel tradition that sees the groom as a prince coming to wed his princess. The actual ceremonies in many cases become extremely elaborate, but orthodox Hindu marriages typically have at their center the recitation of mantras (prayers) by priests in front of a sacred fire.
One of the most important signs of an Indian marriage is the thali. This is a gold locket, made from a small nugget of gold provided by the groom. The thali is a symbol that binds the couple in marriage.
The body of the departed is given a bath and dressed in fresh clothes. Fragrant sandalwood paste is applied to the corpse, which is then decorated with flowers and garlands, followed by a small amount of gold dust sprinkled on different parts of the head and face. After some purificatory scriptural chants and worship rituals, the body is placed on the funeral pyre facing either north or south.
For most Hindus, cremation is the ideal method for dealing with the dead, although infants are buried rather than cremated. At the funeral site, in the presence of the male mourners, the closest relative of the deceased (usually the eldest son) takes charge of the final rite and, if it is cremation, lights the funeral pyre. In larger cities bodies are cremated in modern crematoria. After a cremation, ashes and fragments of bone are collected and eventually immersed in a holy river or the sea.
After a funeral, everyone undergoes a purifying bath. The immediate family remains in a state of intense pollution for a set number of days (sometimes ten, eleven, or thirteen). At the end of that period, close family members meet for a ceremonial meal and often give gifts to the poor or to charities.
The home is the place where most Hindus conduct their worship and religious rituals. The most important times of day for performance of household rituals are dawn and dusk. For many traditional households, the day begins when the women in the house draw kolam (floor art) in chalk or rice flour on the floor or the doorstep. For traditional Hindus, dawn and dusk are greeted with recitation from the Rig Veda (Holy Scripture). After a bath, there is personal worship of the gods at the family altar, which typically includes lighting a lamp and offering foodstuffs before the images and idols of the Gods. In some families prayers in Sanskrit or an Indian language are recited.
Rituals performed at temples, like household rituals, may be described as those that take place daily, nitya; those performed on specific occasions, naimittika; and those performed voluntarily, kamya. Hindu temples are dedicated to a deity or several deities who are believed to preside over the temple. Hindus visit temples to worship the temple deity or to worship another deity of their choosing by means of these three types of rituals. As at household shrines, they worship sculptures or painted images of the presiding deity and make offerings.
Basic rituals performed daily at most Hindu temples include rousing the deity from sleep at dawn, making the deity available for worship and offerings by visitors at midday, and putting the deity to bed at dusk. At some temples, the additional rituals of bathing and feeding the deity take place between dawn and midday. These rituals express the personal nature of Hindu love of and devotion to their deities. A visitor to a temple might request the performance of puja, or daily prayers, at the temple and make a donation for that purpose.
|Visit to Sacred Sites
Hindus make pilgrimages to sacred sites in India in the hope of cleansing themselves of sins and lessening their karmic debt.