Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Shodasha Samskara! Shodasha means 16. There are 16 Samskaras which make human life. In a man or a woman’s life, there are 16 ceremonies or rituals that would impact the life. So what are they? It starts from Garbhadhana, it starts with conception. There is a way to conceive, conception is the first one. There is a whole Samskara about conception - how a man and woman should get together, what time, when, to conceive a baby. This knowledge has been kept a secret. If you want a girl how to conceive, on which day conception should happen, if you want a boy…when etc.That is about conception - Garbhadhana Samskara. It is done with certain mantras and ceremonies. This is almost not in so much use. They usually do it on the wedding day itself - chant some of the mantras and finish as though the whole ritual is over.
And the fifth month there is a ceremony called Pumsavana and then eighth month, Seemanta - a ceremony is done on the eighth month. And the lady is given all that she wants, all her desires are fulfilled. Whatever she wants is gifted to her telling her you are bearing a new universe inside of you and making her happy. So these are three Samskaras - Garbhadhana, Pumsavana, Seemanta. The fourth Samskara is the naming ceremony. Before eleven days after the birth, the naming ceremony is done. The father, mother choose a name and they put a little honey into the tongue of the child and in the right ear they pronounce the name of the child. Naming ceremony is the fourth one. And then the first time to remove the hair, it happens between first and third year, Chaula. Chaula means removing the first hair. When they remove the hair then they also pierce the ears. You know ear lobe is where all the nerve endings are there so they pierce the ears. Scientifically the ear lobes seems to bring more awareness, more intelligence; Chaula.
Then between eighth and eleventh year they do Upanayana Samskara where the child is taken to the school first. From childhood to adolescence, before they go, they are told you have these responsibilities in your life to perform - this, this, this you have to do. And then The Gaythri Mantra is given to them. Brahma Upadesha means ‘You are that’, ‘Thou are that’, this upadesha is given. This is the next. After Upanayana, a person studies, goes to school and stays in the Gurukul with the teacher, the Guru. After he finishes his education, then there is Samaavartana. Samaavartana means finishing the education and getting into the work life and then wedding, marriage. Like that the samskaras go on till the death ceremony, the last ceremony, Antiyeshti Samskara. All these samskaras are part of life. Ancient people had mantras for all that.