Friday, September 15, 2017

Brahmin Rituals | Pancha Samskara for Brahmin Boy - Chakrankitam/ Samashrayanam

Samskara Meaning

SamskAra refers to the character of a human being. If a person is referred to as possessing Samskaram it means that he is wise and possesses exemplary qualities. He is supposed to be very good charactered and full of great knowledge/ virtues- both worldly and spiritual. This knowledge is attained from his teachers and through his own activities while leading a pious life with a pure mind and honest conscience. It doesn't mean that he should completely renounce worldly engagements and enjoyments. It is a controlled way of living the morally enlightened life.

Five Rituals - Pancha Samskaram ( A Brahmin Boy's Samashrayanam)
There are five components of SamskAram. So, it is referred to as Panch (meaning five) + SamskAram (qualities or elements) = Pancha SamskAram.

These five components are bestowed upon the Bachelor step-by-step after his Upanayanam in a ceremony held that is known as SamAshrAyaNam.

SamAshrAyaNam is a way of leading a humble (submissive) life in the shelter of a simple, holy atmosphere with no unwarranted desires or ego. This ceremony is known as SamAshrayaNam as it is bestowed to the person through the chanting of Vedic mantras by a Guru in a ceremonial way. And, the five elements of SamskAram are known as Pancha sanskaras.

Components of the Five Rituals or SamAshrAyaNam
  1. ChakrAmkanam or ChakrAmkitam (Making marks of Chakra and Conch on the shoulders)
  2. Pundra DhaaraNam (Wearing of two vertical white stripes with a red line in the middle on the forehead like a Trishul with base) 
  3. MantrOpadEsham (Receiving the Thiru Mantra from the teacher)
  4. Daasa Naama Sweekaaram (Accepting the name as a servant of God)
  5. Bhagavad AshrayaNam (Taking the refuge of God)

Now, let me explain each one of this SamskAram with more stress on ChakrAmkitam as it is the major part for a Brahmin/Vaishnava to get purified.

1) Chakraamkitam / చక్రాంకితము 
ChakrAmkitam is an advanced ceremony performed after the Upanayanam to a married person. It is performed both to either male or female. It is a ceremony that confers the right and entitlement to the person undergoing this ritual to perform all the holistic rituals and duties of any kind that require a pure and holistic body and mind.

You must be aware that God Vishnu holds the Sudarshan Chakram and the Shankham or Conch in His hands. Both these weapons are most important for the Vaishnava community. They both signify one's status and identity as a great valorous person and enlightened being.

ChakrAmkitam is the ritual through which one is branded with these two auspicious symbols on his or her shoulders. It is done by heating the metal shapes representing these symbols  (which are normally kept at God's altar) and branding them on the shoulders- the right shoulder with Chakram and the left shoulder with the Conch. It is done by a family Guru, Priest or even by the father. Some medicines are applied later to heal the burns caused in this process.

A person is deemed to be fit for cooking the food required which gets offered to the departed souls during their death rites or at their annual death ceremonies ( which is known as Pinda PradAnam) only when he undergoes this ceremony of getting branded by these auspicious symbols on his or her shoulders.

So, ChakrAmkitam is a must for all Vaishnavas to be able to prepare the death rites for their deceased parents and ancestors.

2) Pundra DhAraNam / పుండ్ర ధారణము 

(This image is created By Padmavasantha - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, taken from

Pundram means to the auspicious Tilak with three stripes that people wear on their forehead especially when they are performing some religious duties like worship at home or at temples and during ceremonies and festive occasions, etc. When you are in the company of your elders, it is deemed as a good gesture to your elders if you wear these stripes.

The Pundra DhAraNam is also known as Urdhwa Pundra DhAraNam in case of Vaishnavas because the Vaishnava community people wear the stripes vertically whereas the Brahmin people wear it with horizontal stripes.

Two vertical white stripes are made in the shape of the letter "Y" with a white chalk known as ThirumaNi as shown in the above image at center. After drawing this Y shape, in the middle of these two white stripes, one red stripe is created with a red powder or chalk known as Sri ChoorNam or Thiru ChoorNam.

The white shape of Y is known as ThirumAn and it represents the feet of Vishnu. The red mark is known as Sri CharaNam associated with feet of Goddess Lakshmi. It is considered that Vishnu and Lakshmi are inseparable and the devotees often need to obtain the blessings of Goddess Laksmi first to seek Moksha from God Vishnu.

3) Mantropadesham / మంత్రోపదేశం 

This step refers to the imparting of the auspicious Tirumantram by the teacher to the disciple after his Upanayanam, ChakrAmkitam, and the application of the tilak on his forehead.

The MantrOpadesham consists of three mantras that are imparted one after the other along with their significance and complete knowledge. They are known as the AshtAkshari Mantra imparted by NArAyaN to Nara (both are incarnations of God) in the Badari Dham, Dvaya Mantra imparted by God to his consort Lakshmi in Vaikunt, and the Charam Sloka (last stanza of Bhagavad Gita) imparted by Sri Krishna to Arjun in Kurukshetra.

I may provide more detailed information about these three mantras in my subsequent posts.

4) Daasanaama Sweekaaram / దాసనామ స్వీకారము 

Through this ritual, the disciple accepts himself as a servant of his teacher and the God. This is not to be considered as any disgrace or degradation of his status. It is a state of submitting himself in full confidence and faith to the supremacy of his teacher's unlimited virtues and the Supreme Powers of God for the purpose of increasing his knowledge and thereby attain self-realization.

5) Bhagavad AashrayaNam / భగవదాశ్రయణం 
Bhagavad or Bhagavat refers to that pertaining to God. It can also be referred to pertaining to the seekers of God and enlightened people. Aashraya means refuge or shelter. Aashrayanam means taking to or seeking the refuge of God.

So, through this process of Bhagavad AashrayaNam, the person seeks and pursues the shelter and refuge of God and of those people nearer to God's grace. This is done through selfless service to those pious people and through continuous meditation. It is also done through voluntary services to helpless and poor people in their troubles and ailments. It should be a selfless service with no desire for any favors or benefits in return.

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