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Posts tagged ‘Sage Manu’

Splashes – 42/72 – Etiquette and Social Norms

The social guidelines contained in Manusamriti are relevant till date. Precisely for a Hindu, Manusamriti suggested the guide line, Ramayana a sample, and Gita a user guide to solve unforeseen problems for living a contented life. Every practice in Hinduism is aimed to integrate all elements in the society to local environment.

Health and Hygiene

Instructions for maintaining cleanliness fall within commonsense and behavior desired in any civil society. Even today the same could be found scripted at public baths and eating places. It is commendable that thousands of centuries ago Hindu society had thought about the same in the public interest. Few illustrative examples from Manusamriti are summed up below:

  • One should neither take nude bath, nor urinate in water, ploughed field, near a temple, in public place, or on ash, an item used for purification.
  • Food should always be accepted with respect. There should be no criticism of food, and one must wash mouth after meals. Left over and stale food should not be served to anyone.

Respecting Relationships

Today excluding parents, every male is called ‘uncle’ and every female is addressed ‘aunty’. In contrast, it was the maturity of Hindu society that specific titles for all relationships had been evolved to precisely explain proximity between two persons. There were no legal relations, such as father in law, or mother in law, but all relations were extensions of natural blood relations.

Due consideration was given to the age of the person. Elders were accorded full respect, and in return, they were to showers affection on the younger. Elders were addressed by their relation and not by name. The elder had the privilege to call the younger by first name. It is disgusting to see convent educated TV anchors, addressing elders by using first name. This is nothing but a sign of arrogance and poor upbringing.

Social Behavior and Courtesies

Following are some samples of social behavior and courtesies since the time of Sage Manu. The implied meaning is summed up below each verse quoted here:-

यो न वेत्त्यभिवादस्य विप्रः प्रत्यभिवादनम्। नाभिवाद्यः स विदुषा यथा शूद्रस्तथैव सः ।।

(मनु स्मृति 2- 125-126)

  • It is imperative that compliments should be returned without any exception of high or low. If a Brahmin ignored to respond, other Brahmins should treat him as uncivilized and must not reciprocate his compliments.
  • For communicating with teachers and Brahmins, one is expected to get up if the superior is sitting, position himself in front of the superior, if the latter is standing, and run to the superior if the superior is walking. One should not sit on the seat of the superior while the latter is away. Also, one should never imitate mannerisms of the teachers and superiors.
  • One should not talk to a person, who is sleeping, eating, or looking elsewhere.          

अप्रणोद्योSतिथिः सायं सूर्योढी गृहमेधिना।

काले प्राप्तास्त्वकाले वा नास्यानश्नगृहे वसेत्।। (मनु स्मृति 3- 105)

  • Guests are treated like gods in houses. Even if a guest visited after sun set he should be welcomed fed, and looked after by the couple.

भुभवत्स्वथ विप्रेषु स्वेषु भ़त्येषु चैव हि। भुञ्जीयातां ततः पश्चादवशिष्ठं तु दम्पति।। (मनु स्मृति 3- 116)

  • The couple should serve food to Brahmins first, and thereafter to servants before taking their own meal.
  • There is no compulsion in Hindu religion on following any specific ritual. But it is obligatory to pay the priest if he was asked to perform any ritual.
  • Truth must be spoken in a pleasant form. It should never be hurting.
  • Old people, patients, load carriers, women, learned persons, kings and person riding a vehicle, are given the right of way.

These aspects show that Indian life codes were more civil than today in every sphere.

Crime Control and Punishments

The chapter on Crime Control and Punishments is most relevant to our contemporary environment, since this obligation is being overlooked or implemented half-heartedly by the rulers. Sage Manu has laid down that it is the fundamental duty of the ruler to punish criminals, because unpunished crime breeds more crime in the society. Those having contacts with criminals, or helping them with food and shelter, should also be punished.

Severe punishment was prescribed in Manusamriti, for those who polluted water sources, impeded entrances, or created road blocks. Only patients, children, women, old, infirm and those in distress could be exempted. Punishments were suggested to be inflicted in public view for the following offences:-

  • Cow slaughter, cruelty to animals and killing them just for pleasure,
  • Sedition against the king,
  • Homicide and black magic,
  • Adultery, seduction, prostitution,
  • Selling one self, women and children, as well as neglecting parents, teachers, and children,
  • Money laundering, selling of prohibited goods,
  • Pilferage, misappropriation, stealing, and snatching the property of others,
  • Defaulting on loan and contractual payments.

Undesirable Behavior in Society

Several moral breeches have also been listed, such as:

  • Sleeping during day, finding faults with others, and over familiarity with stranger women,
  • Drinking, dancing, and loitering in public,
  • Causing public disturbance by noise,
  • Exposing weakness of someone with evil intent,
  • Showing off through evil deeds,
  • Jealousy,
  • Intemperate language.
  • Sending garlands and perfumes to un-related persons of opposite sexes, joking, hugging, touching their ornaments, and sharing of seats are some of the acts that have been listed as undesirable and detrimental to harmony in the society.

Commercial aspects and public utilities

Manusamriti prescribed that the king should get wells and canals dug and temples built at the boundaries. For controlling undesirable activities, the king should keep public places under surveillance such as sweat shops, bars, cross roads, resting places, uninhabited houses, jungles, parks, markets, and brothels.

Comprehensive Rules were provided for:-

  • Transportation and payment to boatmen as well as compensation in the event of accident or dis-service.
  • Loans, sureties, and mortgaged items.
  • Safe guards for the interests of lunatics and children.
  • Maintain cleanliness at washing points.
  • For controlling smuggling, tax evasion, adulteration, and quackery.
  • Regulation of contracts, and
  • Principles of inheritance.

System of taxation prescribed that ruler should tax the subjects to finance projects for the good of society. King should not exempt even the poorest person otherwise the poor will get used to seeking exemptions for ever. The King should periodically check implements used for weights and measures by traders.

Implementation and Regularity System

No legislation is complete without mechanism for its implementation, and a procedure for dealing with matters un-provided for. Manusamriti has made provision for this vital aspect also.

  • Detailed instructions have been provided for convening disciplinary committee on the pattern of modern jury system.
  • Matters un-provided for should be decided by common sense with regard to time place, environment, and intentions.
  • It has also been settled that one learned person’s opinion is worth thousand illiterates.
  • Any name sake Brahmin without knowledge has been declared worthless in this context.

Most of the social laws enunciated by Sage Manu have been codified, by present day governments. Unwritten laws have been amalgamated with traditions and customs of the societies. As legislation is considered to be the image of every society, the social laws framed by Sage Manu at a very early time, when most of the population on other part of the world was absolutely primitive, proves the point, that Hindu society was neither drenched in superstitions nor was a land of snake charmers. Ours was the only advanced civilization from the times immemorial.

Chand K Sharma

(Next: Splashes – 43/72 – Entertainment and Pastimes)

Splashes – 24/72 – Status of Women in Hindu Society

The importance and respect accorded to women in Hindu society can be gauged from Hindu icons that all Hindu gods have their spouse besides them on the same pedestal as theirs. They enjoy the same reverence as that of the God and are not mere objects of pleasure. Verses have been composed in the scriptures in praise of goddesses, and they are equally empowered to grant as much blessings and inflict curses as their spouse!

Individual Freedom

Since nomadic period, all over the world, by and large, females continued to look after indoor responsibilities, while males managed the external environment, but in Hindu society women had plenty of indoor as well as out-door freedom, since the Vedic and Epic age.

Females in Hindu society had equal opportunities and scope for individual development, especially in the field of religious, spiritual, social and artistic activities. They could study Vedas, become teachers or even ascetics if they wished. They could pursue study of subjects such as medicine, mathematics, astronomy, or achieve expertise in performing arts like music, dance and drama. They could learn even martial arts and could accompany the males in battlefield. One noteworthy reference is available in Ramayana, when Queen Kaikeyi protected her wounded husband King Dasrath on battlefield, who made two standing promises to her. Even during Sanyasa Ashrama Sages and Rishis were accompanied by their wives. Arundhati, Gargi, Savitri, and Anusooya are few names of learned women mentioned as samples of feminine wisdom.

Special status granted to women in Hindu society can be gauged from the following verse of Sage Manu, the law giver: 

यत्र नार्यस्तु पूज्यन्ते रमन्ते तत्र देवताः। यत्रैतास्तु न पूज्यन्ते सर्वास्तत्राफलाः क्रियाः।।

– (मनु स्मृति 3-56)

(Meaning – Gods reside in the abode where women are respected, but where women are insulted, all noble deeds and knowledge get destroyed)

Status of women in Hindu Society can be compared in contrast with some other faiths where women are nothing but confined to harems for the purpose of pleasure, and cannot be relied upon as a witness to testify an atrocity alleged against a man. They cannot join the men-folk even in prayers at public places. They are debarred from education also in certain faiths.

The Institution of Marriage

Nowhere women were sold, or forced into marriage in Hindu society.  Unlike other societies, physical love and attraction do not form the basis of husband – wife relationship, but it the duty of each partner to love and care for the person one is married to. This is the stark difference in Hindu marriage and that in other societies. There was no divorce. Hindu marriage is not an act of contract, but a bond of perpetual relationship expanding the span of several lives of the couple.

In Hindu families, wife is called Dharampatni, since she is a spiritual partner of her husband.  No religious ritual is complete without her participation. Hinduism considers Moksha as the ultimate goal of human life including women. The paths prescribed for the attainment of Moksha is identical for males and females. Purity, self-control, devotion and austerity are as much necessary for women as for men.

Mostly parents arranged the marriages for their sons and daughters, but Hindu women had right to choose their life partner through Swaymvar also. However, in Hindu society, a shameless woman is considered to be a Sarupnakha, despite her physical charms and family status. Women violating the norms of their society and family suffer, and the same has been well depicted in Ramayana. Sita, the ideal home-maker also had to suffer when she stepped out of the limits of the house-hold dictate, even for giving alms to Ravana in disguise as a hermit. She had to undergo Agni-parikhsha for making re-entry to the household.

Since ancient times, Hindu society was liberal enough to have recognized Gandharva Vivah, implying marriage without formal rituals, but there is no sanction for living in kind of relationship even today.

Inter-caste marriages

There are instances of inter-caste marriages also in Hindu scriptures. Maharishi Ved Vyasa, the compiler of Vedas was a love-child of Rishi Prashara and Satyawati, the daughter of a fisherman. Satyawati was subsequently married to King Shantanu, on the condition that the eldest son born to the couple shall succeed Shantnu on throne, instead of Shantanu’s previous son Bheeshama. In another incidents, Demon Guru Shukracharya’s daughter Devyayani was married to Kshatriya king Yayati; and Rishi Kanva’s adopted daughter Shakuntala was also married to King Dushyanta through Gandharva Vivah. Similarly Pandava princes Bheema was married to Rakshasa girl Hidamba, and Arjuna was married to Naga princess Ulupi.

Role of Homemaker

Hinduism does not shut its eyes to the differences that do exist between men and women, biological as well as temperamental. In reality women differ profoundly from men. Every one of her body cells bears the mark of her sex. Thus Hindu society has divided the areas of activity between males and females, depending upon their physical characteristics resulting in slightly different modes of life and discipline.

As per Hinduism the family sustains the strength of every society, and women play the pivotal role in the family. The role model placed before the Hindu women is that of the ideal Home Maker (Grihini), who is expected to be an ideal wife, an ideal friend, and an ideal mother – all rolled into one. Role models for Hindu womanhood are of Sita, Savitri, Damayanti and Gandhari, and not the likes of Helen, Juliet or Laila. Women can mould themselves as Lakshami, as a householder, as Sarsawati in the form of learned, and Durga as social reformer and defender of the oppressed.

There are several incidents in Purana as well as in history, where women such as Shakuntala, and Jijabai raised their sons against odds, when separated from the husband.

Conflict with Western Culture 

The impact of western civilization has caused confusion on the role of women today. Some women seem to be getting discontented with their role of child-bearing and home making. They wish to devote to some other outdoor activity. Consequently, hotels are slowly replacing homes. In the name of economic independence, life is tending to become more and more hectic, irregular, and even vagrant. Children are being brought up in child caring centers and thus being deprived the affection of caring mothers.

Modern Hindu woman is coming into conflict with her own inner nature. One can look around in his neighborhood to assess for himself that the upbringing of children is better organized where wife has donned the role of home maker, in comparison to the couple in external competition.

Companion, not Competitor

The division of duties all over the world followed a pattern that while males generated resources, females conserved and put them to optimal use of the family. However, of late some activists propagating gender equality between males and females are misleading Hindu society towards aping of Westernized identity for the role of women. Thus instead of being companions, women are being put up as competitors to men.

The irony is that every ‘liberated woman’ also desires to have a husband who is ‘superior to her’ in all attributes. This reality proves the point!

The remedy lies in resorting to the kind of female education with natural role of women as its center. All other training should be secondary to this role that nature has prescribed for their gender. In Hindu household freedom for development was available to Women in India since Vedic age. Such facility was not available to women in other parts of the world till beginning of twentieth century. Today Indian women can contest for all the seats in Parliament and can enjoy total empowerment.

Chand K Sharma

(Next: Splashes – 25/72 –Sati and Female Infanticide)

Splashes – 22/72 – Formation of Hindu Society

The early man did everything himself. He searched, hunted, cooked and ate his own food. He found a place of living for himself, and everything for his clothing and other needs. But everyone was not equally intelligent to think, skilled to improve, apt at problem solving, or strong to defend in the face of dangers. Thus people started doing jobs that suited their individuality, capability, tastes, and skills. They depended upon each other.

Interdependence in Relations

The stronger started protecting weaker. In return weaker provided them food and other services. The one who was more experienced and intelligent, emerged as leader or adviser, and commanded the rest to follow his advice and commands. Those who were unskilled and timid, accepted to be followers, did unskilled jobs and obeyed the commands of those who were superior and more competent. Thus men inter-depended on each other according to their individual, capabilities, leadership traits and needs. Humans got classified into various segments in every society all over the world. With this the system of social classification based on interdependence started. Consequently some customs to regulate barter deals had to be evolved.

Varna System of Barter Relationships

Varna means something that is voluntarily adopted by an individual. It is not thrust upon by someone else. Sage Manu has been the first social regulator for the mankind. He formalized barter relationships in the human society. He classified the population of the society in to four ‘Varnas’, keeping in mind the traits required by persons to perform various functions in interdependent group. His classification was based on ‘division of labor’, ‘dignity of labor’ and the ‘interdependence’ of individuals by traits and skills on each other.

Thus society functions were classified under four broad groups relevant to the time. The new formed groups were titled Shudra, Vaisha, Khashatriya, and Brahmana. Sage Manu matched aptitudes and skills to the demands of the job. Even today, job descriptions and job specifications continue to be structured on the technique initiated by Sage Manu. With passage of time more vocations have also brought under those broad social groups.

Shudras – Unskilled workers

To begin with, everyone was primitive, unskilled, and savage at birth. All shared the same platform in respect of personal traits. Collectively all of them lacked inquisitiveness, knowledge, enthusiasm, courage, and even motivation to work harder than bare minimum required to meet their immediate needs. Because of poor communication skill they could not barter group products with neighboring groups to supplement their resources. All of them carried their own load in hunting group and performed all sorts of jobs irrespective of their personal likes or dislikes. Collectively were classified under the title Shudras.

They had to be led by one person who possessed more skills and courage than the rest. The structure of society, which started developing in the shape of a pyramid.

Vaisha – Skilled workers  

Gradually hunting groups advanced and some Shudras learnt farming. They could supplement their food and clothing requirements from the agricultural produce. They reared animals and held livestock as additional assets to offer the same to others in exchange of their manual services. They got settled at places where farming could be done. Due to their skills life was more comfortable than the nomadic hunters and Shudras.

Being better skilled, their activities involved resource generation, conservation and distribution of materials and livestock. Additional vocations emerged, as some persons were required to make and repairs tools for agriculture, making shelters, and other house hold items. The additional traits required for resource generation were business sense, skills, entrepreneurship, trading, hard work, flexibility, interactive skills, tact, risk taking, perseverance and adaptability. Therefore those possessing such additional skills and traits came to be classified as Vaishas. They were identified as the business community among hunters and workers. In the beginning they engaged ‘Shudras’ for manual work by offering them food, clothing or other items, and as the civilization advanced further, by paying them wages. The position of Vaishas was above the Shudras in the structure of society.

Kshatriyas – Administrators and Protectors

Agriculture produce, livestock, standing crops and habitats were vulnerable to attacks from neighboring nomadic groups who could take away by force the fruits of their hard work. Thus arose the need to spare some persons from the group to be on guard throughout the day and night to protect the habitat and assets of the group. They were required to be spared from agricultural duties and allied jobs to practice weaponry. In lieu, their personal needs had to be looked after by other group members, to provide them food, clothing and other necessities of life.

The traits required for this class of persons were courage, proficiency in fighting, initiative, drive, and loyalty towards the group. With passage of time, this segment got actively involved with the administration, coordination, and supervision of the group activities. They were called Kshatriyas.

The Kshatriyas protected the society with the strength of their arms and were responsible for the maintenance of law and order including administration of justice. The title and stature of group leader was elevated to be called King and the concept of Kingship developed. A brave person with saintly traits was preferred to rule the country according to Dharma. In general interest and well-being of group, Kshatriyas were placed under the King and given authority to disciple the errant in the group.

Brahmin – The Intellectuals

Since everyone was busy with tasks related to generation of resources, protection, and administration, additional persons had to be found within the group to oversee that Kshatriyas that they observed ‘Dharma’ while using their powers.

They were also made responsible for generation of ideas, their assimilation and propagation to the group members. Thus, those who were the best, farsighted, mature, perfectionists, learned and experienced, were assigned the task to lead and train the society. The learned men were called Brahmin (Intellectuals). It came to be their duty to acquire knowledge, and impart the same to others.

For their knowledge and leadership they were placed at the top of the society’s ladder and were entitled to respect, cooperation and obedience from all the other segments. They were to live simple and exemplary life. As thinking, meditation, and leadership traits are not equally distributed in human beings, it was natural that entry to the upper most segment of society remained open only to the few who were qualified and had leadership traits and intellectual superiority. This intellectual group therefore, emerged as the most powerful and envied group of society.

Traits based Stratification

It can be visualized that the formation of the Varna pyramid took its roots from the ground towards top and not otherwise. As and when people improved in skills and proficiency, they moved upwards. Those who did little for their self-development remained at the bottom of the pyramid whatever be their identity.

Sage Manu clearly stipulated that any Brahmin without knowledge was only name sake like a wooden elephant or artificial deer –

यथा काष्ठमयो हस्ती .यथा चर्ममयो मृगः। यश्र्च विप्रोSनधीयानस्त्रयस्ते नां बिभ्रति ।। (Manusmruti 157)

While in other civilizations people were ‘captured’ and mustered at the lower levels as slaves, and conquers descended from the top as masters, in Hindu society Brahmins were never inducted from outside. Every one born ‘without knowledge’ was regarded as a Shudra, and it was only after acquiring skills and knowledge (Gyana) that  person was graded to higher Varna.

This organizational structure is being followed by all the civilized societies of the world even today. Modern Corporations in the field of business and manufacturing also have job classification conceptually similar to the titles created by Sage Manu. The Directors are like Brahmins, Executives perform like Kshatriyas, Technical Personnel are similar to Vaishyas, and Unskilled Workmen are at the lowest pedestal like Shudras.  Only the titles have been named differently. As and when a person improved his profile he was allowed to join the upper group.

Caste system was a functional division of society in to four occupations based on the temperaments, traits and capabilities of individuals. With passage of time the identification turned hereditary and now with free lancing of occupations it has lost its occupational relevance. Now it is being used mainly as an extension of personal identification.

Chand K Sharma

(Next: Splashes – 23/72 – Evaluation of Varna System)

Splashes – 16/72 – Manusmriti is first Social Regulatory System

Sage Manu has been the first sociologist of human society, and Manusmriti is the first regulatory system in the history of mankind. The original Manusmriti consisted of about one million Sanskrit verses (shalokas). Alterations were made from time to time by various sages to meet the requirement of changed times and much of the text has been lost. The present form of Manusmriti is therefore is compilation made some two thousand years ago, but still most part of it is being followed in all the civilized societies of the world.

Scope of Subjects Covered

The book in its present form deals with different subjects concerning human life. Diverse topics such as evolution of life on Earth, physics, minerals, chemicals, biology, botany, concept of time,  composition of Yugas covering millions of years each, down to Nano seconds called ‘nimits’ (time taken by twinkling of an eye) have been discussed in this pioneering text.

Political: Under the subjects of political science, the text describes the boundary of the country and its sub divisions, defense, governance, administration, penal offences, punishments, administration of justice and atonement.

Commercial: Commercial aspects of human society find also mention. The document underlines control on evils like adulteration and quackery. System of taxation and regulation of weights and measures has also been discussed.

Social: In the category of sociology the topics covered are relationships and their mutual obligations, civic life, human traits, choice of professions, management of public places, social stratification; protection of minors, women, and weaker sections, principles of inheritance, cleanliness, daily routines, safety, personal  health, and hygiene.

It is significant that only the ‘duties and obligations’ have been described in the text. The rights automatically emerge from duties. Sage Manu’s concept of social structure is based on the subtle principles as under:-

  • Interdependence,
  • Division of labor,
  • Standardization of work procedures.

Social Stratification

The early man did everything himself. He searched, hunted, cooked and ate his own food. He found for himself a place of living, something for his clothing and other needs. However, everyone was not equally skilled to improvise, intelligent to think, apt at problem solving, and strong to defend in the face of dangers. Thus people started doing jobs that suited their individuality, capability, tastes and skills.

The strong man started protecting those who provided him food and other necessities. The one who was more experienced and intelligent emerged as leader or advisor, and commanded the rest to follow his advice and commands. Those who were unskilled and timid, accepted to be followers, did unskilled jobs and obeyed the commands of those who were superior and more competent. Thus men inter-depended on each other’s according to their individual needs, capabilities, and leadership traits. They have continued the same way till date. This has led to formation of groups, clans, societies and ultimately nations.

Humans have got classified into various segments according to their individual traits in every society all over the world. Manu classified the earliest society in four ‘Varnas’ keeping in mind the traits required by persons to perform various functions in a social group. The classification was based on ‘division of labor’, ‘dignity of labor’ and the ‘interdependence’ of individuals. He matched aptitudes and skills to the demands of the job. Even till present day, job descriptions and job specifications continue to be structured on the same principles, only the designations have changed to fit into the environment of each country.

Universal Rituals for civilized Society

Sage Manu has recommended the performance of several rituals, not only to give concrete shape to the abstract spiritual ideals, but also to add color and zest to life. All religions and civilized communities have been observing similar rituals with slight modifications. These are intended to formally announce the occurrence of an event in the life of an individual for the information of other members of the society.

Rituals may continue changing according to the changes in the society. A wisely planned and solemnly conducted ritual prepares the ground, creates appropriate atmosphere, so that the main performer and others concerned may do their part in a standardized manner without omitting any vital detail. All activities are drilled and practiced for optimal perfection.

Sage Manu has suggested sixteen rituals, associated with various happenings in life. Majority of these are being followed by all the civilized societies of the world with some local modifications to match their prevailing environment. The same are summarized below:-

  1. Impregnation (Garbhadhan) – This is the natural process of birth all over the world. It is not a sin on the part of parents but is to be regarded as an obligation towards divine command to maintain the continuity of creation.
  2. Care of fetus (Punswana) – This reflects awareness of scientific fact that environment and state of physical and mental health of the mother during pregnancy directly affect the wellbeing of fetus Even animals also observe this restriction.
  3. Baby Shower (Semanthonana) – Pregnant mothers are advised not to undertake any rigorous activity when body parts of the baby in womb start developing. Pregnancy is formally disclosed publicly through Baby Shower.
  4. Birth ceremony (Jatakarma) – The newborn inherits parents, religion, caste, a place in the family and society by birth in every society. Accepting the newborn and wishing the baby longevity and strength are the main items involved. It is a formal welcome accorded to the new entrant by human society.
  5. Naming ceremony (Namakarana) – Names are given in every society for the identity of the individual. Names were generally reflective of the desired qualities and not merely phonetics or meaningless identities.
  6. First Exposure (Nishkramana) – To avoid damage to delicate eyes and other kind of infectionnew born is neither exposed to bright sunlight nor to body contact with outsiders before the passage of four months. The new born is brought under the Sun to symbolize worldly contact since Sun is most prominent heavenly body.
  7. Initiation to solid foods (Anna-prasana) – It is the first feeding of the child with solid food, and is considered a happy occasion for the family. The occasion marks the first step taken by the parents towards life styles subsequently to be adopted by the newborn, by feeding according to the food habits of the parents.
  8. Attires (Churakarma) – This is the only ritual that differentiates the gender. Male children are given formal haircut while females have long hair all over the world. Their clothing is also gender specific.
  9. Acupressure (Karnavedha) Piercing of the ear is also common in all the societies. It is a sort of acupuncture to stimulate memory and controlling passions. All over the world rings are worn in fingers that act as acupressure.
  10. Schooling (Upanayana) – It is the formal taking of the child to a teacher for education. From the cultural point of view this is the most important sacrament. It underlines the importance of education given in human society. Without knowledge humans and animals are alike in physiological needs. Everyone would attain higher status in life through individual efforts under the guidance of the Guru.
  11. Higher Education (Vedarambha) According to family traditions, every child undergoes higher education or vocational training to earn his living. In every country aptitude and ability and past performance are the criteria for admission to higher learning.
  12. Convocation (Yajnopavita Dharana) – It is similar to wearing of robe for the convocation ceremony held after graduation in any discipline of learning. Those days it involved receiving the loincloth (Kaupina) and the girdle (Mekhala), and wearing of the sacred thread (Yajnopavita). Like a university degree conferred upon young graduate, the wearer became entitled to be respected as a learned person in the society, since paper degrees were not in vogue. The occasion symbolized the beginning of a life of self-control. Thus the wearing of sacred thread reminds a person of his dependence on society whose debts he has to discharge throughout his life. As no degrees are awarded to failing students, only successful candidates were allowed to wear sacred thread as a symbol of being intellectuals.
  13. Marriage (Vivaha) – Of all the Hindu sacraments, marriage is considered to be the most essential ceremony in human life. No civilized society welcomes children born out of wedlock. Marriage is not a license for indulgence, but a human institution aiming at moderation in conjugal life leading ultimately to the conquest of self. It is essentially a fellowship between a man and a woman who seek to live happily in partnership. The bride and the bridegroom get united not in secrecy for committing any ‘sin’ but as a nucleus of future family.  Consequently a Hindu marriage is considered to be too sacred to be dissolved. The steps of this sacrament could be as simple as exchange of garlands before the deity, sacred fire, and family members, or lavish celebrations of fanciful dimensions depending upon the choice and capacity of the individuals.
  14. Retirement (Vanaprastha) – Old order changes all over the world yielding its place voluntarily to the new generation.
  15. Renunciation (Sanyasa) –  It is absolute and formal retirement from worldly affairs in peaceful manner.
  16. Last Rites (Antyeshti) – It is performed after death. In every society the dead body is carried to the pier by the relatives and friends for cremation or burial as a mark of decent send off.

Rituals have been chosen for the joyous occasions and provide an excuse to celebrate the event with other members of the society, and to continue the flow of life on going.  These are occasions of formal announcements to be made in the society pertaining to the important occurrences in life. One significant aspect of Hindu ritual is that all occurrences are performed after invoking the symbolic ‘presence’ of gods for testifying the occurrence, as human beings are liable to be inconsistent and unreliable for multiple reasons. Celestial witnesses are omnipresent and omniscience.

One may opt to discard any one or all the rituals, but in their absence, life will be monotonous, colorless, and present a semblance of animal existence. Rituals are pleasing as long as one can afford them. They become burdens when forced upon. The society will be reduced to chaos and animal state if the substantive actions formalized through these rituals are discarded whatever be the religion and nationality.

It is surprising how Sage Manu could visualize the necessity of introducing such system centuries ago, while some of the westernized Hindus mock at them displaying their utter ignorance. There lies the relevance of Manusmriti, the gift of Hinduism to the world for starting process of civilization.

Chand K Sharma

(Next: Splashes – 17 – Hinduism is not Syllabus Based)

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