Sunday, August 14, 2011

Four Stages Of Life – Hindu Perspective

Hindu stages of Life
Traditional Hindu Texts distinguish several stages in the social and spiritual lives of human beings, and rituals have formed to mark the progress of development, from conception to death. Life-cycle sacraments (samskaras) begin for a child with ceremonies for such events as naming, first feeding and learning the alphabets. These and other samsharas provide forms of education and a process of socialization as young men and women mature and take on more responsibilities within the family and the community. Intended to make a person fit for the next stage of life, each rite involves a degree of reconciliation with certain gods and atonement for sins.

A young perform Upanayana Puja
The four stages of life, also call ashramas that are traditionally acknowledged for men of three “twice-born” classes are those of the student, the householder, the hermit and the ascetic. Special responsibilities are ascribed to each of these stages. For example, the student is enjoined to study and to serve his guru; while the householder has the specific duty of begetting children. Such responsibilities are codified in treatises, known as dharma-shastras, which prescribe duties for every class, caste and stage of life, and also provide guidelines on general moral behaviour. Women’s responsibilities are usually linked to the dominant male in their lives, whether he is a father, husband or son. In general, women’s duties are in service to their families, and they are entrusted with maintaining the health and welfare of their husbands and children.

Naga sanyasi in Varanasi
The upanayana samskara initiates a young Hindu into the first stage of life, that of the student. This rite takes place when a boy is between the ages of eight and twelve. Traditionally, a student was required to undergo a rigorous course of study of religion texts under a guru in the guru’s house, in preparation for the ritual and social responsibilities that he would be expected to assume as an adult Hindu male.

The ashrama of concentrated study and celibacy is followed by the householder stage of life, which is initiated by the marriage samskara. During marriage, a husband and wife are considered partners in dharma: together they share ritual and social responsibilities that are centered on bearing and raising children and maintaining the family’s welfare. The householder ashrama is critical to sustaining the three other ashramas (the student, the hermit and the ascetic), all of whom depend on the householder for hospitality and alms.

Hindu temple in Nagarkot village Nepal
The man is advised to enter the third stage of life, and become a hermit or forest-dweller, when he sees his first grey hair and lays eyes on grandchildren: these signs indicate that he has completed his social and householder responsibilities.

Pillars of Hinduism - Vedas
The final stage is of ascetic. In this stage, through complete renunciation of all previous attachments and identities, a person’s life becomes absorbed in the mystery of understanding the nature of the self and its relationship to the universe.

Hindu Marriages


A Hindu marriage is a complicated affair. The marriage known as vivaha, while joining two families in a social alliance, also celebrates the union of a man and woman as they enter the householder stage of life. This is one of the most important of all samskaras and involves elaborate rituals.

A typical Hindu Bengali wedding
The marriage ceremony takes place after a prolonged period of matchmaking, which includes the consultation of horoscope in order to fix a date for the wedding as well as to ensure a harmonious and fruitful match between the partners. The ritual of the seven steps, which legalizes a marriage, emphasizes the fruits of this partnership. The ceremonies culminate with a magnificent wedding feast, during which it is customary for the newly married couple to ladle clarified butter onto the plate of each guest.

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2 comments:

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  • sant Darshan Singh says:
    October 12, 2014 at 10:28 AM

    Hello,great post.I have little bit.The Four Stages of Life,if there is one standing point of view on Hinduism,it is that individuals are different.In what capacity would it be a good idea for you to live?On the off chance that you are a male in an upper three varna,then it relies on what stage of life you are existing.Good day.

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