of life are hedged with appropriate rules of
Prenatal Samskaras
The life of a person does not start with his birth; it goes farther back, as it is
conditioned by parentage, heredity, and environment. Its reformation must
therefore start with conception. The very first sacrament therefore is known
as garbhadhana, which word literally means placing the seed in the womb. It
is a sacred duty of the married couple to approach each other in the proper
time for the sake of progeny, so that the race might continue. Procreation of
children was regarded as necessary for paying off the debts to the forefathers,
and failure to comply with the injunction of the scripture in this regard was
considered a sin. Fulfilment of this sacred duty, however, entailed physical
fitness and psychological willingness of the couple, selection of a suitable
time, proper regard to the eligibility of the parents, and the sense of their duty
to the race. This samskara is therefore very important from the cultural point
of view.
    After the conception is ascertained, the child in the womb is consecrated
by the second samskara called pumsavana. It was thought necessary that
through the treatment of the pregnant mother the child in the womb should be
influenced; and so medical and mental treatment of the mother was
prescribed. Pumsavana is performed in the third or fourth month of
pregnancy or even later on a day when the moon is in a male constellation,
particularly the tisya-nakshatra. The mother is required to fast on the day,
and in the night the sprouts of the banyan tree are pounded, and the juice is
dropped into her right nostril with the verses beginning with hiranyagarbhah.
The significance of the samskara consists in this: the conjunction of the
moon with a male constellation is a symbolic of a male or virile child; hence
the term literally means ‘male procreation through the stimulation of the
    The third sacrament is called simantonnayana, in which the hairs of a
pregnant woman are ceremoniously parted. The purpose of this samskara is
symbolic as well as practical. When a woman is in her pregnancy, it is
believed, she is attacked by evil spirits, and for her protection proper rites
should be performed. The religious intention behind the performance of the
samskara is to bring prosperity to the mother and long life to the unborn
child. The physiological knowledge of the Hindus was also responsible for