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SPL Hand Coloured Rare Book Collection Featuring Norman R Bobins

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Grihyasutras & Grihyaprayoga

Grihyasutras & Grihyaprayoga

The simple forms of ceremonial observance were codified in the Grihyasutras, rules governing the Hindu Samskaras or sacraments, eg. Birth, investiture with sacred thread, marriage, death. The grihyasutras are the most fundamental of all the texts to the unity of Hindu society as they determine the secular life of the Hindu householder or grihin i.e. the keeper of the grihya or domestic fire.

There is a sacrament prescribed for obtaining a son, a sacrament, ten days after the child's birth, for giving him his 'common' name and his 'secret' name — a precaution against witchcraft. There is a sacrament in third year of a boy's life for the first cutting of the hair, an important ceremony, and in the sixteenth year, there is a sacrament for the first shaving of the beard with its prescribed fee, the go-dana or gift of cows. Earlier than this will come the sacrament of upanayana, or "initiation" when the boy receives his cord, girdle and staff, which mark him as a 'twice-born'. There is also, a course-in this case for the women as well as for the men-the sacrament of marriage, which included the leading of the bride three times around the household fire-whence the name for marriage Parinaya 'a leading round.' There are also the elaborate ceremonies connected with death, disposal of the dead, and the offering of a shraddha (an offering given with 'faith' whence our word 'creed'), for securing the progress (gati) of the spirit in the world of the dead.

Before the expiry of a year he is admitted to the circle by a rite which makes him their sapinda ("united by the funeral cake"). After the lapse of a year or more another elaborate ceremony (called Pitri-medha) takes place in connection with the erection of a monument, when the bones are taken out of the urn and buried in a suitable place.

This is the briefest possible sketch of the abundant material of the Grihya Sutras, illustrating the daily domestic life of ancient India. Perhaps, however, enough has been said to show that they have human interest, and they occupy an important place in the history of civilization.