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Different varieties of sweets served on a Pumsavana function. Indian Sweets.JPG
Different varieties of sweets served on a Pumsavana function.

Pumsavana (Sanskrit : पुंसवन, Puṁsavana) (literally: quickening the fetus, or engendering a male issue) is the second of the 16 saṃskāras (sacraments, rite of passage) in ancient texts of Hinduism. [1] The rite of passage is celebrated in the third or fourth month of pregnancy, typically after the pregnancy begins to show but before the baby begins to move in the womb.

Sacrament sacred rite recognized as of particular importance and significance

A sacrament is a Christian rite recognized as of particular importance and significance. There are various views on the existence and meaning of such rites. Many Christians consider the sacraments to be a visible symbol of the reality of God, as well as a means by which God enacts his grace. Many denominations, including the Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, and Reformed, hold to the definition of sacrament formulated by Augustine of Hippo: an outward sign of an inward grace that has been instituted by Jesus Christ. Sacraments signify God's grace in a way that is outwardly observable to the participant.

Hinduism is an Indian religion and dharma, or way of life, widely practised in the Indian subcontinent and parts of Southeast Asia. Hinduism has been called the oldest religion in the world, and some practitioners and scholars refer to it as Sanātana Dharma, "the eternal tradition", or the "eternal way", beyond human history. Scholars regard Hinduism as a fusion or synthesis of various Indian cultures and traditions, with diverse roots and no founder. This "Hindu synthesis" started to develop between 500 BCE and 300 CE, after the end of the Vedic period, and flourished in the medieval period, with the decline of Buddhism in India.



Pumsavana is one of the 16 sanskara in Hinduism, which are rites of deciding the gender of the fetus in early stages of a woman's pregnency( third or fourth month), early steps for his welcome into the world in the presence of friends and family, then various stages of life (Ashrama (stage)) such as first learning day, graduation from school, wedding and honeymoon, pregnancy, raising a family, as well as those related to final rites associated with cremation. [2] These rites of passage are not uniform, and vary within the diverse traditions of Hinduism. Some may involve formal ceremonies, yajna (fire) ceremonies with the chanting of Vedic hymns. Others are simple, private affairs. [2]

An Ashrama in Hinduism is one of four age-based life stages discussed in Indian texts of the ancient and medieval eras. The four ashramas are: Brahmacharya (student), Grihastha (householder), Vanaprastha (retired) and Sannyasa (renunciate).

Yajna a ritual offering sacrifice in Hinduism

Yajna literally means "devotion, worship, offering", and refers in Hinduism to any ritual done in front of a sacred fire, often with mantras. Yajna has been a Vedic tradition, described in a layer of Vedic literature called Brahmanas, as well as Yajurveda. The tradition has evolved from offering oblations and libations into sacred fire to symbolic offerings in the presence of sacred fire (Agni).

These rites of passage in Hinduism are found in the numerous Dharmasutras and Grhyasutras dated from the 1st millennium BCE. [3] [4] [5]


Pumsavana (Sanskrit: पुंसवन) is a composite word of Pums + savana. Pums mean "to grind, move", and "a human being, a soul or spirit", while savana means "ceremony, rite, oblation, festival". [6] Pumsavana thus literally means "quickening a being, soul", and it is usually translated as "quickening a male or female fetus, bringing forth a male or female baby". [7]

Pumsavana is a rite of passage observed when the pregnancy begins to show, typically in or after the third month of pregnancy and usually before the fetus starts moving in the womb. The ceremony celebrates the rite of passage of the developing fetus, marking the stage where the baby begins to kick as a milestone in a baby's development.


The roots of the pumsavana ritual are found in section 4.3.23 and 4.6.2 of the Atharva Veda, wherein charms are recited for a baby boy. [8] The Atharva Veda also contains charms to be recited for the birth of a child of either gender and the prevention of miscarriages, such as in section 4.6.17. [8]

The Atharva Veda is the "knowledge storehouse of atharvāṇas, the procedures for everyday life". The text is the fourth Veda, but has been a late addition to the Vedic scriptures of Hinduism.

The Atharva Veda, includes thousands of chapters, with diverse scope and prayers. In many verses, the prayer or charm is aimed to have a child, of either sex. For example, in verse 14.2.2, the Atharva Veda states a ritual invitation to the wife, by her husband to mount the bed for conception, "being happy in mind, here mount the bed; give birth to children for me, your husband". [9] Texts, such as the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, in the last chapter detailing the education of a student, include lessons for his Grihastha stage of life. [10] There, the student is taught, that as a husband, he should cook rice for the wife, and they together eat the food in certain way depending on whether they wish for the birth of a daughter or a son, as follows, [10]

<i>Brihadaranyaka Upanishad</i> One of the oldest Upanishads of Hinduism

The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad is one of the Principal Upanishads and one of the oldest Upanishadic scriptures of Hinduism. A key scripture to various schools of Hinduism, the Brihadaranyaka Upanisad is tenth in the Muktikā or "canon of 108 Upanishads".

Grihastha literally means "being in and occupied with home, family" or "householder". It refers to the second phase of an individual's life in a four age-based stages of the Hindu ashram system. It follows Brahmacharya life stage, and embodies a married life, with the duties of maintaining a home, raising a family, educating one's children, and leading a family-centred and a dharmic social life.

And if a man wishes that a learned daughter should be born to him, and that she should live to her full age, then after having prepared boiled rice with sesamum and butter, they should both eat, being fit to have offspring.

And if a man wishes that a learned son should be born to him, and that he should live his full age, then after having prepared boiled rice with meat and butter, they should both eat, being fit to have offspring.

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 6.4.17 - 6.4.18, Translated by Max Muller [11]


The ritual is performed in diverse ways, but all involve the husband serving something to the expectant wife. In one version, she is fed a paste mixture of yoghurt, milk and ghee (clarified butter) by him. [12] In another version, the pumsavana ritual is more elaborate, done in the presence of yajna fire and vedic chants, where the husband places a drop of Banyan leaf extract in the wife's right nostril for a son, and her left nostril for a daughter, followed by a feast for all present. [13] [14]

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Samhita literally means "put together, joined, union", a "collection", and "a methodically, rule-based combination of text or verses". Samhita also refers to the most ancient layer of text in the Vedas, consisting of mantras, hymns, prayers, litanies and benedictions.

Upanayana Hindu rite of passage when a student enters a school, particularly Vedic school

Upanayana is one of the traditional saṃskāras that marked the acceptance of a student by a guru (teacher) and an individual's entrance to a school in Hinduism. The tradition is widely discussed in ancient Sanskrit texts of India and varies regionally. The sacred thread is received by the boy during this ceremony, that he continues wearing across his chest thereafter.

The Vedanga' are six auxiliary disciplines in Vedic culture that developed in ancient times, and have been connected with the study of the Vedas. These are:

  1. Shiksha : phonetics, phonology, pronunciation. This auxiliary discipline has focussed on the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, accent, quantity, stress, melody and rules of euphonic combination of words during a Vedic recitation.
  2. Chandas : prosody. This auxiliary discipline has focussed on the poetic meters, including those based on fixed number of syllables per verse, and those based on fixed number of morae per verse.
  3. Vyakarana : grammar and linguistic analysis. This auxiliary discipline has focussed on the rules of grammar and linguistic analysis to establish the exact form of words and sentences to properly express ideas.
  4. Nirukta : etymology, explanation of words, particularly those that are archaic and have ancient uses with unclear meaning. This auxiliary discipline has focussed on linguistic analysis to help establish the proper meaning of the words, given the context they are used in.
  5. Kalpa : ritual instructions. This field focussed on standardizing procedures for Vedic rituals, rites of passage rituals associated with major life events such as birth, wedding and death in family, as well as discussing the personal conduct and proper duties of an individual in different stages of his life.
  6. Jyotisha : Auspicious time for rituals, astrology and astronomy. This auxiliary Vedic discipline focussed on time keeping.

Śrauta is a Sanskrit word that means "belonging to śruti", that is, anything based on the Vedas of Hinduism. It is an adjective and prefix for texts, ceremonies or person associated with śruti. The term, for example, refers to Brahmins who specialise in the śruti corpus of texts, and Śrauta Brahmin traditions in modern times have been reported from Coastal Andhra.


Antyesti literally means "last sacrifice", and refers to the funeral rites for the dead in Hinduism. This rite of passage is one of traditional Saṃskāras in the life of a Hindu. It is also referred to as Antima Sanskar, Antya-kriya, Anvarohanyya, or as Vahni Sanskara.

Sanskara (rite of passage) rites of passage described in ancient Sanskrit texts

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<i>Shukarahasya Upanishad</i>

The Shukarahasya Upanishad, also called Rahasya Upanishad, is a Sanskrit text and one of the minor Upanishads of Hinduism. It is classified under one of the 21 Samanya Upanishads and attached to the Krishna Yajurveda.


  1. Pandey, R.B. (1962, reprint 2003). The Hindu Sacraments (Saṁskāra) in S. Radhakrishnan (ed.) The Cultural Heritage of India, Vol.II, Kolkata:The Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, ISBN   81-85843-03-1, p.392
  2. 1 2 Jörg Gengnagel and Ute Hüsken (2005), Words and Deeds: Hindu and Buddhist Rituals in South Asia, Otto Harrassowitz Verlag, ISBN   978-3447051521, see Preface Chapter
  3. Joyce Flueckiger, Everyday Hinduism, John Wiley & Sons, ISBN   978-1405160117, pages 169-191
  4. David Knipe (2015), Vedic Voices: Intimate Narratives of a Living Andhra Tradition, Oxford University Press, ISBN   978-0199397693, pages 32-37
  5. Mary McGee (2007), Samskara, in The Hindu World (Editors: Mittal and Thursby), Routledge, ISBN   978-0415772273, pages 332-356
  6. puMs and savana Monier-Williams' Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Cologne Digital Sanskrit Lexicon, Germany
  7. Mary McGee (2007), Samskara, in The Hindu World (Editors: Mittal and Thursby), Routledge, ISBN   978-0415772273, page 335
  8. 1 2 Maurice Bloomfield, Hymns of the Atharva Veda at Google Books, Oxford University Press, pages 97-99
  9. Rajbali Pandey (2013), Hindu Saṁskāras: Socio-religious Study of the Hindu Sacraments, 2nd Edition, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN   978-8120803961, pages 48-56 with footnotes
  10. 1 2 Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN   978-8120814684, pages 534-539
  11. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad VI Adhyaya 4 Brahmana 17 and 18 Max Muller (translator), Oxford University Press, pages 219-220
  12. Ute Hüsken, Will Sweetman and Manfred Krüger (2009), Viṣṇu's Children: Prenatal Life-cycle Rituals in South India, Otto Harrassowitz Verlag, ISBN   978-3447058544, page 123
  13. Helene Stork (Editor: Julia Leslie), Roles and Rituals for Hindu Women, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN   978-8120810365, pages 92-93
  14. B Rama Rao, Bulletin of the Indian Institute of History of Medicine at Google Books, Vol. 33-34, page 153