Nishkramana Samskara (निष्क्रमणम्)
Nishkramana Samskara (Samskrit: निष्क्रमणम्) is one of the Samskaras practiced by the followers of Sanatana dharma. It signifies new born child's first outdoor visit or first exposure to environment outside home. It is celebrated as a ceremony of socializing the newborn for the first time. It is the time when for the first time in his/her life the baby goes to the place outside home and the first place to visit is the temple. Divine blessings are invoked by offering prayers to Surya and Chandra devatas for the well being of the baby.
परिचयः ॥ Introduction
When the child and mother withdraw out of the Sutikagara, the mother slowly begins to take part in the family life again. The child's world also widened to move to any part of the house. But within a month or, two the universe of the child was found too small. The curiosities of the child and the movements of its limbs required wider scope to satisfy themselves. So it was thought proper that it should be introduced to the outer world. Indeed, it was a land-mark in the life of the child and the parents gave expressions to the sense of joy at this occasion. Life outside the house, however, was not free from natural and supernatural dangers. Therefore, for the protection of the child, deities were worshipped and divine help was sought.
Nishkramana marks the baby's first step out of the house. This event is marked with the invocations of deities, which a 3 or 4 month old child may never understand, however, they are significant to the new parents to whom the child is the central point of hope, aspiration and their future. The child is regarded as the boon bestowed by the devatas. A prayer is recited to the elements of nature to guard and protect the child as he steps out of the house. Such a prayer appears to reflect the emotional state of the new parents, but more importantly it reveals the medical basis of the ritual involved in this Samskara. Such rituals reinforce the connect that ancient people had with nature and depict how the rituals blended into the daily life of a person.
All activities related to this samskara focus on improvement of the child's wellbeing. Advised to perform in the fourth month, it is the time when a child starts to recognize the outside world both by his jnana and karma indriyas. He becomes older and stronger enough to bear the natural forces such as wind and heat.
निष्क्रमणसंस्कारः ॥ Nishkramana Samskara
The custom of taking the child out ceremoniously may be very old, but we do not get any reference to it in the Vedic literature. Smrtis and Nibandhas elaborate the rituals and customs relating to it.
उपयुक्तकालः ॥ Time of performance
According to various texts the time for performing the Nishkaramana samskara varied from the twelfth day after the birth to the fourth month.
चतुर्थे मासि कर्तव्यं शिशोर्निष्क्रमणं गृहात् । (Manu. Smrt. 2.34) चतुर्थे मासि निष्क्रमणिका ५ सूर्यमुदीक्षयति तच्चक्षुरिति ६ (Para. Grhy. Sutr. 1.17.5-6)
The twelfth day is recommended by the Bhavishya Purana and the Brhaspati Smrti only perhaps performed with the Namakarana, when the child was brought out of the Sutikaraga for giving it a name. According to the Grhyasutras and the Smrtis this Samskara took place either in the third or in the fourth month after the birth. The rationale of the option between the third and the fourth month is supplied by Yama, who says, "The ceremony of looking at the sun should be performed in the third, and that of looking at the moon in the fourth month.”
If the above prescribed dates expired, the Nishkramana was performed with the Annaprashana ceremony in the opinion of Ashvalayana. There are many astrologically objectionable dates when the ceremony should be postponed. The above options were based on the convenience of the parents, the health of the child and suitability of the weather.
अधिकारः ॥ Adhikara to perform the Samskara
According to the Grhyasutras, the father and the mother performed the ceremony. But the Puranas and the astrological works extend this privilege to others also. In the opinion of the Muhurtasangraha it was desirable that the maternal uncle should be invited to perform the ceremony.
उपनिष्क्रमणे शास्ता मातुलो वाहयेच्छिशुम्। (Viramitrodaya, Part 1, Page 253)
The Visnudharmottara recommends that the solicitous nurse should take the child out.
These customs are non-Vedic and popular. When the Samskara was regarded a domestic sacrifice, only the father could properly perform it. But when it ceased to be so, the right of performance was transferred even to persons other than him.
संस्कारविधिः ॥ Samskara Vidhi
On the day of performing the Samskara, a square portion of the court-yard, is plastered with cow dung and grains of rice scattered by the mother. In the Sutra period the ceremony ended when the father made the child look at the sun. The child was fully decorated and brought to the family deity in the house. Then the deity was worshipped with instrumental music. The guardians of the eight directions, the deities of the panchabhutas, sun, the moon, Vasudeva and sky were also propitiated as per the Atharvaveda mantra.
शिवे तेऽऽस्तां द्यावापृथिवी असंतापे अभिश्रियो । शं ते सूर्य आ तपतु शं वातो वातो ते हृदे । शिवा अभिक्षरन्तु त्वापो दिव्याः पयस्वतीः ॥१४॥ (Athar. Veda. 8.2.14)
The Brahmans were fed and auspicious verses recited. The child was carried out with sounds of conchshell and recital of Veda mantras. At the time of outing, the father repeated the following mantra, “Whether the child is conscious or unconscious, whether it is day or night, let all the devatas led by Indra protect the child.’’
Then the child was brought to the temple and was made to bow to the deity followed by Brahmans who gave blessings to it. After this the child was taken out of the temple to the lap of the maternal uncle who brought it home. In the end the child was given presents, e.g., toys, gifts etc. and blessings.
There are references to customs associated with taking the child out of the house; when the child is shown the Sun and Moon. Yama Smrti states thus,
ततस्मृतीये कर्तव्यं मासि सूर्यस्य दर्शनम् । चतुर्थंमासि कर्तव्यं शिशोश्चान्द्रस्य दर्शनम् ।।
In the third month the child is taken out for Surya darshana and in the fourth month for Chandra (moon) darshana.
Purpose of the Samskara
The significance of the whole ceremony lay in the physical necessity of the child and impressing on it the sublime grandeur of the universe. The Samskara implied that after a certain period of time the child must be taken out in the fresh air and from thence the practice should be continued. It also emphasized on the budding mind of the child that this universe is guided by a divine force and it should be respected duly. The child on its first outing is awed by the people, and surrounding things. According to one scholar, the main purpose of this samskara is to promote longevity - निष्क्रमणादायुषो वृद्धिरप्युद्दिष्टा मनीषिभिः।
Up to one month the child's body is delicate and careful attention is required during its early stay in the Sutikagara. Here its social interaction is limited and focus is on stabilization and development of strength (bala). After one month both mother and child are placed in specially designed Kumaragara until Nishkramana. Here the social interaction and curiosity of the environment increases with movement of the child in the house. The child develops familiarity with the parents and old and young members of the family. Nishkramana is the first outing and expands his interaction with nature as well as socially. He is vulnerable to the influences of nature and hence divine intervention is sought for by the parents.
Time to perform the samskara
Nishkramana is performed when the child is four months old. The time described for this is appropriate as by this time baby develops enough immunity and tolerance to external environment. The presence of a Vaidya (pediatrician) on this occasion provides an opportunity for routine check up and examination of normal milestones development in baby.
Some developmental milestones of a child at 4th month
A newborn child develops slowly and gradually achieves different growth and developmental milestones. A developmental milestone is an ability that is achieved by any child by a certain age and thereby indicating the typical/healthy growth and development. At the age of 4 months of life the child usually achieves following milestones,
- Develops head control and hence carrying child becomes bit easier.
- Child can turn his head towards the source of sound indicating evolving maturity of hearing
- The child can fixate his eyes intently on an object shown to him suggestive of his properly developing vision or eyesight.
- The child can laugh loudly, recognize mother and can react to social contact by a smile which could be related to the social and speech related milestones of the child.
- Bidextrous grasp to approach an object is developed indicating his developing motor organs.
During this Sanskara the baby gets in an unfamiliar environment when his reaction in form of social smile, anxiety, fear, laugh or reaction to sound of bell can be observed. Persistence of primitive reflexes, if any can also be noticed. Therefore this samskara can provide an opportunity for assessment of developmental milestones of a child by a vaidya and also as a celebration to have achieved these milestones successfully.
In this Samskara, the child is brought out of his room/home to the outside of home. Ayurveda acharyas describe 'Kumaragara', a special room designed for a newborn to protect him and keep him in a room having controlled environment suitable for his health. The design and interior of the Kumaragara is done entirely by keeping focus on protecting the newborn from any external injuries or infectious agents. Thus various antimicrobial herbs and drugs are routinely kept in kumaragara and the newborn is strictly to be kept in this room till Nishkramana Samskara performed in the forth month. Therefore as a part of Nishkramana samskara various rituals are performed as below,
- The baby having given bath, adorned and worn new clothes.
- Rakshoghna dravya dharana : Vedic texts and Ayurveda describe some herbs and medicinal substances that possess potential to enhance the immunity and defend the infections when those are just even carried along or worn on body. These are called as Rakshoghna dravyas. Ayurveda acharyas have given immense importance and utmost attention to following various measures that will prevent any infection to child body and ward off affliction of child's developing mind by external harmful factors like grahs and bhutas etc. Thus in every step of newborn care, use of Rakshoghna dravyas has been suggested. Thus clearly when the child is being brought in the outside environment in Nishkramana samskara for the first time, acharyas have advised to carry rakshoghna drvayas like Sidharthaka, honey, Ghrita, gorochana etc. These should be kept near the child when the baby is taken outside. Also, Shankha Nada and chanting of Vedic mantras to be done while bringing him/her out of the house.
- The baby should be made enter in the temple after worshiping the Agni . Puja is performed and religious offerings are offered to Devata Vishnu, Skanda, Matrikas and kuldevatas etc. in the temple. Priests/brahnmanas/guru present in the temple shower their blessing over the child and then the child is brought back home
- Once the baby returns home a Vaidya assesses the child. A thorough routine check up and examination of baby is to be conducted to assess his growth, development and well-being. Kashyapa Samhita, an authoritative text on women's and children health in Ayurveda described that, a vaidya should then bless the child and chant the following mantra,
शरत्शतं जीव शिशो त्वं देवैरभिरक्षितः | द्विजैरप्याशिषा पूतो गुरुभिश्चाभिनन्दितः ॥ (Kash. Samh. 12.5)
Relevance and importance
This Samskara is important for observing the developmental milestones. As the child meets many unknown persons its reaction in the form of social smile, laugh, fear, anxiety or curiosity can be observed. By the end of 4th month child develops head control. In temple, the child reacts to sounds of bell by turning the head around. Here lifting of the head with complete head control can be observed. Also the disappearance of grasping reflex (3-4 months), placing reflex (3-4 month), stepping reflex (3-4 months), rooting reflex (3-4 months), tonic neck (2-6 month) and Moro‟s reflex (3-4month). But persistence of these reflexes indicative of cerebral palsy.According to Acharya Kashyapa, the teeth inseminated in fourth month are weak, decay early and are afflicted with many diseases. At fourth month age, following developmental changes appear in infant such as the infant been able to reaching out for objects with both hand (Bidextrous reach), able to rolls over the bed, recognizes the mother and responds to her voice, anticipate the feeds, laugh loudly when talked by someone, responds to sound well, starts cooing, curious and shows interest in surrounding environment, Able to fix eyes on external objects and adaptation to external environment begins.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Pandey, Raj Bali. (1949) Hindu Samskaras, A Socio-religious study of the Hindu Sacraments. Banaras: Vikrama Publications. (Pages 145-150)
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Pt. Madhavacharya Shastri and Pt. Shrikanth Shastri (1952) Kyon? Dharma Digdarshan, Purvardha. Delhi: Madhav Pustakalay (Page 438 - )
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Shukla, Sacchidanand (2008) Hindu Dharm ke Solah Sanskar. Delhi: Prabhat Prakashan.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 Shobhit Kumar.A CRITICAL APPRAISAL ON VARIOUS SAMSKARA'S WITH THEIR SCIENTIFIC AND MEDICAL IMPORTANCE IN PEDIATRIC AGE GROUP Int. J. Ayur. Pharma Research, 2017;5(5):78-81
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 Deepshikha, Rai A.CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF CHILDHOOD SANSKARAS (SACRAMENTS) IN LIGHT OF CONTEMPORARY SCIENCE D Int. J. Ayur. Pharma Research, 2014; 2(2): 95-100
- ↑ O.P. Ghai, V.K Paul., Arvind Bagga. Ghai Essential Pediatrics. CBS Publishers & Distributors Pvt. Ltd.,New Delhi, 7th edition, 2009
- ↑ Charaka Samhita (Sharirasthanam Adhyaya 8 Sutra 59-60)
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 Arun Raj GR, Shailaja U, Prasanna N Rao. The childhood samskaras (Rites of passage) and its scientific appreciation. Ayurpharm Int J Ayur Alli Sci. 2013;2(12):372-383.
- ↑ Kasyapa Samhita, Vrddhajivakaya Tantra. with The Vidyotini Hindi commentary and Hindi translation of Sanskrit introduction, Pandit Hemraj Sharma, Sri Satyapala Bhisagacharya. Varanasi: Chaukhambha Sanskrit Sansthan, edition reprint- 2006 Khilasthana 12/4-5 p.316
- ↑ Ashtanga Samgraha, with Sasilekha commentary by Indu, edited by Dr. Shivprasad Sharma, reprinted in Varanasi, Choukhambha Sanskrit Series Office, Uttar Tanta, 2008; 1:45
- ↑ Ashtanga Hrudayam (Uttratantram Adhyaya 1 Sutra 21,24-28)
- ↑ Kashyapa Samhita (Khilsthanam Adhyaya 12 Sutra 5)