Samavartana (समावर्तनम्)

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Samavartana (Samskrit : समावर्तनम्) literally means "return from teacher's house to one's house". This Samskara is not needed if the student learns under his own father or if the student does not want to get married. This Samskara is not an Aṅga (part) of marriage.

परिचयः ॥ Introduction

While Upanayana marks the beginning of the vedic study, Samavartana marks the end of the Brahmacharya period in a student's life.

तत्र समावर्तनं नाम वेदाध्ययनानन्तरं गुरुकुलात् स्वगृहागमनम् ।

After finishing Vedic study and taking the permission of the teacher the student takes the ceremonial bath. Snana is another term used for Samavartana by some Sutrakaras (Manusmṛti, 3.4) because ceremonial bathing formed the most prominent item this samskara. In modern times it is called Snatakavrata or Convocation (held in Universities).

Classified as the Ahuta yajnas (one of the seven Pakayajnas) in Baudhayana Grhyasutras, Upanayana and Samavartana are samskaras where after making Ahutis (offerings) in Agni, and giving danas to Brahmanas, one receives presents from others.[1]

Samavartana in Ancient Days

In early times it was performed when the education of the youth was over; marriage usually followed, but it was not necessarily immediate. Various grhyasutras elaborate about this occasion and the necessary rituals to be followed which included primarily a ceremonial bath given to the student, following which he is called Snataka.

वेदमधीत्य स्नास्यन् . . .। vedamadhītya snāsyan . . (Apas. Grhy. Sutr. 5.12.1)[2]

Having completed the study of Veda, Vedāṅgas, Mīmāṃsā etc., while going to have the ceremonial bath . . .

वेदमधीत्य स्नात्यन्नित्युक्तं समावर्तनम्।१। (Baud. Grhy. Sutr. 2.6.1)[3]

Eligibility

Those who simply memorized the texts of Vedas, without understanding the meaning and without following the rules of conduct prescribed for a Brahmachari, were excluded from the right of performance.[1]

अन्यो वेदपाठी न तस्य स्नानम्। (M.G.S. 1.2.3)

However, according to Vishnu, some people were compulsorily required to lead the life of a Brahmachari on physical grounds. They were the hump-backed, the blind by birth, the impotent, the lame and the diseased.

कुब्जवामनजात्यन्धक्लीबपङग्वार्तरोगिणाम्। व्रतचय भवेत्तेषां यावज्जीवमानशतः।

They did not perform their Samavartana because Vivaha was not possible in their case.[1]

Thus in the beginning only those who passed their educational course were admitted to the samavartana and those who finished their education were allowed to take their ceremonial bath.

Importance

The close of one's student career was a very momentous period in early life. Two paths open up for the student and one had to make the choice.

॥ Upakurvana : Return from gurukula and get married to enter Grhasthashrama, thereby taking responsibilities of the world.

॥ Naishtika : Stay back in the gurukula and live serving the masters in quest of knowledge of Self, thereby taking retirement from the world.

A majority of students followed the normal course of life and took up the life of a grhastha, a very few preferred the Naistika Brahmacharya.

समावर्तनविधिः ॥ Ceremonies at Samavartana

A simple yet significant ceremony, an auspicious day was selected and the student was required to shut himself up in a room throughout the morning. According to Bharadvaja Grhyasutra, it was done, so that the sun may not be insulted by the superior lustre of a Snataka.

स्नानम् ॥ Snana

This samskara is also called Snana because bathing is an important aspect here. According to some anthropologists, bathing was meant for washing away divinity from the student. During his Brahmacharya period, he was living in contact with the deities and he also develops a divine influence around him. So before returning to the ordinary world, he had to remove the divine influence which would be otherwise polluted and thereby incurring divine displeasure. Also the Brahmacharya period is regarded as a long yajna, so just as for any yajna where an Avabhrta bath is taken, so also a ceremonial bath marks the end of Brahmacharya period.[1]

It is a ceremonial bath because it symbolises the crossing of the ocean of literature learning by the student - hence Vidyasnataka and Vratasnataka - meaning one who has bathed in the ocean of learning and one who has bathed in vows respectively. In Sanskrit literature, learning is compared to an ocean.

As regards the bathing procedure, eight vessels of water are kept (representing the eight quarters of the earth) and the student draws the water with appropriate mantras. The body of the student heated by the fire of austerity and penance now requires to be cooled, which is symbolized by bathing (Paraskara Grhyasutras 2.6.8-10)[4]

Postbath Ceremonies

After the ceremonial bath, relinquishes his mekhala (girdle) and ajina (deer skin) which were the insignia of the student's order and puts on a loin cloth. The student having eaten curd and sesame, cleans his mouth and shaves his beard, removes the lock of hair, and nails. He then touches his guru's feet and offers the samidhas in agni, It marks the end of the period of strict discipline and the teacher himself, who previously sternly refused him the use of luxurious things, now offers them to the student. He gives him a bath in fragrant water followed by an offer of new clothes.

Ornaments, garlands, collyrium, tuban, umbrella, mirror, and shoes, and other necessities and comforts of a householder, the use of which was forbidden to him in the Brahmacharya ashrama were now to be formally and officially offered to him by his teacher with the recitation of proper mantras (Paraskara Grhyasutras 2.6.12-13). A bamboo staff was given to the scholar. The teacher offers Madhuparka (combination of honey and ghee) to the student, indicating a great respect for it is reserved for a few (king, a teacher, a son-in-law and snataka).[4][5][1]

गुरुवनुज्ञा ॥ Permission of Guru

Dressed in his new attires, the snataka proceeds to the nearest assembly of the learned in a chariot or an elephant. There he was introduced as a competent scholar by his teacher. According to the Baudhayana Grhyasutras, the Brahman student performs a homa with the blessing that the snataka would get plenty of students to teach.[3]

The permission of the teacher is essential and has been prescribed for the student to enter the next ashrama. The convocation speech emphasizes that the student continues the lineage.

आचार्याय प्रियं धनमाहृत्य प्रजातन्तुं मा व्यवच्छेत्सीः (तैतिरीयोपनिषत् - शिक्षावल्ली)

Having offered गुरुदक्षिणा, get married and see that you won't cut off the chain of progeny. Before the ceremonial bath, the student has to obtain permission from the acharya to end his studentship and give him guru-dakshina - tuition fees as explained below in Parashara Smrti.

गुरवे तु वरं दत्त्वा स्नायीत तदनुज्ञया । वेदव्रतनि वा पारं नीत्वा ह्युभयमेव वा ॥  पराशरस्मृतिः - आचारकाण्डः

In similar lines the Yajnavalkya smrti also expresses the above idea

गुरवे तु वरं दत्त्वा स्नायाद्वा तदनुज्ञया । वेदं व्रतानि वा पारं नीत्वा ह्युभयं एव वा । । १.५१ । । (Yajn. Smrt. 1.51)[6]

Up to this time the student did not pay any thing to the Acharya. So at the time of taking leave from him he is expected to pay him according to his means, in the form of fees.

दीक्षाप्रवचनम् ॥ Convocation Address

Taittriya Upanishad Shikshavalli is referred to as a classic example of how a student is addressed at the end of his studies and the fundamental principles that he should remember for life. Samavartana is equated to convocation ceremony of the present day.

The famous samavartana speech in the Taittriyopanishad starts with Speak the Truth, Practice Dharma, Make no mistake about the study of the Veda..[7]

वेदमनूच्याचार्योऽन्तेवासिनमनुशास्ति - सत्यं वद , धर्मं चर, स्वाध्यायान्मा प्रमदः ।... ... (Tait. Upan. Shiks. 11.1)[8]

Having taught the Vedas to the student, the preceptor Acharya imparts the Samavartana or end of education instructions to disciples (Antevasi). It is implied that a disciple who has studied the Veda, should not leave his Acharya's house without inquiring into the scriptural duties. (Page 265-266 of Reference [9]).

Gurudakshina

Returning from the assembly the student bids farewell to his teacher after paying him the honorarium that he could afford.

समावर्तनम् (स्नातकम्) विवाहः च ॥ Snataka and Marriage

A lot of confusion prevails as to the conduct of Samavartana and Marriage whether they should be conducted as contiguous events or not. Later when Upanayana lost its educational significance, it became more of a bodily samskara, more of a license for marriage. But because marriage could not take place before the Samavartana, it must be performed some time before marriage. In the present situations, in majority of cases Upanayana is performed followed by Samavartana immediately and all this has become symbolic. Unfortunately, it portrays that education of the person is completed even before it commenced.[1]

वेदानधीत्य वेदौ वा वेदं वापि यथाक्रमम् । अविप्लुतब्रह्मचर्यो गृहस्थाश्रममावसेत् ॥  (Manu. Smrt. 3.2)[10]

अनधीत्य द्विजो वेदान् अनुत्पाद्य तथा सुतान् । अनिष्ट्वा चैव यज्ञांश्च मोक्षमिच्छन् व्रजत्यधः ॥ (Manu. Smrt. 6.37)[11]

गुरुगेहदनावृत्तः स्नातको  हि न कथ्यते । तत्परत्वविधानाच्च न तवत् दारसङ्ग्रहः ॥ (Shlok. Vart. Praty. 103 and 104)

All the above stand for विवाहः after समावर्तनम् । We see that there is no insistence on performance of समवर्तनम् and  विवाह without pause.

वेदमधीत्य स्नास्यन् प्रागुदयात् व्रजं प्रविश्य अन्तर्लोम्ना चर्मणा द्वारमपिधाय आस्ते। (Apas. Grhy. Sutr. 5.12.1)[12]

रातिना सम्भाष्य यथार्थं गच्छति १४ । (Apas. Grhy. Sutr. 5.12.14)

Having discussed with a friend , the student would go to an आश्रम (गार्हस्थ्यम् , वानप्रस्थम् , संन्यासः ) as per his choice.

Therefore one cannot claim that both समावर्तनम् and विवाह are without any gap (अव्यवहित)।

The dispute that one should not remain without an Ashrama even for a single moment, (hence if a snataka was not immediately married to enter into the next ashrama) he would have to do prayashcitta for sure.

अनाश्रमी न तिष्ठते दिनमेकमपि द्विजः। आश्रमेण विना तिष्ठन्प्रायश्चित्तीयते हि सः। (Daks. Smrt. 1.10)

Yajnavalkya Smruti, Brahma Sutra Shaankara Bhashya quote this Vachana of Daksha. सुदर्शनाचार्य discusses the above issue as follows

सर्वर्तवो विवाहस्य इति सूत्रात्  यदा  दक्षिणायने विवाहः तदा समावर्तनमपि तत्रैव - अन्यथा उदगयने समावर्तने अनाश्रमी न तिष्ठेत् इति विरोधः स्यात् ।

The purport is that - since all ऋतुs are acceptable for विवाह , one has to decide well in advance as to which आश्रम he wants to embrace - गृहस्थवानप्रस्थसंन्यासाश्रमाः ( ब्रह्मचर्यादेव प्रव्रजेत् etc) and if he wishes to go to गृहस्थाश्रम then he has to arrange the विवाह,  with the help of friends , parents and गुरु, and see to it that both स्नातकव्रतम् and विवाह fall in the same - either उत्तरायणम् or दक्षिणायनम् । समावर्तनम् in उत्तरायणम् and विवाह in दक्षिणायनम् or vice versa is not acceptable as it would offend the above नियम (niyama meaning rule) ordained by धर्मशास्त्रम्। Any violation of the above नियम would attract कृच्छ्रव्रतम् (Krcchravratam) as प्रायश्चित्त (prayaschitta).(By Dr. Korada Subrahmanyam in BVP Forum[13])

Samavartana in Modern Days

In course of time, just as Upanayana came to be performed more as an obligatory bodily samskara, so also Samavartana came to be performed irrespective of whether any educational course was followed by the youth or not. It came to be performed as a formality just before the marriage, whenever it was settled (even if the marriage was a long time after the completion of the studies). In the modern times, convocation ceremony came to be organized by the Institution or University and thus the rituals to the student gradually faded out.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Pandey, Rajbali. (2002 Reprint) Hindu Samskaras : Socio-Religious Study of the Hindu Sacraments. Delhi : Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
  2. Apastamba Grhyasutras (Patala 5 Khanda 12)
  3. 3.0 3.1 Baudhayana Grhyasutras (Prashna 2)
  4. 4.0 4.1 Paraskara Grhyasutras
  5. Altekar, A. S. (1944) Education in Ancient India. Benares : Nand Kishore and Bros.,
  6. Yajnavalkya Smrti (Acharaadhyaya Vivahaprakarana)
  7. N. S. Ananta Rangacharya (2003) Principal Upanishads (Isa, Kena, Katha, Prasna, Mundaka, Mandookya, Taittiriya, Mahanarayana, Svetasvatara) Volume 1. Bangalore : Sri Rama Printers
  8. Taittriya Upanishad (Shiksha Valli Anuvaka 11)
  9. Swami Gambhirananda (1957) Eight Upanishads, Volume 1 (Isa, Kena, Katha, and Taittriya) with the Commentary of Sankaracharya. Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama
  10. Manusmrti (Adhyaya 3)
  11. Manusmrti (Adhyaya 6)
  12. Apastamba Grhyasutras (Patala 5 Khanda 12)
  13. Bharatiya Vidvat Parishad (Samavartana)