May Lord Vishnu make your womb capable of generation,
May Lord Surya shape the child’s body,
May Lord Prajapati sprinkle seed in you,
May the Lord of Fate look after your fetus.
(Brhadaranyaka Upanishad 6.4.20-21)
Purpose of the Garbhadhana Samskara:
Lust and physical attraction is a characteristic common to all living beings,
as a consequence of which there is intercourse, which leads to creation of offspring.
This however is animal instinct. If we don’t rise from this level we are
not humans, but beasts only. To gain this ascendance we need to rein our base
instincts through Samskaras. The physical contact between husband and wife should
be according to the rules laid down in the Shastras (ancient scriptures), ensuring
that the would-be child would be marked with the spirit of spirituality.
The Garbhadhana Samskara makes us realize that the physical contact between
man and wife is not a fulfillment of an animal need, but rather a yajna (sacrifice).When
man and wife, bedecked in the shower of auspicious mantras (chanted by the husband),
indulge in the actual physical act of creating an offspring, they indeed give
rise to a child of superior disposition.
The whole purpose of the Garbhadhana Samskara is to invoke the gods to participate
in the act of procreation, the human counterpart of divine creation. That the
human act of procreation is of divine origin is clearly mentioned in the scriptures:
‘It was Lord Prajapati the creator who first established his seed in the
lower part of a woman. A man should do the same because it is the way of the
world to follow in the footsteps of those superior to us.’ (Brhadaranyaka
In comparing the married couple to the earth and the sky, the Vedas recognize
the inherent nature and necessity of this union in accordance with the cosmic
laws of procreation.
However, those who do not recognize the essential sacredness of the act of procreation
are headed for disaster. The Brhadaranyaka Upanishad says: ‘Many Brahmins
lost all their merit (punya) because they indulged in this act without knowing
that it is but a sacrifice (yajna).’ (6.4.4)
Samskara for Bringing about a Male Child:
After the wife has been impregnated, the scriptures advise her to live a careful
and pure life:
‘A pregnant woman should not ever let her mind be depressed. She should
not engage in too much hard work; she should always remain pure. She should
never utter any inauspicious words; protect herself; always wear clean clothes,
and do charity on auspicious days and festivals. The woman who follows these
rules with diligence gives birth to a son with noble character and long life.’
(Matsya Purana 7.36-47)
As for the man, it is explicitly stated that ‘a husband should always
keep his wife happy, giving her whatever she wants, because any unhappiness
can have a negative effect on the baby to be born.’ (Yajnavalkya Smriti
Traditionally, male progeny have been preferred, as the continuity of the family
is maintained through male lineage, and sons are required to perform the necessary
rituals that guarantee a safe sojourn for the father and mother after they leave
However, daughters are also welcome and desired in addition to
sons, as is evident in various texts such as the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad (6.4.17)
which advises that “a man who wishes to have ‘a learned daughter
who will life out her full life span’ should ask his wife to “cook
a special meal of rice and ghee. The couple thus becomes capable of begetting
such a daughter.”
During the third month of pregnancy, the scriptures prescribe a Samskara for
ensuring a male child. Known as Pumsavana, it is performed before the fetus
begins to move in the womb (Yajnavalkya Smriti 1.11). This is an extremely auspicious
Samskara and is mentioned by name in the Atharva Veda (6.11.1).
The woman who undergoes this Samskara fasts and bathes in preparation for it.
Afterwards, she adorns herself with new clothes. Then in the night, sprouts
of the banyan tree are pounded and the juice administered into her right nostril
by her husband.
During the process, the following mantra from the Atharva Veda is chanted: “may
a male embryo enter your womb, as an arrow into a quiver. May a son be born
after ten months.” (3.23.2-4)
Significance of the Pumsavana Samskara:
Sayanacharya, the greatest commentator on the Vedas, remarks that the above
verse signifies that as an arrow is placed comfortably in a quiver, so would
the child live peacefully in the womb. Additionally, it is also a prayer for
the child to complete his full term of ten months in the womb, thus precluding
the possibility of premature birth.
This Samskara strengthens the bond between husband and wife, bound together
by a common desire for male offspring. At this crucial and difficult juncture
of her life, this sharing and support is psychologically highly comforting to
According to the Susruta Samhita, one of the principal texts of Ayurveda, the
banyan tree has got properties of removing various kinds of troubles during
pregnancy. Also, insertion of medicines into nostrils is a common practice in
the Indian system of medicine. Therefore, it is evident that this Samskara is
based, amongst many other things known and unknown, on the foundations of scientific
After a few months, another Samskara is performed on the expectant mother. This
consists of the parting of the wife’s hair by her husband. In popular
tradition, this is a rite focused on the mother, educating her while entertaining
her, encouraging her to concentrate on her own well-being so as to ensure the
full and healthy development of the child. The texts discuss feeding the woman
auspicious foods as well as those that satisfy her special cravings, all the
while entertaining her with songs, anointing and massaging her, and garlanding
her with a string of unripe fruits. During the last trimester of her pregnancy
following this ritual, relatives pamper and protect the mother to be, catering
to her various whims. Every precaution is taken for the well-being of the fetus.
According to Ayurveda, from the fifth month of pregnancy, the formation of the
mind of the child begins. So the pregnant woman is required to take utmost care
to facilitate this process, avoiding any physical shock to the fetus. This is
symbolically emphasized by parting her hair.
This Samskara is definitely geared to keep the woman in good cheer, and to show
her that she is special. The parting and dressing of her hair by the husband
are powerful rituals which affirm that he continues to be very much with her
during this difficult phase, and that he finds her as attractive as ever despite
the obvious physical changes in her body.
For the actual ceremony, the wife has to fast on that day. Wearing new clothes,
she is seated on a soft seat, and the husband first parts her hair upwards,
and then ties five fruits as an ornament around her neck. While doing so he
chants the following mantra: “O woman with beautiful hair, the branches
of this strong tree are laden with fruit. May you too be fruitful like it.”
This mantra makes it obvious that this Samskara is also a ritual of fertility.
After doing her hair, the husband asks two singers to sing aloud stories of
brave warriors. This is meant to generate a heroic atmosphere and thereby influence
the unborn child, much like Arjuna’s son Abhimanyu in the Mahabharata.
The latter learnt the most powerful battle stratagems while in his mother’s
Like all auspicious occasions, this ceremony too ends with a lavish feast for
Brahmins. The mother, highlighting the solemnity of the occasion, keeps silent
till the stars appear in the sky. Then she touches a calf and breaks her silence
by uttering ‘Bhur Bhuvah Svah.’
The Shastras operate at much deeper psychological level than we can ever imagine.
By governing, nay enriching and refining our life through these Samskaras, they
ensure a spiritual foundation for our material well-being. One thing has to
be realized: it is not we that sustain the tradition, but rather, it is tradition
that sustains us.
References & Further Reading:
B.S. Yajnavalkya Smrti: Sanskrit Text, Transliteration and English Translation:
M.N. Manusmrti (Sanskrit Text with English Translation): Delhi, 2010
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