Sanskaras in Hinduism are rites of passage that begin with one's birth, celebrates certain early steps in a baby's growth and his or her 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. 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 involving a couple, with or without friends, other family families or a religious person such as priest or pandit. Sanskaras are not considered as end in themselves, but are means of social recognition as well as the passage of a person from one significant stage of life to another. Various elements of Sanskaras and rituals of life's passage are mentioned in Vedas of Hinduism, one of the oldest known scriptures in the world. The most extensive, but divergent discussions of these rites of passage are found in the numerous Dharmasutras and Grhyasutras from the 1st millennium BCE. Many of these rites of passage include formal ceremonies, with ritual readings of hymns, chants and ethical promises, aiming to orient the individual(s) to that which is considered part of dharma (right, good, just, moral, true, spiritual, responsible, duties to family members or society in general), and essential actions such as those associated with last rites and cremation, charitable works, or out of sraddha or items of faith.
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