Jyotishacharya Shastri Pundit Roshan Singh
Ordained Pundit / Registered Marriage Officer / Jyotish Astrologer / Ayurvedic Health Care Practitioner / Commissioner of Oaths / Justice of the Peace
The Harish Stapna and Kalash Stapna is regarded as the most important part of the Hardi Ceremony as it is in both these ceremonies that the Lord is welcomed, given a seat and worshipped firstly by the father and 5 other men and theirafter by the mother and 6 other ladies.
In the following account a brief summary is given of the four stages of human life and the seven stages of transformation. The father places the Harish that has seven nodes on either side of a wooden cut out. As explained in the above procedure in Harish Stapna the father prays for the Lords blessing upon his son or daughter in the seven stages of their development as human beings.
The mother prays that her child should be blessed by Lakshminarayana to enable him or her to follow the varnashrama dharma system in the four stages of his or her development. The following is an elaborate explanation taken from the Srimad Bhagavatam of what is required of any person in passing through these four stages of ones life.
The Kalash is placed in front of the Harees by the mother of the bride and groom in their respective homes. She is accompanied by six married ladies.
The mother of the bride or groom is the embodiment of non other than Mother Durga and the six ladies that accompany her represent the six shakti’s or expansions of Ma Durga. They jointly pray to Laxminarayana Bhagavan to be with and protect their children who are to enter into their next stage of the four ashrams in human life.
In Hinduism, human life is believed to comprise four stages. These are called “ashramas” and every person should ideally go through each of these stages:
- The First Ashrama: “Brahmacharya” or the Student Stage
- The Second Ashrama: “Grihastha” or the Householder Stage
- The Third Ashrama: “Vanaprastha” or the Hermit Stage
- The Fourth Ashrama: “Sannyasa” or the Wandering Ascetic Stage
A crucial piece of the ashrama lifecycle is its focus on dharma, the Hindu concept of moral rightness. Dharma underlies many themes in Hindu life, and in the four ashramas, dharma is learned, practiced, taught and realized.
History of Ashramas
This system of ashramas is believed to have been prevalent since the 5th century B.C.E. in Hindu society, and described in the classic Sanskrit texts called the Asrama Upanishad, the Vaikhanasa Dharmasutra, and the later Dharmashastra.
Historians report that these stages of life were always viewed more as ‘ideals’ than as a common practice. According to one scholar, even in its very beginnings, after the first ashrama, a young adult could choose which of the other ashramas he would wish to pursue for the rest of his life. Today, it is not expected that a Hindu should go through the four stages, but the concept still stands as an important “pillar” of Hindu socio-religious tradition.
Brahmacharya: The Celibate Student
Brahmacharya is a period of formal education lasting until around age 25, during which, the student leaves home to stay with a guru and attain both spiritual and practical knowledge. The student has two duties: to learn the skills of his life and to practice unwavering devotion to his teachers. During this period, he is called a Brahmachari as he prepares for his future profession, as well as for his family, and social and religious life ahead. In this day and age one is expected to go to school and later to universities and colleges to acquire sercular education and not much emphases is placed on spirituality as in the ancient times both material and spiritual education were equally important and it is for this reason people grew to know about life, developed skills to maintain their material needs and at the same time balance their life by not forgetting God in whatever they did.
It was for this reason that they led a happy an contented life as they did not try to become happy but were always happy no matter what the had.
Grihastha: The Householder
This Second Ashrama begins at marrige when one must undertake the responsibility for earning a living and supporting a family. At this stage, Hindus first practice dharma, but also pursue wealth or material gratification (artha) as a necessity, and indulge in sexual pleasure (kama), under certain defined social and cosmic norms.
The purpose of having a child is to bring a fallen soul into this world and assist him or her to redevelop one’s lost connection with God and deliver their child back home, back to Godhead.
As the Age of Kali progresses, all good qualities of men diminish and all impure qualities increase. Atheistic systems of so-called religion become predominant, replacing the codes of Vedic law. The kings become just like highway bandits, the people in general become dedicated to low occupations, and all the social classes become just like śūdras. All cows become like goats, all spiritual hermitages become like materialistic homes, and family ties extend no further than the immediate relationship of marriage.
When the Age of Kali has almost ended, the Supreme Personality of Godhead will incarnate. He will appear in the village Śambhala, in the home of the exalted brāhmaṇa Viṣṇuyaśā, and will take the name Kalki. He will mount His horse Devadatta and, taking His sword in hand, will roam about the earth killing millions of bandits in the guise of kings. Then the signs of the next Satya-yuga will begin to appear. When the moon, sun and the planet Bṛhaspati enter simultaneously into one constellation and conjoin in the lunar mansion Puṣyā, Satya-yuga will begin. In the order of Satya, Tretā, Dvāpara and Kali, the cycle of four ages rotates in the society of living entities in this universe.
We learn of the future dynasties of the sun and moon coming from Vaivasvata Manu in the next Satya-yuga. Even now two saintly kṣatriyas are living who at the end of this Kali-yuga will reinitiate the pious dynasties of the sun-god, Vivasvān, and the moon-god, Candra. One of these kings is Devāpi, a brother of Mahārāja Śantanu, and the other is Maru, a descendant of Ikṣvāku. They are biding their time incognito in a village named Kalāpa.
satyatve dhārṣṭyam eva hi
yaśo ’rthe dharma-sevanam
SB : 12.2.6
dūre — situated far away; vāri — of water; ayanam — a reservoir; tīrtham — holy place; lāvaṇyam — beauty; keśa — hair; dhāraṇam — carrying; udaram–bharatā — filling the belly; sva–arthaḥ — the goal of life; satyatve— in so-called truth; dhārṣṭyam — audacity; eva — simply; hi — indeed; dākṣyam — expertise; kuṭumba–bharaṇam — maintaining a family; yaśaḥ — fame; arthe — for the sake of; dharma–sevanam — observance of religious principles.
A sacred place will be taken to consist of no more than a reservoir of water located at a distance, and beauty will be thought to depend on one’s hairstyle. Filling the belly will become the goal of life, and one who is audacious will be accepted as truthful. He who can maintain a family will be regarded as an expert man, and the principles of religion will be observed only for the sake of reputation.
In India there are many sacred places through which holy rivers flow. Foolish persons eagerly seek redemption from their sins by bathing in these rivers but do not take instruction from learned devotees of the Lord who reside in such places. One should go to a holy place seeking spiritual enlightenment and not just for ritualistic bathing.
In this age, people tirelessly arrange their hair in different styles, trying to enhance their facial beauty and sexuality. They do not know that actual beauty comes from within the heart, from the soul, and that only a person who is pure is truly attractive. As the difficulties of this age increase, filling one’s belly will be the mark of success, and one who can maintain his own family will be considered brilliant in economic affairs. Religion will be practiced, if at all, only for the sake of reputation and without any essential understanding of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
yo balī bhavitā nṛpaḥ
SB : 12.2.7
evam — in this way; prajābhiḥ — with populace; duṣṭābhiḥ — corrupted; ākīrṇe — being crowded; kṣiti–maṇḍale— the earth globe; brahma — among the brāhmaṇas; viṭ — vaiśyas; kṣatra — kṣatriyas; śūdrāṇām — and śūdras; yaḥ — whoever; balī — the strongest; bhavitā — he will become; nṛpaḥ — the king.
As the earth thus becomes crowded with a corrupt population, whoever among any of the social classes shows himself to be the strongest will gain political power.
prajā hi lubdhai
SB : 12.2.8
prajāḥ — the citizens; hi — indeed; lubdhaiḥ — avaricious; rājanyaiḥ — by the royal order; nirghṛṇaiḥ — merciless; dasyu — of ordinary thieves; dharmabhiḥ — acting according to the nature; ācchinna — taken away; dāra — their wives; draviṇāḥ — and property; yāsyanti — they will go; giri — to the mountains; kānanam — and forests.
Losing their wives and properties to such avaricious and merciless rulers, who will behave no better than ordinary thieves, the citizens will flee to the mountains and forests.
SB : 12.2 9
śāka — leaves; mūla — roots; āmiṣa — meat; kṣaudra — wild honey; phala — fruits; puṣpa — flowers; aṣṭi — and seeds; bhojanāḥ — eating; anāvṛṣṭyā — because of drought; vinaṅkṣyanti — they will become ruined; durbhikṣa — by famine; kara — and taxation; pīḍitāḥ — tormented.
Harassed by famine and excessive taxes, people will resort to eating leaves, roots, flesh, wild honey, fruits, flowers and seeds. Struck by drought, they will become completely ruined.
Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam authoritatively describes the future of our planet. Just as a leaf disconnected from a plant or tree dries up, withers and disintegrates, when human society is disconnected from the Supreme Lord it withers up and disintegrates in violence and chaos. Despite our computers and rockets, if the Supreme Lord does not send rain we shall all starve.
This ashrama lasts until around the age of 50. According to the Laws of Manu, when a person’s skin wrinkles and his hair turns gray, he should leave his home and go out into the forest. However, most Hindus are so much in love with this second ashrama that the Grihastha stage lasts a lifetime!
himair anyonyataḥ prajāḥ
kṣut-tṛḍbhyāṁ vyādhibhiś caiva
santapsyante ca cintayā
SB : 12.2.10
śīta — by cold; vāta — wind; ātapa — the heat of the sun; prāvṛt — torrential rain; himaiḥ — and snow; anyonyataḥ — by quarrel; prajāḥ — the citizens; kṣut — by hunger; tṛḍbhyām — and thirst; vyādhibhiḥ — by diseases; ca — also; eva — indeed; santapsyante — they will suffer great distress; ca — and; cintayā — by anxiety.
The citizens will suffer greatly from cold, wind, heat, rain and snow. They will be further tormented by quarrels, hunger, thirst, disease and severe anxiety.
paramāyuḥ kalau nṛṇām
SB : 12.2.11
The maximum duration of life for human beings in Kali-yuga will become fifty years.
naṣṭe veda-pathe nṛṇām
nānā-vṛttiṣu vai nṛṣu
SB : 12.2.12-16
kṣīyamāṇeṣu — having become smaller; deheṣu — the bodies; dehinām — of all living entities; kali–doṣataḥ — by the contamination of the Age of Kali; varṇa–āśrama–vatām — of the members of varṇāśrama society; dharme — when their religious principles; naṣṭe — have been destroyed; veda–pathe — the path of the Vedas; nṛṇām — for all men; pāṣaṇḍa–pracure — mostly atheism; dharme — religion; dasyu–prāyeṣu — mostly thieves; rājasu — the kings; caurya — banditry; anṛta — lying; vṛthā–hiṁsā — useless slaughter; nānā — various; vṛttiṣu — their occupations; vai — indeed; nṛṣu — when men; śūdra–prāyeṣu — mostly low-class śūdras; varṇeṣu — the so-called social orders; chāga–prāyāsu — no better than goats; dhenuṣu — the cows; gṛha–prāyeṣu — just like materialistic homes; āśrameṣu — the spiritual hermitages; yauna–prāyeṣu — extending no further than marriage; bandhuṣu — family ties; aṇu–prāyāsu — mostly very small; oṣadhīṣu — plants and herbs; śamī–prāyeṣu — just like śamī trees; sthāsnuṣu — all the trees; vidyut–prāyeṣu — always manifesting lightning; megheṣu — the clouds; śūnya–prāyeṣu— devoid of religious life; sadmasu — the homes; ittham — thus; kalau — when the Age of Kali; gata–prāye — is almost finished; janeṣu — the people; khara–dharmiṣu — when they have assumed the characteristics of asses; dharma–trāṇāya — for the deliverance of religion; sattvena — in the pure mode of goodness; bhagavān — the Supreme Personality of Godhead; avatariṣyati — will descend.
By the time the Age of Kali ends, the bodies of all creatures will be greatly reduced in size, and the religious principles of followers of varṇāśrama will be ruined. The path of the Vedas will be completely forgotten in human society, and so-called religion will be mostly atheistic. The kings will mostly be thieves, the occupations of men will be stealing, lying and needless violence, and all the social classes will be reduced to the lowest level of śūdras. Cows will be like goats, spiritual hermitages will be no different from mundane houses, and family ties will extend no further than the immediate bonds of marriage. Most plants and herbs will be tiny, and all trees will appear like dwarf śamī trees. Clouds will be full of lightning, homes will be devoid of piety, and all human beings will have become like asses. At that time, the Supreme Personality of Godhead will appear on the earth. Acting with the power of pure spiritual goodness, He will rescue eternal religion.
Significantly, these verses point out that most so-called religions in this age will be atheistic (pāsaṇḍa-pracure dharme).
In confirmation of the Bhāgavatam’s prediction, the United States Supreme Court has recently ruled that to be considered a religion a system of belief need not recognize a supreme being. Also, many atheistic, voidistic belief systems, often imported from the Orient, have attracted the attention of modern atheistic scientists, who expound on the similarities between Eastern and Western voidism in fashionable, esoteric books.
These verses vividly describe many unsavory symptoms of the Age of Kali. Ultimately, at the end of this age, Lord Kṛṣṇa will descend as Kalki and remove the thoroughly demonic persons from the face of the earth.
Having heard these truths which have been revealed by the Lord Himself the mothers of the bride and groom together with the ladies beg for the mercy of Ma Lakshmi and Lord Nayayana to be with and protect their children from the ill effects of the age of Kaliyuga. They pray that may their children be and remain devotees of Krsna and thereby be divinely protected in this lifetime from all vices to enable them to be pure, good and kind individuals to serve their parents, their spiritual master, revere their ancestors, serve mankind and to know God and to Love Him.
Vanaprastha: The Hermit in Retreat
The Vanaprastha stage is one of gradual withdrawal. The person’s duty as a householder comes to an end: He has become a grandfather, his children are grown up and have established lives of their own. At this age, he should renounce all physical, material, and sexual pleasures, retire from his social and professional life and leave his home for a forest hut where he can spend his time in prayers.
The hermit is allowed to take his spouse along with him but maintains little contact with the rest of the family. The role of the third ashrama is to be consulted as elders by the community at large, teaching dharma to those who visit. This kind of life is indeed very harsh and cruel for an aged person. No wonder, this third ashrama is now nearly obsolete and not followed by man in the western world. On the other hand many people choose this path up to this day in India. This is very evident when one sees throusands of such saints and sadhu’s that come down during the Kumba Mela in India. To this day it is a mystery as nobody knows where they come from and where they go to after the Kumba Mela.
Sannyasa: The Wandering Recluse
Ashrama 4 is one of renunciation and the realization of dharma. At this stage, a person is supposed to be totally devoted to God. He is a sannyasi, he has no home, no other attachment; he has renounced all desires, fears, hopes, duties, and responsibilities. He is virtually merged with God, all his worldly ties are broken, and his sole concern becomes attaining moksha or release from the circle of birth and death. (Suffice it to say, very few Hindus can go up to this stage of becoming a complete ascetic.) When he dies, the funeral ceremonies (Pretakarma) are performed by his heir.
Appropriate mantras are chanted by the revered Pundit to give Lord Vishnu, the 33 million devi and devata’s, the sadhu and saints from the time of Lord Brahma and the holy scriptures that have taken their personalised forms a seat. The kalash is filled with the water that they have brought with them when conducting the matkoor pooja. A lamp that is filled with butter ghee is placed on the top of the kalash on a seat of mango leaves. The unification of the Kalash and the lamp now represent Lakshmi and Narayana. The Lord is then worshiped with camphor and inscense. Flowers and water is offered at the feet of their Lordships. The harees is decorated with a garland of marigold flowers. The Kalash and Harees from the bride’s home is taken to the wedding venue infront of whom the couple will take their vows and commit to the Lord.