First sacrament - Garbhadhan (Conception)
Second sacrament - Punsavan (Conception confirmed)
The nearest English word to “Sanskars” is “sacraments”. Sanskars are rituals through which the life of a person receives holiness or becomes better and worthy of greater respect. There are sixteen sacraments which have been specified by Vedic teaching and involve the various important events in a person’s life. They extend from the moment of conception until the death of the person.
The origin of Vedic sacraments is in the four Vedas from where the verses of prayer have been extracted. The sacraments were observed by custom from the Vedic period but later they were written in book form so that people could refer to it easily. The Vedas declare that what is purified through the process of sacraments in this world becomes pure and blessed and whatever is not thus purified and blessed is described as impure in this world.
The sixteen sacraments beginning with conception and ending with the performance of last rites after death are summarized below. These sacraments are performed by a priest well versed in the rituals of Vedic sacraments. The sacraments are very ably described in the book “Sanskar Vidhi” (Procedure for Sacraments) written by Swami Dayanand Saraswati.
1. First sacrament - Garbhadhan (Conception)
This sacrament is performed before the husband and wife join in the act of impregnation. The purpose is to obtain a good, healthy, spiritually upright child. The procedure involves the performance of Havan (fire sacrifice) and special prayers are said requesting God for auspiciousness and purification in every way for the child desired by the couple.
2. Second sacrament - Punsavan (Conception confirmed)
Punsavan sacrament is performed in the second or third month when it is known that conception has taken place. This sacrament ensures a healthy period of pregnancy and birth of a strong and normal child. Havan is performed and special prayers are said accordingly.