Snāna

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Sometimes transliterated as: Snana, SnAna, Snaana


Snāna literally means ‘bath’.

Significance of Snāna

In the life of a person, even ordinary acts like snāna or bathing, needed to keep the body clean and pure are considered a sacrament that elevates one spiritually. A bath is compulsory for persons of all the varṇas. It is to be taken in a river, a big tank, the tank attached to a temple or from the water drawn from one’s own well or even a public well.

Denotation to Each Varṇa for Snāna

The brāhmaṇa householders are expected to take bath twice, before sunrise and at noon, whereas a brahmacārin is to take it only once. A sanyāsin should bathe thrice, the last one being before sunset. The bath should always be accompanied by the chanting of Vedic mantras such as Rgveda,[1] Taittirīya Samhita[2] and Ṛgveda.[3]

Types of Snāna

When a person is unable to take bath as prescribed with all the formalities and mantras shortcuts are permitted such as invoking river-goddesses into the water and sprinkling the same over himself. Some of the purāṇas and smṛtis[4][5] give a list of six varieties of snāna. They are:

  1. Nitya - Nityasnāna is the one already described.
  2. Naimittika - Naimittikasnāna is occasioned by a nimitta or a special reason like the birth of a son or the completion of a sacrifice or an eclipse and so on.
  3. Kāmya - Kāmyasnāna[6] is undertaken in a place of pilgrimage or at any other place.
  4. Kriyāṅga - Kriyāṅgasnāna is resorted to as a part of a religious rite.
  5. Malāpakarṣaṇa or abhyaṅga - Malāpakarṣaṇa snāna is actually an oil bath undertaken on certain auspicious days to get prosperity.
  6. Kriyā - Kriyāsnāna is the bathing done at a place of pilgrimage to get the merit and performed as per the procedure prescribed.[7]

Types of Gauṇasnāna

The dharmaśāstras have also enumerated six kinds of gauṇasnāna.[8] They are:

  1. Mantrasnāna - sprinkling water over oneself with certain mantras
  2. Bhaumasnāna - smearing the body with loose earth
  3. Āgneyasnāna - applying holy ashes
  4. Vāyavīyasnāna - taking on or exposing the body to the dust raised by the hoofs of cows
  5. Divyasnāna - wetting one’s body in a shower of rain accompanied by sunshine
  6. Mānasasnana - repeating the name of God in the mind


References

  1. Rgveda 10.9.1-3
  2. Taittirīya Samhita 5.6.1.1, 2
  3. Ṛgveda 10.190.1-3
  4. Sañkhasmrti 8.1 to 11
  5. Agnipurāṇa 155.3, 4
  6. It is the bath for some desired object.
  7. Sañkhasmṛti 9
  8. Gauṇasnāna means secondary baths.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore