By Swami Harshananda
Vapana literally means ‘shaving’.
In the life of a person, even vapana or muṇdana becomes associated with the religious rites. It is often resorted to as a compulsory act mostly, in the places of pilgrimage like Prayāga. It is also necessary on the death of one’s father or mother. As a part of penances also it has to be done.
For sanyāsins it was compulsory. Some dharmaśāstras have prescribed it for widows also, since their life was to be similar to that of the sanyāsin. Learned brāhmaṇas and kings were generally exempt from it. At the Triveṇīsangama in Prayāga, married ladies could offer a small part of their braid of hair with mantras as a part of a religious vow.
- Muṇdana means shaving or the tonsure of the head.
- Sanyāsins means monks.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore