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In our day to day life everyone will start the day with brushing one’s tooth. The Sanskrit word for brushing tooth is ‘Dantadhāvanaṃ’. In dharma sastra there is an elaborated description of how to perform dantadhāvanaṃ. According to sanatana dharma performing dantadhāvanaṃ in the prescribed manner does not only maintain the peripheral hygiene of one’s self, but also lead to inner/spiritual hygiene.

According to atri smṛti one should perform dantadhāvanaṃ everyday, sans, is subject to harm. Every day in the morning after waking up, one should rinse the mouth with water and then take a succulent piece of wood/branch or a dry piece of wood/branch (of the prescribed tree) and perform dantadhāvanaṃ.

According to Bharadwaja (another smṛti karta), after cleaning hands and legs with water and rinsing the mouth with water, one should perform ācamanaṃ facing to the east and then perform dantadhāvanaṃ.

There is a prescribed way to collect the piece of wood/branch through which dantadhāvanaṃ is to be performed. One should utter the said shloka/mantra while collecting the ‘dantadhāvana stick’. The shloka/mantra follows as below –

asyaāyurutyādi mantrasya | prajāpatiṛrshiḥ | anuṣṭup chandaḥ | vanaspatirdēvatā | vanaspati sangrahē viniyōgaḥ |

"āyurbalaṃ yaśōvarcaḥ prajāṃ paśu vasūni ca | brahmaprajṇāṃ ca mēdhāṃ ca tvaṃ nō dēhi vanaspatē! ||"

O lord of the trees! I pray thee to bestow me with long healthy life, fame, vigour, good descendents, cattle, prosperity, brahma vidya and knowledge.

How to clean tooth

After obtaining the wood/stick for dantadhāvanaṃ, one should chew the stick/wood thoroughly till it turns into soft hair like substance. And then tooth is to be cleaned by moving up and down from left to right side.

In Vyasa smṛti, a specific posture has been stated for dantadhāvanaṃ, i.e. sitting on knees and hands in between the folded legs. And facing towards east is also prescribed.

According to Śānḍlya smṛti kukkuṭāsanaṃ is the prescribed posture.

After cleaning the tooth one should clean the tongue with the other end of the stick/wood.

Size of ‘dantadhāvana stick’

According to vyāsa smṛti and viṣṇu smṛti, the size of the stick/wood which is to be used for dantadhāvana is to be 12-4-6 or 4 inches respectively. According to harītaṃ the size of the stick/wood is 8 inches.

The description of the ‘dantadhāvana stick’

The stick/wood which is to be used for dantadhāvanaṃ should be with its bark/outer layer. It should be straight (without any curves), it should not have any foul smell. The stick/wood should belong to any famous species of tree.

Here are some of the types of trees, which are prescribed for dantadhāvanaṃ -

1. Khādira - Acacia Catechu

2. Kadaṃba - Kaim/Stephegyme Parilora Korth

3. Karanja - Jatropa/Galedupa Arborea

4. Jaṃbu - Java Plum/Engenia Jambolana

5. Niṃba - Neem/Azadirachta

6. Bilwa - Aegle Marmelos

7. Arka - Calotropis Gigentea

8. Uduṃbara - Fig Tree/Ficus Glomirata

9. Apāmārga - Chaff Flower/Achyranthes Aspera

Not all types of wood/sticks are preferred for dantadhāvanaṃ. There is a separate list of trees which are said not to be used for dantadhāvanaṃ. The list follows as below –

1. Śalmalī - Silk Cotton/Bombax Cebia Linn

2. Aśwattha - Holy Fig Tree/Ficus Religiosa/peepal tree

3. Bhavya - Arerhoa Calambola

4. Dhava - Anogeissns latifolia

5. Kiṃśuka - Butea Monosperma

6. Kōvidāra - Bauhinia variegate/a species of ebony

7. Śamī - Prosopis spicigera/Mimosa suma

8. Pīlu - Careya arborea/Salvadora Persia

9. Ślōṣmāṣtaka - Cordia latifolia

10. Vibhītaka - Terminalia bellerica

11. Guggulu - Bdellion

12. Pālaśa - Butea frondesa

13. Kārpāsa - Cotton Plant/Gossypium hirsntum

14. Kuśa - Grass/Poa cynosurodides

15. Kāśa - Shinning white grass/Saccharum spontaneum

16. Śiṃśupā - (Bot) dalbergia sissoo

17. Aśvatthaka - Peatels of Arabian Jasmine


In the sanatana tradition there is tradition of performing certain rituals at different stages of life which are call as ‘saṃskāra’s.

The etymological meaning of the word saṃskāra is ‘the means of refining’. In the present context it means the rituals which are meant for refining the body and soul. Angira, a sage saṃskāras are like the colors in a painting (art work). Colors in a painting make the painting gradually beautiful and complete. In the same way saṃskāras refine a person peripherally and internally i.e. in the seen and un-seen arena.

“chitrakarma yathānekai raṃgairunmīlyate śanaiḥ| brāmhhaṇyamapi tadvatsyāt saṃskārairvidhipūrvakaiḥ||”

According to Gautama there are 48 saṃskāras. They are –

(1) Garbhādānaṃ

(2) Puṃsavanaṃ

(3) Sīmantōnnayanaṃ

(4) Jātakarma

(5) Nāmakaraṇam

(6) Annaprāśanaṃ

(7) Chaulaṃ

(8) Upanayanaṃ

(9-12) 4 vedavratas

(13) Snātakaṃ

(14) Vivāhaḥ

(15-19) Deva-pitṛ-manuṣya-bhūta-brāmhaṇa yajnas

(20-26) 7 Pākayajnas

(27-33) 7 Haviryajna saṃsthas

(34-40) 7 sōma saṃsthas

(41-48) 8 Ātma guṇas (dayā-kṣānti-anasūyā-śauchaṃ-anāyāsa-mangalaṃ-akārpanyam-aspṛhā)

But popularly the first fourteen of the above saṃskāras are performed in the present times. Deva-pitṛ-manuṣya-bhūta-brāmhaṇa yajnas, 7 Pākayajnas, 7 Haviryajna saṃsthas, 7 sōma saṃsthas are rarely performed by selective people. 8 Ātma guṇas are normally imparted by moral stories et cetera in sanātana culture. Antyēṣṭi is another ritual considered as a saṃskāra. Antyēṣṭi is the saṃskāra which is performed after one's death to dispose the body which the soul left.

The primary purpose of these 48 saṃskāras is Mokṣa (final emancipation, the deliverance of the soul from recurring births or transmigration). But Gautama says it in a different manner -

yasyaitē chatvārimśat saṃskārā na cāṣṭāvātmaguṇā na sa brahmaṇaḥ sāyujyaṃ sālōkuaṃ ca gacchati|

One who does not get refined himself with these 48 saṃskāras, does he not the sāyujyaṃ and sālōkuaṃ of the bramhan. That means that he does not attain Mokṣa.