What role do rites and rituals play in the Hindu way of life?
Arite is a formal or ceremonial act or procedure prescribed or customary in religious or other solemn use. It can also be referred to as a customary observance or practice. On the other hand, a ritual is a religious or solemn ceremony that involves a series of actions performed according to a set order.
Hindu traditions aim at developing individuals who follow good habits, people who practice rites and rituals that promote happiness. From the social point of view, personal welfare, happiness and recognition are important in life. The purpose of human life is not restricted to eating, drinking or being merry. Sages and saints have described material progress as secondary. The real purpose of life is spiritual knowledge and growth. To achieve this aim, one should prepare to learn rites and rituals that have stood the test of time.
In the Vedas, Puranas and other religious texts, rites and rituals are described pertaining to life from the time a child is conceived, born, grows into an adult and finally dies. Through these rites and rituals an individual is able to understand life better, as well as overcome obstacles and problems. One develops Hindu sanskars, a magnetic personality and finds contentment in life.
In the Gautam Dharmsutra it is said that rites and rituals help overcome weaknesses and develop strengths.
In the Brahmsutra Bhasya, 111/4, Shankaracharya has said:
The actions that project one's strengths and eliminate weaknesses are termed sanskars, rites and rituals.
According to Maharishi Charak:
Sanskars aim at the addition of abilities and virtues in individuals and things.
In the Sanskar Vidhi, it is written:
By birth everyone is crude and ignorant. Through sanskars one takes up responsible positions.
According to saints and sages an individual is influenced by deeds, misdeeds and unfulfilled desires in earlier births. The person who takes rebirth selects parents through whom unfulfilled desires can be attained. Even the activities one selects are in harmony with the influences and desires of earlier births. In this way every individual is a slave to past actions.