Graduating the Indian way: Samavartana
Indology | 18-01-2017
Given that ancient Indians set so much store by learning, it should not come as a surprise that they had a meaningful rite of passage to mark the graduation of students, called Samavartana or Snana. In the presence of students, teachers and invited guests, the graduating student would offer his guru-dakshina (gift to guru), after which the guru would recite the snataka-dharma from the Taittiriya Upanishad. This would be followed by a homa (fire ritual) and snana (ceremonial bath). (Kane, 1941)
A partial translation of the Snataka Dharma recitation is as follows:
Never deviate from Truth,
Never deviate from Dharma,
Never neglect your well-being,
Never neglect worldly activities (for gain and welfare),
Never neglect Svādhyāya (self study) and Pravachana (teaching of Vedas).
We all know the famous shloka
Maatru devo bhava,
Pitru devo bhava
Acharya devo bhava
Atithi devo bhava
This verse stating that one’s mother, father, teacher and a visiting guest are all equivalent to Devata comes from the Taittiriya Upanishad, which also was recited during the Samavartana. Equipped with holistic knowledge and blessings from the guru, a graduate or vidya-snataka (one who is bathed in learning) would be ready for the next stage of life – usually teaching and of course, marriage.
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