According to Vedic tradition, the sanskaras are essentially the "rites of passage" that a person passes through in life – from conception to death. However, any definition in English falls short of the deep significance and meaning of the Sanskaras in the lives of Hindus. A closer definition is the word "sacrament," for a sacrament implies an outward celebration or ceremony symbolic of an inward growth, change or grace. The sanskaras refer to the main religious/spiritual purificatory rites and rituals for sanctifying the body and mind, such that growth may be positive, progressive and smooth.
Each sanskara has a particular ritual and puja associated with it. The proper, pious completion of the ritual associated with each sanskara ensures that the crucial lessons of each "rite" are learned and that the next stage of life can be successfully entered.
There are 16 main sanskaras, four of which are performed with great piety, devotion and tradition on the banks of Mother Ganga at Parmarth Niketan in Rishikesh. These four are: