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Multidimensional Features And Perspectives Of “Parenting” In Hinduism And Modern Psychology



Parenting is the art and science of making the next generation. How much a society invests in it determines its course of continuity, prosperity and stability. An aspirational and futuristic society is bound to invest in this process irrespective of the tenets on which it is formed. On the contrary, the fundamental principles that hold it together will have an implication on the process of parenting. Given that the topic is of utmost importance from a societal and civilizational standpoint, this paper intents to present a worldview which makes parenting a liberating experience.

In this attempt, parenting as viewed in Hindu Dharma is contrasted with the modern psychological principles for its scope and reliability. The need for such an exercise arises because the inadequacy of the existing structures has become all the more evident in the current pandemic when the status quo is challenged at multiple levels. Bharat, the only living ancient civilization, with Hindu Dharma as its indigenous way of life, has survived many onslaughts both manmade and natural. Primarily that implies, it should have an intelligent system at work, with fairly good risk management. Secondly, people should have benefitted from its usefulness, even though the larger mass may have followed it by faith. On the other hand, we are now discussing the problems buildup in a home space which is modified to act as an office cum school. This is not an issue per say, rather a symptom of the real issue which is the lack of a cohesive system.

Adhering to the principle of the Paramcharya of Kanchi, the paper intents to dive into the dharmic system in toto and doesn’t intent a patch work of taking some principles and weaving it into the modern system because it is conducive. Following his words, it would be but right to ask what our ancestors got right after all that has happened. The paper derives its content and inspiration from, “The Voice of God”, a monumental work based on the words of Kanchi Mahaperiyava, the 68th pontiff of Kanchi Kamakotipeetham. It is a repository of dharmic knowledge and inspires one to lead a life based on Dharma which is the core of Bharat.

The motive of the paper is to present the system that evolved due to the saints of this land, with its twin aspects, a) underlying principles based on which the system operates b) the traditions that apply these principles in day-to-day life, thus making it truly practical. It would be a bonus if this kindles a discussion on how we can re-adapt the principles and practice the traditions in their spirit.

Parenting problems

Let the premise be set on the problems that parents face in current generation. If there were supposedly no problems, this attempt would not have been needed. Here is an incomprehensive list of parental concerns that were gathered from peers. Towards the end of the paper, we would see how the dharmic system can effectively address these issues.

  • Inculcating values viz respect towards elders, value of hard work, delicacy in sexual life.
  • Insulation from peer pressure that comes from friends or media.
  • Inculcating the practice of traditions.
  • Skewed responsibility sharing between parents.
  • Balancing career and parenting.

 Parenting in Hinduism

  • Principles –
    • Parents as progenitors

“When a flower doesn’t bloom you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower”, said Alexander Den Heijer. Hinduism takes parenting as it takes everything about life. Conceiving and giving birth to a child and bringing one up is taken so naturally yet profoundly as it treats the highest thought of philosophy. Every act is an opportunity to liberate oneself from the conditionings. Next, it asserts to parents that children are through you, they do not belong to you and they belong to life. Atharvana Veda says, “Children should grow in the awareness of the brotherhood of man and the fatherhood of God. If no provision is made for this atmosphere and this teaching, we’re denying them their due”. The representation of Shiva, the cognitive principle, and Shakti, the operational principle, as the universal parents is telling of what enlivens all life forms and maintains the cosmic order.

  • Karma and Dharma

The Purvamimasa sutra opens with Athathodharmajignasa, meaning, ‘starting the inquiry into dharma’. Dharma is for the dualistic world of Karma and is within the realms of avidya.

Uttaramimamsa sutra opens with AthathoBrahmajignasa, meaning, ‘starting the inquiry into the Brahman’. Non-dualistic world is not opposed to dharma but is beyond dharma.

Among the four ashramas, student-bachelor and ascetic are neither concerned about Artha nor about Kama. It is householders who need material wellbeing, to run their families and support other ashramites. As for Kama, it is needed so that children may be born according to their past karma. Until we’ve lived out our karma, we have to be born in this world again and again. As long as the pursuit of artha and kama exists, it must be based on dharma.

Hinduism sees life as a continuum, this idea is also percolating in the western world through the works of people like Dr. Brian L. Weiss. To say, the concurrence is increasing as the depth and subtlety of enquiry increase in the modern world. What Hinduism says is that while it is not possible to not act when we exist, we base all the actions on sustainable order. All physical sciences deal with law of cause-and-affect. The universe functions in an orderly manner because of the cosmic order which we call Rta, and dharma is what sustains the same.

Coming to parenting, we know the problems faced by many European countries in terms of social spending. The state has to take care of a lot of people including children. This is not a sustainable model whereas a family system which binds people with love and devotion to each other, and is duty driven, has endurance and reliability, in addition to the sharing and caring atmosphere that is created.

  • Develop Athmagunas

There are eight gunas or qualities that a person has to develop. The term Athma refers to Jivathma of the Dwaithis. Though in reality there is only one Athman which is Nirguna (beyond qualities) we’re not able to perceive the nature of that which is in essentially the Self. As long as the duality exists, the gunas are refined till they’re finally transcended.

  1. Dhaya – love for all creatures. There is indeed no greater happiness than that derived by loving others and this is the backbone of all other qualities.
  2. Kshanti – patience. In one sense, it is facing disease, poverty or misfortune with equanimity. The other implies forgiving and loving even those who cause us pain and trouble.
  3. Anasuya – Free from jealousy. We need to de-hyphenate our lives from others in terms of comparison, for there will always be better and worser people than us in the world.
  4. Saucha – Cleanliness in all activities performed in life. Bathing, dress, food etc. These are elaborated in dharmasastras and are incorporated in every household as ‘madi’ (tamizh) or ‘aacharam’.
  5. Anayasa – To have a feeling of lightness. Obstacles, inevitable to any work should not cause mental strain.
  6. Mangalam – Happiness that is characterized by elegance and purity. To radiate happiness is the greatest service one can do for this world. Even if you want to help others one need to be a joy to be with.
  7. Akarpanya – Karpanya is miserliness. Arjuna says in Bhagavad Gita that he became a victim of karpanya dosha i.e. felt miserly about himself. Akarpanya is the quality of a courageous and zestful person who can face problems with determination.
  8. Aspruha – Spruha is desire or grasping nature. Freeing oneself from desire is easier said than done. It is by performing various rites again and again and by constantly endeavoring to acquire athmic qualities one will eventually become desireless.

All religions teach gunas in one form or another but Hindusim goes one step further by prescribing various samskaras involving specific activities that help one to develop good qualities.

  • Role models from Ithihasa puranas

The puranas are the magnifying glass of the Vedas. The principles and rules of dharma that are briefly dealt with in the Vedas are enlarged or elaborated upon in them in the form of stories. Our nation, it is often alleged, doesn’t have a sense of history. In my opinion the Puranas are history. But to our educated people today, history means the history of the past two thousand years since the birth of Christ. Since they’re unable to comprehend matters that are beyond our senses, they treat the Puranas as mystery. Current history contains no more than accounts of monarchs and rulers in chronological order. It doesn’t give importance to their moral character or whether wicked rulers suffered ill fate or righteous rules earned high place. History must be taught along with lessons in dharma, only then will it serve the purpose of bringing people to the right path. The puranas precisely do this”, says Paramacharya.

Let us map some vedic injunctions with the puranic instances that extol the former.

In our times, parents have a great concern on how to imbibe good qualities in children. The solution is two pointed –

  1. a) Parents should try to inculcate noble values in themselves by adopting a role model. When you do Bhakti, automatically the qualities of the object of worship get ingrained in oneself. “AhamityevaVibhavayebhavaneem”, says Lalitha Sahasranamam , which implies to invoke the divine in oneself.
  2. b) Puranas should become the bedtime stories for children. The idea is to inspire and not preach.

Both parents and children are to gain from this approach as the process results in spiritual evolution.

  • Mother, Father and Acharya- Thripiredya

Let us see the importance of the three as discussed by Paramacharya.

In Chandogyam there is a statement, “AcharyavanPurushoVedhah”, which means that only the person with good Acharya attains Jnana. In Bruhadaranyakam, there is a mantra in which Janaka informs Yajnavalkya that he has given Upadesha like a Matruman, Pitruman and Acharyavan does. “Shuddithrayahethusamyuktaha”, it is said that the one who gets purified by all the three can only give upadesham without deviating from the saastras. In Katopanishad, Yama tells Nachiketa after giving agni vidya upadesha, “one who, after performing this kriya thrice and gets connected with three does three things, transcends the cycle of birth and death”

Mathruman is the one who is rightly trained by the mother in childhood. Pithruman is the one who is guided on the right path by the father once grown up. And finally, Acharyavan is the one who is guided on the right path from the time of Upanayanam till the end of Gurukulam by an Acharya. ‘Connected with three’ implies being connected to the mother, the father and the acharya and gaining good upadesham from these is ‘thripiredya’.

Responsibility sharing is a big discussion in present days. We see the father and the mother held responsible for any misdeeds of child, and schools going to the extent of expelling kids for bad character. How beautiful would be a system if all the three worked in sync without giving up on the child! The underlying message of tripiredya is that all the three are equally responsible for a bringing up an ideal citizen though the actions and interventions would change, as encapsulated in the following Subhashita.



Cuddle and care for the first five years, mother’s role. Be firm and discipline for ten years, father and Acharya to guide this phase. It is not that the father cannot cuddle or mother cannot discipline but a simple operational wisdom is involved. Child is closer to the mother because of the dependency and she might overlook the mistakes due to her emotional bondage. Hence father has to complement and guide/discipline the child to make one fit for the life’s struggles. And from the age of sixteen, children are to be treated like friends.

  • Liberation for women as she syncs with the Universal motherhood, Shakti

. “The universe only pretends to be made of matter, secretly, it is made of love”, says Daniel Pinchback. The love is the love of the cosmic mother who embodies the universe. In Bharat, Shakti is the operational principle that creates, and embodies the creation. Any form is hers. The feminine principle finds a natural expression in a female body upon childbirth. This doesn’t imply that the expression is limited to childbirth or females. However, it is the lived experience of all of us that our mothers are embodiments of love for us and her sacrifices can never be repaid. Irrespective of emotional failures of a woman, compassion flows through her during the phase of pregnancy and her child’s infancy.  Jagadguru Shankaracharya has extolled the virtues of motherhood in his Mathrukapanchakam. The devi-aparadha-kshamapana-sthothram says, “A wicked son there may be, but a wicked mother never”.

Currently, we see many views that present motherhood as a burden for women for it dents her career years, puts a toll on her physical beauty and pushes her into post-partum depression. These are important points to address.

Quoting Sadguru, “If economy drives the world, all that is feminine will be destroyed”. When we look deep, we understand how economic paradigms have dictated the concept of success and empowerment, putting women in dilemma. Let us take it without bias, a woman’s body has the faculty or the system to incubate and nurture a child. Her body is wired to understand every tiny sound and gesture that an infant produces. Womb is a little home and ideally it has to be a happy, healthy and positive home. We know how important this is from a child’s perspective. If a woman it attuned to her insights, then she would choose an alternative than continuing business as usual. She might really not like the idea of working in shifts, commuting to office, and being stressed out, unfortunately she has to go with societal validations.

A woman was given extra care in our culture and she was made to feel special in all the ways possible during pregnancy. In villages, crowns would gently counsel and guide the would-be-mother, relatives would present her special dishes.  Elders would create an atmosphere of positivity with kirtans and parayana. The entire family and society arrays behind her treating her like a queen bee whose every whim would be attended to. Beauty industry’s idea of beauty or the mental traumas find no place to enter but only joy. Spiritually seeing, her Anahata chakra opens and she is on the path of intuition/ calling. For a woman who pursues, this is a sure pathway to liberation and thus there is no loss but only gain. One might as well wonder if Huxley warned about the fate of women in his Brave New World, by seeing the modern plight. There is a ray of hope as we still have the living practices that will help women to stay healthy and happy during the crucial phase of entering into motherhood. Once she realizes the benefits and defines her yardstick of success, society will be coerced to re-visit the existing notions. When the society aligns itself around the role of creatrix, we will once again have Madalasas who can sing their kids to liberation, Shuddhosi, Bhuddosi, Niranjanosi.

  • Practices –
    • Samskaras

Samskaras as per Tarka Saasthra is impression or memory. But is generally understood as Sam(s) = well; kara = making; means something good, refining or purifying. Dharma saasthras deal with samskaras as tools that purify and make one fit to be united with Paramatman. Taking a gross example, cultivating rice involves a series of steps like allowing land to dry, ploughing, laying seeds and it goes till pounding, for the rice to be brought to consumable stage. Similarly, sages have laid down forty samskaras as a series of rituals where Karma is performed to purify both the Antaranga (internal) and Bahiranga (external). A sacrament involving manthras is samskara”

Listing the names of Samskaras along with the frequency –

  • Garabhadaana, Pumsavana, Simantha (only done for first child), Jaatakarma, Naamakarana, Annaprasana, Chaula, Upanayana, Prajapatya (four rites performed in gurukulavasa) , Samavartana, Vivaha (14) – to be performed once in a lifetime, some variations are there based on sex and varna.
  • Pancha Mahayajna (5) – Brahma Yajna, Deva Yajna, Pitru Yajna, Manushya Yajna, Bhuta Yajna; to be done daily by a householder.
  • Pakayajna (7) – Ashtakai, Sthalipakam, Parvanam, Sravani, Agrahayani, Chaithri, Asvayuji; to be performed once in a year or once in a lifetime.
  • Haviryajna (7) – Agniyadhanam, Agnihothram, Dharsapurnamasam , Agrayanam, Chathurmasyam, Niruthapasubandam, Sauthramani – all are to be performed once in a year or once in a lifetime except Agnihotram which is performed daily and Dharsapurnamasam which is performed once in fifteen days.
  • Somayajna (7) – Agnishtomam, Athyagnishtomam, Ukthyam, Sodasi, Vajapeyam, Athirathram, Apthoryamam; to be performed once in a life time.

Notes – a) Samskaras are part of the Vedanga Kalpa. b) Mahaperiyava answers the difference in samskaras as thus, “you clean that which has more dirt a greater number of times. More the samskaras one has to do more is the karmic cleansing”.

Those samskaras that are relevant to parenting are elaborated further.

  • Garbhadaana

Garbhadaana, Pumsavana and Simantonayana are performed before the birth of a child for its well-being. Garbhadaana, a sanctified conception, the thought itself is baffling in our current world which is struggling to strike a line between personal rights and, ethics in abortion laws. Acharya says, “If the mother takes medicine, the baby is nourished, is it not? In the same way the inner thoughts and feelings of the parents will affect the fetus and its character will be shaped accordingly. The sexual union must take place when the couple is imbued with good thoughts; it will lead to the creation of a blob of life that will have the potential to develop into a noble character”.

Dharmasaastra prescribes the time from 4th to 16th day in the period cycle of a would-be-mother good for conception. There are nuances according to the seasons and moon cycles. On the chosen day, partners perform pooja and the husband has to chant mantras while engaging in conjugal relationship. This is done to remove karmic faults of parents, for preparing the womb of the mother, for the proper formation of fetus, for the healthy and potent sperm, and for a healthy pregnancy resulting in childbirth.

  • Pumsavana

Pumsavana must be performed in the second or third month as the body components start forming then. Saasthra says, “Pumsavanamvyaktegarbenanischayena”, perform the ritual when the markers of pregnancy are visible to naked eyes. The purpose is to form a sarira without any vaikalya, by garnering the blessings of the devathas that are lording over different faculties. For e.g., Agni lords over the power of speech, Surya lords over the eyes, Moon influences the mind and hence the other faculties. The Hindu understanding is that all the knowledge is within every Jiva and the expression is due to the grace of the overlords. Purusha sukta says, “Chandramomanasojataha, chakshosuryoajayata”. The supreme created the world from his limbs. The moon from his mind and the Sun from his eyes. In turn, they influence human limbs. Ritually, mother is ingested with an herbal decoction via the nasal tract.

Modern psychology says that while developing inside our mother, we are receiving post cards from the outside world that tell us whether food is plentiful or scarce and whether the world is safe or not. Well, we have the episodes of Abhimanyu and Prahlada that underline that our ancestors knew the stages of development very clearly and hence could frame the processes for making an excellent progeny.

Currently this ritual is performed along with Simantonayana, it does not serve the purpose and is clearly an aberration. This should trigger a societal discussion on how the socio-economic structures can be redefined to prioritize ‘the making of next generation’.

  • Simantonayana

Simantonayana must be performed in the fourth, sixth or eighth month. It is performed for the healthy physical and mental growth of the child. The subtle significance is to eliminate doshas that are accrued due to the parental actions from the past or are accrued by not following the pregnancy prescriptions. Epistemologically, the word is split into two; Simanta – refers to the line that runs through the middle of the head of a woman, Unnayana- clearing the path. It is said that the consciousness enters the child through a special channel created in the head and the portion remains delicate in infants. In this occasion, the path on mother’s head is cleared through mantras and then the couple remains in silence till the dusk, awaiting the jiva to enter the womb. The would-be-mother is also presented gifts, adorned with bangles and shown Haarathi. Families celebrate this occasion in a grand manner making her feel truly revered and loved.

Psychologically, it makes the mother feel special since the last three months are very difficult for pregnant women, both physically and mentally. We should also note here that there are behavioral prescriptions for a man to follow when his wife is pregnant because Hinduism takes into consideration the subtle impacts along with the gross impacts. Even today, it is a custom in certain communities for husband to avoid shaving and hair styling. This gives the couple a sense of partnership and a feel-good factor for woman whose bodily changes are involuntary.

Takeaways from the first three samskaras are

  1. a) Hinduism took childbirth as a conscious choice of parents for fulfilling their gruhastha dharma as opposed to pregnancy out of luck, lust or chance.
  2. b) Hinduism took great care in the making of next generation. All efforts were taken to bring out a progeny that is better than the current generation.
  3. c) It outpours love to the woman whom the nature has given the faculty to incubate and nourish a child, and to the unborn Jiva that needs a human frame to further its journey towards Athmajnana. Society treated women high not because they are vulnerable at the time but because they are powerful to decide on the course of human race.
  4. D) In every samskara, involvement of extended family, relatives and community is ensured by attributing specific responsibilities to them. This develops a sense of belongingness in the child.
  5. d) The economic societal model is denying women their right to have a good environment, nourishment and stress-free life during pregnancy. It is worthwhile to mention that grandmothers of this civilization have passed down customized cultural practices that gave do’s and don’ts with great attention to details viz diet, social exposure that a pregnant woman should follow in order to be in good health.
  • Jaatakarma

Performed after the birth of the child. This is the process of preparing horoscope of the child based on the astronomical positions at the time of birth. In MahaBharat, we see how the prediction on Duryodhana’s birth pointed the destruction of the race. Dhritarashtra was asked by the court astrologers to give away the child but he could not, due to fatherly affection. Coming to modern times, there are debates on how to fix the time for a C section delivery and how sensitive is the current medical systems to note down the right time. Jyotisha is one of the Vedangas and to comment on it takes a lot of expertise and training. Nevertheless, it is imperative to know how our ancestors left no stone unturned to capture all possible influences on a human being.

  • Naamakarana

Performed on the 10th,11th or 12th day after birth with the recitation of mantras. There are rules regarding the name to be chosen in accordance with the nakshatra and Jataka. Hence all names in Samskruta have a reason viz. Akarshayatiiti Krishna, Ranchayatiiti Rama.‘We don’t have the custom of christening our children with inanimate names like Stone’, comments Mahaperiyava. The person who performs the samskara will utter the name of the child thrice in his/her ears. Acharya will bless the child as ‘Oh Child! may you who is born from the limbs of your father – live for 100 years’. This samskara reinstates practically the importance of creating positive mental impressions.

  • Annapraasana

Performed during the 6th month of the child when the child is given solid food viz rice, ghee. Recently we hear from medical field that gut is the second heart and breastfeeding for the first two years is of paramount importance in setting the most needed gut bacteria. A person’s immunity is set during this two-year period. When we place the samskara within the cultural context of dietary care given to the mother and the new-born, we cannot but appreciate the scientific thought behind it while it marks a milestone in child’s growth.

  • Pancha Yajnas in daily life.

A gruhastha’s life has five daily duties or rnas that form the social service aspect of one’s life. This is not a prima facie samskara done for the child but has a profound influence on the child as a perceiver.

Getting into the yajnas, Brahma yajna is the practice of chanting vedas. It was the duty of Brahmin community to chant vedas for the benefit of all the beings, which implies that the listeners were to benefit from neuro-psychological impact that the mantras produce. Since the learning and preservation is in itself a humongous task, a community was kept away for the same. On the other side, all the jatis traced the origin of their occupation to samskrit doctrines. Hence the assignment of task should not be seen with the filters of discrimination.

Deva Yajna is the practice of rituals and offerings at home. Every village, household and individual have (present tense is consciously used as it is very much prevalent in our society and one has to just learn a bit of family history to understand the details) a Grama devatha, Kula devatha and Ishta devatha respectively. The nature of the devatha and one’s own duties were very much linked. Warrior class worshipped Devi as Durga/Kali predominantly whereas business class worshipped Mahalakshmi. The musician saint Tyagaraja composed his songs on Rama whereas Syama Sastrigal placed all at the feet of Kanchi Kamakshi. Such is the power of the inspiration that one almost emulates the devatha of worship.

Pitru Yajna is the practice of offering oblations to one’s ancestors. This gives an understanding of the lineage and a sense of humility. Children learn to respect elders and those who need care, by partaking in the yajna with the parents. Such a society need not worry about social welfare schemes or laws preventing abuse of elders or even the old age homes that are a recent phenomenon.

Manushya Yajna is about treating guests well or attending to a human who needs care. Once, people could travel freely across this land, as householders and administrators thought it a privilege to feed travelers. To sell food was considered low. We might not have the same system now, however we have similar situations as householders. If we treat sharing and caring as a responsibility, brotherhood is a natural byproduct.

Bhuta Yajna is taking care of all beings around us. Watering a Tulasi plant and feeding birds are the customs evolved around this yajna. When it is shown in practice that all beings are connected and we have a debt to the nature for every ounce we take from her, a child will definitely grow up loving the environment. Such a society will not produce environmental activists but those who consciously preserve and nurture.

If we judge the pancha yajnas in terms of their usefulness in creating a stable society then the rating would definitely point us to adapt them in daily life.

  • Four-point model

The model states the inclusion of Katha, Yaatra, Saadhana and Saastra in one’s daily life.

Let us see an anecdote from Paramacharya’s life. Once a little girl came to him with her family. He asked her name, to which she replied, Deepa. Upon asked to repeat, in the guise that he hasn’t heard it well, the little one expanded her name; D for Donkey, E for Elephant and so on. To this cute expression, his grace responded saying that he would give her an alternate expansion, and began; D for Devi, I for Ilango (giving an alternate spelling), P for Prahlada and A for Anjaneya. He created mental impressions on all four characters with stories, and connected the same with local temples. This is a practical way that parents can imbibe in daily life.

Yaatras are weaved into social fabric by means of pilgrimages ordained as per the sects or religious congregations. 108 divyadesams for vaishnavates and paadalpetralsthalam for saivates are a couple of examples. It would be unfair to not appreciate the efforts that have gone in to make each of these religious sites a living example of beauty, endurance and also scientific glory. Taking children to such spots will give them better ideals to strive for in life.

Saadhana is done by the practice of vratas on specific days of a month, involving some dietary or sleep restrictions along with devotion to a specific deity. We know how healthy it is to give a day of break for our intestines. The vratas were devised scientifically that they fell on days when water level would be high which in turn would reduce the appetite.  Devotion to deity helps to focus the ever-wandering mind.

Saastras are covered in Gurukula or by the elders in the family as needed for one’s future. Prakarana granthas and scientific literature such as Ayurveda were introduced at a very early age that they shape the intellect and behavior of a person.

Parenting in psychology

Modern psychology predominantly presents four types of parenting as illustrated in the following picture. It suggests ‘Authoritative parenting’ as the most sensible way of parenting.

Touching upon some interesting aspects of fetal growth as per the developmental psychology,

MONTH- 1 Every bit of genetic Information is already present in single cell, from hair color to talent.

MONTH-2 Brain grows at a rate of thousand cells per minute. In this stage, if mother consumes alcohol or is stressed out, the tiny brain gets damaged.

MONTH-3 Starts reacting to stimuli and develops sense of smell. Mother’s womb becomes playground for the child.

MONTH-4 Develops sense of taste.

MONTH-5 Development of teeth, hair, nail, eye brow etc.

MONTH-6 Brain development. Learns to respond to light.

MONTH-7 Growth of gums. Learns language. Listen to mother’s speech and responds with heartbeat.

MONTH-8 Responds to mother’s habits.

In brief, modern psychology recognizes the importance of prenatal caring, highlights the impact of mother’s behavior and diet on the unborn child, and classifies parenting based on broad emotional interactions.


Hinduism doesn’t compartmentalize parental behavior based on emotional yardsticks because both parents and children evolve over time. If we consider the four parental paradigms for comparison, in Hinduism, all the four types are used at different points in time.

  • Permissive parenting which is high on responsiveness and low on strictness is the way kids have their way till five years of age. It is said, “Pancha Varshani Lalayet”. Mother plays a very important role in this stage along with other female members in the family. A typical example is little Krishna’s childhood.
  • Authoritarian parenting which is high on demandingness and low on warmth is exhibited by the father when the child grows up. “Dasha Varshani Tadayet”. It is important to note that we don’t shy away from punishments, rules or setting expectations. A society has rules that one should obey lest face rebukes. A workplace sets expectation which is many a times beyond questioning. All these are ingrained in a society and hence the family makes one fit for reality. To make the punishments have its impact and to teach the value of earning merits, one of the parents shows a slight emotional distance.

Till the childhood is over, authoritarian and permissive roles are played by mother, father and guru based on the situations. A child is never left to feel unworthy or supportless but is made fit to face the toughness of the world. At the same time, external influences taking advantage of parental shortcomings are kept at bay as one is always indulgent with the child.

  • Authoritative parentingwhich is demanding and responsive is taken up when children get into the stage of adulthood. “ShodashavarshanantaramMitravatAcharet”, is the dictum. Parents are flexible to accommodate the opinions of grown-up children. However, they keep the standards non-negotiables in some aspects like values, following rituals etc. This should be seen as an extension of complimentary ‘permissive –authoritarian’ parenting when both the stakeholders have evolved in age and life.
  • Uninvolved parentingwhich is uninterested and passive also comes at a stage in life when parents move to Vaanaprastha after having fulfilled their responsibilities. At a time when we hear parents speaking about retirement from the roles, we cannot but look at the ancient wisdom which seamlessly kept a timeline even for parenting. The responsibilities are passed on to the next generation and parents focus on their spiritual path, avoiding conflicts in decision making and the much talked about ‘generation gap’ issues.

A moving parenthood along fixed principles is the advantage of Hinduism.

 Depth of Hinduism

Takeaway for parents

Having come this far, it is clear that Hindu Dharma has invested time and energy to scrutinize various aspects in a depth that the current psychology is yet to dive down. Coming to the few concerns that were listed in the beginning of the paper, let us see which samskara has the right antidote.

  • Inculcation of values – Following Pancha mahayajnas at home is enough to generate respect towards elders, compassion for poor, and love for environment, all with a sense of duty. We will have doers instead of borrowed activism. Introducing powerful role models with the aspect of ‘Katha’ will give them the message that the scale of success in this land is ‘adherence to dharma’. A sense of self-esteem will develop, enabling them to treat their body and mind as instruments for achieving the ultimate goal.
  • Insulation from unwanted peer pressure – Confusion arises when there is lack of conviction. Following samskaras at the appropriate time will do away with confusions. Firsthand experience of knowing the benefits will result in continuity of traditions. We have an honest lack in the third pillar of parenting, Guru and Gurukula. However, with enough incentives from the society, education system can be aligned to the Indic value system.
  • Responsibility sharing as defined in the saastras is impartial and is beneficial to all the stakeholders. Mother, father, teacher, family and community, everybody does their bit in nurturing the child. We might have to indulge in an honest introspection as to how to revive the system which has lost its cohesiveness over a period of time.
  • With respect to balancing between career and family, let us ask how healthy the employment structures are and whether it gives any importance to well-being. The parameters of our introspection can be health, happiness and positivity for individuals, and the quality of progeny for a society. If the career models deprive oneself of expressing our essential nature it might as well need a rethinking.


Hinduism offers an organic and dynamic system which is self-sustainable. Put into practice, it can meet any exceptions due to the large and cohesive support base established. No child is left to the hands of fate for the society takes the responsibility. The state doesn’t have to invest its money and energy in this matter, the pain of which is now visible in Europe and America. On the other side, the state does not get a free hand to frame children’s thinking process. As inheritors of a rich civilization, we are given the fruits of the efforts of many great beings who had nothing but love and compassion for the mankind. They have created day to day traditions embedding principles that make parenting a liberating experience. Let us not make the mistake of overlooking what is rightfully ours and miss the chance of exhausting our karmic cycle by following a dharmic path.

Let Lord Rama’s statement, “Janani JanmabhoomischaSwargadapigariyasi”, instill patriotism in our young minds. Let Krishna’s pragmatism at the war field give them the fuel to rewrite the rules to uphold dharma. Let Gargi’s debate with Yajnavalkya show what it means to be an intellectual and let Madalasa’s life show how mothers of this land lullabied one to liberation, the ultimate aim of being born in this land.

Closing with Paramacharya’s words, “Become an ahimsa soldier of the Vedic religions. In the spirit of soldiers, let us make effort to protect dharma”.

References –

  • Voice of God – volumes 1, 2, 6 & 7, by Shri Chandrashekarendra Saraswathi Swamigal, the 68th pontiff of Kanchi Kamakotipeetam.
  • Practical tips on the Art of Parenting, by Chinmaya mission.
  • Pregnancy and motherhood, Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev.
  • Information related to ‘Parenting in modern psychology’ is collected from online resources and interaction with parents and counsellors.

Conference on Hinduism and Modern Psychology

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