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Dharma Śāstra - Ānhika prakaraṇam-Snānaṃ

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

The word Snānaṃ comes from the verbal root 'snā' which belongs to the verbal division called 'aupadeśika', which means the meaning of the verbal root is not given in the dhātupaṭha. The word snānam is formed when the verbal root 'snā' is conjoined with the suffix 'lyuṭ'. The word Snānaṃ means bathing. It is an established fact that bathing is an integral part of the human life for maintaining hygiene.

Significance of Bathing in Sanātan Tradition[edit]

In Sanātana tradition bathing is not only the means for maintaining hygiene, but also a prerequisite for performing daily rituals. Vyāsa smṛti states very clearly that bathing is the prerequisite for the daily rituals.

Nā hi snānaṃ vinā puṃsāṃ prāyatyaṃ karmasu smṛtaṃ | home japye viśeṣeṇ tataḥ snānaṃ samācaret ||[1]

Hence it can be concluded that bathing has a relation with the four puruṣārthas. Right after waking up in the morning and completing excretion and cleaning of teeth, as prescribed in dantadhāvana vidhi, one is said to bathe. It has been expressed in the verse as follows:

Prātarācamanaṃ kṛtvā śaucaṃ kṛtvā yathārthavat | dantaśaucaṃ tathā kṛtvā prātasnānaṃ samācaret ||[2]

Benefits of Snānam as per Satyavrata Smṛti[edit]

The benefit of performing bath as prescribed is explained in satyavrata smrti is as follows:

Balaṃ rūpo yaśo dharmo jnānamāyuḥ sukhaṃ dhṛtiṃ | ārogyaṃ paramāpnoti samyak snānena mānavaḥ ||[3]

By bathing one gains physical strength, beauty, glow in the body, puṅya, long life, happiness, contentedness and holistic health. According to smṛtis mere immersing in the water is not considered Snānaṃ. But Snānaṃ that is performed as per the prescribed manner would be fruitful. To support this view, yājnavalkya states in yājnavakya smṛti that even though fish, turtle and frog who stay in water all the time, they do not bear the fruit[4] of the Snānaṃ. It has been expressed by the following verse:

Matsya-kacchapa-maṇḍūkāstoye magnā divāniśam | na teṣāṃ hi snānaphalaṃ tathaiva vidhivarjitaṃ ||[5]

Types of Snānaṃ[edit]

There are six types of 'Snānaṃ' accrding to Śankha smṛti as denoted in a verse as follows:

Nityaṃ naimittikaṃ kāmyaṃ kriyāngaṃ malakarṣaṇam | kriyāsnānaṃ tathā ṣaṣṭhaṃ ṣōḍhā snānaṃ prakīrtitaṃ ||[6]

The types of bathing can be denoted as follows:

  1. Nitya snānaṃ
  2. Naimittikaṃ snānaṃ
  3. Kāmya snānaṃ
  4. Kriyānga snānaṃ
  5. Malakarṣaṇa snānaṃ
  6. Kriyā snānaṃ

Nitya snānaṃ[edit]

The snānaṃ which is performed in the morning is called nitya snānaṃ. One is not allowed to perform daily rituals[7] without bathing in the morning. Hence, the bath through which one would be able to perform his daily rituals is called nitya snānaṃ.

Asnātastu pumānnārho japyāgni-havanādiṣu | prātassnānaṃ tadarthaṃ tu nityasnānaṃ prakīrtitaṃ ||[8]

Naimittikaṃ snānaṃ[edit]

The snānaṃ which is performed due to specific cause[9] is called naimittikaṃ snānaṃ. According to dharmaśāstra some objects or persons like a menstruating woman, chanḍāla or dead body etc. are considered not to be touched. If by any chance one touches them, the person is considered impure. Impurity in this context means not being able to perform any rituals prescribed by śruti or smṛti. To gain the purity again it is instructed to bathe immediately. This kind of bath is called naimittikaṃ snānaṃ.

Chanḍālaśvadhūpādi spṛṣṭvā snātāṃ rajasvalāṃ | snānārhastu yadā snāti snānaṃ naimittikaṃ hi tat ||[10]

Kāmya snānaṃ[edit]

The word 'kāmya' means subject of desire. The word 'kāmya snānaṃ' means, bath which is done to achieve a subject of desire. So to fulfill any desire, Sanātana tradition provides many options like japam, yajna etc. and one of those options is bathing in puṇya taṭāka, tīrthas etc.

Puṇyasnānādikaṃ yattu daivajnavidhichoditaṃ | taddhi kāmyaṃsamuddiṣṭam nākāmastatprayojayet ||[11]

Kriyānga snānaṃ[edit]

The word 'kriyānga' means 'part of ritual'. The word 'kriyānga snānaṃ' means the bath which is performed as part of any ritual related to any devatā or pitṛdevatā.

Japtukāmaḥ pavitrāṇi hyarciṣyan devapitṛūn | snānṃ samācaredyattu kriyāngaṃ tatprakīrtitaṃ ||[12]

Malakarṣaṇa snānaṃ[edit]

The word 'malakarṣaṇa' means getting rid of dirt. The snānaṃ which is performed to only get rid of the materialistic dirt is called 'malakarṣaṇa snānaṃ'. This type of bath is performed after performing 'abhyanganam'. Abhyanganam is a procedure of applying oil[13] all over the body and consuming some amount of castor oil. The whole process of abhyanganam and hot water bathe afterwards will help in getting rid of external and internal dirt residues in the body. This process is prescribed to be performed in frequent intervals by Ayurveda.

Malāpakarṣanaṃ nāma snānamabhyangapūrvakaṃ | malāpakarṣaṇārthāya pravṛttistasya nānyathā ||[14]

Kriyā snānaṃ[edit]

Bath which is performed in sacred places is called as kriyā snānaṃ. In the purāṇas and other scriptures some water tanks, natural hot or cold springs, rivers, lakes etc. are considered to be sacred. Bathing in the water of such sacred places is believed to be a path of attaining puṇya or good merits. This type of bathing is called as kriyā snānam.

Sarassu devakhāteṣu tīrtheṣu ca nadīṣu ca | kriyāsnānaṃ samuddiṣṭaṃ snānaṃ tatra matā kriyā ||[15]


  1. vyāsa smṛti, smṛti muktāphalaṃ, 245
  2. śaunakasmṛti, smṛti muktāphalaṃ, 245
  3. satyavrata smṛti, smṛti muktāphalaṃ,
  4. It is called as phalam/adrushtam in hindi/sanskrit.
  5. yajnavalkya smṛti, smṛti muktāphalam, 254
  6. śankha smṛti, smṛti mktāphalaṃ,
  7. These daily rituals are called as nitya karma.
  8. śankha smṛti, smṛti muktāphalaṃ, 254
  9. The specific cause is called as nimittam.
  10. śankha smṛti, smriti mutāphalaṃ, 254
  11. śankha smṛti, smṛti muktāphalaṃ, .no.254
  12. śankha smṛti, smṛti muktāphalaṃ,
  13. Mostly gingelly oil is applied.
  14. śankha smṛti, smṛti muktāphalaṃ, 254
  15. śankha smṛti, smṛti muktāphalaṃ,