By Swami Harshananda
Sanskāras literally means ‘refinement’, ‘sacraments’.
The word saṅskāra, in a technical sense, means a ritualistic act accompanied by appropriate mantras by which a person is rid of his defects and limitations, and made refined by adding some specialty. Such sanskāras as listed in the smṛtis and dharmaśāstras vary from 16 to 40. However, 16 sanskāras which are generally called as ṣoḍaśa-sanskāras. These have been widely accepted.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore