--> Skip to main content

Four Different Types Of Vanaprasthins In Hinduism

In Hinduism, Vanaprastha, the third stage of life according to traditional Hindu ashram system, is characterized by withdrawal from worldly affairs and the pursuit of spiritual growth while residing in forests or natural surroundings. There are indeed various types of Vanaprasthins, each with its unique practices and beliefs. There are four recognized ashramas: brahmacharya, garhasthya, vanaprastha and sannyasa. Let's delve deeper into each:

Vaikhanasa Vanaprasthins:

  • These individuals maintain sacred fires using dried wood found in the wilderness.
  • They diligently perform the five daily sacrifices (pancha maha yajnas) as prescribed in Hindu scriptures.
  • Their daily rituals and prayers are centered around devotion to the Supreme Self.

Udumbara Vanaprasthins:

  • Similar to Vaikhanasa Vanaprasthins, Udumbara practitioners also maintain sacred fires, but they use wood from fig or jujube trees.
  • The choice of wood is determined by the direction in which they wake up in the morning, reflecting a deeper connection to nature.
  • They also adhere to the daily sacrifices and prayers to the Supreme Self.

Balakhilya (or Valakhilya) Vanaprasthins:

  • Balakhilyas are recognizable by their distinctive appearance, often wearing long hair and coarse clothing made from materials like cotton, skin, or bark.
  • They abstain from offering flowers and fruits on certain designated days, emphasizing austerity in their lifestyle.
  • Despite their ascetic practices, they continue to follow their previous professions for sustenance.
  • Like the other Vanaprasthins, they perform the five daily sacrifices and engage in prayers dedicated to the Supreme Self.

Phenapa Vanaprasthins:

  • Phenapas adopt an unconventional approach to their ascetic life, often resembling insane persons in their behavior.
  • They sustain themselves by consuming discarded leaves and fruits, demonstrating detachment from material comforts.
  • Despite their unconventional behavior, they are diligent in maintaining Vedic fires and observing the five daily sacrifices.
  • Their prayers are directed towards the Supreme Self, even amidst their seemingly erratic lifestyle.

These four types of Vanaprasthins showcase the diversity within the Vanaprastha stage of life in Hinduism, each embodying different approaches to spiritual growth, asceticism, and devotion to the divine.