Word document download: FCT-0603
There are a number of ceremonies before birth, namely the purification of the womb (prior to conception) and two ceremonies during pregnancy. After birth, there are further samskaras and we list below seven of the most important. Keep in mind that specific practices and the timings vary considerably and that today ceremonies (such as the first two) are often combined and performed simultaneously.
(1) Jatakarma (birth ceremonies)
The jatakarma ceremony is performed on the day of birth and welcomes the baby into the world (yet again!). After the baby is cleaned and bathed he/she is placed on the father’s lap. The father places a small amount of ghee and honey under its tongue using his little finger or a golden spoon. He whispers in its ear a name of God. He or the family priest may touch various parts of the infant’s body and utter corresponding mantras, praying to God for protection from different types of danger. After this, the baby and the mother are considered still impure and vulnerable and are thus kept in confinement for ten days.
(2) Namakarana (name-giving ceremony)
. On about the eleventh or twelfth day after birth, parents celebrate the name-giving ceremony, dressing the baby in new clothes. The family astrologer announces the child’s horoscope. Traditionally one of the child’s names is chosen according to the position of the moon in the birth chart. Some traditions hold that a boy’s name should have an even number of syllables (e.g. Deepak) and a girl’s name an odd number (e.g. Deepika). The infant may also be named after one of the family deities, and such a name may be suffixed by das (e.g. ‘Shiva das’, meaning the servant of Shiva). Refreshments, and sometimes a havan (fire sacrifice), accompany these rites. Traditionally, the ears are also pierced on this day. The event is concluded by giving the priest a gift or donation. From this day on, the child is referred to by his or her name rather than just ‘baby’ or ‘little one’.
Typical Hindu names are listed below:
Boys: Ajay, Ashok, Bharat, Chandra, Dipak, Dilip, Dinesh, Harish, Kishor, Mohan, Mehesh, Mukhesh, Naveen, Nitin, Pradeep, Raj, Ramakant, Ravi, Rishi, Sanjay, Sanjeev, Sunil, Vijay. Vinay, Vinod.
Girls: Anita, Arati, Bharati, Brinda, Deepika, Devaki, Gayatri, Geeta, Indira, Janaki, Jyoti, Kirti, Kishori, Lalita, Malati, Manika, Manjari, Meena, Meera, Mohini, Neela, Neesha, Priti, Pushpa, Sunita, Urvasi, Usha, Varsha, Vineeta
These names almost always have specific meanings. For example, Ajay means ‘invincible’ and Anita means ‘grace’.
(3) Niskramana (the first outing, traditionally at around 3-4 months, sometimes earlier)
The parents take the child for the first darshan of the sun (Surya-darshan), of the temple deity, and, in the evening, of the moon (Chandra-darshan).
(4) Annaprashana (the first grains, when teething begins)
This ceremony is performed when the child is strong enough to digest grains (at around the sixth month). The child is often fed a porridge-like preparation, such as rice mixed with ghee, or with ghee, honey and yoghurt. As with most ceremonies there is a havan. After the event there will be light refreshments. It is a common among middle class families to buy a silver dish and spoon for the occasion.
(5) Chudakarrana (the first haircut, also called mundan – between 1 and 3 years)
This is the child’s fist hair-cut. Traditionally the head is shaved completely, though some families may now simply cut the hair. The child is often presented with gifts of cash and clothes. There may also be a havan and, most certainly, refreshments.
Note; some members of the priestly class even sport a shaved head as adults, for it is considered most clean. Shaving the heads, including those of adults, may be performed on other occasions, such as when going on pilgrimage, or upon the death of a family member).
(6) Karna-vedha (piercing the ear lobes, normally 3-5 years)
This involves piercing the right ear of a boy or the left nostril of a girl. A golden needle is used, and the ceremony is usually performed by a priest or by a goldsmith. This ceremony is now less common for boys, but more widely continued for girls. In some areas, the piercing of the nose takes place somewhat later, when the girl becomes of marriageable age. In many regions and traditions, the wearing of ornate nose-rings and nose-pins is prevalent.
(7) Vidyarambha (learning the alphabet, at the beginning of schooling)
This ceremony appears to have been introduced more recently. It is usually the last ceremony before the sacred-thread initiation, which marks the beginning of adulthood and is these days often combined with the ceremony commencing study the Vedas.