Jatakarma: Birth Ceremonies

Birth ceremonies go back at least to the time of Lord Krishna, which tradition dates to 5,000 years ago.

The jatakarma ceremony welcomes the baby into the world. The father places a small amount of ghee and honey on the baby’s tongue and whispers the name of God in his ear. On about the eleventh day after birth the parents celebrate the name-giving ceremony (namakarana) by dressing the baby in new clothes. The family astrologer announces the child’s horoscope (see Other Arts and Sciences). Traditionally the child’s name is chosen according to the position of the moon in the birth chart. Songs and sometimes a havan (fire sacrifice) accompany these rites, followed by the obligatory feast.

After these two ceremonies, various others follow, including:

  • the first outing (normally at around two weeks) the child takes darshan of the sun, then the temple deity and in the evening sees the moon.
  • the first grains (when teething begins)
  • A priest shaves the head of a young boy while his parents look on. The wood and utensils, visible in the foreground, are for a small havan (sacred fire ceremony).The ceremony is concluded with presenting a contribution to the priest and a vegetarian feast for relatives and other guests.

    the first haircut (called mundan – between 1 and 3 years)

  • piercing the ear lobes (normally 3–5 years)

Related Value and Issues

  • Personality – inherent from birth or moulded entirely by our environment?

Personal Reflection

  • What is our perception of new-born babies? First time here? How might a Hindu perspective be different?
  • We of often talk about “life after death,” but what about “life before birth’?

Meaning and Purpose

  • Why are we not born with equal opportunities?