The traditional ceremony of naming a newborn in Hindus, Namkaran, is considered the first important and sacred duty of parents. All the relatives are invited in the ceremony to shower their blessings to the new member of the family which makes it a very auspicious occasion. It is held on the 11th or 12th day after delivery. The reason behind this is that baby and mother are considered to be under “sutak” or “chhutka”, i.e. impure for carrying out any sort of ritual.
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Female relatives have a special role to play in this ceremony and they revel in it. All of them gather round the jhula or cradle in which the baby rests and sing traditional folk songs. They are also required to perform certain rituals which vary from family to family. It could be doing tilak on the forehead of the child, some ritual with Gangajal or any other. The most common ritual that one can find in almost all Hindu families is applying kohl (kajal) on the eyes and one of the two spots – on the cheek or on the right side of forehead. It is supposed to bring good omen for the baby and prevent anything untoward from happening.
The child’s mother who brought the child into the world is especially revered during the ceremony. The rituals invariably involve blessing the child and the mother together and giving some gift item as token of good wishes. The blessings showered on the child are affirmations for his bright future and that he would bring glory to the parents and family. The infant is supposed to bask in the glow of good wishes and come up trumps in the battles of life. The colourful ceremony of naming the baby is not only aesthetically appealing but also reinforces the feeling of dignity and value for human life.
The ceremony may also be performed at a temple in some families. If the family custom so ordains, the baby is taken to a particular temple for certain special rites. The priest prepares an elaborate ritual to invoke blessings from the Gods. The Gods can be the temple deity, spirits of ancestors and/or others. All the family members are invited to the temple too. The last part of the Namkaran ceremony is a feast for all the family members. Special care is taken to prepare only those dishes that are considered pure befitting the sacred ceremony.
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