For a woman, becoming a mother is like getting a new birth. She goes from being to just a woman, a wife to being a mother. Her role is celebrated and revered across the world and in India. Women in India are thrown a ‘Godh Bharai’ ceremony during the 7th month of the pregnancy.
Western countries and people have a ‘baby shower’ to celebrate the impending birth of the child. Women are given useful gifts and other women share stories of motherhood and pass on wisdom to the new mother. It can be scary and terrifying, knowing you are responsible for the life of another person. It helps the to-be mother to be surrounded by her friends and family who support and guide her.
‘Godh’ means ‘lap’ while ‘Bharai’ means to ‘fill’ so ‘Godh Bharai’ can literally imply filling the lap of the mother with love and advice and gifts. In Maharashtra the same ceremony is called ‘Dohale Jevan’ while in Bengal it is called ‘Shaad.’ It is given different names in various Indian regions but the essence remains the same. It is only done after or during the 7th month of the pregnancy.
Previously, only women were invited to the ‘Godh Bharai’ ceremony. The venue is beautifully decorated with flowers and women dressed up in special garments. The to-be mother is treated like a queen and the ceremony is usually as grand as a wedding. In some regions, the paternal grandmother gifts a sari to the to-be mother who wears it on the day. She also wears a floral crown or jewelry and is made to sit on a swing. She wears green or red bangles depending on her community and bright red tilak on her forehead to signify her status as a glowing mother to be and married woman.
Now, men and women are invited to the function and it is treated like a party. Some families emulate Western cultures and have fun games and gifts such as parenting books or maternity wear. In the old ages, Indian women were only gifted food as they believed it will benefit the child to grow and be healthy.
Godh Bharai ceremony is mainly about the mother and not the child. The child gets gifts at the Naamkaran. It is considered inauspicious to gift anything to the unborn child. Indian women give money or silk saris or gold jewelry for the mother. It is their way of sharing their love and joy for the mother and the child.
Prayers are a very crucial part of the Godh Bharai. These prayers are performed to protect and bless the unborn child. They also ask for the health and safety of the mother.
In Kerala, the mother is taken to a lake or a river and made to dip in the holy water. In almost all cultures, the paternal and maternal grandmothers initiate the ceremony. They bless the new mother and offer her gifts, sweets and jewelry.
The other women of the family and close relatives will then perform a puja asking God to bless the mother and the child. The puja is followed by singing and dancing.
Folk songs and local chants are sung by women and friends talking about motherhood, children and love. The guests will then start playing fun games such as guess the gender or joke about the mother in a fun and loving manner. Some families also include a visit to their temple where they offer sweets and fruits.
The ceremony ends with a traditional meal prepared by the women of the family. Local delicacies and nutritional meals are a part as it is important the mother eats right and enough. The guests are given tokens of womanhood such as bangles and bindis before they leave.
Featured Photo by Frank de Kleine