The birth of a child is a life-altering event. The parents have hopes, dreams and belief about what the child will be. They even have a name ready which is usually offered at the Naamkaran ceremony.
Your name is your hello to the world. It defines you before you enter a room. It shapes you when you are in school or college or at office. Your name is a part of your identity and often your entire identity. It is either a tradition shared by your family or an inside joke to your parents or their favorite artist or word which eventually becomes your name. Even the tradition and ritual of giving you a name, Naamkaran is sacred and special in India.
Among the many traditions and rituals in India, Naamkaran is one of the special celebrations for a family. The entire clan, including parents, grandparents, siblings and nephews and nieces are overjoyed. A new member is born and everyone is excited to include them in the family.
Naamkaran is the Indian naming ceremony, usually performed either 12-14 days after birth or a month after the birth. ‘Naam’ means ‘name’ and ‘karan’ means to ‘create’ or to ‘make’ which literally means name-giving ceremony.
These rituals vary in different regions or states across India. In some places, the child is placed in a cradle decorated beautifully with flowers and other materials. Relatives will fuss around the child and the mother and look after them. It is also considered auspicious to gift the parents of the newborn clothes and fruits and jewelry.
As technology has advanced, the mother and the newborn child are no longer confined post birth. Some mothers are up and walking even a week after giving birth. The date of the ceremony is usually fixed after consulting an astrologer or priest. The astrologer or priest also makes a ‘janampatri’ or ‘birthchart/horoscope’, which lists the time and date of the baby’s birth. This gives the parents and family an idea of the planets and stars alignment at the time of the birth.
According to Hindu tradition, the planets and stars also suggest a suitable letter or word for the name. It can depend on the family or the parents if they wish to follow it and use that letter or give their child another name altogether. Some parents can choose to give the baby a ‘Rashi Naam’ which is their astrological name and is only used in the horoscope. While the given name is something entirely different than the ‘Rashi Naam.’
Girls are considered to be an incarnation of the Goddess of Wealth (Lakshmi) and supposed to bring prosperity to the family. Boys are the heirs and the natural successors to the family’s fortune and name.
The first offering is always made to Agni or the Lord of Fire in Hindu tradition. Then the pooja begins as the parents are taught about the cycle of life. The mother, the father, and the immediate family take part in a pooja and offer thanks to their deity for the gift of a child. Like baptism, water is usually sprinkled over the head of the baby to purify it.
Names are given according to the letter favorable to that month of the Hindu calendar. In some Indian regions and states, the grandfather or uncle will announce the name of the baby to the members of the family. In Maharashtra, the paternal aunt will whisper the name in the baby’s ear and then share it with everyone.
At the end of the ceremony, a feast is offered to the guests along with traditional regional sweets and delicacies. The guests will bring gifts and offerings for the child or the family. Close members of the family will gift items like silver anklets or handmade clothes.
A lot of liberal couples and families are opting out of the traditions and customs by having small and intimate ceremonies without any religious element.
Featured Photo by VinothChandar