Why are specific sanskars performed after birth of a child?

Contents


1. Jatakarma [Janmavidhi (The rite at birth)]

1.1 The objectives

To eliminate the defects in the foetus arising from intake of liquor (amniotic fluid) and to liberate the father who has glanced at the son’s face, from the three debts (to the ancestors, to the sages and to the deities) as well as the debt to society. When in the womb the liquor enters the foetus through the mouth. Since intake of liquor is forbidden, partaking it is considered to be a sin.

1.2 Preparations

As soon as a son is born, the father should glance at his face and then bathe facing the north. After donning clean attire he should apply sandalwood paste (gandha) to himself. Then before cutting the umbilical cord, the baby who is untouched by anyone except the midwife, who has not suckled the mother’s breast and has been bathed is placed facing the east onto his mother’s lap, by the father.

1.3 The resolve (sankalpa)

‘I am performing this sanskar of Jatakarma (birth) so that this son of mine is freed from all defects from the time of conception including the intake of amniotic fluid, and is granted a long life, spiritual intellect (medha) and so that he may acquire the grace of The Lord. I am also performing worship of Lord Ganapati, Punyahavachan, Matrukapujan (worship of Matruka deities) and Nandishraddha which are a part of it.’

1.4 The ritual

There is no restriction of maintaining seclusion after a birth (soyar) in the family, only for this sanskar (rite). After completing the rituals right from worship of Lord Ganapati to Nandishraddha the mantra with the following meaning is chanted: ‘O beloved son, I am feeding you with honey and clarified butter (ghee) for the first time. May The Almighty bless you with knowledge, food and wealth. May He protect you always and bestow you with a lifespan of a hundred years’. One should then feed the infant a mixture of honey and clarified butter with a gold coin, wash the coin and place it in the baby’s right ear. Then drawing one’s mouth towards that of the son, the father should chant the verse, ‘ॐ मेधाते देव:० ।’ which means, ‘O beloved son, may The Lord bestow you with sharp acumen and intellect to study the Vedas. May the Ashvini deities who support the pran and apan vital energies and the others like Som (Moon) bestow you with perfect intellect’. Then replacing the same coin in the baby’s left ear the same verse, ‘Om medhate devaha (ॐ मेधाते देव:० ।).’ should be repeated. Gold has greater ability to both absorb and transmit frequencies than any other metal. Thereafter, chanting a mantra the father should sniff the child’s head thrice, and decide in his mind what the child should be named. When in the womb the baby’s Brahmarandhra is closed. When the father sniffs the head, it opens. Sometimes instead of sniffing the head the father exhales at the site of the Brahmarandhra, thrice . That too bestows the same benefit. However, it occurs only if the father is of a sattvik (sattva predominant) temperament. Then the mother’s right breast is washed and after chanting a mantra the mother holds the baby to her breast. Since the right breast is associated with the Pingala or Surya nadi (Sun channel), it helps in activating the baby’s right sided channel. Hence the process of digestion of milk commences easily. Nowadays since childbirth occurs in maternity hospitals one cannot perform the sanskar of Jatakarma there. Therefore it is often done along with the rite of Namakaran (naming).

2. Namakaran (The naming ceremony)

2.1 The objectives

This sanskar is performed for longevity and prosperity in worldly life.

2.2 The resolve (sankalpa) and the ritual

This sanskar is performed on the twelfth or thirteenth day of birth. Placing the baby in the cradle (palakharohan) constitutes an important ritual, in this rite. The resolve expressed that day is ‘I am performing this sanskar (rite) of Namakaran (naming) to wipe off any sin generated from the ovum and foetus, to prolong the lifespan, so that the child achieves success in all activities and to acquire the grace of The Supreme Lord. I am performing the worship of Lord Ganapati, Punyahavachan, the worship of the Matruka deities (Matrukapujan) and Nandishraddha which are incorporated in it’.

2.3 Selection of the name

  • A. The name should be selected using the following rules : The first letter should consist of any of the nineteen alphabets viz. g (ग), gh (घ), nh (ङ), j (ज), jh (झ), yan (ञ), d (ड), dh (ढ), n (ण), d(द), dh (ध), n (न), b (ब), bh (भ), m (म), y (य), r (र), l (ल), v (व), excluding the first two alphabets of the pentads in the Devanagari alphabets which are k (क), kh (ख), ch (च), cha (छ), t (ट), th (ठ), t (त), th (थ), p (प) and ph (फ). These alphabets being dominant in the pruthvi (absolute earth) and apa (absolute water) elements as well as in the tama component, the first letter of the name should not begin with them. [Refer ‘Science of Spirituality : Chapter 9 – Path of Chanting The Lord’s Name (Namasankirtanyoga )’.]

  • B. The last letter should be prolonged (dirgha) or should have the visarga [namaha is the visarga (the soft aspirate)]. The less prolonged letters (rhasva) are predominant in Energy (Shakti) while the more prolonged (dirgha) ones or those containing visarga are predominant in Shiv (Brahman). Since the motive in Spirituality is union with the Shiv principle, this rule is followed.

  • C. A boy’s name should consist of two or four letters, for example Bhadra, Dev, Devdatta, Bhava, Bhavanath, Nagdev, etc. while a girl’s should consist of an odd number of letters that is 3, 5 or 7. Letters in odd numbers predominate in Energy (Shakti) while those in even numbers are Shiv predominant.

  • D. The first letter in a girl’s name should not be double, for example Florence should not be spelt as Fflorence. Women predominate in Energy (Shakti) while the conjoint first letter is dominant in The Absolute Being (Purush). Thus this conjoint first letter can have an undesirable effect on the girl.

  • E. If one desires that the child be famous then its name should consist of two letters.

  • F. If one desires excellence in Spirituality, learning and conduct then a name consisting of four letters should be selected. The four letters represent Dharmacharan">Righteousness (Dharma), wealth (artha), desire (kama) and the Final Liberation (Moksha), the four objectives (purusharthas) of human life.

  • G. The name of a Brahman should suggest auspiciousness, that of a Kshatriya strength, that of a Vaishya wealth and that of a Shudra reproach. (Manusmruti 2.31).

    Formerly the practice of prefixing the name with ‘Sharma’ in a Brahman (priest), ‘Varma’ in a Kshatriya (warrior), ‘Gupta’ in a Vaishya (businessman) and ‘Das’ in a Shudra (labourer), was prevalent. Thus from the name one could perceive the class to which one belonged.

2.4 The types of names

‘The five types of names which are popularly known are the name according to the lunar asterism at birth (nakshatranam), the name according to the month of birth (masanam), the name according to the family deity, the worldly name and the name according to the star sign (rashi).

  • A. The name according to the lunar asterism at birth (nakshatranam): Including Ashvin the twenty-seven lunar asterisms have twenty-seven corresponding presiding deities. The writings of Shankha state that the boy should be named according to the deity of the lunar asterism, for instance Ashvinikumar from Ashvini. Another type of name according to the lunar asterism also exists. Each lunar asterism is considered to have four parts (charans) and each of the parts is designated a letter. For instance the letters chu (चू), che (चे), cho (चो), la (ला) are associated with Ashvini, li (ली), lu (लू), le (ले), lo (लो) with Bharni, etc. The child is named according to the letter of the respective part of the lunar asterism when it is born, for example Chudeshvar for the first part of Ashvini, Lileshvar or Liladev for the first part of Bharni, etc. According to Boudhayan the name according to the lunar asterism should be kept a secret. The child should be imparted this name on the day of birth itself. Several teachers say that only the parents of the child should be aware of this name and that it should be uttered while offering obeisance unto the Guru at the time of the sanskar (rite) of thread ceremony (Upanayan). Currently, however, it is customary to impart this name during the sanskar of thread ceremony. The objective of maintaining secrecy about this name is to prevent the enemy from doing blackmagic (abhicharkarma) such as Jaran, Maran, etc. on the child.

  • B. The name according to the month of birth (masanam): The name chosen according to the month is based on the presiding deity of the month of birth. According to Gargya’s opinion the deities of the twelve months beginning with Margashirsha are as follows –
    कृष्‍णोऽनन्‍तोऽच्‍युतश्र्चक्री वैकुण्‍ठोऽयं जनार्दन: । उपेन्‍द्रो यज्ञपुरुषो वासुदेवस्‍तथा हरि: ।
    योगीश: पुण्‍डरीकाक्षो मासनामान्‍यनुक्रमात्‌ ।।
    All these names – Krushna, Anant, Achyut, Chakri, Vaikuntha, Janardan, Upendra, Yadynapurush, Vasudev, Hari, Yogish, Pundarikaksha are the Names of Lord Vishnu. From this, it appears that this custom of naming the child after the month of birth began after the Vaishnav sect gained fame in India, that is after the Sutra period.

  • C. The name according to the family deity: Before imparting this name to the child a suffix such as Das, Sharan, etc. is added to the Name of the family deity (kuladevata). If the family deity or the benevolent deity (ishtadevata) happens to be of the feminine gender, then in some places it is the practice to name the boy with the same name. In such cases a suffix ‘ji’ which converts it to the masculine gender, for example Shivaji from Shivai, Banaji from Banashankari, Bhavanrao from Bhavani, etc. is used.

  • D. The worldly name: This name is meant for social, worldly interactions and is the most important. This name is mainly kept to suit the cultural and prestigious background of the family. It should also be auspicious, easy to pronounce and pleasing to the ear.

  • E. The name according to the star sign (rashi): This name can be kept in two ways. 1. According to the lunar star sign (chandra rashi) – Supposing at the time of a child’s birth the moon is in Taurus (Vrushabh) the child’s name should include the letters b (ब), v (व) and u (उ), for example Brijesh, Vasant and Umashankar respectively. 2. According to the solar star sign (surya rashi) – If the same child’s date of birth is 12th March its solar star sign will be Pisces (Min).

  • F. Other names

    1. The dimunitive name (kutsitnam): If children of a couple do not survive after birth then it is customary to name the child born with a dimunitive name, for instance Dagadu, Dhondu, Bhiku, etc. It is a popular belief that by naming a child so, it will survive and will also attain longevity.

    2. The name amongst the Adivasi tribals: The tribal communities in eastern India name their child after a deceased ancestor. They believe that the soul of the late ancestor has been passed onto the newborn. Some tribal communities name the child according to the tree under which it was born or after a nearby mountain. Others name their children even after the day of the week, for example Soma after Somvar (Monday), Budha after Budhvar (Wednesday), Shukraya after Shukravar (Friday), etc.’(1)

2.5 Astrology and the name

Just as a child’s sex is decided in the womb, so is its name. A sound, touch, form, taste and odour coexist. Hence a child’s name corresponds to its appearance. Only one is unaware of it. Only the spiritually evolved know the matching name. If one cannot get advice from a spiritually evolved person the science of astrology can give guidance on the suitability of the name.

2.6 The ritual and the four types of naming

The host of the ritual should address the priest, ‘O priest, I am naming the child …..’, thrice. Then the priest should convey his approval saying, ‘Name him ….’. The consent given by a saintly priest helps the name and form of the child to blend with each other.

  • A. The first type of naming: After spreading rice in a bronze plate, using a fine gold rod one should write, ‘Devotee of …. [ Name of the family deity (kuladevata)]’ on it. Then one should write the name of the month of birth. The names of the twelve months are – 1. Krushna, 2. Anant, 3. Achyut, 4.Chakri, 5. Vaikuntha, 6. Janardan, 7. Upendra, 8.Yadnyapurush, 9. Vasudev, 10. Hari, 11. Yogish and 12. Pundarikaksha. These twelve names correspond to twelve months of the Hindu lunar calendar beginning from the month of Margashirsha, for instance Margashirsha corresponds to Krushna, Poush to Anant, etc.

  • B. The second type of naming: Then the name with which obeisance has to be offered should be uttered softly. Till the thread ceremony is performed, only the parents should know this name. Others should not come to know it. The reason behind this is that black magic (karni) cannot be done if the real name is not known. After the thread ceremony the son should be told, ‘Pay obeisance using the name…..’.

  • C. The third type of naming: According to astrology, the name should be chosen based on the Avakadaha chakra and the part (charan) of the lunar asterism at birth.

  • D. The fourth type of naming: This name is chosen for day-to-day activities according to one’s wish. The name should be appropriate otherwise it would sound awkward like if the name is Sonubai (sona means gold) and she wears anklets made of tin instead of gold. Even the short form of the name should sound nice, like ‘Shiva’ for ‘Shivadas’ sounds good but ‘Pakya’ for ‘Prakash’ does not.

2.7 The naming of a daughter

The naming of a daughter is done without chanting mantras while that of a son is done with them. The reason for this is that if the naming of the daughter is performed amidst chanting of mantras then there is a 5% chance of her being afflicted with problems. The main problem is the untoward effect on the ovaries. [Refer ‘Science of Spirituality: Chapter 9 – Path of Chanting The Lord’s Name (Namasankirtanyoga) point – Prefixing Shri or Om to the Name’.]

3. Nishkraman (The rite of taking the child out of the house)

3.1 The objectives

The motive behind this sanskar (rite) is to increase the lifespan and wealth.

3.2 The auspicious time (muhurt)

This sanskar is performed in the third month after birth on the same date as the date of birth or the lunar asterism at birth. In the fourth month the baby is made to look at fire, a cow and the moon at an auspicious time.

3.3 The resolve (sankalpa)

‘I am performing this sanskar of Nishkraman (taking the child out of the house) to win over The Lord’s grace so as to increase my child’s lifespan, for acquisition of wealth that is, Lakshmi (Shri) and to overcome the defects generated from the ovum and foetus’.

3.4 The ritual

The benevolent deities (ishtadevatas) should be worshipped with sandalwood paste (gandha), consecrated rice (akshata), flowers, etc. After chanting a mantra, the father and the other relatives should hold the child on their laps. A prayer should be made to The Almighty for the child’s longevity as follows: ‘I am giving the custody of this child unto the moon, the sun, the guardians of the eight directions (dikpal), the eight directions and the sky. So please protect him. Whether the child is vigilant or not protect him by day and by night. May the deities such as Lord Indra perpetually protect him.’

After this, one should worship Lord Mahadev or Vishnu by going to Their respective temples or in the house of any well-wisher. Then the child should be placed in a sitting posture on a heap of rice and other food grains, spread on the floor smeared with cowdung. After chanting a mantra the head and forehead of the child should be sprinkled (prokshan) with holy ash (bhasma) or consecrated rice. This should be followed by worship of deities like Lord Mahadev, Ganesh, etc. with sweets like anarase, etc. The child should then be given some sweetmeats and placed in front of God in the prone position and then brought home.

4. Annaprashan (Partaking of the first solid feed)

4.1 The objectives

This sanskar (rite) eliminates the defects generated by swallowing urine and faeces when in the mother’s womb.

4.2 The auspicious time (muhurt)

The sixth or the eighth month in case of a boy and the fifth or any month with an odd number in case of a girl is favourable for the sanskar of Annaprashan (partaking of the first solid feed). (Even numbers represent the masculine gender whereas odd numbers represent the feminine gender.)

4.3 The resolve (sankalpa)

‘I am performing this sanskar of Annaprashan to win the grace of The Supreme Lord for the destruction of defects acquired by the intake of faeces by the baby when in the mother’s womb, the acquisition of pure food, etc., the acquisition of divine splendour (effulgence), the perfect development of the organs, longevity and to overcome the sins committed by the foetus. I am performing the worship of Lord Ganesh and the Matruka deities, Svastivachan, and Nandishraddha along with it.’

4.4 The ritual

After expressing the resolve the child should be placed to one’s right on a white cloth placed on the mother’s lap, in front of the deity. The child should face the east and should then be fed solid food for the first time. Food containing curd, honey and clarified butter (ghee) should be put in a gold or bronze vessel and the following prayer should be made ‘O God, the presiding deity of food, give us food which promotes health and bestows strength’. Then wearing some gold ornament on the hand one should give the child the first mouthful of solid food. After the child has had its fill, its mouth should be washed and then it should be placed on the ground.

4.5 The test of earning a livelihood

To test the choice of a livelihood, books, instruments, clothes and other tools which sculpt the future should be placed in front of the child. The object touched by the child as the first choice may be considered as the means of his earning a livelihood.

5. Choulkarma [Chudakarma (The rite of keeping a small portion of hair on the front of the head)]

5.1 The objectives

This sanskar (rite) is performed in order to attain longevity, strength and radiance. The small portion of hair facilitates the entry of the sattva frequencies from the universe through the Brahmarandhra. It functions like the antenna of a television set. [Refer ‘Science of Spirituality : Chapter 38 – Path of Activation of Spiritual Energy (Kundaliniyoga)’.]

5.2 The auspicious time (muhurt)

It is customary to perform this rite either in the third, fourth or fifth year of a child after choosing an auspicious time. Nowadays, however it is often performed along with the thread ceremony.

5.3 The resolve (sankalpa)

‘I am performing the sanskar choul (the rite of keeping a small portion of hair on the front of the head) in order to win the grace of The Lord so as to acquire pure food, for attaining longevity, to increase oja (precursor of divine energy) and strength and also to nullify the sins generated by the ovum and foetus. Along with it, I am performing the worship of Lord Ganapati, Punyahavachan, worship of the Matruka deities and Nandishraddha.’

5.4 Javal (Jaul, Jayval)

This is also known as the first haircut. This is customarily performed when the child is about one year old. Only some hair in front of the head is retained. The importance of keeping a small portion of hair will be clarified by point ‘5.1 The objectives’.

Reference:

‘Sixteen Sanskars and some other rituals’, published by Sanatan Sanstha.

Bharatiya Sanskrutikosh. Publishers: Pandit Mahadevshastri Joshi, Secretary, Bharatiya Sanskrutikosh Mandal, 410 Shanivar Peth, Pune 411 030.
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1. Vol.5, Pg. 32

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