NAMING RITUALS (Samskaras)

The nearest English equivalent for Samskars is sacraments. They are rituals by virtue of whose performance the life of a Hindu receives a higher sanctity.

The sage Angiras said of Samskaras: "Just as a picture is painted with colors, so the character of the individual is formed by the proper performance of Samskars."

Samskars are 40 in number. Namkaran is one of them. Like most of the religious practices among Hindus in India, the basic concept and purpose remains the same but the details of rituals to be performed vary from community to community.

Namkaran means naming of the child. It is the  traditional ceremony of naming a newborn. Among 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   The simplest and the basic ritual is as follows. The Namkaran ceremony is generally performed after 10th day on 11th. or 12th day after birth. It may be performed at home or in temple. The parents while reciting any mantra or chant which they usually do, light up a Diya in front of God's image, adorn with kumkum and offer flowers. Then the kumkum tilak is put on child's forehead and parents touch the breath of the child   which symbolizes the awakening of  child's conciousness. Then the parent one after other says in the ear: "Your name is ........" thrice.  Brahmins and elders are then requested to follow, calling the child by the given name and blessing it.

In some communities the mother swathes the baby in a piece of new cloth, applies kajal to its eyes, and makes a little beauty mark on the cheek. Then the baby is placed in the father’s lap to be blessed. The priest offers prayers to all the gods and to Agni, the god of fire and the purifying factor, to the elements, and to the spirits of the forefathers, and entreats them to bless and protect the child. He also places the sheet on which the child’s horoscope is written, in front of the image of the deity, for its blessings. Then, the father leans towards the baby’s right ear, and whispers its chosen name. Usually, the father does not whisper directly into the child’s ear, but uses a betel leaf or its silver imprint, or a few leaves of kusa grass to direct the words to the child’s ear.

In some communities  it is a very festive occasion with lot of women and children participating in it. On Namkaran  day baby is placed in parna or jhula [cradle]. Parna is decorated with balloons and flowers. Before placing the baby in parna, they perform pooja with kanku and paint swastika [sathia] and put supari [betel nuts] and one rupee coin. Women and children are gathered from close family, friends and relatives. Five, seven or eleven little boys and girls swing parna and women sing songs. Honey is applied on baby’s lip by some important family member on this occasion.

In some communities baby’s name is announced by [baby’s] father’s sister called foi. They first call baby with selected name and then sing traditional naming ceremony song. All ladies then join, repeat the song and call  baby with his/her name.