Child First Year

From the moment a child is born, the life in a home revolves around it. Every little achievement is a time for celebration. India with its wide range of beliefs and customs offers a whole range of ceremonies all focusing on he achievements of a child. These milestones are significant steps in a childs development and thus are naturally cause for celebration. Naturally this joy is shared with friends and relatives and the blessings of the Gods are sought at each stage.

Perhaps the earliest ceremony is performed immediately after the birth of the child. While details vary from community to community, the general idea stays the same. Honey is placed on the tongue of the child using a golden spoon. Gold is believed to be pure and although golden spoons are rarely available, a ring is usually used as a substitute. Easily accessible, it fulfils the need. The honey is believed to help counteract infection that could set in during the course of birth. Honey, being sweet is used as a symbol of all the good things that one wishes for during the life of the child. Some people also write the letter Aum on the tongue in the hope that the child will be wise. Often, a friend or relative who is believed to be wise is invited to perform this act. There are some people in rural areas and tribes who feed the child the milk of a type of cactus. While this too is believed to have healing properties, it also is symbolic of strength and the ability to defy the odds.

One fascinating ceremony takes place when the father sees the child the first time. Traditionally, the father was usually known. If the star was considered inauspicious to the father, he took the first glimpse of the child through a reflection on a plate covered with oil. With the child born, the next act is usually naming it. While this is usually done within a month of the childs birth other ceremonies too often take place. The Telugu people, for example, have a ceremony on the eleventh day called Punyavachanam. The ceremony, as the name suggests is literally a cleansing ceremony. A thread dipped in turmeric is tied around the waist of the child and to it is fastened a gold amulet. This amulet contains a piece of the umbilical cord and is believed to sustain the link between mother and child. This symbolic link to the mother is believed to protect the child.

The child is then made to sleep on a moram (a straw tray used for cleaning rice) This is reminiscent of the baby Krishna who was carried in a moram to his foster parents. According to the traditions of some communities, the ninth day is considered auspicious and certain ceremonies are performed. The mother and child are given an auspicious bath. Seven vessels of clay or bronze are filled with food. These vessels represent seven deities. Seven women are also present to represent these deities. After the food is sanctified, the midwife lights a torch of birch bark and waves it over the mother and child. While these are general ceremonies of purification and prayer, many little occasions are celebrated during the first year. One of the most important of these is the first outing of the mother and child. In early times they were confined indoors probably as a protection from dust, heat and infection. While today, the ceremony is limited to a visit to a temple, in ancient times it was far more elaborate. The courtyard of the house was decorated and the family deity worshipped. After auspicious verses were recited and the Gods propitiated, the child was brought out to the sound of a conch and the recital of vedic hymns. The child was carried by the father and made to look at the sun.

.He recited the following prayer Whether the child is conscious or unconscious, whether it is day or night, let all the Gods led by Indra protect the child. Known as the Niskarmana or first outing, it was usually performed in the third of fourth month. It implies the need for the child to be taken out in the open from this time on and is also believed to impress on the child the grandeur of the universe. Perhaps the first achievement of a child is when it starts to focus. The child usually finds its hands a source of great joy and starts gazing at them clenching and opening its tiny fists. The Tamil community makes a sweet preparation called kozhakattai at the time. This is prepare by clenching it in the hands to shape it an action reflecting the childs own.

In Andhra, a sweet preparation of rice flour and jaggery called Mudha kudumulu is made and given to relatives with the childs own hand a celebration of its ability to grasp. Other achievements such as the ability to make a sound or the ability to roll over are celebrated by the preparation of typical sweets. When the child crosses the threshold of the house for the first time, a coconut is broken in many communities. Perhaps the most important milestone in the first year of the childs life is the introduction to solid food. Known as the Anna prasanam the food is prepared with care and is first consecrated by offering it to the family deity. In some cases parents take the child to a temple to perform this ceremony.

The Guruvayoor temple in Kerala is a well known location for this ceremony. The first few months of a childs life are thus a series of celebrations each acknowledging the movement of the child from one stage of development to the other. This phase culminates in a grand celebration of the childs first birthday a matter of importance in most Indian communities, and marked by various rituals and functions. Thus the ceremonies and growth go hand in hand in a celebration of life and development through the first year of the child.

Required Materials:

Turmeric Powder
1 Packet
1 Packet
Sandalwood Paste / Powder
1 Packet
Incense sticks
1 Packet
1 Packet
4 Bunches
12 Bananas & 5 Variety fruits- 5 fruits for each variety
Betel leaves and nuts
15 + 15
Dry Coconut (whole)
5 Lbs
Kalas Vastram
1 Towel or 2 Yards fabric
Coins (quarters)
Devotees choice
1 Pound
Sugar candy (Kalakanda)
1 Packet
Rice (Cooked)
1 Cup