In the Vedic tradition, ceremonies for children start long before they are born. In fact the first ceremony begins prior to conception to bless the mother and invite a blessed soul into the womb. There is a ceremony before giving birth and then at every major milestone in a child’s life. Some simple ceremonies have to be performed by the parents with guidance from the priest, and others can be performed by the priest at either your home or the temple.
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Garbhadhana is the ritual for having children, and is performed prior to conceiving a child. This purification process is to protect the child from the very beginning, to ensure the child is prepared for life and protected from difficulties along the way. A priest can give guidance on performing this ceremony, but it is performed by the parents of the child.
Godh-bharai is a ceremony to bless the mother-to-be with happiness and peace of mind. This ceremony is done usually in the 7th month of pregnancy, when the embryo is very much developed, and performing this ritual is to invoke spiritual energy for the baby and mother. The father of the child parts the hair of his wife with a porcupine quill in this way inviting celestial energy to pass from the top chakra of the mother down to the mind of the child. Also known as ‘simanta-nayana’ which literally means parting of the hair. In the English tradition it may be referred to as the baby shower. This is a very happy occasion for the whole family, specially for the expectant parents and most for the mother to be.
At the time of the child’s birth, but before the cutting of their umbilical cord, this brief ceremony is observed by the father as a way to first greet the child and offer blessings and prayers to the Lord. A priest can give guidance on performing this ceremony, but it is performed by the father of the child.
‘Nama’ or name is a very important aspect of our lives. It becomes something we identify with all our life. So it is important that we make it special and liberating. The nama-karana is a ceremonial way of blessing the child with a suitable name. “May this name empower and liberate the child.” This ceremony is performed in one’s home, as it also serves the purpose of purifying the household after child birth..
As parents, a big concern is always the good health and wellbeing of our children. This ceremony is performed for the good health of the child, now and going forward through life. Usually, the advice is that this ceremony be done on the day of the birth-star of the child every month for the 1st year, but it is appropriate to be done just once if the parents are happy with the development of the child.
Nishkramana is the first outing of the child since birth. That outing is always chosen to be to visit the home of Krishna, such as a temple. A prayer is made as the child is making its first journey “May God always be a part of all life’s journeys”. This way, life’s direction will most certainly be liberating.
Another name for the ritual is Surya Darshan. This prayer is to the Sun God who is said to be the king amongst elements. This prayer prepares the child to be comfortable in it’s interactions with the various elements such as air, water, earth etc.
This ritual is usually done on the 40th day after birth, or until the child and mother are in good health to make the outing.
Anna-prashna is a ceremony performed when the child is ready to start solid foods, generally at 6 months of age. A ceremony of worshipping the presiding deity of the house is performed, and ‘Anna’, sanctified food, is given to the child to eat. This is a joyous occasion for the whole family as the child now starts the journey of food.
Mundan is a ceremonial removal of the first hairs of a child. This ceremony invokes the blessings of Lord Vishnu to bless the child with fine intelligence. We perform this to also remove any inauspicious elements around the child. Other benefits of the mundan are equal growth of hair and strengthening of the hair roots.
All events, as our children grow, are special for us. This ceremony of ‘vidya’ education, ‘arambha’ beginning, is another such event. As the child goes to get his/her education we want them to be able to digest what they learn and develop progressively. May their education make them people with good character, good intellect, and ability to make this world a better place. This ceremony is geared for this purpose. We seek the blessings from the goddess of learning ‘mother Saraswati’, from ‘Ganesh’, from ‘Vyasa’ the original guru teacher, and the parents.