If you have become a mother, you will know that a baby can change your life forever and in fact, in ways more than one. The baby brings a whole lot of fun, excitements and festivities. Your house becomes a home and you do not even know from where your time passes with your little bundle of joy. With your baby comes a whole lot of rituals and festivities. In fact, the festivities in your family start even before your baby is born! But the frequency of these festivities increases when your baby enters the world, and the very first ceremony that follows is the naming ceremony, which in Hinduism is known as Naamkaran.
In general, a naming ceremony is the event at which an infant, or a youth, is given a name or names. The timing can vary from mere days after birth to several months or many years. Some of these ceremonies have religious or cultural significance. The rituals vary with the religion, culture and norms.
Namkaran: Child Hindu Naming Ceremony
What is the naamkaran ceremony?
Naamkaran is one of the most important of the 16 hindu ‘samskaras’ or rituals, where a baby is given a name by one his or her very close relatives (often the maternal grandfather, paternal aunt or uncle). In the vedic traditional, ‘naamkaran’ (sanskrit ‘naam’ = name; ‘karan’ = create) is the formal naming ceremony performed to select a newborn’s name using traditional methods and astrological rules of naming. The word naamkaran thus loosely translates to creating a name for the baby. This is generally a happy ritual – with the tensions of childbirth now over, the family comes together to celebrate the birth of the child with this ceremony. With the ceremony of naamkaran, the baby is not only provided with a name, but is almost given an identity of his own. The baby will now be identified with this new name, which is of course a matter of happiness and festivity.
When is naamkaran held?
Traditionally, the naamkaran ceremony is conducted after the ‘jatakarma’ samskara, which is performed at the time of the birth of the child. Nowadays, with more and more births taking place in the hospital, this ritual has become a part of the naamkaran ceremony, which is performed within a few weeks of the baby’s birth. Ideally, the ceremony is held 11 days or 12 days after birth and is followed by the “sutika” or the “suddhikaran” ceremony where the mother and the baby are confined to one room for intensive post-partum or post-natal care. However, this day is not fixed and sometimes postponed on the astrologer’s or the priest’s advice, which can extend even up to the baby’s first birthday.
The time however differs according to the state and culture sometimes. For example, in kerala, the ceremony is held on the 27th or the 28th day and is known as ‘noolukettu’.
Where is the ceremony done?
The naamkaran puja is either held at a temple or at home. If held in a temple, the priest offers prayers to all the god, especially agni, and the spirits of the forefathers, inviting them to bless the baby in his or her new endeavours ahead. The child’s horoscope (known as ‘kundali’ or ‘kushthi’) is then prepared and placed before the image of the deity for blessings. The actual ceremony begins thereafter. In certain cultures, the baby is places at the lap of a certain close relative and the name given to him or her is whispered at his or her ears, thereby giving it to the baby.
How is the name selected?
In early hindu culture, the name of the baby was decided after detailed analysis of his birth stars, horoscope, sun sign, moon sign and so on. The parents could not name the baby according to their wishes unless the name chosen by them was approved by the priest or astrologer. Sometimes a name is selected based on the name of the deity the month, or even a dead ancestor. In sum, there are 5 general principles of naming: nakshatranam (by lunar asterism); masanam (according to the month of birth); devatanama (after the family deity); rashinama (according to zodiac sign); and samsarikanama (the worldly name), as an exception to all the above.
In modern times, however, so many rituals are not always followed, especially in choosing the name of the child. The name is often decided by the parents according to their wish or is often decided upon, by combining the names of the mother and father. The faith on astrology and priests in slowly fading away and the rituals being done away with.
Impact on the child
It is true that during the naming ceremony the baby is small enough not to understand anything that is being done to him or her, but on deeper thoughts, it is evident that this name is something that the child has to carry for the rest of his or her life. The name is something a person has no control over, yet which differentiates him or her from other people, from the rest of the world for that matter. It gives an identity to a person and the name is something which usually a person cannot change in his life. Therefore, it might seem awkward, but this entire naming ceremony does create an impact on the child, more than we probably have even thought of.
Plenty of research suggests the name chosen impacts a baby’s life well into adulthood. For instance, donning your newborn boy with a girly sounding name could mean behavioral problems later in life. And unique baby names that only your child will have can be a hardship too. Therefore, as responsible parents, we should think about the child, as much we do about our religious and cultural sentiments, because ultimately everything centers around the baby itself and his or her happiness in life is what will matter in the long run. Happy parenting!