Annaprashanna Sanskar

The Importance of Vedic Sanskars

Amongst the Sanskars very important for a baby’s well-being and growth, as per Vedic Tradition, Annaprashanna Sanskar is one of the most necessary rituals, as it marks the first time a baby intakes food other than milk. The literal translation of ‘Annaprashanna’, which is a Sanskrit word, is, ‘Anna’ which means ‘rice’, and ‘Prasanna’ which means ‘to enter’. Thereby this ritual marks the first time a baby has its first solid food, which is generally started with rice, and thereafter can be introduced to a variety of foods.

Also considered to be the first rice-eating ceremony in India, this is one o the rituals which is prevalent extensively throughout the entire country, and almost all Hindu celebrate this affair after the Naamkaran ceremony, as a huge affair, along with friends and family. Known with different local names though, this ceremony has one of the highest levels of celeb ration, and is regarded a means of rejoicement, for the entire household where a baby is born.

The joy and happiness that we get when a baby is born into a household, is so immense that there are just a few other rare occasions when the amount of happiness as such can be experienced. Along with that, one of the most finest and celebrated occasions after the birth of a child is the Annaprashanna ceremony, which stays forever etched in our minds, as a very memorable event cherished forever. Every parent wants the best for their child, be it food, clothes, education, home, facilities, etc., and this ritual is just the beginning of the many occasions parents can show their love for the child. Regarded as one of the initial steps of being able to know the world and its rules, this ceremony marks the beginning of a new phase in a child’s life.

When is the ‘Annaprashanna’ ceremony celebrated ?

The ceremony of ‘Annaprashanna’, which marks the first feeding of ‘anna’ or rice and solid foods, is carried out when the child is around six to eight months old. This is same for both boys and girls, as growth does not differentiate between gender, and this occasion if for their physical needs and growth. But in some case the girl babies’ Annaprashanna is held in odd months, and for boys odd months are chosen. This time between the six to eight months is chosen because it is during this time that the child’s teeth begin to appear, though the process of their weaning might start later on.

Even if we consider science or take the advice of doctors, they are assuring of the fact that this is the right time to introduce solid foods, one by one to children, as they slowly start being capable of digesting it and also grow teeth late on to chew. This ritual is considered auspicious, if it is celebrated before the first birthday for the child. An occasion held at a much larger scale than the other previous rituals after birth, the ‘Annaprashanna’ ceremony is celebrated with friends, family, and even the extended family, who are invited to take part in the rejoicement and attend this auspicious occasion.

The Arrangement for the ‘Annaprashanna’ ceremony

The arrangement for the ceremony is done with the consultation of the family priest as well the Astrologer, so that the most auspicious date to celebrate the event can be fixed. The ceremony is conducted nowadays as the first feeding with rice as rice has become more common nowadays, as rice symbolizes solid food in general.

The ceremony is either held at a temple, or even at the child’s home, wherever the buffet or lunch preparations are done. Nowadays people celebrate it even in function halls or the likes, as owing to the smaller houses we stay in, it is difficult to invite many people. In such cases the priest comes over and does the required rituals with the baby as per Vedic tradition.

The start of the ceremony begins with the Ganesh Puja, which is thereafter followed by the Navagraha Puja. The priest then recites religious rites and prayers, and asks the child’s near and dear ones to pray for the child. During the Puja, the parents are asked to sit in the East direction, and either of the two parents holds the baby in their lap. A havan is also performed to purify the entire event, and for the overall wellness of the bay’s future and life. Thereafter, an elder member of the family or the father of the child feeds the baby his/her first solid food, which is generally made with rice, ghee, sugar, or jaggery. This is done three times, and all the while chanting of mantras takes place. In some cultures, we can even see an India sweet delicacy, known as Kheer or Payasam, which is prepared to be specially fed to the baby.

The Puja finally ends with the Jeevika Parikaha, which is regarded as a way of predicting and knowing what the baby would aspire to be and what the stars have in store for him/her.

Jeevika Parikaha:

This ritual is conducted by keeping several objects of importance on a banana leaf, which the baby is allowed to choose and touch. The objects placed usually are books, pens, jewels, kumkum, turmeric, food items, etc. These signify what the baby would choose as his profession or become in life, as the first object they touch is considered to be of his/her interest and future.

In some cultures and as per Vedic tradition, another ritual follows the Annaprashanna ceremony. It is known as the ‘Mamabhat’, and takes place in the maternal uncle’s place or the child’s mother’s home. In this second ceremony, the child’s maternal uncle needs to feed the baby. It is celebrated with a week of the Annaprashanna ceremony, and the child can then start having solid foods. Nowadays these rituals are also done taking the advice of doctors and only after consulting them, which is in fact a very good and right thing to do.