Choodaakarm Sanskar or the Mundan Sanskar – Shaving the head of the child

What is Mundan?

As per Vedic tradition, Sanskars are rites of passage in a human being’s life, as they have been described in the ancient Sanskrit texts, as per the concepts that are given in the Karma theory in Indian philosophies. The ‘Choodaakarm Sanskar’ is one such ritual which is performed by the people who follow the Vedic traditions, Hindus in particular, in India and outside, during the initial years of a newborn child. It is the eighth of the sixteen Sanskars, in which a child receives his/her life’s first haircut. It is also known as the Mundana Sanskar, and both of these names can be widely used. It is generally done within the first three years of a child’s birth.

When should the Choodaakarm Sanskar take place?

The Grihya Sutras depict that this Sanskar should take place at the end of the first year, or before the expiry of the third year after a child’s birth, yet, it can be done until the seventh year. In some cases, the Child’s hair is shaved frequently, leaving only a tuft at the crown of the head. This is not prevalent as much as it used to be, and the baby’s entire head is sheared nowadays. Originally though, the left over tuft of hair was a significant feature of the Choodaakarm Sanskar, and the number of tufts determined the number of Pravaras belonging to the Gotra of the child. These traditions are prevalent up to a very rare extent now, in both the northern as well as the southern part of India.

As per tradition, the hair we have at birth is associated with undesirable memories and incidences from our past lives. Thus, at the time of the Mundan ceremony, the child’s hair is shaven off to signify that he/she is free from the past and is moving in to the future.

The Process

The process of the Mundan ceremony is one of the most important rituals which is done on an auspicious day as calculated by the priest, or the family astrologer of the child. While complete tonsure is very common in Hinduism, some Hindus prefer to leave some hair on the head, and the hair is then offered to the holy river, or to the family deity. Many also travel to temples fames for such auspicious rituals, like the Tirumala Venketeshwara Temple of Lord Vishnu, to perform this ceremony.

People even visit the holy city on the bank of the Ganges river, Rishikesh, where special Choodaakarm Sanskars are held. Herein, along with cutting hairs and shaving hairs, Vedic Mantras are chanted by priests specially trained for the same, apart from Acharyas who look after the entire ceremony. The hair shaved is then symbolically offered to the holy water of the Ganges, offering prayers in the meantime. The child and his/her family then perform a sacred Yajna ceremony, followed by the Ganga Aarti.

The method used for the Choodaakarm Sanskar varies a lot as per the culture, tradition, and ethnicity. But in general, a Brahmin Bhoj is conducted on the day of the ceremony, after which the head is tonsured, followed by Puja offerings. Since the hair is considered sacred, it is disposed off after mixing with wheat flour or cow dung. Also, a mix of curd, milk, and turmeric is applied on the tonsured head of the baby so that it acts as an antiseptic and moisturizes the skin to keep the baby safe from any cuts and wounds.

Traditionally, a Hindu girl never had to cut her hair after the first haircut, which happened at around the age of 11 months, due to which the first haircut was regarded as the most important. This is not very prevalent now, as Hindu families practice the tonsure ceremony for girls as well, nowadays. Though the details vary by sect, culture, region, family, and country, yet the base belief is still the same.

Benefits behind the ‘Choodaakarm’ or ‘Mundana’ Sanskar.

The Vedic customs and beliefs have a lot of religious, and Karmic beliefs as to why this Sanskar is important and why it needs to be performed, and its importance during the first three years of a baby’s life. This ritual is considered to purify the baby, and help him/her live a successful and happy life ahead. The many beliefs that surround the Mundan ceremony among Hindus, are:

  • It helps the baby get rid of his/her past life’s negativity and ill fate.
  • It is believed to bestow a good future ahead for the baby and give them a long life.
  • It protects the baby from bad fortune and the saves them from the evil eye.
  • It cleanses the baby’s soul and also its physical body.
  • It helps to keep the baby’s head cool, especially in the hit summer months.
  • It helps to relieve the baby of headaches, and pains caused by teething.
  • It improves the growth of hair in the baby and also the overall texture of the hair.