Namakaranam (Naming Cermony)
What is Naamkaran?
Naamkaran, or naming ceremony is a Hindu tradition which is one of the most significant of the 16 Hindu ‘samskaras’ or rituals. ‘Naam’ means ‘name’ and ‘karan’ means ‘to create’ in Sanskrit. In some traditions, Naamkaran ceremony is also called ‘Palanarohan’, which means to put a child into the cradle. In Sanskrit, ‘palana’ means ‘cradle’ and ‘arohan’ means ‘on board’. So, it is a formal event in which the newborn is named and his birth is celebrated with rituals and traditions. This function not only has a religious significance but also has legal and social importance.
When and Why is it Done?
Traditionally, the naamkaran ceremony is held within a few weeks of the birth of the baby. Ideally, the naming ceremony is performed 11 days after birth just before the ‘Sutika’ or ‘Shuddhikaran’ period during which the mother and child are given intensive post-natal care. Therefore, the most auspicious day for the ceremony is the eleventh or twelfth day after birth. Nevertheless, the eleventh day is not mandatory and the parents can choose any day based on their priest’s or an astrologer’s advice. Hence, the naamkaran ceremony may be scheduled anytime after the tenth day, and before the baby’s first birthday. The naamkaran ceremony is performed to give the newborn a name and an identity. The rituals conducted during the ceremony seek blessings for the newborn for his good health, long and prosperous life ahead. Also, his horoscope is made on this day.
Where and How is Namkaran Sanskar in Hindu Tradition Performed?
The namkaran vidhi should be performed at home. While some may like to celebrate it on a grand scale in a special banquet hall or with a large gathering, others may opt for a small private ceremony with close family. The naamkaran sanskar in Hindu tradition is performed by a pundit. He decides an auspicious day and time of the naming ceremony, also called the ‘Subha Mahuratam’. The Priest conducts a puja or havan wherein prayers are offered and mantras are chanted for the well-being of the newborn. He also creates a horoscope for the baby. On a big plate rice grains are spread and the father writes the newborn’s name on it with a gold ring. The chosen name is then whispered into the baby’s right ear by the father four times, along with a prayer. In some families, the aunt (father’s sister) of the baby whispers the baby’s name in the baby’s ears. Thereafter, it is announced to family and friends. In certain communities, the auspicious ceremony is performed in the presence of at least five married women. These women are responsible to conduct various rituals as per the Hindu customs. Women sing songs for welcoming the baby. In some families, during the ceremony, the newborn baby is placed in the cradle. The family members take turns to rock the cradle of the baby and bless him. The ceremony is concluded with a special feast for the guests.