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Traditional Ayurvedic Birth Rituals: The Sacred Ceremony of New Beginnings | AVCRI | Since 1957

Updated: Jun 30


Discover the sacred hindu rituals for newborns in the traditional Ayurvedic birth ceremony, blending ancient tradition with modern science.

Introduction Traditional Ayurvedic Birth Rituals

The Sanskrit term “Sanskara” means religious customs. These age-old practices originated in ancient times and continue to be observed today. The “Sanskara” is used in a vast sense viz. in the sense of education, cultivation, and ornament, a purificatory rite or ceremony to change the qualities. In short, the Sanskara means those religious rites and rituals which purify the body mind, and intellect, so the person may become fit for the society. 

This implies that an individual's life is incomplete if they do not adhere to all sixteen Sanskars. Leaving out even one or two Sanskars results in a flaw in one's life. 


Purpose of Traditional Ayurvedic Birth Rituals/ Samskaras

  • Cultural: The diverse rites and rituals associated with samskaras play a significant role in shaping and developing an individual's personality.

  • Spiritual: Impurities associated with the material body are eradicated by performing samskaras. These rituals and customs are deeply rooted in Hindu culture. The whole body is consecrated and made a fit dwelling place for the Atma. 


Traditional Ayurvedic Birth Rituals / Samskara are 16 Shodasha in number:

  1. Garbhadhan (sacrament of  impregnation    or conception)

  2. Pumsavana (engendering a male issue) 

  3. Simantonayana (hair-parting) 

  4. Jatakarma (birth rituals e.g. At the time when the child is being born) 

  5. Namakarana (naming ceremony) 

  6. Nishakrama (first visit or outing ceremony) 

  7. Annaprashana (feeding ceremony) 

  8. Chudakarma or mundane (shaving of head) 

  9. Karnavedhan (piercing the earlobes) 

  10. Upanayana (blessed thread initiation) 

  11. Vedarambha (beginning of Vedic study) 

  12. Keshani Samskar (End of studentship)

  13. Prior to beginning their education, individuals in the stage of Brahmacharya shave their heads as a part of Keshant - Siddhi ritual to attain purity of mind and body, as it is believed that desires reside in the hair.

  14. Samavartan (end of studentship) 

  15. Vanprastha (renouncing the householder’s life)

  16. Sanyyas (leading the life of a monk) 

  17. Anteyeshti (death cremation)


Classification of  Traditional Ayurvedic Birth Rituals/ Samskara

The Samskara are categorized from  conception (pre-birth) to funeral (post-death) ceremonies as: 

  1. Garbhastha (pre-natal) Samskaras: Garbhadan, Pumsavana, Simantoonayana.

  2. Balyawatantargata (childhood) Samskaras: Jatakarma, Nishakramna, Namkarana, Annaprashana, Chudakarma, Karnavedhan.  

  3. Adhyyanartha Samskara: Vidyarambha, Upanayana, Vedarambha

  4. Grahasthartha (Marriage) Samskara: Vivaha

 

The Samskara in Balyaawastha may  be  classified as follows; 

Ksheerap Kala

  1. During Neonatal Period: Jatakarma, Namkarana, baby rituals

  2. During  Infantile  Period: Nishakramana,  Annaprashan, Karnavedhan


Ksheerannad/ Annad kala:

  1. During Toddler Period: Chudkarana Samskara

  2. During     Preschool     and     School     Age: Upnayana Samskara, Vedarambha Samskara


Traditional Ayurvedic Birth Rituals/ Sanskars are as follows:

1. Garbhadhana Sanskara (Conception) 

This Samskara pertains to conception, to ensure high-quality progeny. It should be performed only after marriage. Both partners should be fully virile and should first purify their bodies by undergoing shodhana procedures. The significance of Shodhana is highly important as it purifies the seeds of both partners, i.e., the ovum and sperm. This ensures that the child born will possess high qualities. 


2. Punsavana Sanskara (Intentional conception of a male issue) 

The meaning of Punsavana is male procreation so the process which is adopted for achieving progeny of desired sex is known as Punsavana Karma. This is performed in the second month or before Vyaktibhava. According to Charaka healthy Sunga (leaf buds) of banyan tree, Dhanyamasha and Gaurasarsapa should be taken with curd during Pusyanakshatra. Similarly According to Sushruta, paste of Jivaka, Rishbhaka, Apamarga, and Sahachara is taken with milk. 


3. Simantonayan Sanskara (Hair-parting) 

This ritual is conducted after 4, 6, or 8 months of pregnancy. During this time, the baby absorbs the mother's behavior, actions, and thoughts as it grows physically and mentally in the womb.


4. Jatakarma Sanskara (Birth rituals e.g. at the time when the child is being born) 

Jatakarma is the birth ceremony that helps the baby transcend from intrauterine life to extra uterine life. It should be done for clearing  Jatakarma is the birth ceremony that helps the baby transition from intrauterine life to extrauterine life. This ceremony includes clearing the mouth secretions to ensure the airway is clear and prevent aspiration. Placing cotton soaked in ghee on the head maintains the temperature of the baby which prevents heat loss from the baby's head, which has the largest surface area,   thus preventing hypothermia. Only after the baby is stabilized is the umbilical cord cut, emphasizing resuscitative measures. Tying the cord with a thread prevents bleeding from the cord and minimizes the chances of infection. Swarnaprashana type of Lehan given to baby by Suvarna  Bhasma,  honey, and ghee serve the purpose of both nutrition and immunization. Honey and ghee have a rich caloric value, and provide energy to babies whose previous source of nutrition from the placenta has stopped. This first feed initiates gastrointestinal movements and activates the gut.

 

5. Namkarana Sanskara (Naming ceremony)

Namkaran Samskara holds significant importance. The name given by the parents helps develop parental bonding with the baby and fosters an understanding of parental responsibilities. On the day of the naming ceremony, appropriate arrangements are made, and the bathing of the mother and baby with medicated water ensures hygiene and disinfection.


6.Nishkrama Samskara:

In this ceremony, the baby is taken out of Kumaragara or home first time.  This empowers the baby to adapt to the external environment.  During this child is first time taken outside the home preferably to a temple with Shankha Nada and chanting of Vedic mantras. The baby should be given bath,  wearing clean clothes,  ornamented, possessing mustard,  honey and Ghrita or Gorochana, along with Dhatri (wet nurse)  should be taken out of the house.  There after worshiping the Agni(burning fire)  with Ghrita and Akshata should be done. 

 

7. Annaprashana / Phalaprashana Samskara

Pediatricians recommend breastfeeding up to six months and supplementary food can be started after six months.  The food is properly mashed and should be in liquid form to avoid difficulty in deglutition. Starting the intake of fruits differs in energy as well as vital vitamins and minerals to the baby. This ceremony can also be useful for assessing developmental milestones, such as rolling over, sitting with support in a tripod fashion, displaying stranger anxiety, and producing monosyllabic speech at six months.Teeth eruption in children also begins around this age. 

 

8.Chudakarma Samskara:

This Samskara involves shaving off the head. This is ceremony is done within 1 year or can be done till the child gains 3 years.  This Samskara is performed to attain longevity,  strength, and radiance. The Samskara offers a chance for examination of the skull and stimulates hair growth. Detection of abnormalities like wide sutures, microcephaly, macrocephaly,  elevated or depressed fontanelle, etc. Palpation of the scalp carefully may also reveal cranial defects or craniotabes.  

 

9. Karnavedhan Samskara (Piercing the earlobes):

In propitious Tithi(date), Muhurta and Nakshatra,   after  reciting auspicious hymns,  the child  should be placed in the lap of maternal uncle ,then the  physician  pulling  the  ear  with  his left  hand should pierce the ears in the middle of the Karnapeetha where the skin is thinner (Daivakrita Chidra) with his right hand slowly and evenly by needle or any tool in case of thin and thick lobes respectively.  In a male child first, the right ear should be  pierced but  in a female child, the left ear should be pierced first and then the Pichuvarti should be placed at that place, usually performed on auspicious day in winter season.  The child’s ears are pierced for the purpose of Raksha-nimit (protection from various diseases) and Bhushan-nimit(ornamentation). 

 

10.Upanayana Samskara

This Samskara signifies spiritual rebirth, which is why after the Upanayana Samskara is performed, the young individual becomes a Dvija, or twice-born. The brain growth of the child is typically completed by the age of five. A thread tied around the waist can serve the purpose of assessing physical growth and ruling out malnutrition. This thread also helps to ascertain physical growth. The assessment of brain maturity to perform intellectual activities during the school-going age is conducted. It is also done to initiate a sense of responsibility and promote the spiritual well-being of the child. Once the child can learn, they should be guided by a Guru to study their field of interest.


11.Vedarambha Samskara:

This hindu ceremony is performed to initiate the study of the Vedas. The Samskara is variously named; it is called Vidyarambha, Akshararambha, Aksharasvikarana and Akshara  Lekhan. On the tongue of the child, the letters “Hari Sri Ganapataye Namah Avignamastu”  and  all  the alphabets are written on a piece of gold. The child is made to write the  same  letters from  “Hari Sri” onwards with its index finger on  raw rice in a bell metal vessel.It signifies the student’s commitment to learning and the teacher's to teaching.

 

12.  Keshani Samskar (End of studentship)

Before commencing their education, students in Brahmcharyashram undergo the ritual of Keshant – the shaving of the head to achieve purity of Brahmcharya. This practice is considered one of the four Ved Vrats, with Keshant becoming a separate samskara when the other three faded. 'Kesh' refers to hair and 'ant' signifies end, symbolizing the shaving of the beard at age sixteen. Known as Godaan, this ritual involves gifting a cow to the Acharya and presents to the barber. As the student transitions into manhood, they must exercise greater control over their youthful impulses. To reinforce their vow of brahmacharya, they must renew their commitment to strict continence and disciplined living for a year.


13. Samavartan sanskar (End of studentship) 

This Sanskar is performed upon the return of the child after completing his education. 


14. Vivah Sanskar (Marriage Ceremony) 

In Hinduism, the marriage ceremony, or Lagna Sanskar, is a significant rite of passage that symbolizes the union of two individuals and their commitment to a shared life of responsibilities, love, and spiritual growth. In this most important ritual, Agni is lighted, and by performing Parikrama in the presence of Agnidev, the bride and bridegroom take the oath and perform Sankalp of adhering to Dharma assigned to each of them by this Lagna-Sanskar.


15. Sanyansh/vanprastha sanskar. (Renouncing the householder‟s life)

Vanaprastha Sanskar is one of the last rituals of the 16 Sanskars, is indeed one of the significant stages in the Hindu tradition, marking a transition from a life of worldly engagement to one focused on spiritual growth and preparation for Moksha, or spiritual liberation.his ritual starts when a person officially hands over each one of his household responsibilities to his/her next generation and withdraws themselves from worldly matters. They then follow their spiritual instincts and decide to live their life as an ascetic. This phase is thereby emphasizes attaining Moksha or Spiritual Liberation.


16. Antyesthi sanskar (Death ceremony)

After leaving this human body, Agni (fire) which is lit at the time of Lagna Sanskar is carried from home to the crematorium, and there body is offered to fire. By doing so, Atma becomes free from all types of Runas (obligations) The rishis and Dharma Sutras were at a consensus regarding the final goal of life, which they enjoined in the four ashrams - stages of life. 


Benefits of  Traditional Ayurvedic Birth Rituals/ Hindu Samskaras 

  1. Samskaras play a crucial role in shaping an individual's life by providing a structured framework for personal and spiritual development

  2. They are believed to purify blood and increase blood circulation, sending more oxygen to every organ.

  3. Samskaras can energize the body and revitalize it.

  4. Samskaras contribute to physical strength and stamina, thereby enabling individuals to work for longer periods and maintain overall well-being.

  5. They rejuvenate the mind and enhance concentration and intellectual capacity.

  6. Samskaras give a sense of belonging, culture, and refined sensibilities. They play a crucial role in hindu ceremonies.

  7. Samskaras kill vices, such as pride, ego, selfishness, envy, greed and fear.

  8. They bestow moral and physical balance throughout life.

  9. Samskaras give the confidence to face death bravely owing to a contented and righteous life.


Q: What are traditional Ayurvedic birth rituals?

A: Traditional Ayurvedic birth rituals are sacred ceremonies performed in Hindu culture to celebrate the arrival of a newborn baby and ensure the well-being of the infant and mother.


Q: What is jatakarma in Hinduism?

A: Jatakarma is a ritual in Hinduism performed to welcome the newborn baby into the family and bless the child with a prosperous life.


Q: What is the significance of a baby shower in Hindu rituals?

A: A baby shower in Hindu rituals is a ceremony to bless the pregnant woman and the unborn child, preparing them for a safe delivery and a healthy life ahead.


Q: When is the sacred ceremony of shaving the baby's head usually performed?

A: The ceremonious shaving of the baby's head is typically done a few days after birth as a symbol of purification and the beginning of a new life for the child.


Q: What is the importance of giving solid food to a new born baby in Hindu culture?

A: Introducing solid food to a newborn baby in Hindu culture is an auspicious ritual signifying the transition from milk to solid food, marking the growth and development of the child.


Q: How do Hindu rituals play a role in the naming ceremony of a newborn?

A: Hindu rituals are an integral part of the naming ceremony where the baby's horoscope is consulted, mantras are chanted, and the name of the child is chosen based on astrological beliefs and family traditions.


Q: What are some common customs and rituals observed during the confinement period after childbirth?

A: During the confinement period after childbirth, rituals such as the first haircut of the baby, offering prayers to deities, and the mother's first steps outside are practiced to ensure the well-being of the newborn and mother.


Q: What is the Indian tradition after birth?

A: Indian traditions after the birth of a child vary greatly depending on the region, religion, and specific community


Q: What do Muslims do at birth?

A: After the birth of the baby, the father or a male family member recites the Adhan (the Islamic call to prayer) in the newborn's right ear


Q: What is the first thing you do after a baby is born?

A: Immediate care by medical staff to check the airway


Q: What are the traditions of newborn babies in Hinduism?

A: Jatakarma ,namakarma,upanayana etc


Q: Can a pregnant woman attend a baby shower?

A: Yes, she can. But ensure the safety and time duration 


Q: What are the traditions of postpartum in India?

A: Rest and confinement.


Q: Why put cotton in ears after delivery?

A: Protection from cold and winter and to avoid infection, especially during Hindu baby ceremonies.


Q: Remember your mother or grandma telling you that when you were born, your dad made you taste honey or ghee on the very first day of your life?

A: Yes. this tradition is known as Tahnik in Islamic cultures and Jatakarma in Hindu cultures.


Q: Is it necessary to go back to the mother’s house for 6 months after delivery according to Tamil culture?

A: In Tamil culture, it is a common tradition for a new mother to return to her mother's house (known as "veeragam" or "thottil keduthal") for postpartum care and recovery. While the duration can vary, it is not necessarily fixed at six months, but typically lasts anywhere from 40 days to a few months, for postpartum care and nutritional benefits


Q: Which rituals should be followed during pregnancy in the Hindu religion?

A: Seemantham or bangling ceremony


Q: Why do pregnant women need their mother during delivery instead of their mother in law?

A: For emotional and comfort bonding


Q: Why is the husband or the expecting mother not supposed to visit a temple or pray to god until after the baby is born?

A: For purity concerns

 

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