The procedure of Annaprasana- first ceremony of rice-eating
The birth of a baby is a very joyous event for any parents and the family as a whole. All family members, be it a nuclear one or a joint one takes robust care of the little one as they are born. In any Indian Hindu family, the rice ceremony or the annaprasana is an extremely pious occasion. It is mandatory to conduct this occasion before introducing rice as a staple food in your baby’s diet.
What is the Annaprashan ceremony?
The Annaprasana is a popular custom among the Hindus that marks the initiation of rice and any kind of solid food for the baby. There is a very significant scientific reason behind the performance of Annaprasana. The 5th or the 6th month of the child is chosen as the appropriate month for the rice ceremony as, by that time, an infant becomes medically eligible to digest any kind of solid food introduced to them. The entire annaprasana procedure is very interesting as it involves performing several rituals with the baby throughout the day. These rituals are performed by priests where the entire family participates.
The Annaprasana ceremony or the first rice ceremony is done after the Naamkaran ceremony and is very auspicious for all Hindu families. This ceremony is named differently in different parts of the country. We call it ‘choroonu’ in Kerala, ‘mukhe bhaat’ in Bengal, and ‘bhaatkhulai’ in the Garhwal Hills. After knowing about the annaprashan ceremony and when to do annaprasana, let us look at where we can perform this auspicious ceremony.
We usually conduct Annaprashan ceremonies in a temple or at home. The priest conducts the ceremony by reciting several rites and prayers that are religious. People often perform a ‘havan’ on this great occasion. After performing several religious rites and rituals, the eldest member of the family or the maternal uncle, or the father of the child, feeds rice to the infant. The preparation is a combination of rice, milk, sugar, or jaggery. This preparation is also called pudding or kheer.
How to perform Annaprasana at home?
At home, you can conduct a small Pooja in the name of god by adopting some simple steps-
- The ritual should begin with a Ganesh Pooja followed by a Navagraha Pooja
- The parents should sit facing the East direction while placing the baby on the lap
- The child’s father shall feed the baby three times by chanting a mantra as advised by the priest.
- The Pooja will end with the Jeevika Parikaha.
Common offerings of Annaprasana
To make the occasion an enjoyable and memorable one, a fun-filled game is played where certain objects are placed in a tray that is presented in front of the baby. Each object poses a resemblance or is significant of any action that the baby is anticipated to do in the future. It is said that the first object which the baby picks up is symbolic of the future of the baby. This ritual is called Jeevika Parikaha. Following are some of the objects which are placed in the tray or plate along with their significances-
- Food items- It symbolizes the fact that the child will have a passion for food
- Gold- It symbolizes that the child will be the owner of a lot of wealth
- Books- It symbolizes that the child will represent knowledge and would shine in the academic life
- Soil or clay- This signifies that the child will own a lot of properties in the future.
In this ritual, the baby is constantly encouraged to pick up an item from the tray. All the family members enjoy this ritual quite a lot and make different kinds of aspirations for the same. The event of first rice is a moment of pride for all parents as they see their child grow and develop from a newborn to an infant. After all the rituals are performed, the entire family has lunch or dinner together. Relatives and family friends come to bless the child and shower the little one with wonderful gifts.
How to celebrate the occasion of Annaprasana?
Following are some of the tips that will enable the baby to have a fun time along with the friends and family-
- Make sure that the baby gets adequate sleep the day before the ceremony. Otherwise, he will remain crappy throughout the day.
- You should make your baby dress like a prince or a princess, but the garments should be comfortable enough so that he or she does not get irritated.
- You can avoid overcrowding by inviting only a few close relatives and family members.
- The food to be fed to the child must be prepared fresh, and before or while feeding the baby, you should wash your hands carefully.
- Since it is the first time that the child has been introduced to some solid food, you should be very careful about not feeding too much, which may create complications for the child.
- Always keep a towel or a napkin to wipe off excess food from the mouth of the baby.
- While performing the ‘havan,’ make sure that the child is not too close to the fire and the baby’s face should be kept away from the smoke.
Importance of selecting a specific day for conducting annaprasana
As parents, you will never leave any chance of doing the best for your little one. The Hindu custom people are very much prone to following astrological principles when it comes to selecting a day or date for a family member. They are not ready to compromise the well-being of their loved ones on anything. So, for Annaprasan also, parents are found to select a special day that is considered to be pious for the baby.
For a baby boy, the even months are preferred to be fed with first rice such as the 6th, 8th, 10th, and 12th, while for a baby girl, the odd months are chosen such as the 5th, 7th, or 9th months from the birth. Usually, it is seen that Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday are the auspicious days for conducting the first rice ceremony while the rest of the days are avoided. Other astrological considerations are also made for deciding which day is good for annaprasana.
While the annaprashan vidhi may differ from region to region, this event’s main purpose is to introduce the child to a variety of foods. The event’s procedure is very righteously performed by all people wishing good health and well-being of the child. It marks the growth of a child into the world of solid foods, and it is from then on that the taste buds of a child start savouring different kinds of tastes. The ritual of annaprasana is of immense importance among different cultures of people.
We believe that the day a baby will start having food properly, half of the parents’ success is believed to be achieved. Hence, this occasion shall be performed in a very sacred and holy ambiance. Priests usually advise the family members to get all the ceremony’s essential requirements from before so that there comes no hindrance in the same.