Zitierweise / cite as:
Stevenson, Alice Margaret (Mrs. Sinclair Stevenson) <1875-1957>: Birth and babyhood. -- (Manusmṛti 2, Anhang B). -- Fassung vom 2008-10-10. -- URL: http://www.payer.de/manu/manu02a2.htm
Erstmals publiziert als:
Stevenson, Alice Margaret (Mrs. Sinclair Stevenson) <1875-1957>: The Rites of the twice-born / Mrs. Sinclair Stevenson. -- London [u.a.] : Oxford Univ. Press, 1920. -- XXIV, 474 S. -- (The religious quest of India ; 7). -- S. 1 - 26. -- Online: http://www.archive.org/details/ritesoftwiceborn00steviala. -- Zugriff am 2009-10-10. -- "Evidence reported by alyson-wieczorek for item ritesoftwiceborn00steviala on March 2, 2007: no visible notice of copyright; stated date is 1920."
Erstmals hier publiziert: 2008-10-10
Anlass: Lehrveranstaltung HS 2008
©opyright: "Evidence reported by alyson-wieczorek for item ritesoftwiceborn00steviala on March 2, 2007: no visible notice of copyright; stated date is 1920."
Dieser Text ist Teil der Abteilung Sanskrit von Tüpfli's Global Village Library
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[S. 1] EVERY fresh chapter in a Hindu's life depends so inextricably on the preceding chapters, and together they form so complete a circle, that his life-history seems to have no beginning and no ending ; and for a moment or two the observer stands outside the circumference, wondering where he shall break in, since, start where he will, he must snap off some of the threads which unite the present with the past. But, since he must start somewhere, it seems natural to begin a life-history at the birth and later return to pick up some of the unravelled threads.
In many parts of India a woman prefers to go back to her old home for the birth of her first child. There she is guarded in the most careful fashion from every evil, spiritual or physical, that might affect her body or her soul. Not only may she do no hard housework, for fear it should tire her, but she must do no sewing, or anything else that binds things together : for instance, she must not close up the outlet of the great grain jar, or replaster the hearth. [S. 2]
A special chamber is prepared for her, a dark little room, generally rather apart from the rest of the house, and every window in it is carefully closed and shuttered. The bedstead is stripped of its tapes, and string substituted, on some auspicious day, the fourth, ninth, or fourteenth day of the month being carefully avoided. Great care is taken that the bedstead should not lie exactly under the great beam that holds the house together, since some Hindus think that the god of death perches on this ; neither should the bed face the south, as that is the abode of the god of death.
When her hour has come, the expectant mother, accompanied by her own mother and the midwife, enter this room, and they loosen everything that they can : her camisole, the cord that ties her skirt, her shawl-like overdress (sārī) and her hair, carefully preserving the string that has bound the last named.
The midwife may belong to the caste of midwives (Suyāṇī), or may be a Khavāsa, a Rājput, or even a Muḥammadan, but is generally a barber's wife.
If the mother's suffering be unduly prolonged, her friends will break open the mouth of the great grain jar and let the corn stream out, or dig up the beplastered hearth, or (if they can procure one) put a lotus flower in water, believing that, as its petals expand, the mouth of the womb will open ; or, turning to their gods for aid, they will worship Sri Kṛṣṇa, or Nakalaṅka, or whichever god is their tutelary deity (Iṣṭadeva), and promise to give sugar, to break a coco-nut and distribute it, to feast Brāhmans, or to give a silver model of an umbrella to some temple when the child is safely born ; or they may draw seven circles, each within the other, representing the seven forts mentioned in the Mahābhārat through which Abhimanyu forced his way, and soak the diagram in water, which they then give to the woman to drink. If the midwife be a Muḥammadan, she will very likely vow a coco-nut to Dātāra Pīra [Jamial Sha Datar] in Junāgaḍh, and when the child is born, she will beg the coco-nut from its grandparents and take it home. She [S. 3] will, however, avoid the trouble of an actual journey to Junāgaḍh by just pronouncing the name of Dātāra Pīra over the nut as she breaks it. Some of the nut she will distribute amongst the village children, taking care, however, to keep a good deal of it for her own use ; so that altogether this vow of the midwife's to Dātāra Pīra does not cost her very much.
On the other hand, leaving spiritual methods on one side, the midwife may turn to medical remedies : tearing down the cobweb of a spider, she will roll it into a ball, put cloves in it and place it in the mouth of the womb ; or she may try the effect of heat, putting fennel seed on a brazier and letting the smoke play on the patient as she sits over it.
Heat occupies an important place in an Indian confinement, for, an hour and a half after the child is born, a brazier of charcoal is put under the mother's bedstead and kept burning for ten days, so that the suffocating atmosphere of a birth-chamber, with every window closed, on a stifling Indian day can be better imagined than described.
The exact moment when the child is born is noted with the most meticulous care, in order that the horoscope may later be correctly drawn by an astrologer, for this horoscope will be the determining factor in the child's life, deciding its spouse, its wedding, and its profession.
Occasionally the midwife throws a lime under the door to tell the good news that a son is born, the sourness of the fruit safeguarding the happiness of the hour.
If the child be a boy, the midwife with a wooden mallet strikes the brass plate that she has previously taken into the birth-chamber and makes an appalling row, in order that the boy may learn never to fear or jump even at the sound, of a gun in later life ; but no gong is sounded if the baby is only a girl. The moment the joyful sound is heard that tells of a boy's advent, the children of the house rush to the male members of the family and torment them, till they are appeased by the gift of one or two rupees ; then, if the proud father's house be in the same town, they hurry on there and [S. 4] get much more out of him. The telling of the good news of the birth of a son is called Vadhāmaṇī, and any woman missionary will tell how pretty and eager a listening she gains from the women of the village when she tells them she has come to bring them the Vadhāmaṇī which once the angels sang at Bethlehem.
If the wee baby be only a girl, the rejoicings are quite different ; for though, after one or two sons have been born, the parents welcome a daughter, most Indians hope that their first-born will be a son. Still, even if the first child be a girl, they say 'Lakṣmī has come ', so that in either case the advent of the first child is considered an auspicious event. The desire for a son is not only the longing for an heir to inherit their property and carry on their name, or the natural desire of most parents to have the pleasure and pride of watching their boy's successful career ; it is something that grips them far more vitally and harrowingly than that, for only a son can save his father's soul from hell by performing the funeral ceremonies, and only the birth of a son can secure his mother from the fear that another wife may be brought in to share with her her husband's affections.1
1 Some Nāgara women, however, are saved from this fear, since, in many districts at least, a Nāgara will not remarry during his wife's lifetime, even if no son be born.
While it is true that, on account of the expense entailed, several daughters are not welcomed, yet it is believed that one daughter, when she is married, brings her parents as much merit as the performance of a great sacrifice ; the great advantage of a marriage ceremony being, as we shall see later, that it combines endless fun with the chance of acquiring religious merit, and it is in the girl's house that the best of the fun takes place.
So the children of the house are determined to make hay, even if it be only a daughter that has been born, and they still go to beg from their uncles and elders, though in such a case they can only hope for annas [1/16 Rupee] instead of rupees. [S. 5]
The young mother at this time is considered specially liable to the assaults of evil, and it is worth while noticing rather carefully all that goes on in the birth-chamber.
In the case of many Brāhmans and other Hindus the afterbirth is buried in the earthen floor under the mother's bedstead, or in some corner of the birth-chamber, and with it are placed one pice [1/64 Rupee], turmeric, some salt, and an areca-nut.1 The umbilical cord is cut at a distance of four fingers' breadth from the child ; the end is bound with cloth and asafoetida [Ferula assafoetida L.], and then tied to the neck of the child with the same piece of string which had previously bound the mother's hair. The cord dries up of itself, and in four or five days drops off, when the place where it had been is smeared with clarified butter.
1 The Nāgara do not permit the after-birth to be buried in the house, but have it thrown away.
At the time the cord is cut, special texts from the Sacred Books ought to be repeated, but this has dropped out of fashion ; indeed, seeing that no man may enter the birth-chamber and no woman repeat the verses, it is difficult to see what else could be expected.
Some Hindus observe special precautions2 to ward off demons or evil dreams : for instance, the scissors which had been used to sever the umbilical cord are put under the pillow on which the young mother's head is resting, and the iron rod with which the floor had been dug up for the burial of the afterbirth is placed on the ground at the foot of the bed. This iron rod is part of a plough, and, if the householder does not possess one of his own, it is specially borrowed for the occasion; its presence is so important that it is not returned for six days, however much its owner may be needing it.
2 These customs are not practised by Nāgara.
Altogether the presence of iron or steel is now an important and rest-giving factor ; for the midwife, before leaving, often secretly introduces a needle into the mattress of the bed, in the hope of saving the mother after-pains.
It is because all these things cannot be carried out in [S. 6] a hospital that it is so difficult to persuade an Indian woman to go there for her confinement ; but there is also another thing that deters her. If the after-birth does not come away of itself, the midwife will give the mother raw millet flour to eat, in order to induce choking and coughing and so produce the desired effect ; or if the case be more obstinate still, she will put fennel seeds into a brazier and hold the smoking mass as close as possible to the patient, whilst some one massages her stomach, and some one else beats her back. But in no case will they insert a hand to pull away the after-birth, for if this be forcibly removed, they firmly believe that the woman will never bear another child.
But now it is time that we turned to the baby ; immediately after the umbilical cord is cut, the child is bathed in warm water. If a girl, it is bathed in an earthen or brass vessel, if a boy, in a bell-metal vessel ; but in either case the vessel has to be given to the midwife as one of her perquisites.
It is interesting to study that lady's fees. As a matter of fact, her actual charge is only eight annas [1 Anna = 1/16 Rupee] for a daughter and one rupee for a son, but she makes her profits on her extras. She asks one rupee for burying the after-birth in the case of a girl, and two rupees in the case of a boy ; but it is when she is going home on the first day that she gets most, for the people of the house have to give her then a coco-nut, a pound and a quarter of wheat, one pound of molasses, half a pound of melted butter, and seven areca-nuts.1 All these things are given her on a tray, which she empties into a corner of her sārī, but as it would be unlucky to hand back an empty tray, she puts a little wheat on to it before returning it. She is given all this on the first day, and again on the sixth, and on the tenth, the twentieth, the thirty- seventh, and the forty-fifth.
1 Rice and millet must never be given to the midwife at this time.
The Scriptures require that even before the umbilical cord is cut a Vedic ceremony, that of Jāta-karma, should be performed, when the child is given a gold coin to lick, besmeared with honey and clarified butter. Nowadays, however, this is [S. 7] often omitted ; but if it is done, it takes place after, and not before, the severing of the cord.
One custom, however, is invariable : practically all Hindus, and Indian Christians too, feed the child for the first three days of its life on gaḷasodī, a mixture of molasses and water ; and not until the third day is the baby put to the mother's breast. Great care is exercised as to the character of the woman who gives this mixture of molasses and water, for it is believed that the giver transmits her own qualities of good temper, wisdom, gentleness, &c., to the new-born infant. If in later life the child turns out badly, its friends reproach it by reminding it of the noble character of the woman who gave it its first molasses.
The woman fasts for the first day ; on the second she is given a thin mixture (rāba) made of molasses, wheat-flour, and clarified butter, and on the third she begins her diet of śīro, a thicker compound of wheat flour, molasses, and melted butter, on which she will live for ten days.
Every Indian woman makes a real attempt to nurse her child and usually succeeds. If the mother, however, is finally unable to do so, some Brāhmans will call in the aid of a wet-nurse of any good caste, but as Nāgara could only employ a woman of their own caste in that capacity, they are practically forced to feed the child by hand. For ten days at least the mother takes every morning a mixture, supposed to have medicinal value, which is composed of thirty-two ingredients, such as ginger, powdered coco-nut, dried gum, molasses, clarified butter, dill, pepper, &c. ; the cost of the whole mixture is about five rupees.
Unfortunately the young mother's diet includes little or no milk, and it is to this lack that some lady doctors attribute much of the phthisis so common amongst them.
Here we might perhaps pause for a moment to notice some more birthday superstitions.
We have seen the care with which the hour of the child's birth is noted. The day of the month and the day of the week are no less important. If a boy is born on the full moon [S. 8] day, a proverb says that he will be very clever but will bring misfortune to others, for (and this is also the case with a boy born on the fourteenth day), either his mother, father, or grandfather will die, or suffer some heavy loss, within the year. There is another proverb about a girl born on a Wednesday: her father or brother will die or suffer loss within the year (she is called their Bhāra or Burden), but she herself will be very rich. Moreover, if a girl is born on a Wednesday, the belief is that the next child will also be a daughter. A girl born on a Tuesday or a Sunday, however, brings wealth to her parents.
Some Hindus believe (though others contradict it) that if three daughters are born one after another, and the fourth child is a son, or if there be three sons and then a daughter, this fourth child will be unable to speak clearly, but will stammer all its life, and still worse, he or she will prove a 'Burden', bound to cause grievous loss, or the death of some relative.
The anxious parents of a child who is a Bhāra go to a Brāhman, who examines the horoscope of the child to find out what means should be taken to prevent the evil happening. Usually a bronze cup is filled with clarified butter, and a silver coin is put in it. The child is made to look into the cup, which is then taken to the father, who also gazes at his reflection. The cup and its contents are given away to a Brāhman, and then, and not till then, is it safe for the father to see his child's face.
Another belief is that, if a girl is born on a Saturday, she will be very bad-tempered, and if on a Thursday, she will be very good-tempered.
The baby's personal appearance is also fraught with deep significance, for a child with light eyes is considered ill-omened, and if marked with anything resembling a serpent will do great harm to its relatives. On the other hand, a red birthmark is very lucky and foretells wealth. A mole in the palm of the left hand or on the lip is also fortunate.1 A further point about the birthday of the child is that the parents do [S. 9] not like it to occur within a year from the marriage day, but no one minds if it is a year and a day from the wedding.
1 We might perhaps mention here another curious superstition held by all castes of Hindus : if in a native state a mare foals by day (they are always supposed to foal by night), the king of the state will assuredly die.
Everybody is pleased if a son is born resembling his mother, or if a daughter be like her father, for such children will be very lucky.
In addition to the two ceremonies of severing the cord and giving the child a gold coin to lick, the Nāgara have a custom of marking their thresholds when a son is born. When this is done, they make straight lines of clarified butter across the doorway as a sign of good luck. Amongst Hindu ladies of all castes it is usual for the acquaintances of the young mother, unless they happen to be in mourning, to go and call on her and inquire after the health of parent and child, and if the child be a boy, Nāgara Brāhmans in comfortable circumstances would give each caller five areca-nuts ; other Brāhmans give molasses or sugar. Amongst Nāgara the friends, however, avoid calling on the sixth or the tenth day, for those are busy times for both mother and child. But other Brāhmans make a point of calling on this sixth day and making presents. If a bereaved mother call and ask for a few grains of pepper and fennel, she is hurriedly refused. If she obtained them, it would mean that her next child would not die, whereas the newly born infant in the house from which she took them would assuredly perish. They also watch that such a woman later on does not try and burn the skin of the child when it is playing in the street, for if she did, it would die, and her next baby would live.
The ceremonies that we have already mentioned may or may not be performed, but we now come to one which is almost universally observed by Hindus : it is the worship of 'Mother Sixth' and coincides with a time which, if ordinary hygienic precautions have not been observed, may be of special danger to the mother.
It is, as the name indicates, observed on the sixth day after [S. 10] the child's birth, and if that sixth day happen to fall on a Sunday or a Tuesday, it is so auspicious a coincidence that the proud father has to pay for it by giving the child gold.
The floor of the birth-chamber is besmeared with red clay, and a low wooden stool is placed near the bedstead, covered with a piece of silk, preferably green or red in colour. Seven leaves of the pīpal tree are put on the stool, three being arranged in the centre and one at each corner. On each of the three central leaves something is painted ; on the middle one of the three a representation of the cradle and child, and on the leaves on either side of it a woman and a man respectively ; and on each one of the seven leaves a little heap of wheat or rice (but not millet) is placed, together with a tiny copper coin (a pice) and an areca-nut. Behind the low stool they put a little lamp fed with clarified butter, but this is arranged with great care in a place where it is invisible to the child, for, if he were to see it, he would later on go blind, or at least squint.1 The next thing is to make the auspicious red mark for the first time since the birth on the mother's and on the child's forehead. This is done by some 'lucky' un-widowed woman, who has never lost a child, marking their foreheads with turmeric with her third finger. The baby is then put down on the floor to roll before the stool, whilst the women sing 'Roll, baby, roll; God has given you birth, He will give you food'. This stool is called Chaṭhī or Sixth. Then the child's paternal aunt comes forward. She is a most important lady and in every ceremony we shall find that she plays a very leading part. Now she performs the actual worship of 'Mother Sixth' by putting some red turmeric and lime powder in water, sprinkling it over the stool, throwing some grains of wheat on it and placing on it or beside it some rice and at least one pice. She next turns to the little mite rolling on the floor and symbolically takes all its troubles on to her own head by waving her arms towards it with [S. 11] a circular motion, and then cracking her knuckles against her temples.2
1 There is a saying that, if a man be squint-eyed, 'He must have seen the lamp on the sixth day '.
2 This action can only be performed by a woman. A man takes his son's troubles symbolically on himself by smelling the child's head.
The child is then lifted up, and, as a protection against evil, some of the black pigment is taken from the lamp of clarified butter and put on the edges of the child's eyelids. The stool is left where it was, but as evening draws on, pen, paper, and ink are put near it, for the belief is that on this night the goddess of fate (Vidhātrī) comes and writes the child's future on the paper, or, as some believe, on the child's forehead. That the future may be auspicious, many Brāhmans are careful to provide only red ink made of turmeric and lime for the goddess to write with.
The next morning all the things are removed. The wheat or rice and the pice are given to the family priest, the midwife gets a present of half a pound of clarified butter, half a pound of molasses, two pounds of wheat, seven areca-nuts, and a coco-nut. The aunt takes the silk away and makes it into a coat for the child, which she will give him when she names him on the twelfth day.2
2 For interesting local differences cf. Bombay Gazetteer, vol. ix, pt. i, p. 34.
On this sixth day the child also gets a good many presents from his friends and relatives, such as silk for a coat, handkerchiefs, or, in the case of a girl, a small sārī ; and the day is further celebrated by a feast, in which all the resident members of the household and close relatives join.
Birth causes ceremonial defilement, and it is a very interesting study to note the mother's progress back to ritual purity.
On the tenth day from the child's birth the mother bathes first with a mixture of turmeric and scented white powder in the water, and then washes with arīṭhā nut.3 This marks her first step back towards ceremonial purity, for she may now clean her teeth for the first time since the child's birth, and an auspicious mark is again made on her forehead. To avoid [S. 12] a chill after bathing, her hair is dried and rubbed with dry ginger, and she is made to sit near a brazier. She next takes a few grains of green pulse in her hand and throws them on the bedstead, which is removed and a new one substituted. (The throwing of the pulse seems to be a sign of gratitude and auspiciousness.) The Nāgara put ten nuts and ten pieces of bāvala stick for cleaning the teeth near the bedstead on this day, but Audīca, Sārasvata, and Vālama Brāhmans do not seem to do this. With all of them, however, the mother, after bathing, takes warm water and milk1 in her hand three separate times and sips it three times. (Up to the thirteenth day the mother is always given warm water to drink ; if she drink it cold, they think the child would die.) If the mother be strong enough, she observes all this tenth day as a fast.
3 Sapindus Saponaria. [= Sapindus trifoliatus, Waschnuss]
1 She only sips this diluted milk now ceremonially. She may not drink milk yet as an ordinary thing, lest she should never have another child.
The tenth day is an important date for the child also, for on this day it is bathed, first with half a cup of molasses mixed with milk, and then with warm water. After it is bathed, a very pretty little symbolic ceremony takes place : if it be a boy, he is put to lie for an instant on a slate that he may develop into a learned man ; if a girl, she is deposited on a winnowing fan that she may grow up clever in domestic ways, of which cleaning the grain is one of the most important. (There is not yet much demand for a blue-stocking in an orthodox Brāhman household !)
A feast is given on the eleventh day, if the babe be a boy, to which all the father's relatives are invited, but the father himself, though the feast is actually given in the house where the child was born, may see neither mother nor baby. The paternal grandfather, however, is often shown the child, and, according to his means, gives it either gold or silver coins.
The father himself, if very keen on doing so, is allowed to see the child, though not the mother, on the next day, the twelfth after its birth. [S. 13]
The twelfth day of a child's life is as important as the sixth, for on it another of the Vedic sacraments, that of Name-Giving (Nāmakaraṇa) is performed. Certain Brāhmans, believing that, whilst even days are lucky for girls, uneven ones are auspicious for boys, hold that a boy should be named on the eleventh day and a girl on the twelfth. All, however, agree that, if these days fall during the dark half of the month, the ceremony must be postponed till some lucky day in the bright of the moon. On whichever day is fixed for the ceremony, both the father's and the mother's relatives come to the house where the child was born, where a mixture of millet1 (which has been steeped in water since the morning), coco-nut and sugar is distributed amongst the guests present and sent to the houses of those who are not able to come.
1 In certain non-Brāhman communities wheat, gram and molasses are cooked together on this day and distributed. But the Brāhmans consider the cooking of two different kinds of grain together as impure.
The paternal aunt again takes the lead and, producing scarlet-coloured threads, fashioned partly from cotton and partly from silk which she has brought with her, ties one on each of the baby's wrists and ankles, two at its waist and one on its cradle. In the old days, folk say, the thread used was black, to ward off the Evil Eye more securely ; it is only nowadays that red is used.2 Certain Brāhmans decline to weave such a spider's web of threads round their child, and declare that one on the waist and one on the cradle are sufficient as a protection against the Evil Eye. The aunt also brings with her two tiny little bits of gold, each weighing perhaps half a gramme, one of which she ties on the cradle and one at the waist of the child for luck, or she may tie little pieces of iron on its cradle to keep off the Evil Eye.
2 The change was probably made in order to avoid the use of so inauspicious a colour as black.
Meanwhile in the principal room of the house a square portion of the floor has been smeared with red clay, and on this pīpal leaves have been placed. The baby is now brought for the first time in its little life out of the stiflingly hot birth-chamber [S. 14] and, being placed in a red silk sārī, is swung as though in a hammock above the reddened patch on the floor. The four corners of the sārī are held by the four nearest relatives of the child, its own brothers and sisters, if there be any, being given the preference ; as the children swing the hammock, they sing, and at the strategic moment the ubiquitous aunt pronounces the name. The song runs (in Gujarātī):
Oḷī jhoḷī pīpaḷa pāna,
Phoie pāḍyuṃ [Rāma] nāma.1
1 Cradle and pīpala tree and leaves of the same
Aunt has chosen [Rāma] as baby's name.
It is easy to give the name when it has been decided on, the difficulty occurs earlier in the choice of the name, for in India a name is a momentous thing, and it can only be chosen after many things have been taken into consideration, and still more avoided. The letters of the Gujarātī alphabet are under the influence of the constellations, but, as there are fifty-two letters in the alphabet and only twenty-seven constellations, each constellation has more than one letter under its sway, some indeed have three. The first letter of the child's name must begin with one of the letters that belong to the constellation under which it was born ; thus, if the child was born under the Zodiacal sign of the crab, which owns both the letters H and D, the initial of his first name must be one of the two, and the priest will tell the paternal aunt which initial to choose. But even when the initial is decided on, there is still a great deal of thought to be given to the name: it must not be that by which any dead relative was called, neither may it be the same as the child's father or grandfather, but, at least in the case of Brāhmans, it should contain the appellation of some god, and end either in Rāma, Śaṅkara, Rāya, or Lāla.
In addition to this aunt-given name, the father's name is used as a sort of hyphened name, and then there is the family name ; the next generation will keep the family name [S. 15] and drop their grandfather's name, substituting their own father's for it. A wife in marriage takes the family name, but always keeps her own father's name, and a mistake Europeans often make is to address, for instance, Putalībāī, the wife of Dādābhāī, as Mrs. Putalībāī Dādābhāī, instead of putting her father's name after her own.
A taboo on names is still observed, and is universal throughout India. The wife never mentions her husband's name, and a husband never mentions his wife's, save on the wedding day. The correct way for a husband to send a message to his wife is to say, not 'tell that to my wife', but 'tell that in my house', and in the same manner he announces any message he may have received from his wife as 'from inside my house one says'. Similarly the polite way to ask after the health of a man's wife is to say 'are the ladies of your house well ?' not 'is Mrs. Bhatt well ?'
In some castes, until the mother and father are about fifty, they do not as a rule mention their children's names; after that the husband might allude, to his wife as 'the mother of my son so-and-so' ; until the father is about fifty, he never speaks to his children in the presence of his elders, and would never call to his son if his own father were at hand.
If a mother have lost more than one child, the new baby is not named until it is six months or a year old, or, if there be mourning or ceremonial impurity (sūtaka) in a family, the name-giving is postponed till some more auspicious season. But, if possible, the name-giving takes place on the twelfth day. The mother is then only winning her way back to a state of ceremonial purity, so she cannot be present, but she watches everything from the birth-chamber, the door of which is left ajar. She is still too impure to touch any one, so she cannot embrace the feet of the all-important aunt, her sister-in-law, but she does obeisance to her from a distance, and gives her four, or eight, annas. The midwife is also given a present. The mother makes the auspicious mark on her forehead again this day, and now her diet [S. 16] also changes, and she is allowed vegetable curry, but no rice, for fear of cold ; special sweets are also prepared (called Methī), some of which the mother must eat every morning ; these contain, amongst their thirty-two ingredients, five pounds of molasses, five pounds of melted butter, ginger, coco-nut, gum, &c. The most important ingredient is the ginger, for this is supposed to impart great bravery to the child, indeed a proverb has arisen from this belief, and, if a man prove very courageous, his neighbours declare that his mother must have eaten a whole pound of ginger.
For the young mother the twentieth day marks another step forward towards ceremonial purity. On this day she bathes sitting on the bedstead, and afterwards is given dry ginger, molasses, and clarified butter to eat, to avoid any fear of a chill.
After she has bathed, she throws some grains of green pulse on the bedstead, which is then removed, and a new one the third substituted ; the room is freshly plastered, and she again makes the auspicious mark on her forehead. But, though less impure, she may not yet do any housework, perform any religious duties, or go outside her room for more than a minute. The diet is now more liberal, various articles, such as bread and pulse, being added to it, but as yet no rice is allowed.
Another stage is reached on the thirtieth day, for then the mother bathes, not in her bedroom, but in the ordinary household bathroom. As before, she makes the auspicious mark, throws green pulse on the bedstead, and has the room plastered, but still, as one informant puts it, 'she may do no work and no religion' and may not go outside the courtyard of the house.
With the Nāgara the thirty-seventh day is practically a replica of the thirtieth, and with them it is not till the forty-fifth day that the period of ceremonial defilement is ended. With most other Brāhmans it ends on the thirty-seventh day with bathing, removing the cot, and changing to ordinary dress. (Up till now the mother has been restricted to one or two sets of clothes.) [S. 17]
With the Nāgara the period lasts till the forty-fifth day, when the young mother bathes and clothes herself, if possible in silk garments, or, if not, in cotton ones that have never been worn previously, and goes to the nearest Śiva temple. There she bows to the figure of the god, and puts some silver coins near the shrine ; then, returning to her mother's home, she does obeisance to the feet of each elderly woman relative and offers them some small present, such as four annas. If her husband's house be near at hand, she goes there also, and bows to the feet of her mother-in-law and the elderly ladies there, each of whom blesses her and says something pretty, such as 'May you have no worries and many children'.
From the date of the child's birth up till now the mother has not been allowed to drink milk, but hereafter she may take that, and also another special mixture, made of gum and clarified butter and other ingredients, a little of which she takes every day. Now, at long last, the woman is considered pure, and the ceremonial defilement or sūtaka is finally lifted. After this date her husband can send for her to come home any day he likes, and after the birth of a second child he does not delay very long ; but, in the case of a first child, he generally allows his wife to stay six months in her mother's home. When she goes back to him, her father has to give her a new trousseau, containing a certain number of garments, the number fixed on being very often eight, so that he would have to give her eight new sans, eight bodices, and eight petticoats. (Fortunately the fashions do not alter in Indian households, so that all these can be accumulated for future use!) The child also has to have presents: jewellery, coats, frocks, a cradle, a bed worth at least sixteen rupees, a quilt, some brass vessels, &c. Altogether the maternal grandfather of the new baby is lucky, in the case of a first grandchild, if he gets off under two hundred rupees, and if he be really very wealthy, the ladies of the family will see that he upholds the honour of his house by spending at least one thousand rupees on gifts to mother and [S. 18] child ; he will manage, however, to lay out less on each succeeding child that is born to his daughter.
There is another old Vedic ceremony called Niṣkramaṇa which is now occasionally observed in very orthodox families on any convenient auspicious day after the forty-fifth.
In the case of a Nāgara lady a square portion of the courtyard, from whence the sun is easily visible, is plastered with cow-dung and red clay, and on it the sign of the Svastika1 is made. The mother, wearing silk clothes, or absolutely new cotton ones, throws rice grains on to the square, and then, taking her baby in her arms, points out the sun to it, and singing the praises of that great luminary, prays to it for a long life for herself and her child.
1 The Svastika is a cross with the arms bent round.
Other Brāhman ladies, whose customs permit them to fetch water, have another ceremony. With them, on any auspicious day after the forty-fifth, the young mother goes down to the river, taking with her two small water-pots, some rice in the husk, and some millet grain. Arrived there, she bathes, smears her forehead with red powder, and sticks rice that has been coloured red with turmeric on her forehead, and then walks home, carrying the filled water-pots and dropping rice and millet from her hands as she walks.
Some Brāhmans observe a special ceremony, when the child is two or three months old, offering it milk out of a conch-shell, but this is not very usual now, at least in western India ; nor is another custom much observed at the present day of the mother touching first her own and then the child's lips with an areca-nut leaf.
At the time of Holī (the obscene Spring festival), however, nearly all Brāhmans perform some special ceremonies. The Nāgara, indeed, consider the child still somewhat impure until the first Holī after its birth be passed. On the Holī day the baby girl or boy is taken to see the Holī fire, wearing round its throat a necklace of sugar drops. It is then carried round [S. 19] the fire three times, in such a way that its right hand is nearest to the flames. The next day the family priest comes and touches the child's lips with mango leaves or blossoms, but the Nāgara are particular that the red Holī powder should not be sprinkled over the child's clothes. Other Brāhmans deny that they consider the child impure till it has seen the Holī fire ; nevertheless their ceremony for a child at its first Holī is more elaborate than that of the Nāgara. They dress the child in white clothes, sprinkle it with red or yellow powder, and adorn it with a necklace of dates, sugar, or pieces of coconut. Arrived at the Holī fire, water is sprinkled on the ground, and the mother, carrying the child on her left arm and holding a jug with a coco-nut on it, walks three times' round the fire, pouring water from the jug as she walks. She then throws the coco-nut and some parched gram and parched millet into the flames. The coco-nut is rescued from the fire, and the unburnt part is divided amongst the bystanders, being known as Holī prasāda.
Some Brāhmans -- not usually the Nāgara -- not only mark the baby's first Spring festival, but also its first Dīvālī, the great Autumn festival. The young mother kneads some cow-dung into a triangle, or into a disk and, making a hole in the centre, inserts a piece of sugar-cane and places in it a lighted wick of cotton. Then, taking her baby in her arms, she goes from house to house, bearing the light in her hands, and asking for a few drops of clarified butter to keep it burning. She believes that she thus gains light for Pitṛ-loka, where her dead ancestors are.
Another Vedic ceremony, the weaning or Anna-prāśana, takes place about the ninth month with Nāgara, and about the sixth with other Brāhmans. A milk pudding is made with milk, sugar, and rice, and some of this is put on a silver coin and given to the child to lick. According to the Scriptures, it ought to be put on a gold coin, but nowadays it is usually placed on a silver one ; anyhow the ubiquitous aunt gets the coin, whatever be its value. The gold is supposed to have [S. 20] medicinal properties and to cure the three great diseases of the body : bile, cough, and wind.
We have called this 'weaning', but perhaps 'solid-food-giving' would have been a more appropriate title, for the mother goes on nursing the child, sometimes up to five years if no other child be born in the interval, though nowadays it is considered wiser only to nurse a child till it is about two years of age. The mother feeds the child quite irregularly, any time night or day when it cries, indeed it seems quite impossible to get an Indian woman to maintain a two-hours' interval between her baby's meals.
Sometimes, but not often in western India, the rite is observed of making the child at about seven or eight months old sit on the ground, when it worships the snake which upholds the earth.
Occasionally about this time, some orthodox families persuade the tiny child to choose its profession in life, by setting before it the symbols of the various callings, such as a pen, a knife, paper, &c. Whichever the child chooses it will be expected to adopt later on.
The child is then left in peace until some auspicious time between the age of three or five, when another Vedic ceremony, that of the hair-cutting, Caula-karma, is performed. Particular families often have to go to particular places to perform this rite : for instance, one princely family in the centre of Kāṭhiāwār has to go right off to Waḍhwān, that the hair may be cut near the memorial stone of a famous ancestress, Rāṇaka Devī.
Nearly all Nāgara have to go to their ancestral homes, but in the case of other Brāhmans, only if the mother of the child has made a vow to do so. Ceremonial hair-cutting is not usually performed for girls ; modern Brāhmans, indeed, say that, though prescribed in their Scriptures for girls, it is prescribed without mantras being given.
The family priest having chosen an auspicious day, the father, the mother and child, and the inevitable troop of servants go to the prescribed place. There a booth is erected, [S. 21] and an altar containing the fire is made. The child is bathed and dressed in silk, and the mother taking him on her lap sits near the altar.
The presiding priest or Ācārya takes some water in his right hand, in such a way that it lies at the base of the second and third fingers, and says solemnly: 'I perform the ceremony of cutting the hair, in order that the child may be free from the impurities contracted in the womb, and, being loved by God, may have a happy and a long life '.
Then follows the worship of Gaṇapati (or Gaṇeśa), that the whole ceremony may pass off auspiciously without any obstacle. The Elephant-headed son of Śiva, who would be up to mischief unless he were first placated, is worshipped by the offering of flowers, fruit, lights, and the five nectars, in the regular eightfold worship which we shall study later. Next comes the recital by four Brāhmans (who may be married or unmarried, but must on no account be widowers) of four passages from as many Vedas of five verses of Blessing. All four priests then sprinkle the child with holy water, which has been sanctified by first putting mango and aśoka [Saraca asoca (Roxb.) Wilde] leaves in it, and afterwards reciting mantras over it ; the jug containing the water has also had a red cotton thread tied on its handle, and an areca-nut, a pice [1/64 Rupee], and a few grains of rice placed in it.
The fifteen mother-goddesses, together with Gaṇapati, are now represented by sixteen heaps of rice, on which are placed a pice and an areca-nut. Seven more goddesses are shown by seven lines of clarified butter, and then a Maṅgala Śrāddha takes place.
As a rule, a Śrāddha is an inauspicious ceremony performed after a death, but at this time only an auspicious sacrifice to the ancestors is intended, so none of the Brāhmans change the position of their sacred thread,1 and their hands are held with the palms downwards, not upwards. The names of the father, [S. 22]
1 The student can always see at once whether the ceremony he is witnessing be auspicious or inauspicious by noticing the position of the thread.
grandfather and great-grandfathers, together with all their wives, are mentioned, and clarified butter is poured on the sacrificial fire. All is then ready for the actual ceremony to begin.
The priest pours some warm water into cold (thus reversing the usual order at ceremonies) and mixes either melted butter or curds with it, and then wets the child's right ear with the mixture.
Next, taking a porcupine quill which has three white marks on it, he combs the boy's hair and plaits three pieces of darbha grass [Desmostachya bipinnata (L.) Stapf] into it. The priest then picks up a particular kind of razor which has an iron blade affixed with a copper nail, and cuts the upper part of the hair, into which he has already plaited the grass. As the hair falls, either the mother or the paternal aunt (so long as neither be a widow) receives it and mixes it with cow-dung.
The priest cuts the hair again closer, and again a third time, being careful of course to leave the śikhā or sacred topknot.
In the same way the priest cuts the hair from three other parts of the head, waving the razor round the head and saying mantras the first time but not again.
The barber next steps forward and performs what may be called the second part of the ceremony, the shaving of the head, which is done without mantras being said.
The child is then bathed, and a Svastika sign is made on its head.
The cut hair is, as we saw, mixed with cow-dung, and afterwards either flung into a river, or a well, or else thrown away in a cow-stall.
[Bildquelle: whodisan215. -- http://www.flickr.com/photos/piven/1809715659/in/set-72157602818512147/. -- Zugriff am 2008-10-10. -- Creative Commons Lizenz (Namensnennung, keine kommerzielle Nutzung, keine Bearbeitung)]
The barber, when he shaves the child, is as careful as the priest to avoid cutting the sacred top-knot. Every Hindu who performs Sandhyā should wear this top-knot (just as every Muhammadan should wear a beard), and this often makes a very convenient touchstone for a missionary, when he suspects a man of being anxious to make the best of both the [S. 23] Hindu and the Christian worlds. Mr. Facing-Both-Ways is generally very unwilling to part with this outward and visible sign of his Hinduism. No experienced missionary, however, would baptize a man who insisted on retaining it. On the other hand anglicized clerks in Government offices very often cut it off as a mere matter of fashion and convenience.
But to return to the hair-cutting ceremony : the priest should be given 'the value of a cow', which has nowadays come to mean about five rupees, or (if the supposed cow were very valuable) twenty-five rupees.
The ceremony is now over, and the only thing that remains is to give Gaṇapati and the fifteen 'mother-goddesses' and the seven other goddesses a hint to go in such a manner that their feelings may not be injured. This is done by throwing grains of rice on the sixteen heaps of rice and the seven lines of clarified butter and saying in Sanskrit : 'You may take your leave, please come back when invited on an auspicious occasion '.
As we have seen, girls do not usually have their hair ceremonially cut, but many Brāhmans have a belief that a girl baby must not be taken out in the monsoon until her hair has been cut, lest she should be struck by lightning.
Another Vedic ceremony which is still practised for both girls and boys is the Boring of the Ear (Karṇa-vedha). It is not considered proper for a father to see the face of his daughter until her ears have been bored, so in the case of a girl it is done as early as possible, generally before the sixth day.
But whatever the sex of the child, the ceremony is much the same. An auspicious day is chosen, and the child is so arranged as to face the east. Then it is given a sweet to eat, and whilst the ears are pierced, the officiant says : 'See what is good with the eyes, hear what is good with the ears, smell what is good with the nose, taste what is good with the mouth'.
The officiant may be the father of the child, or a priest, but [S. 24] most generally nowadays a woman from outside is called in to do it and paid four annas for her trouble, besides being given presents of wheat, molasses, and clarified butter. A proverb runs : 'It 's only a stranger woman who has the heart to pierce the child's ear'.
The needle chosen should be of silver or gold in the case of a caste Hindu, and iron for a Śūdra, and the ear is pierced in the lobe, a hole being made there big enough for the sun's rays to pass through. Sometimes another hole is also pierced in the middle of the ear to keep off sickness. The operator repeats the names of Gaṇapati and of the tutelary gods, as well as of the three great gods, Brahmā, Viṣṇu, and Śiva, together with the nine planets and the eight protectors of the cardinal points, and finally bows to a Brāhman.
The ears are marked with red before they are pierced, and afterwards a red thread is introduced. Both ears are bored, the left ear with girls being the first to be pierced, and with boys the right. The ceremony ends by the parents either giving alms to Brāhmans or feasting them. A girl's nose is generally bored also, but it is not usual to bore a boy's unless his elder brother has died, in which case the new baby's nose is bored as soon as possible, perhaps when he is only ten days old.
There does not seem to be any actual ceremony with regard to teething, but there is amongst Brāhmans, as amongst other Hindus, a firm belief that neither the mother nor the mother's own sister must ever look at the child's mouth to count how many teeth have appeared, as that would make the teething harder. A proverb declares : 'If the mother or her sister look, the teeth that are coming will run away '.
All through the Hindu customs, although it is the father's sister who plays the leading part, there is a pretty belief in the oneness of the mother and her own sister ; and a proverb runs : 'Though the mother departs, yet the mother's sister remains . In this case the mother's sister is regarded as too nearly identical with the mother to be allowed to look at the [S. 25] teeth, but the ever useful father's sister is called in (really that pushing lady must lead a bustling life !) if there is any difficulty, to rub the child's jaw till the teeth come through.
The first time that a child attends school is an important occasion. To begin with, it is extremely inauspicious to send a child in his sixth year ; so, if he has not begun to go in his fifth (which is rather early for the pursuit of knowledge), he must wait till he is seven, which will make him rather backward. The difficulty is often surmounted by sending a child to school, if only for a day, when he is five, and then, the initial step having been taken, he can continue his studies in his sixth year without the fear of ill luck dogging him.
The Nāgara community seem to make more of the Beginning of Knowledge than any of the other Brāhmans. With them the parent gives the boy a tiny silver slate and a minute gold pen, the silver slate being carefully covered with red powder. The family priest writes Śrī (i. e. Lakṣmī) on the slate, and the child repeats the word three times. According to the Scriptures, the priest should write on the slate in Sanskrit
'Salutation to Gaṇeśa,
Salutation to Siddha,
Salutation to Sarasvatī',
and the child should write over this with his pencil, but as a matter of fact this is seldom done in modern times.
The boy goes to the school and presents the slate and pencil to the master, together with a coco-nut. An old custom, seldom carried out now, was that he should also give the master a turban.
If the parents of the new boy are very rich, he is sometimes taken in a regular procession through the streets, and sweets are distributed amongst all the other pupils, and arrived at the school, he worships the master and some pens and ink.
With ordinary Brāhmans nowadays the child generally has neither silver slate nor procession, but just goes quietly to school, where he gives the Head sugar and a coco-nut. [S. 26]
A boy's birthday in India is not generally the wonderful and glorious day that it is to a child in England. On each anniversary he is just washed in water mixed with milk and molasses, and a lucky woman waves her arms towards him and cracking her knuckles against her forehead takes on herself his ill luck. If the family is very orthodox, he will probably worship Mārkaṇḍeya, one of the seven immortal sages, in order to gain a long life himself. Sad to say, it is considered unlucky to observe a girl's birthday at all.