Namkaran Customs

It is a traditional Hindu and Indian practice that a ceremony known as Namkaran be held for the purpose of naming a baby. The word Namkaran is derived from two Indian words, Nama, meaning 'name', and Karana, meaning to 'put into effect'. The ceremony varies widely depending upon the culture, religious orientation, and education level of the individual family. No matter how the ceremony is carried out, the Namkara is considered to be an important rite of passage for a Hindu infant. Much consultation with elders and priests is held to aid in the determining of the name of the baby.

Guests Honor the Newborn Child

There is a preference for holding the Namkaran on the eleventh or twelfth day after birth. Hindu mythology dictates that the ceremony is largely a woman's function and female relatives and friends will arrive on the lucky day to help in the celebration and in the naming of the infant. The infant is placed in a cradle decorated with flowers and multicolored ribbons. Traditional songs just for the naming ceremony are sung at the cradle-side and songs are chosen that rhyme with the baby's name. Guests bring rice or sugar, and sometimes toys to honor the newborn child. 

The Paternal Aunts of the Infant Swing the Cloth Holding the Baby

The venue of the Namkaran is either at the home of the infant, or in a temple. Usually the ceremony is held on the twelfth day after birth but some parents prefer to hold the ceremony after three months have passed. Since the baby is too big for the cradle at this time, a sturdy piece of cloth is used to hold the baby. Sometimes the paternal aunts of the infant swing the cloth holding the baby in a gentle, swaying rhythm, to match the cadence of the songs sung at the Namkaran. Items are placed alongside the baby inside the cloth as good omens. Some of the items that are used for this purpose are a green chewing bread known as nagarvel paan, betel nuts, known as supari, turmeric, known as haldi, and coins of one rupee and one quarter rupee denominations since in Hindu mythology, one and one quarter is a sign of good luck.

There are some prerequisites in choosing a Hindu baby's name. The name should be easy to pronounce and pleasant sounding. In general, there are a specified number of syllables and vowels in a Hindu name. The chosen name should also indicate the sex of the child. It is preferred that the name should signify power, fame, or wealth. The name should also identify the caste of the infant's family.

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