Saturday, 20 June 2015

Annaprashana - 7th Shodasa Samskara

There is a popular saying in Hindi that says “jaisa ann vaisa mann” which means as “as is the food, so is the mind”. The food we eat nourishes us physically and also affects our mind.

Annaprāshana is an important ceremony performed in the sixth month. The child is fed solid food for the first time. This ceremony is done to bring good health, radiance and physical strength in the child. Relatives and friends are invited to a feast specially prepared for the occasion.

Medically speaking a child is not able to digest food for the first four to six months. So breast- feeding is essential initially. Feeding the child with solid food was the next important stage in the life of the child. After six to seven months, the child’s body was developed and required greater amount, different type of food so for the benefit of the child it was important to wean away the child from breast feeding to solid food. Thus this S was connected with the satisfaction of the physical need of the child. Endorsed by Susruta, who prescribes the weaning of a child in the sixth month and describes the type of food given. It was only later that this system of feeding the child assumed a religious shape. Food, the source of energy was to be infused into the child with the help of Gods.

According to the Grhyasutras the ceremony was performed in the sixth month after birth. Other Smritis too are of the same opinion. Laugaksi says when the teeth come out so that a child can eat solid food. The prayer was offered so that all the senses of the child are gratified so that he may live a happy and content life. But it was kept in mind that search for gratification should not violate the rules of health and morality because it would spoil the fame of man. In the end the father set apart foods of all kinds and flavors for feeding the child and fed it silently or with the syllable “Hant” (well). The ceremony terminated with the feasting of the Brahmans.

The significance of Annaprasana was this that children were weaned away from their mothers at proper time. It was a reminder to the mother the time had come for the child to have solid food as well as for her to realize that she needs to conserve her energy. Using all her energies to feed the child is of no benefit to either the child or the mother.


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