Monday, February 26, 2024

The People


Ceremonies connected with a birth of a child

The birth of a child is the most important thing in the woman's life after marriage. Her health is carefully looked after by elderly women. Every member of the family tries to keep her in good spirits and so elderly women try to surround her with an atmosphere of piety: religious books are read; rites of Pungsavan are observed and she is given panchamrita. For a month from the birth of a child, the mother is held impure. She is not allowed to touch anything in the house.

A fire is kept constantly burning with paddy husks or dried cow dung near her to drive off evil spirits. After the first month is over, the suddhi, ceremony is held when mother and child are purified and allowed to mix with others. The baby's head is shaved off. The Lalungs have another wonderful custom; the mother brings the baby washed clean, out of the house in the morning and let him face the east, a women-priest brings a specially-made bow and arrows to be touched by the baby and shoots four arrows in the four corners, feigning  that the baby itself is shooting and praying to Narayana, Ananta, Mahadeva and Yama to protect it from calamity. If it is a girl, she is touched with a piece of  cotton and a sickle instead of with bow and arrows and: "your struggle is outside  the house", is whispered to the boy and "your struggle is inside the house", to the girl.

Other ceremonies connected with a new-born baby such as namakaram, chudakaram and annaprasam are undergone by Brahmanas according to Sastric rites. Non-Brahmans hold only the ceremony of annaprasam when the baby is its fifth, seventh or ninth month. The first morsel is put  into its mouth (bhat mukhat diya ) by its maternal uncle. A feast is conducted and congregational prayers are held.

Some Buddhist of Assam observe a kind of purification rites for both mother and child. The Dowaniyas do it with the help of a Fungi (priest) who perform religious functions. The Buddhist Fakials bring the baby outside to the elevated verandah of the houses built on poles only after seven days and they bring down the baby to the ground only after a month, when old women tie black thread to its hands and legs to wish it well  in life. Some Hindus also tie a black thread around the baby's waist to ward off effects of evil eyes.