Friday, September 22, 2023



The Birth of a Child

Birth of the first child after marriage, in particular is a great event in any household, specially in affluent families which have had no children.

On conception, the women is not allowed to sleep alone or go out  after dusk or eat spicy foods. At eclipses  she has to lie down without moving her legs. She is not supposed to cross a river or climb a hill during  pregnancy.

A ceremony called 'Valaikauppu' is held in the fifth or seventh month of pregnancy, when the pregnant woman is presented with new sets of bangles. Her mother-in-law  or sister-in-law leads her to the temple and to a bangle shop where she selects the bangles of her choice. Some families arrange to get the bangle-seller to their houses and the purchase of the bangles is a part of the ritual. She seeks blessing of elderly men and women  after putting on the bangles.

During the sixth or eighth month of pregnancy, a ceremony called 'Seemantham', a sacrificial fire is lit and the husband and his wife pray jointly for the gift of child and for safe delivery by circumbulating the fire. The woman prays that she may beget a son in her first pregnancy, possibly to prevent the husband or his mother nursing a grievance if a girl is born.

When the wife is pregnant, orthodox Brahmins are not expected to shave their beard. Shaving is supposed to affect  the child in the womb. To ensure that no child is born in the hot month of Chitrai, efforts are taken even ten months earlier, in the month of Adi to separate the newly-married couple for a whole month. This is known as 'Aaskku-Azhaithal'.

After delivery, the women and her off-spring are kept in seclusion for about a fort-night. On the seventh or eleventh day after the birth of child, relatives bathe the child and place him /her in a cradle bedecked with flowers. Usually the child is given the name of the grandfather, grandmother or name of a recently deceased kith or kin or the family deity. The child is adorned with a waist ring made up of Erukku (calotropis gignate) hark fiber, on which are strung some heads made out of the roots tops of garlic, a copper coin with the figure of a dog stamped on it, a crescent shaped copper, amulet and a metallic cylindrical amulet within which is embedded a bit of the umbilical cord of the child. A necklace of red and white glass beads strung alternatively is placed around the neck. 

The Christians of Tamil Nadu take the child after the seventh day, preferably on the Sunday, to the church for Baptism. Some relative or friend is chosen as the Baptist mother and father. The name of the Baptist mother and father are mentioned in the certificate issued by the church. The larger the number of occasions on which a person has acted Baptist mother, the greater is her place in social life.

The Mudavas of the Palani hill bathe the mother and the child in river-water three days after the delivery. An important function is the first ceremonial shaving and the piercing of the ears. The child is tonsured, bathed and dressed in gay attire, his /her ears pierce and adorned with ear-rings. Kith and kin join together to celebrate the event.