Namakarana

(Naming the child)

          This is a simple ceremony in which the child is given a name. The ceremony of naming a child. Nama literally means 'name' and karana means 'to make, to effect'.

As the primary means of identification and social interaction, the naming of a child developed into a religious ritual believed to be the root of the child's destiny.

This ceremony takes place after the 10-day 'impure' postnatal period (See Jatakarma). Then the house is cleaned and purified, and the child and mother ceremonially bathed. Friends and relatives are invited to see the child and participate in the celebration. The puja involves, other than the child and priest, the father, mother, and sometimes the paternal grandmother. First the mother covers the child in a new cloth. She wets the child's head with water, symbolically bathing him, and then gives the child either to the father or the paternal grandmother. Next, the priest invokes the blessings of Agni, the planetary bodies, and other gods.

The Grihyasutras  do not specify a Namakarana procedure for the actual naming of the child. The Paddhatis (Sampradayas), however, say that the father should lean towards the child's right ear. Holding a betel leaf near the ear, he should whisper four names to the child. Then Brahmins, specially invited for the occasion, bless the child. Finally, gifts are given to the relatives and Brahmins present.

The word nama meaning 'name' is common in early Sanskrit literature and occurs in the Rig Veda  Although initially no Vedic mantras were recited during the naming ritual, it developed into a Samskaras because of its social importance.

Many of the early texts prescribe more than one name for an individual. The Smritis, on the basis of astrological works further developed the system of naming. According to the Rig-Veda (see Vedas ), a child of either sex should be given four names:

 The Nakshatra name: This is given according to the constellation, or Nakshatra, (see Panchangam ) the child is born under. Each constellation has a name, and several letters of the Sanskrit alphabet are also assigned to it. The Nakshatra name could therefore be the name of the constellation itself, or begin with any of the letters assigned to that constellation.

The Baudhayana Dharmasutra  connects the constellation with the child's future. This is a secret name, which some give during Jatakarman.

The name of the deity of the month: Each month of the Hindu calendar is associated with a particular deity, which usually has several names. The child's second name is one of the names of the deity of the month in which it is born.

 The name of the family deity: Every Namakarana family has one deity who has been worshipped for generations. The name of this deity is given to protect the child from evil.

 The popular name: This is the name that the child is known by. It depends on the culture and education of the family, and should be auspicious. The former is known to the Grihya-sutras, which speak of a popular name in addition.  The practice of naming children after favorite deities began in the Puranic times.  The rise of the Bhakti cult made this practice so popular, that by naming children after gods, we are deemed to gain several opportunities for uttering God’s name whenever we call the child.  The story of Ajamila is pointed out for the effectiveness of this method.  Shortening of the names of children deprives us of this opportunity.

 According to the Grihya sutras , there are five requisites to naming a child:

  • the name should be easy to pronounce and sound pleasant;
  • it should contain a specified number of syllables and vowels;
  • it should indicate the sex of the child;
  •  it should signify fame, wealth, or power; and
  •  it should be suggestive of the caste  of the family.

 For example a Brahmin child should have an auspicious name, a Kshatriya child should have a name that suggests power, a Vaishya child should have a name that suggests wealth, and a Shudra child should have a name that indicates his service.

Some people give their children name that sound ugly or have unpleasant A priest making a child's horoscope during the naming ceremony. Namakarana meanings in the belief that this will frighten away diseases, and evil spirits and influences

Nowadays, this ceremony usually takes place on the twelfth day after birth. It is not a formal ceremony, but more of an opportunity to invite family and friends to celebrate the baby's arrival. There is usually a havan, and then the child's name is announced to the gathering. Usually only a Nakshatra name and a popular name are given.

The priest makes an astrological calculation according to the time and date on which the child is born. On this basis, he prescribes a letter of the alphabet with which the child's Nakshatra name should begin. If the family is agreeable, this name doubles as the popular name as well. Usually, however, the nakshatra name is not used, and the child is given another name by which he is commonly known

 According to Aswalayana, the names of boys should have an even number of syllables.  A two-syllabled name will bring material fame and four-syllabled, religious fame.  The girl’s name should have an odd number of syllables and end in “I” or “aa”.  It should be easy to pronounce, pleasing to the ear and auspicious.  It should not contain awkward suggestions.  There are practices like choosing the name after the Nakshatras of birth and also after the ancestors.

            This ceremony is performed, normally, on the tenth or twelfth day after birth.  If there are inconveniences it is taken to the end of the first year. The appropriate day for this function is the 10th, 12th or 16th day of the child’s birth. Failing to perform it on any of these days, an auspicious day, say the Vedas should be chosen for the purpose – after the 16th day of the child’s birth.

           After preliminaries the parent gives the offering to gods, touches the breath of the child symbolizing the awakening of its consciousness and says in its ear:  “Your name is…..” thrice.  The Brahmins and elders are asked to follow, calling the child by that name and blessing it.  A personality is sought to be given.

           It follows that Namakarana should not be postponed to the day of marriage or Upanayana.

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