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Posted: Saturday, April 25, 2015 10:51 AM


Baby traditions: Indian mundan ceremony

• What is mundan?
• Why is the newborn’s hair tonsured?
• How is the mundan ceremony performed?
• Where can I perform the mundan ceremony?
• Tips for a safe mundan

What is mundan?
Tonsuring is an important ceremony in Hindu communities. It is also known as Chaula or Choodakarana), and is performed during the first year or in the third year of a child’s life. In some communities, the mundan is done only for the male child, however depending on the beliefs and customs girls too may have mundans.

Why is the newborn’s hair tonsured?
The first haircut is an important ritual and it is believed that shaving the hair rids the child of his past life's negativity. Some believe that a mundan bestows a long life, a better future and also protects the child from the evil eye. Some believe the hair on a newborn’s head is impure and only a mundan can cleanse the child’s body and soul.

Some believe that a mundan helps release excess body heat and keeps the baby's head cool. Some also believe that a mundan helps relieve headache and pains associated with teething. It is also a common belief that shaving off the hair stimulates cells and improves blood circulation, which may help in the growth of better and thicker hair.

How is the mundan ceremony performed?
The mundan ceremony is considered a purification ritual and is done on a specific day at an auspicious time that is decided by the priest based on the time of the birth.

A havan/homam is performed by a priest. The mother sits with the child in her lap and faces the west of the sacred fire. The priest shaves off a part of the child’s head while chanting sacred hymns. After that a barber who specialises in mundan ceremonies shaves off the rest of the hair. (In some families, the father performs the initial ceremony instead of the priest.)

The shaven head is washed with holy water (Gangajal) and a paste of turmeric and sandalwood is applied. It is believed that this mixture cools the head and helps nicks and cuts to heal faster. The shaved off hair is either offered to a deity; in India, it is also sometimes offered to a sacred river like the Ganga. The priest offers specific instructions on how the hair should be disposed. In some cultures, a tuft of hair is left on the head (also known as shikha, choti, or bodi). It is said that shikha protects the brain.

Where can I perform the mundan ceremony?
Every family has its own traditions for performing the mundan ceremony. Some perform it at home inviting the priest and relatives to bless the child. Others may ask the barber to come home after their priest gives them an auspicious day and time.

Some families may even have a family tradition where they take their child to a holy place or a temple for the first haircut.

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