The ancient texts have referred to each stage of life as 'a unique gift from God', including the birth of a child. Hence, it should be celebrated. These samskaras or sacraments include the various stages of prenatal care, namely:
1.Garbhadhana or the conception
2.Pumsavana or the protection of the foetus
3.Seemanta or the parting of the hair of the wife
4. Jatakarma or the birth of the child
Let us study each of these phases in-depth:
This ‘samskara’ is performed by the new parents and consists of fervent prayers for a child and fulfill the obligation to carry on the family name.
There are certain Dos and Don’ts with regards to the ceremony, which are said to have significant psychological impacts. The Garbhadhana is said to remove all the impurities related to conception and reproductive system of the woman to ensure the birth of a lucky, healthy and religious child.
Pumsavana (Foetus protection)
The ritual is performed during the third or fourth month of pregnancy. A priest recites Vedic hymns to invoke divine qualities in the child.
Pumsavana is also performed with the objective of getting a male progeny and to prevent abortions. Vedic hymns recited on this occasion mention Puman or Putra (a male child) and favor the birth of a son.
The Pumsavana Samskara is performed during the third or fourth month of pregnancy or even later in the day when the moon was sighted near a male constellation. The pregnant woman was required to fast on that day. After bathing, she adorns new clothes. In the night a few drops of milk or juice, made from the leaves or roots of the Banyan tree, was poured into the right nostril of the women followed by the chanting of a few significant verses.
Simantonnayana (Parting of wife's hair)
This is performed during the sixth or eighth month of pregnancy. The mind and intellect (essentially, the subtle personality) of the baby is likely to develop during this phase.
As a part of the ritual, the husband parts the hair of the woman, thereby creating a Seema – Boundary at the end.
This ritual, according to the ancient texts, helps to keep negative forces at bay and protects the child.
During. the process, the pregnant mother is also warned of the dos and don’ts for a healthy and long life. Her movements are restricted as well as noble and pious thoughts are imparted. The ceremony also prepares the husband to fulfill his responsibilities and to support his wife throughout the pregnancy.
This ceremony is performed before the umbilical cord is cut off (i.e. Before separating the child from the mother).
The other main features of this sacrament are:
- Production of Intelligence: In this ritual, the father feeds the newborn child honey and ghee with his ‘anamika finger’ while praying that the child grows up to be an intelligent and wise person.
- Longevity: The child is stroked while reciting a specify hymn. This followed by a fire ceremony that aims at gifting the child with a long and happy life.
- Strength, valour, and fame: The baby is blessed to be as firm & strong as a stone, as sharp as an axe (to overcome enemies) and as incorruptible and as popular as gold. The child is handed over to the mother to suckle with a prayer to protect both the mother and the child.