Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Annaprashana Samskara

This is the ceremony for the first feeding of cooked rice. The object of this ceremony is to pray to the gods with Vedic Mantras to bless the child with good digestive powers, good thoughts and talents. It is performed when the child is six months old which is the weaning time. Susruta commends this weaning time as best for both the mother and the child.
Offerings are made to the goddess of speech and vigour. Prayers are offered so that the child´s senses have their full gratification and live a happy and contented life. The father feeds a little of the sweet food anointed with gold to the child with Mantras that say he feeds the child with food that may ensure a healthy life to the child and prevent ill-health.

Apart from the efficacy or otherwise of this ceremony, its observance creates in all concerned an awareness of the cumulative needs of the child at that age in a scientific and tender manner. Its systematic observance therefore ensures the results expected especially when fortified by Mantras.

[Note: The following abridged explanations are from the writings of Swami Dayananda Saraswati (The founder of The Arya Samaj). The translation is by Acharya Vaidyanath Shastri].

The first feeding of cereal to the child. When the child is six months old.

The authority for Annaprashana Samskar derives from Ashvalayans Grihyasutra (1.16.1,4,5). Also the authority of Paraskar Grihya Sutra.

The Annaprashana ceremony should be performed at the time when the child gains strength to digest cereal and preparations made from cereals. The first feeding of cereal commences with this ceremony. He who desires his child to be brilliant and famous should feed cooked rice mixed with ghee (clarified butter) or the rice mixed with honey, curd and ghee . The samskar ceremony for the first feeding commences with prayer, followed by Svastivachana, Shanitkarana and complete Samanya Prakarana. It is indicated that this ceremony should be performed (when the child is six months old) on the day on which the child was born.

The rice should be prepared thus: Rice is washed, cleaned, cooked nicely and ghee in proper quantity is mixed in the rice when it is in the cooking process. When this rice has been cooked properly and has become cold, then it should be placed in Homasthali or the tray of Homa. From this Homashali the rice is then given in small containers to the Yajman, to Purohita and Ritvij (Priests), accompanied with chanting of Mantras.

The Yajmana (father of the child) then performs Agnyadhan and Samidadhana. Offers four oblations of Aghavarajyabhagahuti and four oblations of Vyahriti. Thereafter the oblation of the cooked rice that was given to the Yajman and to the priests, should be offered with one Mantras from the Rig Veda and one Mantra from the Yajur Veda.
Thereafter the Yajmana mixes small quantity of curd, honey and ghee. Adds this to the rice that remained after the oblations. This should be fed to the child in minute quantity according to the desire of the child with the following Mantra from the Yajurveda:

"Om Annapateannasya No Dehyanamivasya Shushminah/ Pra Pra Dataaram Taarisha Oorjvam No Dhehi Dwipade Chatushpade//

"O Lord of plenty (of food)! Vouchsafe us a share of food that invigorates us, and brings no sickness. O Lord, thou art our leader. Grant us nourishment (maintenance) both for bipeds and for quadrupeds."

Thereafter the child is blessed by the mother and father of the child and also by the priests, the elders and the guests. The child is blessed with the sentence:

"Twam Annapatihi Annavo Vardhamano Bhooyaaha" meaning
"O child, May you be endowed by God´s grace with Anna (grains or food). May you grow in strength and may you live a long life."

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