Wednesday, March 4, 2015





Most of us have become ignorant about this important ceremony performed in our families after the birth of a child. The mother of the newly born baby would be given her first post-delivery bath in this ceremony. In Kashmiri Pandit families ,this ceremony was performed at the in-law’s house of the woman. This was done after seven days after the child’s birth. Water mixed with herbs (procured from a Buhur or the local trader selling herbs and items for performing religious rituals and ceremonies ) was boiled for many hours whereafter it was used for this special bath. The mother would now leave her post-delivery recuperating room. She was considered fit for performing her normal household chores after this bath. Shraan ta Sondhar was performed by Kashmiris across the religious divide. Kashmiri Pandits would perform another minor ceremony known as ‘Burza myett kadin’  ( burning a small piece of birch bark over the newly born baby’s head and swiftly extinguishing the same in a water pot). After this ceremony, the woman was given the traditional bath. Elderly ladies would sing the traditional Vanvun ( A form of folk singing by women in a group without any supportive musical instrument ) for this ceremony. I quote:-

“Volgun vaajiney

Pataa aayi brontha aayi

Vonn divaan

Vaaer divaan

Summ divaan sothh divaan

Shuriyee lassinas baa'tch lassinas ,

Dekka lassinus boey lassinas.”


( These bathing women,

Have come in front of you and behind you as well,

They look for you,

They come in turns,

They build bridges,

They erect embankments,

Let your children live long,

Let your family live long,

Let your husband live long

And let your brother live long .)


Kashmiri Pandits would perform another ceremony known as ‘Truyi’ before the Shraan ta Sondhar. Truyi was performed on the third day of the delivery by the woman. On Truyi day, sesame seeds ( Teil ) mixed with sugar candy and heated ghee or oil were distributed to relatives and neighbours.  Muslim women would sing traditional Vanvun ( a form of folk singing by women in a group without any supportive musical instrument ) for the seventh-day post-delivery bath. I quote;-

"Satiem Doh Sondhar karmayey               

Waazus ditchmayey Paana farmaaiesh "


( we perform your bath and make-up on 7th day

And here I order dishes to be cooked by the chef. )


"Bismillah karithh Tulli Aaba Toora

Jarayeiye Mokhta kanna duura lo"


( Saying Bismillah, pick up water in that pot,

I shall be buying pearl studded earrings for you )


Close relatives were also invited to Shraan ta Sondhar ceremony. All guests were served food. In a Kashmiri Pandit family, apart from the usual dishes, Handh / Vopal Haak was also cooked and served to the mother of the newborn and guests.

I was informed by Som Nath Zutshi's ( writer ) son that the Shraan ta Sondhar ceremony of Akhtar Mohi ud din's ( noted Kashmiri short story writer ) wife was once performed by Mrs Som Nath Zutshi. Mrs Akhtar Mohi ud din delivered a baby child at Jammu and there was no one from her relations around who could perform this ceremony.

In the Southern part of the country, Vethukuli (postpartum bath ) or Veth bath is given to the mother after one week or after the removal of the stitches in case of a C-section. Water is boiled with herbs like puli Ela (tamarind leaves), Poovarasu (birch tree), Kurumulakila (black pepper leaves), Vatham Kolli Ela (black Malabar nut) and some more herbs. Dal powder is used as a soap for the body and Thali (taken by grinding the leaves of hibiscus) as shampoo. Some families also add turmeric to the hot water prepared for the bath. In North India, women are given a postpartum bath after six days with water boiled with herbs. Turmeric is an important constituent of the herbal package used for the bath.

Postpartum baths are a common tradition in many cultures across the world. These baths are meant to honour, renew, heal, and/or purify. It is believed that herbal bath during the postpartum period helps to strengthen the lower back, ligaments, muscles, tendons, and joints of the whole body apart from soothing the skin and relieving body pain.In New York, I was told by an elderly immigrant from Europe something like this:-

" Postpartum herbal baths used to be an important ritual in our families. Many herbs were boiled in water for this bath. I mean herbs like lavender ( flowers), calendula( flowers), comfrey leaves, dried uva ursi leaves, dried sage leaves, witch hazel blossoms, dried sage leaves and some more herbs and sea salt. "

I also found this practice prevalent in the African American society in the US .


(Avtar Mota)

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