Tuesday, July 7, 2020


                                                      ( Jatakarma  In India  )
                                                     ( Jatakarma in Bali , Indonesia )


The Hindus believe that their  Samaskaras are rituals that make an individual ‘fit and proper’ for the life ahead.  For instance, the Upanayana Samskara made the individual eligible to study the Vedas and Upanishads (philosophical texts). The Samskaras, are described in some hymns of the Vedas,  Grihya-Sutras,  Dharma-Sutras, Smritis and other scriptures.

Samskaras aim at bringing material and cultural gains to the individual. During some ceremonies, prayers are offered to gods for health, wealth, children, intellect etc., which contribute to the family and social happiness. The number of Samskaras to be performed from birth to death vary in different Hindu Dharma Granthas (textbooks), it is about 16-40, but the applicable Samskaras are 16 in number. These sixteen are spread from Garbhadhana to Anteysthi. Among these 16, only 11 will fall under the period up to childhood.

The sixteen Samskaras to be performed on an individual during his life cycle are:-

1). Garbhadhana
2). Pumsavana
3). Simantonnayana
4). Jatakarma ....Birth ceremony.
5). Namakarna: ....Ceremony of naming the child.
6). Nishkramana: ..The child’s first outing.
7). Annaprashana: The first feeding of the child with solid foods.
8). Chudakarana: The child’s first haircut.
9). Karnavedha: Piercing of the child’s ears.
10). Vidya-arambha: Beginning of the child’s studies.
11). Upanayana: The wearing of the sacred thread.
12). Veda-arambha: Start of Vedic studies.
13). Keshanta: First shaving of the beard.
14). Samavartana: Taking leave of one’s teacher.
15). Vivaha: Marriage.
16). Antyeshthi: Last Rites.
Some Samaskaras that were linked with   the way of living during ancient and mediaeval periods  have been abandoned by Hindu society. However Samaskaras like Jatakarama, Namakarna, Annpravesha, Chudakarna, Upanayana, Vivaha, Antyeshti,etc. have become inseparable from the Hindu way of life. 

KK  Klostermaier in his book "A survey of Hinduism" writes:-

"Traditionally, not only birth-related but all subsequent rituals were important. Some of the texts in which these Samskāras are mentioned date back to 4,000 BCE[2] . They were probably introduced to suit the circumstances that existed then and may have held practical utility and a purpose suited to that time. However, many changes and modifications have taken place over the years as required to meet the needs of society. Hinduism is not a fossilized religion and ‘in its long history, it has undergone many changes rapidly adapting to modern times." 

Hindus believe that by performing the   Samskāras,  a person  becomes a  member of the socio-religious community. The Samaskaras  are meant for “sanctifying the body and purifying it in this life and after death’  The Upanishads mention Samaskaras as a means to grow and prosper in all four aspects of human pursuits - Dharma (righteousness), Artha (wealth), Karma and Kama (work and pleasure), and Moksha (Salvation).


Jataka is originally a Sanskrit word that means a newborn baby. In astrology,  it means the study of horoscopes ( Zaatuk in Kashmiri). It has a different meaning in Buddhism where it means a voluminous body of literature native to India concerning the word previous births of Gautama Buddha. Without doubt word, Jatakarama has come from   Jataka.

The Jatakarama ceremony welcomes the baby into the world. The  Jatakarama Samskāra is a celebration of the child’s birth and his bonding with his father.  During the ceremony, the father has to welcome the child by touching the lips of the baby with honey and ghee. Reciting Vedic Hymns is also very auspicious during Jatakarama ceremony.  Jatakarama has been mentioned as an important  Samaskara in Grehsutras, Vedas, Smritis and many other ancient Scriptures.

Jatakarama Samskāra provides an opportunity to examine the baby immediately after birth. Madhu ( Honey ), Swarna ( Gold )  and  Ghrita ( Ghee )  licking helps to check and initiate sucking, rooting and swallowing reflexes which should exist in co-ordination.

R.Pandey in his book"  Hindu Saṃskāras: Socio-religious Study of the Hindu Sacrament" writes:-
" Jatakarama has the following aspects: the Medha-jananais performed so that the child is bestowed with great intellect (Medha or buddhi). The Ayush ceremony is performed for a long life for the child. The mother is showered with praise by the husband and the family for having given the greatest of gifts to the family in the form of the child. All guests are given appropriate gifts and alms are given to the needy. The next of the Samaskara is called the Nama-Karana (name-giving ceremony). Typically, the name of one of the many Hindu deities is chosen as it is believed that the deity would protect the child. Furthermore, when the family and friends call by that name, they too get the divine blessing. The scriptures contain literally thousands of names, for example, Vishnu is typically worshipped by reciting his one thousand names. Anyone of these names could be chosen. Similarly, other deities too are known by various names. There are similar rules for naming a daughter. It is suggested by the Hindu texts, for example, that where the girl's name ends with ‘a’ or ‘i’, it is considered as auspicious and the girl is blessed by the divine. The namakarana ceremony is typically performed on the 10th or 12th day of birth."
In some parts of the country, Jatakarma performed on six days from the birth of a child, is for the purification of the house. This is done in order to keep a child in a clean atmosphere where he may not incur any physical or mental problems. It is also called Shashthi. Goddess Shashthi is the protector of children. Jatakarma is followed by Grah Puja and  Homa.
As per the "Brihadaranyaka Upanishad", the 'Jatakarma' includes five steps;

1. 'Homa' is performed with curds and clear butter along with mantras.
2. The word 'Vak' is whispered in the ear of the child.
3. The child is made to lick from golden spoon cards, honey and clarified butter.
4. The child is addressed by a secret name.
5. The mother offers her breast milk to the child.

 During my visit to Bali ( Indonesia )  in 2015, I was told by a Balinese  Hindu priest as under:-

“ We Balinese  Hindus  follow the  Samaskaras mentioned in Dharam-Sastras. Jatakarma is the most important ceremony of the newborn child. The Samsakara is performed immediately after childbirth. In this Samsakara the father has to chant specific Mantras into the right ear of newborn and feed the mixture of Madhu ( honey ), Ghrta ( Clarified butter )  in a   Svrna spoon to the newborn followed by breastfeeding to the child. In olden days some particles of Swarna dust were mixed with Madhu and Ghrta .”
Jatakarma is performed in every part of the country as per Hindu   traditions  which may vary from area to area yet the core the ceremony is almost the same.


Jatakarma is known as Kaah-nether by Kashmiri Pandits. It is performed on the 11th  day of the birth of the baby .In Kashmiri,  Kaah means eleven and Nethar means wedding or union of the child into the family's Gotra. The purpose of this ceremony is to bring the baby into the family’s Gotra or fold and seek blessings of Kul-Devta/ Kul-Devi and other deities for the welfare and orderly life of the baby. On this day, the child and his mother are given a bath and they wear new clothes. The Yajman for this function happens to be the father of the baby. Accordingly, gifts for the baby and the mother are bought by the father of the baby . He also makes arrangements for the Homa or a yajna. The family priest recites Vedic Mantras seeking the welfare of the child and his family. The Mantras are also meant to seek blessings from deities for the newborn who has entered the family’s Gotra. It is followed by a feast wherein close relatives and family friends are invited. It is strictly a family affair. The guests partake the food as Prasada. The family priest also takes note of the birth time and the constellation of the planets –Nakshatras to create a birth chart which is supposed to be the blueprint of one's life.

Many Kashmiri Pandit families also bring a golden ring or earrings for the baby.  Tied to a Mauli ( Naribund ), this golden jewellery is touched to the tongue of the baby and then  Mauli  ( with the golden jewellery  )   is put around his / her neck during the  Puja by the family priest. It is meant to be used by the baby as he or she grows. Honey and clarified butter ( Ghee) is also touched to the baby's tongue. Some families use curd as well. This practice is being enthusiastically implemented after 1990 by Kashmiri Pandits. It appears that by this practice, Kashmiri Pandits are  following the  ancient  Vedic practice of Jatakarma detailed in  Manusmriti, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad and Grihya Sutras. Manu also makes mention of  Swarna, Madhu and clarified butter to be touched to baby's tongue during Jatakarama ceremony. And surprisingly, it is Manu who recommends Jatakarama for both male and female babies. 

It is pertinent to mention that in a Kashmiri Pandit family, no ritual connected with Vivaha, Sharada or Pind-dhaan can be done if for any reason Jatakarma or Kaahnethar has not been performed to any newborn. Though performed on 11th day of birth, it can be held subsequently also on any auspicious day. Kashmiri Pandits combine this Samaskara with Naamkarna ritual.

Kashmiri Pandits also treat Jatakarama or Kaahnethar as a purification ceremony for the baby and the mother who had remained under confinement. For this reason, some auspicious Mantras are also recited during the Homa for purification and the child, his mother, the family and the house. Kashmiri Pandits also perform Shraan Sonder on 7th or  10th day of the  baby's birth apart from Trui ritual on the third day of the baby’s birth. Shraan Sonder is the medicinal bath of the mother.
I conclude this post with a Vaak of Kashmir’s saint poetess Lal Ded or Lalleshwari …
“zanam praa'vith vyabhav no tsonddum
Luubhan bhuugan baram na pray
Somuy Ahaar suetthaah zonum,
Tsolum dwakha-vaav polum Dai.

“ In life, I sought neither wealth nor power,
Nor ran after the pleasures of sense.
Moderate in food and drink, I lived a controlled life,
And loved my God.”

( Avtar Mota )

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