Most Hindu families conduct a Mundan(मुंडन) ceremony or chudakarana for their infants either at age one or three years. This ceremony is organised both for the girl and the boy child in some religions, while some conduct the ceremony only for boys. Muslims also shave off the baby’s head while Sikhs do a kesi dahi(केसी दही) ceremony in which curd is poured in the hair of a newborn baby boy.
Why Is A Mundan (मुंडन) or a Head Tonsuring Ceremony Done?
Tonsuring the head of the baby (Mundan)(मुंडन) is considered auspicious and the main reason behind this is the age-old belief that the first hair of the baby carries the sins of previous birth. Sometimes a lock of the baby’s hair is preserved. The tradition of tonsuring baby’s head is not only limited to Indian religions but spans across the globe.
The main beliefs behind tonsuring baby’s head are:
- The hair is shaved as it is assumed to protect the baby from evil
- The removal of birth hair will free the baby from any unpleasant memories of previous life
- Some religions simply perform mundan to celebrate the milestone of the baby
- Tonsuring has been associated with obtaining a long a life in Yajurveda
- Other benefits of shaving include lice prevention, healthy growth of hair and stimulated blood flow to brain
- It is believed that tonsuring cleanses the baby’s mind and soul
- An added advantage during summer is improved aeration of scalp thereby keeping it cool
Appropriate Age For Tonsuring Baby’s Head
The baby’s head is shaved usually in the odd months – 7th, 9th, 11th Month etc and year, i.e. first, third and the like. Most often, the ceremony is performed in the first year itself as once the baby grows, he may be more resistant and it could be difficult. Most families seek the advice of priest, who calculates the most auspicious day for tonsuring from the kundli (कुंडली) or considering the date and time of birth.
Baby Head Shaving Ritual
The ceremony is conducted either in a temple or at home. The priest and a barber are also involved along with close relatives.
- The priest performs a havan (हवन) with the mother and baby seated near the havan (हवन). The priest then shaves a part of the child’s head while chanting mantras and the rest is completed by the barber. These mantras pray for long life of the baby, that he be bestowed with good health and prosperity
- In some religions, the girl’s head is shaved off completely while a small tuft at the top of the head is left in the boys. This tuft is called as shikha(शिखा) or choti(चोटी)
- The shaved head is then washed with Ganga jal (sacred water)
- This is followed by applying a paste of turmeric and sandalwood. These ingredients have soothing and anti-septic properties. Since baby’s head may suffer tiny nicks as a result of tonsuring, it is taken care of by this paste
- All the hair is carefully collected and then offered in the temple or the river
In these times of nuclear families, most families do not have the time to perform the ritual in a temple, so they opt for saloon barbers who specialize in giving the first haircut or shaving the baby’s head completely. The hair, however, is still collected and offered to a temple to a water body
Tips For A Safe Mundan (मुंडन)
A safe mundane requires some pre-planning and preparation. The baby is still too young and would be cranky and fussy, and add to that strangers touching him, the mantras, and the smoke of the havan. All this is more than enough to make your baby resist the proceedings and give you a hard time. Some tips that could help are:
- Try to schedule it when the baby is alert and not sleepy during the day – the result is a less cranky baby – less fuss
- Make sure the baby is well rested and well fed
- Its better to keep all the pacifiers – toys etc which successfully distract the baby handy – you don’t want others talking behind your back if the baby cries uncontrollably
- Have a soft and clean cloth with sufficient cushioning ready for the baby to lie upon
- Use baby shampoo to create lather on the head before shaving
- Provide new shaving equipments to the barber and priest, most of us do not have time to ensure sterilization
- Provide warm water for rinsing
- Just stay within the reach of your baby or within his eye sight to provide him assurance and comfort
- Its a good idea to give a warm bath to the baby after mundan, since tiny hairs may lodge in folds of skin, especially behind the ears
- Apply a mild antiseptic cream or turmeric-sandalwood paste on the shaved head
Precautions To Follow For A Mundan (मुंडन)
- Be careful about the shaving equipments – they should either be new or sterilized
- You may want to give an additional hand in keeping the baby still during the tonsuring – babies can be very fidgety!
- Do not try your shaving skills on the baby – employ a professional. The baby’s skin is very soft and slight nips and nicks can be very painful
- Sometimes the complete shaving is not necessary; trimming is enough, so inquire! You can save yourself the worry and baby the nicks from razor
The mundan(मुंडन) ceremony has a spiritual significance in our culture. Whether you perform it due to the influence of the elders or respect for the religion, simply follow the above tips to ensure a smooth sailing through it.