CHILDBIRTH AND CHILDHOOD
to Hindu Scriptures even the act of approaching his wife for intercourse is
considered a sacred duty of a married man.
the conception of a child is ascertained, the child in the womb is consecrated
by the ritual named Pumsavana. Pumsavana
is generally understood as a rite “for quickening a male child.” The
ceremony is performed in the third month of pregnancy after conception becomes
significance of the ritual consists in its main features. It should be performed
when the moon is on a male constellation. This period is regarded as favourable
for producing a male issue. Inserting the Juice of the banyan tree into the
nostril of the pregnant women is meant for preventing abortion. Susruta (father
of Indian medicine) says that the banyan tree has got the properties of removing
all kinds of troubles during pregnancy, such as excess of bile, burning
sensation etc. He says, “after pounding herbs and mixing them with milk, three
or four drops of the juice should be inserted in the nostril of the pregnant
woman. She should not spit the juice out.” Insertion of medicine into nostrils
is a common, thing in the Hindu System of treatment. It is, therefore, obvious
that the above ritual is undoubtedly founded on the medical experience of the
people. Putting a dish of water on the lap of the pregnant woman is a symbolical
act. A pot full of water denotes life and spirit in the would-be child. Touching
the womb emphasized the necessity of taking every care by the expectant mother
so that the foetus should be healthy and strong in the womb and abortion may not
duties of a pregnant woman: Our ancients realised that the conduct of an
expectant mother influenced the unborn child. So, after laying down rules and
regulations about the prenatal rituals, they prescribed the duties of a pregnant
women and her husband.
pregnent women was made to observe purity and read religious books which would
keep her calm and so would help the unborn foetus.
was told not to go near the seas, or trenches, avoid strenuous exercise and not
to bathe in the river. She should not go to a deserted house nor sit on an
anthill as the son of Garbhahanta (Destroyer of foetus) would attack her.
to say that would surely be the case if she did not observe the above safety
she was told not to scratch the earth with her nails, not to go too near
charcoal and ashes and not to leave her hair disheveled. The above seem to me to
be perfect rules for personal hygiene, which would be in perfect accordance with
the Do’s and Don’ts for a modern pregnant lady.
duties of the husband were not to make unnecessary demands upon the wife and
to try and fulfil most of her wishes so that she remained calm and happy. Thus
we see that every possible care was taken to preserve the physical and mental
health of the pregnant women, and we observe that the rules laid down all had a
medical basis designed to promote her well-being.
most Hindu families it is believed that a pregnant women should relax in bed
during an eclipse.
is wise, even for the rest of us, to take care during an eclipse as science has
discovered that people who hurt themselves by way of a cut or a fracture, during
an eclipse take a longer to heal as the blood flow seems to be more during that
time than at any other time.
is more active during the eclipse period, hence our belief in changing the
drinking water in our vessels and cooking fresh food.
all know that harm can be caused to the eye by looking at the sun or the moon
during an eclipse. Also science is at the moment conducting experiments on the
effects of the eclipse on the unborn foetus.
the child makes his advent in to the world. When the child is born, the moment
of his birth is noted with meticulous care, for preparing the horoscope, as the
position of the planets at the precise moment of his birth would determine his
character and landmarks of his future life.
a boy was born there was rejoicing as they felt that he would have the right to
continue the family’s line of business and look after his parents during old
age as well as perform the rites after their death.
getting a daughter was no less meritorious during the Vedic period as we see
that girls did enjoy the position of learning wisdom and she enjoyed the
position of bringing it light the names of two families (that of her father’s
and that of her husband’s) if she turned out to be virtuous and worthy. Hence,
Sita, besides enjoying an unequalled place in mythology for being her own self,
was equally well known as Rama’s wife as well as “Janak Dulari” (Daughter
A girl was desired during the Vedic period also because “Kanyadaan”
(giving away of a daughter in marriage. was considered as one of the worthiest
of deeds. It is not a degrading
custom as considered by modern women as Hindus always believed that the giver
was greater than the receiver.
Now the Jatakarma ceremonies properly commence. The first ceremony is the
Medhajanana or producing of intelligence
to the baby. This is performed the next day after the birth.
father with his ring finger with a gold ring gives to the child honey and ghee.
With each feeding he utters one word of the Gayatri mantra, namely; “Bhu”
with the first feeding: “Bhuvah” with the second feeding; “Svah” with
the third feeding; “Bhur Bhuvah Svah” with the fourth feeding.
Medhajanana ceremony speaks of the high concern of the Hindus about the
intellectual well-being of the child. Also the things fed to the child are
conducive to the mental growth. According to Susruta the following are the
properties of ghee: It is producer of beauty, it is greasy and sweet, It is
remover of hysteria, head-ache, epilepsy, fever, indigestion, excess of bile. It
helps in fostering digestion, memory, intellect, talent and lusture.
The next item of the Jatakarma ceremony is the Ayusya
or the rite for ensuring a long life
for the child. Near the navel or the right ear of the baby the father
murmurs: “Agni is long-lived, through the trees. By that long life, I make
thee long-lived. Soma is long-lived, through the herbs. The Brahman is
long-lived through observances. Sacrifice is long-lived through the sacrificial
fire. The ocean is long-lived through the rivers.”
all the possible instances of long life are cited before the child, and by the
association of ideas it is believed that with these utterances, the life of the
baby would also be lengthened.