What is annaprasan/annaprashan? why it is important?

Annaprashan is a baby festival where he/she consumes rice for the first time. This is a Sanskrit term that means initiation of grain.  The first rice eating ceremony of the baby is accompanied by various rituals that are present in Hindu custom. People staying in various parts of the nation call it by different name. For example in Kerala this festival is termed as choroonu. Again in Bengal, this festival is known as ‘Mukhey bhaat’. People staying in Garhwal hills call it ‘ Bhatkhulai’. Before this festival, baby used to have liquid food such as mother’s breast milk, tinned milk etc. But from the day of annaprasan, the baby is eligible to feed on sold food such as rice etc.

Your new born baby does not adopt solid food right from the first day of his birth. Mother’s breast milk is only prescribed to them all the ways from day one till his annaprasan. Yes, a rice consuming ceremony is performed after a stipulated period of time for your kid. Normally it takes place in 6th month of the baby. Different customs and ritual is performed during this occasion before feeding the baby with rice. The importance of annaprasan lies in various parts of India with different culture and tradition.

Baby’s transition to solid

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Annaprasan festival is celebrated as your baby crosses 6 month of age. There can be slight difference of age such that some people abides with this festival at the end of 5th month where as others follow crossing 6 months. The rites and rituals are different in other region of India. The transition of baby diet is very important as he/she grows. The change of food routine should always be initialized at every stage of life. But, the first stage of transition will start from the day of Annaprasan. 6 month is the age when your baby gets his first teeth. Thus, this is the time when he must be provided with solid food. At this age the teeth of your baby will tend to bite several solid things. If he doesn’t get anything, he will start biting his own hand. You can also hand over baby bitter to him so that he can easily get relaxed.

Importance of annaprasan

Annaprasan as a ceremony has wider importance to people staying around the world. Baby’s transition from liquid to solid food is very important. It will affect the growth and development of the baby. Generally Annaprasan is performed within 6th month of the baby’s birth. But, in some regions it is different for baby girls and boys. For baby girls it is celebrated in odd months such as 5th or 7th. But for boys, it is even number, such as sixth or eight. This is the time when the baby is dressed with very beautiful costumed with decoration throughout the home or venue. People feed their relatives, friends and well-wishers during this festival. They provide blessings with gifts to the baby. The parents of the baby feed the invitees with delicious food.

Place for celebrating annaprasan

The venue of celebrating annaprasan differs from one group of people to another. Previously this ritual was done right at home along with feeding of invitees. But today people do not want a more mess at their home. Thus, they rent a venue for annaprasan and celebrate the party. In some places this is done in two days. The first day is taken for all sorts of rituals and the second day is solely kept for feeding people.

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Many parents willing to celebrate annaprasan of their child in a grand way would hire banquet hall. Even the community halls are also hired for people willing to make a party outside. Also there are people who wish to celebrate the festival at any temple or Guruvayoor.

People staying in central or eastern part of India have the custom of celebrating the festival at home. Religious rites are easily performed at home through the priest.

How is annaprasan celebrated?

Celebration of annaprasan is done by different people in a different way. The baby is made to wear new and beautiful clothing. Generally traditional clothing is made to wear. There are special custom of organizing havan for the wellbeing and health of the baby. This is accompanied by Prasad and the first bite of solid food to the baby. This is a special day for the family members, parents and baby where all the near and dear ones are fed with rice and other delicious food. There is also some fun game for the baby. Numbers of articles are displayed in front of baby such as clay, a pen, book, jewels, etc. The baby will be symbolized on his character as soon as he touches any one of them. For example if he touches the clay, it means that he will be owner of property. Again with the touch of pen, wisdom will come on his way.

Baby becomes the centre of attraction during this particular ceremony.

Food on baby’s platter

Since this is a special occasion for the baby, number of food items is served to baby such as rice pudding, kheer. Apart from sweet dish, plain rice with ghee is also fed to the baby. In some customs, different types of friend items are presented along with the rice. The maternal uncle of the baby feed the baby with food on that day. Delicious dishes such as fried rice, pulao, meat, fish and vegetable curries are prepared for the baby during this occasion. Every dish is touched to baby’s tongue even for once.

Safety during annaprasan

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On the day of annaprasan in the way of meeting every ritual, baby gets irritated. While entertaining outside people and invitees during the occasion, baby is left over.  Some care and affection must be there for the baby. It is important for your baby to be well rested before the ceremony. It is important to shorten the gathering and get it restricted to relatives and family members whom the baby actually knows.

Since the baby have to stay in the same cloth throughout day, some comfortable stuff will be important. It is better not to put very fancy clothing that is not good for baby’s skin. Light and comfortable clothing with cotton base is ideal.

When you are feeding your baby, it is always important to wash hands and use sanitizer. You should also have an eye on the preparation of baby food and see whether it is done hygienically. While feeding your baby you should always keep a towel handy to wipe the excess food around the mouth.

Beginning of solid food

The scientific reason of performing annaprasan persists along with the custom and tradition. Either 5 or 6th month is chosen for the rice ceremony of the baby as medically your baby will be eligible to digest such solid food by this age. Yes, this is the time when your kid will be having his own teeth through which he can bite and make the solid food smaller in particles so that it is easily digestible.

Importance of annaprasan

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The ceremony of grain initiation is really an important ritual to all Indians. Even the NRI’s staying outside the country celebrate the occasion right there with bang. The importance of annaprasan can vary from one person to another. Basically this is known as one of the most important sanskar for every Hindus across the globe. For every parents, each step of their baby approaching to maturity is important. Similarly the occasion of first rice intake ceremony is equally important. Through this they will be able to see their baby consuming rice for the first time in their life.

Importance of kheer in annaprasan

Kheer or payasam is an important food item which needs to be prepared at the time of feeding rice to the baby. This is generally prepared by either mother or grandmother of the baby. A silver bowl is arranged in order to serve the kheer. Normally the first rice in the form of kheer is put to the baby’s mouth by the maternal uncle of the baby. Now this ritual can change from one region of India to another.