The Hindu smṛtis and the dharma-śāstras prescribe sixteen saṁskāras or purificatory sacraments—generally termed ‘ṣodaśa-saṁskāras’—for every human being. Out of them hardly five or six have survived to this day. And, jātakarma (which seems to be very ancient) is one of them, though comparatively much less in vogue.

This saṁskāra has to be performed by the father of the baby, just born and before the umbilical cord is cut.

The several steps in it are: medhā-janana (inducing medhas or intelligence by making the baby lick ghee or honey uttering the vyāhṛtis—bhūḥ, bhuvaḥ and suvaḥ); āyuṣya (the rite of ensuring a long life by muttering some mantras in the right ear of the baby); honouring the earth where the baby was delivered and reciting some more mantras to induce adamantine strength in the baby.

Later, the naval cord is severed, the baby washed and given to the mother for breast-feeding.

Some authorities add the performance of a homa and giving a secret name to the baby also.