annaprāśana

(‘feeding with cooked rice or food’)

The Hindu religious works known as dharmaśāstras consider the life of every Hindu as a religious process. It begins at conception and ends at cremation. The individual’s life is to be purified, refined and sanctified continually by certain reli-gious processes called ‘saṁskāras,’ usually translated as ‘sacraments.’ They are sixteen in number. Hence the appellation ‘Ṣoḍaśa-saṁskāras.’

Annaprāśana is the seventh in the list. It is the first feeding of the child with solid food, starting the process of weaning the child away from breast-feeding. It can be performed any time after the sixth month and before the child completes one year.

The father prepares a food of goat’s flesh or flesh of partridge or of fish or boiled rice depending upon the result he expects for the child, like nourishment or holy lustre and so on. One of these is mixed with curds, honey and ghee and the child is made to taste it with the reciting of certain Vedic hymns. Then the father offers oblations to the fire. The mother is to eat the remainder of the food. Homa may also be performed and feeding of the brāhmaṇas may be arranged.

According to some writers, on the day of this ceremony, tools and implements, vessels and weapons are to be spread in front of the gods worshipped in the house and the child allowed to crawl among them. The first object seized by the child is said to indicate its future profession.

See also SAṀSKĀRAS and ṢOḌAŚA-SAṀSKĀRAS.