7th month celebration – diverse ways of celebrating universal joys! – showering mom-to-be, baby and not to forget the dad-to-be with love and blessings.
Most cultures the world over, have ceremonies / celebrations before a baby is born. Mostly, all over the world these are celebrated in the 7th month of pregnancy (Usually the odd numbered months – 7th or 9th for good luck - but the 9th month might be too late). There are many different ways of celebrating, but the universal essence is to make the mom-to-be feel special and even pamper her.
The essence of the traditional Indian celebration (unity in diversity)
India being a vast and diverse sea of humanity has many different customs and celebrations in different areas—Godh Bharai (North Indian Hindus), Valakaappu (Tamil Hindus) and Seemandham (South Indian Hindus) to name a few. Maharashtra, Gujarat, Bengal etc. also have their own twists on these ceremonies.
The common thread in India is to bless the expecting mom and pray for the well being of the mother and the baby. It is the mom-to-be who is showered with blessings and bounty - cash, clothes or even jewellery - a sort of a “mother-to-be shower”. Also, traditionally it is attended by the women-folk.
According to the Indian tradition, it is considered inauspicious to buy any clothes or other items for the baby before the baby is born (possibly because in olden days, the percentage of babies dying during childbirth was high).
- In fact when the baby is born, the baby is made to wear old clothes of some other member of the family. The thinking is that the material will be soft for the soft baby skin and the positive family vibes and values will be passed to the baby.
- Of course with global influences, this is changing in many families.
Below, we describe the variety of Indian ceremonies by giving some examples.
Godh bharai is a North Indian Hindu ceremony. It is held with more fanfare for the first child. The literal meaning is to fill the lap. The expecting mom is all decked up and the friends and family bless the new mom-to-be with gifts - token cash and saree or jewellery in the case of close relatives. Traditionally, no gifts are given for the baby—only the mom. Everyone puts “tikka” (vermilion) on the mom’s forehead, prays for her and the baby’s wellbeing, followed by the aarti. There is also “mehendi” (henna), playful banter and singing and dancing among the women folk. Everyone rejoices the pending arrival of the baby.
Godh Bharai has been dwindling over the years in most families. But now, there is a slight revival of this ceremony with the “ethnic” in vogue again. It seems people are looking for reasons to celebrate and party and what better than reviving long-lost traditions.
Indian Muslim celebration
It is somewhat similar to godh bharai. In the 7th month of pregnancy, the mom-to-be’s parents go to the their daughter’s / in-laws house with a lots of sweets, food, new clothes for their pregnant daughter and son-in-law. Some parents even gift gold to their daughters. The two families have a get together with good food and the mom-to-be’s parents take this as an opportunity to take their daughter to their place for the delivery and the 40 days after the delivery. This is mainly for the first child.
A few families give their expecting daughters a special medicinal recipe called a “mussaffar” made of precious and other metals prepared by a unani hakim. This is supposed to nourish the expecting mom and even the baby in the womb for years after the baby is born.
It is essentially a social ceremony and celebration and is popular with the Hindus of Tamil Nadu. Similar to Godh Bharai, it is for blessing the mom-to-be and for her and the baby’s well being. It is hosted by the mother of the expecting lady on an auspicious day. It literally means bangles and bracelets. The new mom-to-be is decked up in her finery. The women put bangles on the mom-to-be’s hands for her protection - some of these have to be worn till labour starts. The women folk sing hymns and songs and put vermilion or “haldi-kumkum” on the expecting mom’s forehead (to ward off the evil eye) and there is aarati. They say that the songs are for the benefit of both the mom-to-be and the baby. Everyone gives gifts to the mom-to-be and there is playful banter and a traditional feast.
Seemandham or Seemantham
Seemantham is a religious ceremony performed by most south Indian Hindus. It is performed to protect and nurture the mom-to-be and the baby in her womb. It is typically hosted by the in-laws of the new mom-to-be on an auspicious day selected by a priest. It can be a long couple of hours affair - chanting of mantras, hymns, a homa / havan (sacrificial fire ceremony) by the priest. The dad-to-be is also involved.
To give you some idea of the depth of the ceremony: There are detailed rituals. In most cases, the priest chants mantras and a holy grass is immersed in water to transfer medicinal and holy properties in the water. A special paste is made with tender banyan leaves. This is poured into the right nostril of the pregnant mom with a silk cloth. After this, a porcupine quill is scratched lightly from mom’s head towards the navel. The idea is that the holy paste can travel from the nostril to the womb. Then the holy water is poured on the mom-to-be. It is said that this is beneficial for both the mom-to-be and the baby in her womb. Of course, the ceremony is followed by a traditional feast.
A combined Seemandham and Valakaappu (being practical)
These days, many South Indian Hindus opt for a combined Seemandham and Valakaappu. This is more practical and easier for both the hosts and the guests. In this case, the combined ceremony needs to be held in the 8th month (even numbered months). Typically, the more playful Valakaappu follows the more religious Seemandham.
Maharashtran “Dohal Jevan”
“Dohal Jevan” literally means to satisfy the food cravings of the pregnant woman. This ceremony is rooted in the Seemantham and is essentially for soothing, nurturing and protecting the mother and the baby. The underlying idea is that the baby in the womb imbibes a lot through the mother’s feelings, thoughts and experiences. The mother is made to wear a soothing colour like green, is adorned with flowers and the women-folk regale her by singing soothing songs. Everyone blesses her with love and presents for herself (similar to Godh Bharai) and there are also many games that the women folk play akin to modern day baby showers. Some popular games are based on guessing the gender of the baby.
These days, theme Dohal Jevan is getting popular. For example, colour themes, moonlight theme, flower theme etc.
So, what is a baby shower?
Baby showers are very popular in the United States. Friends and family come and “shower” the new mom-to-be with gifts for the baby - a very practical way to help a couple gear up (from baby clothes to a pram) for the new baby and of course to pamper the mom-to-be. Here is how it is celebrated:
- Baby showers are typically for first time moms or moms who are having a baby after a few years gap - the motive is that these folks would not have any baby stuff. But there is no hard and fast rule as such about this.
- Many couples in the United States do what is called a baby registry. This involves parents listing the baby stuff they want (clothe gear like pram, cradle, toys etc.) at a particular shop and guests will know what to get them. As guests keep selecting the gifts, those items keep getting eliminated from the list. Voila! After the shower, the dad and mom are pretty much set with baby shopping.
- Traditionally, only women would attend. But now couples shower are getting popular with the dads being more involved.
- Traditionally, to be held in the 7th or 9th month (odd months for luck). But 7th month is most popular. But these days, folks are flexible and have in the 8th month as well. Another reason to have in the 7th month is practical: so that you can take stock of the baby shower gifts and have time to get what might be needed.
- The shower can be a surprise or a planned one. It is hosted by a close friend / relative. Sometimes, the dad-to-be also hosts it. In fact a side trend is the expecting couple giving their own baby shower to their friends / family. Sort of sharing with them and a last hooray before the baby.
- There are snacks / food and fun games. Some popular games to give you an idea are
- Guessing the mom’s girth. Everyone gets a thread and has to guess how big the mom’s belly is. Of course, the person who guesses the closest is the winner.
- Baby item memory game. A bunch of baby items (nappies, clothes, baby lotion etc. etc.) are placed on a tray and taken away soon. Folks have to remember the items on the tray.
- Many will open the baby shower gifts with the guests around. Of course there are many “oohs and aahhs” and teasing with the womenfolk looking at the cute baby stuff.
- Typically, the mom-to-be will send out thank you notes after the baby shower.
Some modern day trends in India (retaining, adapting and celebrating)
- Traditional ceremonies like Valakaappu and Seemandham are still going strong with most South Indian Hindu families. Also, some other states like Maharashtra still celebrate the traditional ceremonies.
- With the influx of foreign-returned Indians and globalization, American style baby shower are catching on in certain circles. Also, with disposable incomes rising, trend of nuclear families, many urban parents are flocking to buy the best of baby and kiddie products. And welcome this concept of baby showers.
- Many families are combining traditional ceremonies with an American style baby shower. For example:
- Baby shower with ethnic snippets of godh bharai ceremony--haldi-kumkum; fun stuff like singing folk songs and dancing, mehendi (henna) and bangles.
- Valakaappu / Seemandham followed by a baby shower. Very popular with NRIs and some Indian families influenced by NRIs and the United States.
- More and more dads-to-be are participating in these ceremonies.
Tip for mom-to-be - Whatever the celebration, make sure you get adequate rest before the event. Now relax and have fun. You deserve this special time.
Want to add more information?
India is a land of diversity. We have only covered some of the ceremonies in India. If you would like to tell us about the ceremony that is practiced in your region or culture or tradition, write about it in your journal. We will take a summary of it and add it to this article. We would love to read about more ceremonies and traditions.