As you must have noticed by now, Nepali people have lots of celebrations and functions. When a baby is born there are many celebrations as well.
The first ceremony is called Nwaran (analogous to baptism ceremony). It is also known as Machabu Byakegu in Newari. It takes place on the 9th day for a baby girl and on the 11th day for a baby boy. This ceremony is performed to give a birth name to a child according to his/her lunar horoscope, this is usually not the name by which he/she will be known. This ceremony is normally small and celebrated amongst close family.
Then there is Pasni ceremony which is also known as rice feeding ceremony or Weaning Ceremony. This ceremony is also called Annaprashan which in Sanskrit term, literally means grain initiation. It is the first time the baby is fed solid food. It is called Macha Junko in Newari.
Pasni is normally held after 6 months from birth for a baby is boy while if it is a baby girl, it is held after the fifth or seventh month. The day and time will be fixed after consulting a priest/astrologer.
As I have attended a few Pasnis lately, I am sharing the photos and procedure of Pasni here.
The ceremony begins at home. On the morning of Pasni, the baby will be showered and wrapped in a towel for the ceremony to begin. The Fufu (Babies dad’s sister) of the baby will hold the baby during this ceremony. Normally Fufu and other women in the family wear red sari.
The place where the ceremony is to be held is cleaned and all the required ritual puja plate and food are arranged. Then the elder lady of the family will start the puja with the help of the priest. The first step is to put tika on the forehead of the baby, then the baby is given a special outfit, usually made of red velvet and embroidered with silver and golden threads. Gold and silver ornaments are also given to the baby, like heavy silver anklets (kalli) carved with dragon at both the ends to keep the bad omens away from the baby as well as gold bracelet.
Once it is handed over, the baby is dressed in this special outfit and the ornaments and further ritual starts. First the baby is given dubo ko mala (a garland of holy grass). Then it is followed by puja and symbolic feeding of kheer (rice pudding) or the first bite of solid food. The baby is then offered all kinds of foods to taste from Thaa bu (a plate which has eggs, yogurt, wine, fruits, Roti, meat, fish) .
Baby will be also offered a tray of stuffs like books symbolising learning, jewels symbolising wealth, a pen symbolising wisdom, clay symbolising property, food items symbolising a love for food (There can be anything symbolising a career. A friend of mine had stethoscope symbolising a doctor) and it is believed that depending on what the baby pickes, it will determine his/her future career. Family and friends have a great time cheering the little one while he makes his choice.
There are lots of food and gifts given to the child from his/her mother’s family. It will also include Sagun. Sagun typically consists of a boiled egg, smoked fish, a bara (pan-fried black lentil patties), haku chhoila (smoked buffalo meat) and aila (wine) and ends with dhau (yogurt). Also all the family and relatives bless the baby with gifts or money. It’s a beautiful and elaborate ritual.
After that maternal uncle (mum’s brother) carries the baby to the nearest temple so the baby can get blessing from the gods. In front of the temple, the baby is fed with some Prasad (offerings) and this will conclude the ceremony.
It is an occasion for celebration, and family and friends are invited to attend. These days Pasni ceremonies in Kathmandu are very lavish and are held in party function rooms much like a wedding ceremony. The guests, numbering in their hundreds bring gifts for the child and party late into the night.