Annaprashan (Mukhe Bhaat in Bengali) is an important milestone for babies. Knowing what to expect and how to prepare ensures a memorable event.
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Culture is an integral part of human life - influencing an individual’s values and views in unique ways. And being a diverse country, India is home to a variety of cultures followed by generations. And one part of the culture is the customs and traditions we follow. Earlier, I posted about a Bengali tradition Shidur Khela and in this post, I am going to share one more beautiful tradition known as Annaprashan or the first rice ceremony.
What is Annaprashan?
Annaprashan is a Sanskrit word that means “food feeding” or “grain initiation”. It is performed while introducing solid food to the baby for the first time and is considered one of the auspicious ceremonies among the Hindu community. This ceremony is celebrated across many communities in India, but with different names and of course with their own set of rules.
For the Bengalis, Annaprashan has great significance and thus is very popular in their culture. In Bengal, it is also called Mukhe Bhaat, a traditional way to celebrate baby’s transition to solid food. No doubt, this is an exciting and important milestone for babies.
Traditionally, this ceremony is carried out in the child’s maternal place where Mama (maternal uncle) or Dadu (maternal grandfather) does the honour of feeding. But it can also be performed in a temple or home depending upon the scale of the celebration.
The right time for this ceremony
As per Bengali rituals, the right time for Annaprashan is when the baby turns five or seven months old for a girl, or six or eight months old for a boy.
We celebrated Annaprashan when our daughter turned five months.
Baby’s traditional dress for this occasion
It is preferred that the baby wears a traditional dress on this occasion.
Girls are made to wear readymade Banarasi Saree (pink, red or maroon) along with Mukut and light jewelry like gold chain, bangles, anklets, etc.
One the other hand, boys adorn a dhoti-kurta along with topor and jewelry like a light gold chain.
Annaprashan menu for the baby
Annaprashan food menu for baby normally includes:
- Rice: Plain white rice
- Vegetables: Five types of fried vegetables like potato, brinjal, green leafy vegetables, pumpkin or any vegetable that can be fried. Usually, this is only for the ritual and babies don’t consume these.
- Fish curry: Bengali’s are very fond of fish-based dishes. It’s considered auspicious to include a fish curry on the menu. Again, the baby is not going to consume this but we usually touch it to the baby’s mouth.
- Daal: Usually plain Moong (split green gram) or Masoor (split red lentil) are cooked on this occasion.
- Sweet rice pudding(Payesh): This is the star dish of this occasion - a rice and milk-based sweet pudding called Payesh in Bengali.
How we performed the ceremony
We chose an auspicious day for this ceremony according to Panjika in advance. Our day started with giving a bath to my daughter, after which we started dressing her up. We bought a readymade saree for her, especially for this day.
After draping the saree it was time to put on some jewelry - small gold chain, bangles, and most important the Mukut. We also put some makeup on her forehead in the form of small dots of sandalwood paste. She was looking like a mini bride!
While we were all busy in dressing her up, her grandmother prepared her food in the kitchen. Once everyone was ready, we started the ceremony.
After The Pooja, it was time to feed her the first morsel ever. We served her food on a plate with a silver bowl and spoon and silver cup for water. She sat on the lap of her grandfather who fed her the first spoon of Payesh.
Following this, every family member took turns to feed her a teeny tiny dot of Payesh from the spoon. We also showered her with blessings accompanied by a Dhaan (paddy grains) and Dubba(green grass stalks) on the head - a traditional Bengali way of blessing your loved ones.
Annaprashan offering: A fun game
Traditionally, this ceremony is usually followed by a fun game where the baby is offered a number of symbolic things placed on a plate to choose from:
- Book: symbolizing learning,
- Money: represents wealth,
- Soil: represents property,
- Pen: represents wisdom.
It is believed that your baby’s choice represents what she will be pursuing in the future.
For this part, she sat on her father’s lap and we presented the plate with all the objects mentioned above. We all cheered her to pick one of those things and she chose the pen and money simultaneously. We were all happy with her choice.
Tips for Safe and memorable Annaprashan
It’s not easy to celebrate these kinds of ceremonies with five months old baby. If you are planning to celebrate this ceremony at home with close family members then these tips would be helpful:
- Make sure the baby’s clothes are comfortable. Babies usually get uncomfortable in traditional clothing. Try to put one layer of soft cotton clothes under traditional attire.
- Ensure that the baby is well-rested before the ceremony.
- Prepare the baby’s food in a hygienic condition. Preferably, food should be cooked by close family members.
- Wash hands before feeding the baby.
- Feed baby a very small amount of food to avoid an upset tummy.
- Keep napkins and a small towel handy to avoid any mess while feeding baby.
- And don’t forget to keep your camera handy to capture the beautiful moments.
There is no doubt that Annaprashan is one of the most exciting milestones to witness as a parent. But this is an important milestone for your baby too. So try to make this day as memorable as possible.