Friday, June 5, 2020

Annapraashana (First solid-food feeding) Samskaara

Original Kannada article : Tarodi Suresha

English Rendering : Padmini Shrinivasan

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Annapraashana Samskara is performed subsequent to Nishkramana Samskaara. This Samskaara is actually called Navaanna Praashana. It is a ritual to feed the baby with solid food for the first time. "The baby would eat by itself when hungry anyway; so is such a procedure necessary?" is an obvious question arising here. As a short answer, the following essential ritual qualifies it as a Samskaara.

A lamp was lighted for the baby's first sight. Surya (sun), Chandra (moon) and Agni (fire) were shown and viewed, as representatives of God. As a replica of the Pranava Naada {Anaahata Naada (unstruck sound) heard by yogis in meditation} a ghanta (bell) was chimed first. The first procedures have a great value in all these. In a like manner, the first solid feeding too has great value. The impact it makes on a baby helps the child in its growing up years, by leaving an indelible mark on it;  this helps to imbibe a natural taste for appropriate food and leads to a life-style based on Purushaarthas (the four cardinal principles for salvation).

Sriranga Mahaaguru had explained that similar to the earlier Samskaaras, Annaprashana Samskaara is performed to seek the blessings of the Lord, for longevity, for divine charisma, for removal of any shortcomings arising from the seed or womb and for earning good food in future. It is performed between 6th and 8th months for a male child and between 5th and 7th months for a female child. In any case it has to be completed before the 12th month. For the ritual, Rshis have indicated appropriate Tithi (phase of the moon), Vaara (day of the week) and Nakshatra (star of that day). Adorned child is made to sit on the mother's lap. Paayasa (sweet porridge) prepared with Anna (rice), ghee, sugar and milk is served in a golden vessel along with chanting of Mantras (hymns). Prior to this, the dish should have been offered to God with prayers.

During the gestation period, if the mother had consumed any impure food inadvertently, this Samskaara annuls its impact on the baby. The Mantras chanted here blend with the essence of the materials used. Originating from specific locations representing specific deities (visualised during meditation by Rshis) as per Vijnaana, these Mantras when chanted, sanctify all materials used and transform them into Prasada. These blessings for wisdom and long life showered by the deities of the three worlds Bhoohu, Bhuvaha, Suvaha act as a stepping stone, in the child's quest to reach the Lord in the Supreme state. Sriranga Mahaaguru used to say that this wisdom refers to "Praana Tattva (Jeeva) which is engulfed by Pranava Tattva (primordial sound) as its carrier for the ultimate divine vision".

Upanishads portray rice as Brahman. Brahman creates, sustains and dissolves. Maharshi literature portrays the creation process as - Aakaasha (space) from Paramaatma (God), Vaayu (wind) from Aakaasha, Agni (fire) from Vaayu, Jalatattva (water) from Agni, Pruthvi (earth) from Jalatattva, Oshadi (grains) from Pruthvi and Anna (rice) from Oshadi. During the dissolution process, each Tattva (principle) dissolves itself into its preceding Tattva, leading ultimately to Parabrahman. Hence Anna is regarded as Brahma. Remembering this process bestows fortune equivalent to the performance of a Yajna, according to Jnaanis.

Thus, Anna-praashana is a mandatory Samskaara. Yoga, Ayurveda and other Shaastras insist on the purity of food to attain a pure state of mind. Annapraashana is a meritorious ritual resulting in Brahma-praashana(yoga) i.e. union with the Supreme Lord.

Note: The Kannada version of this article can be viewed at AYVM blogs.