Monday, August 17, 2020

Choodaakarma Samskaara (First tonsuring)

Original Kannada Article: Tarodi SureshaEnglish 

Rendering: Padmini Shrinivasan

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Choodaakarma Samskaara is the traditional name given to this ritual, which we refer to as Choula in common usage. This ritual has been honoured by all the Gruhya-Sutrakaaras (Maharshis who have given the law codes for house-holders or simply Law-givers for house-holders). Choodaa means a tuft. This ritual is important as it is the first time a tuft is retained over the head.

A modern view is that this practice came into existence for convenience and beauty. Shaving the head is convenient and serves as a protection from lice infestation and dirt accumulation, when hair is profuse. It would be comfortable too as it reduces weight over the head! It was considered to be a substitute for human sacrifice too. Gradually out of fear, some hymns were added and it became a religious procedure!

The Maharshis never disregarded the aesthetic and convenience aspects. If that was all the purpose, then it need not have been given the importance of a Samskaara. Few socially relevant procedures would have been adequate. Just as we observed in the earlier Samskaaras, it is clearly said that this has to be performed seeking longevity, reputable Saatvic (virtuous) character and auspiciousness. The hymns too convey the same purpose. In our country a barber's shop used to be called "Ayush-karmashaala" and the procedure of shaving the hair as "Ayush-karma". Sriranga Mahaaguru has explained its essence in a neat and a short sentence – "This Kaarmic procedure instils purity and longevity".

The general procedure for this Samskaara is as follows: It is performed either in the 3rd or 5th year of the child, on a day reckoned with "Punarvasu" star (refers to zodiacal position of moon on that day). As a last resort, it should at least be completed along with the Upanayana Samskaara (sacred-thread adorning ritual). Sriranga Mahaaguru had mentioned that the ritual should be performed in the 3rd year. It is performed during daytime in an odd year of the child. Shaastras ordain that it should not be performed if the mother is pregnant.

Hot water is added to cold water along with butter, ghee and curds. This mixture is smeared over the region to be shaved. A combination of porcupine's quill (Shalali), branch of a fig tree (Audumbara) and Darbha grass is used to lift up the hair first. To start with, the father of the child holds 3 strands of hair along with Darbha grass and cuts it in all the 4 directions. Rest is shaven by the barber. The mother collects the cut hair in a vessel containing cow's urine and buries it beneath a fig tree. The practice of discarding it in a cow's shed also exists. The father meditates on Savitru Devathas and looks at the barber. The child is bathed with hot water, adorned and made to offer a cow as a charity to a Brahmin who is seated in the southern direction. Brahmodvaasana (respectful send-off) is performed, Agni (fire God) is worshipped, food is served and his blessings sought. This is the gross procedure. Different traditions may have minor differences. Appropriate Mantras (hymns) are chanted all along. Ayurveda praises Choodaakarma as an auspicious ritual which enhances life span, relieves sins and brings joy. Charaka Muni says -

PauShTikam vrShyam AyuShyam shuchiroopam viraajanam !

Kesha-shmashru-nakhaadeenaam kartanam samprasaadanam !!

His saying includes components of philosophy, body health, beauty and convenience. Let us observe the details in a subsequent article. 
   (to be continued)

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