Annaprashan Puja is a ritual to celebrate the introduction of solid food in a child’s diet. ‘Anna’ refers to food or rice, and “Prashan” means ‘to consume’. This ceremony is usually performed in the sixth month of a baby. It marks the first solid food consumed by a child. The objective of this ceremony is to pray to God to bless the child with good digestive powers. It is an auspicious occasion where all friends and family come together and bless the child for good health and life.
This ritual is important because calls upon all the Gods, with Agni being a witness, and bless the child with good health and good life. It helps purify any impurities the child attained so far in his life. It also marks the introduction of a child inside our society and the human world.
For the ceremony, a ritual is also performed as mentioned in the Markandeya Purana. In this ritual, a number of symbolic objects, placed on a silver tray or a banana leaf, are offered to the baby that includes:
- Book-symbolizing learning
- Jewels-symbolizing wealth
- Pen-symbolizing wisdom
- Clay-symbolizing property
- Food-symbolizing consumption
Book-symbolizing learning: The book is the first scripture the child will ever read. The first written words that he will understand. The chants and the offerings call upon Goddess Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, to look after, guide and help the child excel in the realm of learning. And under her wing, he/she shall emerge as a wise learner.
Jewels-symbolizing wealth: The jewels are his/her first gifts that lustre with the beauty of this world. They show the child that the world is filled with wealth and wonders. The ritual asks of Kubera, God of wealth, to bless the child of luck and skill and gains much wealth and be successful in any field he/she works.
Pen-symbolizing wisdom: As the pen is mightier than the sword, the pen is the first instrument of power. It is gifted to the child to begin learning the wisdom of ‘Astra-Shastra’. Lord Ganesha is called upon to bless the child with much intellect and the ability to master any art or craft he/she wish for.
Clay-symbolizing property: Clay is given to the child to teach him/her the sense of what this world holds. The property which can be moulded into anything he/she desires, if the right craft and imagination is applied. The Pandits call upon Vishvakarma, the God of creation, to give the child a sense of creativity and possession.
Food-symbolizing consumption: Food which is the objective of this Puja is the first solid food the child ever tastes. It marks the beginning of his/her life as the part of the life cycle. Annapurna, goddess of food consumption and provider, blesses the child with good health and nourishment. So that he/she grows up to be healthy individual.
Then he/she is allowed to choose among the objects. It is believed that the choice of object of the baby represents his/her area of interest. Prayers are offered to Goddess Annapoorna, after which Kheer (rice pudding) is fed to the baby at the time when Brahman recites Mhavyahritis. Poorvanga Hawanas like Ganapathi Havan, Navgraha Havan, Avahanti Havan are also prepared as part of the ceremony. If performed in accordance with the Veda, Annaprashan Puja removes any deficiencies developed in the child before birth.
- Annaprashan Puja helps transition a child’s diet from liquid to solid under the blessings of the Gods.
- It helps reduce all kinds of fiendish vibes over the child
- It brings family and friends together to bless the child.
- It helps Parents realize the responsibilities of parenthood.
BENEFITS OF ANNAPRASHAN PUJA
- It is believed to cleanse the baby of things that he may have swallowed when he was in the womb
- Belief is that it protects the child
- Helps in knowing about the child,s inclination towards his occupation in the future
- Showers prosperity
- Help increase the life span of an individual.
SIGNIFICANCE OF ANNAPRASHAN PUJA
This Rice feeding ceremony is performed with the belief that it will remove any inadequacies that may have been present. But this will happen only after it is carried out according to the proper Vedic method. Although the baby has been drinking milk, this ceremony is important as it is the first time he will consume solid food. The age is an important aspect to be looked into. This Puja has to be done between the ages of six to seven. If performed earlier, his body might not be able to digest it and delaying it too much might affect the health of the child.