Annaprashan is an important ritual in Hindu culture. Anna in Sanskrit means grain. Annaprashan literally means feeding of first grain to the baby. It is also called “Mukhe Bhaat” in Bengal, which literally means “rice in mouth“. It is followed in most parts of India, though the ceremony may differ slightly. After annaprashan, baby is gradually introduced to all kinds of solid food.
Annaprashan is usually done in the 6th or 8th month for a baby boy and during 5th, 7th or 9th month for a baby girl. In some parts of the country, this ceremony is done in a temple, while in others it is done at home. A priest is usually called to do a homa or hawan or yagya. Baby is dressed in new clothes and friends and family are invited for the occasion.
Mukhe Bhaat/ Annaprashan
In Bengal, the annaprashan ceremony is also called mukhe bhaat. The function can be conducted in home, temple or banquet hall depending on the scale at which the ceremony is being celebrated. It is usually a big occasion and friends and family are invited to bless the baby and to get involved in the festivities.
In Bengal, it is customary to offer a beautiful new plate with everything that has been made. The new plate and bowls can be silver or bronze.
Baby is dressed in traditional attire (dhoti kurta for boys & little saris for girls) along with a crown for head. The baby sits on maternal uncle (mama) lap and is fed the kheer first or payesh as called in Bengali.
If annaprashan is being celebrated in a temple, the priest performs a hawan and baby is fed the prasad after the puja is over. Prasad is kheer or rice pudding made with cow’s milk.
In Bengal, Namkaran is done the same day.
There are many fun rituals done on the occasion. There is one where five items are kept in front of the baby. These five items symbolise different aspirations.
Gold – Wealth
Books – Knowledge
Pen – Wisdom
Soil – Property
Food – Love for food
Baby is then encouraged to go for these. Whichever item baby picks up first, it is said will be in future.