As a nation, India beats every other region in the world with its diversity in terms of religion, culture and tradition. Every part of India has its own customs and religious rituals, and while some of them may seem meaningless, people in the country still follow these traditions and customs. Here’s a list of some peculiar baby traditions that can be found across India:
1. Shaving a baby’s head
The ritual of shaving a baby’s head or his/her first haircut is known as ‘mundan’. It is done in the belief that it purifies the baby. Some people believe that getting rid of their baby’s hair will help the child get rid of his/her past life’s negativity and thereby bestow a long life and good future for their young one. This tradition is found in both Muslims and Hindus across India. Typically, the head is shaved within days or in the first three years after birth.
2. Baby dropping
This horrifying ritual has been prevalent in Maharashtra and Karnataka for about 700 years. Babies, two years or less, are thrown from temple roofs as high as 50 feet and the crowd standing at the foot is expected to catch the baby. This is believed to bring good luck and health to the baby. It is also practised by those who want to be blessed with children.
3. Female genital mutilation (FMG)
FMG, cutting of the female genital, is not just a practice in parts of Africa, but among tribal societies in India too. Girls aged six to seven are regularly being cut and operated by untrained midwives in Bhindi Bazaar in Mumbai. Mainly practised by the Bohra community, a Shia sub-sect, FMG or Khatna has remained a well-kept secret taboo. The belief behind this is that the clitoral head is an ‘unwanted skin’ or referred by some as ‘haraam ki boti’ or an immoral lump of flesh that is a ‘source of sin’. Many babies are put under the knife because their mothers are pressurised by older women in the family. either by the mother- in-law or aunts.
4. Bathing a newborn with boiling milk
This tradition, known as Karaha Pujan, is done to please the Gods. This bizarre tradition is practised in some parts of India where fathers bathe their newborn babies with boiling milk. It is usually performed in Hindu temples with people gathering to watch.
5. Male circumcision
According to the WHO, it has been estimated that globally 30% of males aged 15 and over are circumcised. Male circumcision is advocated as a potential HIV preventive option, reducing HIV/STI transmission by nearly 50%-60%. India has a population of approximately 120 million circumcised populaces. Circumcision is inherently linked with religions like Islam and Judaism.
There is a belief among Muslims that adhan or call to the prayer (“God is great, there is no God but Allah. Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. Come to prayer.”) should be the first words heard by a newborn baby. The prayer is usually whispered by the baby’s father in the right ear of the baby.
Baptism is a common practice in Catholicism and is also exercised in India. It is viewed as a way of cleansing the baby of “original sin”. The priest sprinkles a few drops on the baby’s forehead or pours water over the child’s head while reciting the Trinitarian invocation.
The Hindu ritual of ear piercing or Karnavedha is done as it is believed that the earlobe is a vital acupuncture point and that piercing it may have therapeutic value. Some also believe that it will ward off evil. The ceremony can be done simultaneously with the mundan (head shaving) ritual or within the first or third year of birth.
9. Burying children in sand
In Karnataka, this bizarre ritual is practised as practitioners believe that burying physically disabled children in sand up to their neck would help cure them of their disabilities. On the day of a solar eclipse, before sunrise, deep pits are dug out and children are placed inside the pits from anywhere between an hour to six hours.
10. Rolling in Cow Manure
This tradition of rolling in the cow pat can be seen in the tiny village of Betul in Madhya Pradesh. Here people believe that rolling in cow dung will bring good luck and healthy life to their children. Also, Hindus consider the cow sacred and their dung is believed to have medicinal properties. The practice takes place after India’s biggest Hindu festival, Diwali.