Samskāras are often seen as ritualistic and archaic. For most people, such practices do not fit into a modern lifestyle.
Our minds have been conditioned to wear traditional clothes on “ethnic day” in office, or on a major festival. How then can we begin to appreciate the nuances of what has made us, us?
Even those who observe samskāras try to find an easy way to “get it done”. From the pujari, who rattles off mantras faster than one can comprehend, to the patron who tell hims to get it done faster since they have some other work to get done…a lot of our rituals have been watered down to a point when they are just shallow representations of the richness they once had.
And so when I went to research on Anna Prāshana, most of the links I found were from Firstcry or BabyIndia and the like – websites selling you baby stuff in the garb of carrying out tradition.
Well, a ritual is different from a custom. Some are prescribed, others are followed loosely based on some common tradition what was passed on from generations, and then branched out so many times that a Chinese whisper kind of effect came into play.
But the beauty of Sanātana Dharma is that a ritual or a custom can be modified and is not rigid – when in Ramanagara, be like the Ramanagarians:)
In fact, every family can have a tradition of their own. So when I asked 5 people on how to get the Anna Prāshana done, I got 5 different ways. Now which was correct?
Asked the pujari, and he told me a sixth way, sent me a list of items as well. I got all, except a betel leaf, and he said its ok. The puja was completed, and the betel leaf was conspicuous by it’s absence. I guess he just skipped the part where it was required!
Convenient? Yes. Blasphemy? No. It’s ok to modify a small part of the ritual, as long as your heart is in the right place.
And that is what I thought when I decided to take the seventh way. Yes, seven is my lucky number, but that’s not what led me to it. I just decided that when I had my heart in the right place, everything else would fall in line. Betel leaf or not, the ceremony would give me what I wanted.
And that is what samskāras do – they help you recalibrate yourself, purify yourself in a way. They help you think of things that you tend to forget in this busy life, and remind you that you are an “x” number of samskāras away from the last one that you will ever attend (so what if you wouldn’t be able to participate!).
Anna Prāshana – the day your child is introduced to the external world. The way when he or she now comes into contact with the five elements, that go into making food, and the food that goes into making you.
Until this day, the child is sheltered, his mother takes care of all his needs, like she has been doing ever since he came into her womb. While she will continue to be his lifeline for a long time to come, or till he becomes a teenager (whichever comes faster), it is time for the baby to know more about the exciting world that he has been born into.
And what better way to know it than to become it.
Anna Prāshana is his window to the world. And that is why so much importance is placed on this samskāra. For those who understand it, the samskāra is the first thread that the parent breaks in the journey to making their child independent.
It can be a bittersweet moment for the mother, since now she knows that he has other avenues to be fed. But it is also a proud moment for the mother – she has successfully created and nurtured a life to his or her first important milestone.
And the father? Well, he is around to stand tall and feel proud. That’s what fathers do, it is assumed.
Not this father.
This father wants to experience the world through his son, and wants his son to experience the world through his father’s eyes. Not follow, but experience. The decision is the child’s, but the show is what the father puts before him.
And when they do look at the world, each through their own perspectives, and then look back at one another, there is satisfaction on both their faces. The son, because he was taught well. The father – because he was able to hold a hand, see a smile and wipe a tear.
Nothing can prepare you for the peace that you get afterward:)
See you tomorrow!