Annaprasan is a Sanskrit term, which literally means “grain initiation”. It is called “Mukhe bhaat” in Bengal, “choroonu” in Kerala and “bhaat khulai” in Garhwal hills. This marks the beginning of solid food in a baby’s life. Now the mother can slowly start to introduce other foods into the baby’s diet.
Annaprasan is performed during the even months for boys, generally in the child’s sixth or the eighth month. For girls, it is performed during the odd months, usually fifth or seventh month.
The mother or grandmother prepares a small bowl of “kheer” (rice boiled in milk and sugar) which is blessed in a brief puja. The child will generally be held on the mother’s lap and a senior male member (grandfather or uncle) will feed a small spoonful of the payesh to the child. Other family members then take turns to give the child a taste.
The feeding ceremony is followed by a game, in which the child is presented with a tray containing a number of objects. These include a bangle or jewel (symbolising wealth), a book (symbolising learning), a pen (symbolising career) and a clay pot of earth/soil (symbolising property). The child’s future direction and prospects in life are indicated by the object which it prefers to hold and play with.
In some places of India, parents celebrate at temples, some of the people of South India celebrate at the Guruvayur Sri Krishna temple. Generally, it is a family function where the near and dear ones are invited.