Birth rites

Hindu baby naming ceremony in a Calcutta home
Hindu baby naming ceremony in a Calcutta home

In some Hindu families, just after the birth of a child, the sacred syllable aum is written on the baby's tongue with honey. The name of God in a form the family holds dear, eg Krishna, may be whispered into the child’s ear.

The Fifth Samskara - Namkaran (name giving ceremony)

In some Hindu families, 40 days after birth, the baby is taken to the community mandir for a naming ceremony. The father offers ghee-soaked wood on the fire. After announcing the baby’s name, the priest pours holy water onto the baby’s head and puts a few drops of amrit on the baby’s tongue.

Other Hindus perform the naming ceremony on the 12th day of the baby’s life. Sometimes the father whispers the baby’s name into his or her ear.

Many Hindu parents decide on the first letter of the child’s name by reading the astrological signs at the time of the birth and choosing a name that matches these signs. A priest or religious leader may give advice on this, or even choose the name.

In some families, the father might seek blessing from the family god or goddess by placing the baby’s horoscope before the murti. In others, the father’s sister has the job of choosing the name from a selection the parents have written down.

In the past, most names were either names of gods and goddesses or reflected important qualities, eg Shanti (meaning 'peace'). While many Hindus continue this tradition today, it is also becoming more popular in both the UK and urban India to invent a name or to use Western names.