Godh Bharai – a Popular Indian Baby Shower Ceremony
Basically belonging to the northern part of India, this Indian tradition has now become popular almost in all parts of India. It is a very interesting Indian ceremony which takes place with much enthusiasm by all the members of the family. It is a Hindu tradition, which actually means the ‘Indian baby shower ceremony’. It is known by different names in the different parts of the country.
The Bengalis call it the ‘shaad’ and the people of Kerala have named it ‘Seemandham’. In Tamil nadu, it is known as ‘Valakappu’ and the most popular and common name is the ‘Godh bharai’. The literal meaning of God bharai means ‘filling the lap’.
There are mainly two occasions when this traditional ceremony of Godh bharai can take place. The first occasion is just before the wedding of a young girl, and the second occasion is during the gestation period of a woman, especially on the seventh month of her pregnancy. This is done when the seventh month completes and the baby is known to undergo a safe phase. This ceremony is celebrated in honor of the child who is supposed to come into the family very soon.
It is done to welcome the child and the mother by showering her with blessings and precious gifts. The venue of this ceremony is generally the in-laws’ house of the girl. Many relatives, neighbors and friends are invited for this ceremony that comes to bless the expected mother and her child with lots of blessings and gifts. It is a ceremony in which males are not allowed. Only the female members can take part in it. The first occasion which takes place before the wedding is done to suggest that the girl has been accepted as the daughter of the family.
There are various rituals and customs related to the godh bharai ceremony. Different parts of the country celebrate it in different ways though the main purpose or essence is the same for all which is to give blessings and gifts to the lady and her child. The woman is clad with a heavy saree. She is made to sit on a chair surrounded with all the ladies who are invited. She has to sit in such a way that her saree’s palla should fall on her lap and this is done so that people can place the gifts on her lap. Then the other women including her mother, sister or sisters-in-law make her wear heavy jewelries, bangles and adoring her hair with flowers.
They also adorn her with cosmetics and a tika is applied on her forehead. Then the guests and the other family members come and bless her filling her lap with fruits, flowers and other gifts. Some people even give cash. After that a feast of delicious recipes and drinks is laid down in front of her. The whole atmosphere is filled with fun and laughter as well as a little bit of teasing.
It is also accompanied by singing and dancing. Some fun games are also included which involves guessing whether the child will be a boy or girl which is done by examining the belly of the expected woman. Then the lady has to take the blessing of her elders by touching their feet one by one. She is also fed with sweets by all the females present there. A large feast is held for the guests.
The gifts which are given in this special occasion include silver bangles, bracelets, and clothing for the baby, toys, auspicious charms as well as cash.
The godh bharai function is a wonderful way of uniting the relatives and family members together at one place. It can be made more interesting by giving a small return gift to all the guests who have attended the function as a memoir for this lovely occasion. It can be anything from a case of sindur, kumkum or turmeric to key rings or small purses. Photographs and video recordings are a great idea to make this occasion more memorable.
Though it is a compulsory tradition for many Indian homes, one should be careful while planning for this occasion regarding the health of the going-to-be mother. If she is not keeping well and she needs a rest, then this ceremony can be done at a personal level with only a few female members of the family without making it hectic and tiresome for her. The main essence of this occasion is to pray for the well being of the mother and the child.
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