This is a simple ceremony in which the
child is given a name. The ceremony of naming a child.
Nama literally means 'name' and karana
means 'to make, to effect'.
As the primary means of identification
and social interaction, the naming of a child developed
into a religious ritual believed to be the root of the
This ceremony takes place after the
10-day 'impure' postnatal period (See
Jatakarma). Then the house is cleaned and
purified, and the child and mother ceremonially bathed.
Friends and relatives are invited to see the child and
participate in the celebration. The puja involves, other
than the child and priest, the father, mother, and
sometimes the paternal grandmother. First the mother
covers the child in a new cloth. She wets the child's
head with water, symbolically bathing him, and then
gives the child either to the father or the paternal
grandmother. Next, the priest invokes the blessings of
Agni, the planetary bodies, and other gods.
The Grihyasutras do not specify a
Namakarana procedure for the actual naming of the child.
The Paddhatis (Sampradayas), however,
say that the father should lean towards the child's
right ear. Holding a betel leaf near the ear, he should
whisper four names to the child. Then Brahmins,
specially invited for the occasion, bless the child.
Finally, gifts are given to the relatives and Brahmins
The word nama meaning 'name' is common
in early Sanskrit literature and occurs in the
Rig Veda Although initially no Vedic
mantras were recited during the naming ritual, it
developed into a Samskaras because of its social
Many of the early texts prescribe more
than one name for an individual. The Smritis, on the
basis of astrological works further developed the system
of naming. According to the Rig-Veda (see Vedas), a
child of either sex should be given four names:
The Nakshatra name:
This is given according to the constellation, or
Nakshatra, (see Panchangam ) the child
is born under. Each constellation has a name, and
several letters of the Sanskrit alphabet are also
assigned to it. The Nakshatra name could therefore be
the name of the constellation itself, or begin with any
of the letters assigned to that constellation.
The Baudhayana Dharmasutra connects the
constellation with the child's future. This is a secret
name, which some give during Jatakarman.
The name of the deity of the
month: Each month of the Hindu calendar is
associated with a particular deity, which usually has
several names. The child's second name is one of the
names of the deity of the month in which it is born.
The name of the family
deity: Every Namakarana family has one deity
who has been worshipped for generations. The name of
this deity is given to protect the child from evil.
The popular name: This
is the name that the child is known by. It depends on
the culture and education of the family, and should be
auspicious. The former is known to the
Grihya-sutras, which speak of a popular
name in addition. The practice of naming children after
favorite deities began in the Puranic times. The rise of
the Bhakti cult made this practice so popular, that by
naming children after gods, we are deemed to gain
several opportunities for uttering Gods name whenever we
call the child. The story of Ajamila is pointed out for
the effectiveness of this method. Shortening of the
names of children deprives us of this opportunity.
According to the Grihya sutras , there are
five requisites to naming a child:
- the name should be easy to pronounce and sound
- it should contain a specified number of syllables
- it should indicate the sex of the child;
- it should signify fame, wealth, or power; and
- it should be suggestive of the caste of the
For example a Brahmin child should have
an auspicious name, a Kshatriya child should have a name
that suggests power, a Vaishya child should have a name
that suggests wealth, and a Shudra child should have a
name that indicates his service.
Some people give their children name
that sound ugly or have unpleasant A priest making a
child's horoscope during the naming ceremony. Namakarana
meanings in the belief that this will frighten away
diseases, and evil spirits and influences
Nowadays, this ceremony usually takes
place on the twelfth day after birth. It is not a formal
ceremony, but more of an opportunity to invite family
and friends to celebrate the baby's arrival. There is
usually a havan, and then the child's name is announced
to the gathering. Usually only a Nakshatra name and a
popular name are given.
The priest makes an astrological
calculation according to the time and date on which the
child is born. On this basis, he prescribes a letter of
the alphabet with which the child's Nakshatra name
should begin. If the family is agreeable, this name
doubles as the popular name as well. Usually, however,
the nakshatra name is not used, and the child is given
another name by which he is commonly known
According to Aswalayana, the names of
boys should have an even number of syllables. A
two-syllabled name will bring material fame and
four-syllabled, religious fame. The girls name should
have an odd number of syllables and end in I or aa. It
should be easy to pronounce, pleasing to the ear and
auspicious. It should not contain awkward suggestions.
There are practices like choosing the name after the
Nakshatras of birth and also after the ancestors.
This ceremony is performed, normally,
on the tenth or twelfth day after birth. If there are
inconveniences it is taken to the end of the first year.
The appropriate day for this function is the 10th, 12th
or 16th day of the childs birth. Failing to perform it
on any of these days, an auspicious day, say the Vedas
should be chosen for the purpose after the 16th day of
the childs birth.
After preliminaries the parent gives
the offering to gods, touches the breath of the child
symbolizing the awakening of its consciousness and says
in its ear: Your name is.. thrice. The Brahmins and
elders are asked to follow, calling the child by that
name and blessing it. A personality is sought to be
It follows that Namakarana should not be postponed to
the day of marriage or Upanayan.