Baby Shower : Valakappu

Monday, November 06, 2006

Baby Shower is a tradition that is followed in many cultures across the world. It is a special way of welcoming a new life in to the world and showing that you care. It is usually hosted by family/friends for the pregnant woman.

In India too it is observed in some states though called by different names such as godh barai in the North or Valakappu in Tamil Nadu. In Tamil Brahmins, Valakappu is performed in the eighth month of pregnancy in the mother's house and Seemantham in the mother-in-laws house during the seventh month of pregnancy. However, of late both these functions are performed together either on the same day or on consecutive days keeping in mind the long hours it takes for the rituals to be completed which can be very exerting for the pregnant woman.

My valakappu was celebrated on 3rd November at Trichy. We skipped the Seemantham function. The dat began with me and everyone waking up at 4:30 a.m., granny (usually mother-inlaw does this) put some ceremonial oil on the forehead and I took the ritual oil shower. Following this, I was given a black sari..this is the only function when a black colored dress is worn. Black is symbolic to warding off evil spirits.. Adorning two flower garlands, I sat down while granny made a Ganesha (elephant faced god) out of turmeric and water. all functions begin with a prayer to Vigneshwara (another name of Lord Ganesha). She followed this by slipping 2 bangles in the hands of my cousin, any small girl would do.

Female relatives and friends who had come down for the function sang devotional songs while granny slipped two bangles on each of my arms made out of twigs/grass tied together. This act is supposed to the child from evil spirits. Then about 5 ladies slipped glass bangles in my arms totalling to 21 on the right hand and 20 on the left. Only red and green bangles made of glass are supposed to be worn for this function. it was a lil different with the ladies just touching the bangles and then handing them over to my dad. he is adept in putting me bangles as I have a very weird arm with bones poking at every corner. Finally granny smeared turmeric paste on my arms and feet. This was followed by another function called poochoodal in which delicacies made of white and brown color (21 each) were tied around by waist. 2 small kids were asked to pick one delicacy. The color they pick is a superstitious way of guessing the gender of the child. In my case, both the kids picked appam which meant it would be a girl child cotrary to everyone's opinion. So lets see what LG turns out to be.

Though there have been times, when the education makes you question the relevance of such superstitious traditions and beliefs, it is amazing how rich our tradition is and there is apparently a valid and sensible reason why these rites were performed. What has got diluted over the years is the way it is done..and ignorance of why something is done. If only we had that knowledge it would be remains to be seen how many generations can take this forward..

Categories: , ,