Annaprashana – Initiation to eat healthily!

 

Annaprashana – Initiation to eat healthily!

Recently one of my Bengali friends shared a photo of the birthday food platter which she prepared for her 17-year-old daughter’s birthday, a tradition she religiously follows every birthday of her, and also followed in most Bengali families. The elaborate platter of mouth-watering Bengali delicacies reminded me of the importance of the symbolism of the traditions being followed for ages, serving a full plate of the healthy traditional meal is a way to tell the child that eating healthy is the only way to live a long and healthy life.

 

In fact, educating the child about good food starts with the first food ceremony which is performed across India under different names, more popularly known as  Annaprashana when the baby is about 6 months. The term Annaprashana means 'eating of cooked grain', and it marks an infant's first intake of food other than milk. 

 

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Although the reason for the celebration remains the same across the country, different regions call it by different names and have a specific way of performing the ritual depending on their community.

In West Bengal, the ceremony is known as Mukhe Bhaat, whereas in Kerala, it is called Choroonu. If you visit the Garhwal hills, you will see the same ceremony being performed in the name of Bhaatkhulai , while in Maharashtra, it is Annaprashana. The main ritual is constant across the country but with slight variations.

The Annaprashana ceremony is performed on a specific day and time after consulting a priest. On the ceremony day, the baby is dressed in new traditional clothes. The prepared food is served on a plantain leaf and the maternal uncle then seats the baby on his lap and feeds her the first bite of rice. This ritual can also be performed by the father or grandfather instead of the maternal uncle. After this, the close family members feed the baby one by one, and the food is later served to the guests. The baby is served cooked rice with milk ( like kheer or payasam ), though a complete platter of food is prepared for the baby. The Annaprashana ceremony is just a way to underline the importance of nutrition and the need for complementary feeding for children. 

With time traditions evolve and adapt themselves to the changing times but on the important milestones in each of our lives, the rituals and traditions we follow are to remind us of the importance of that milestone. So, ponder a while, when we celebrate our child’s birthday, with a cake made of refined maida and high sugar, and all junk foods like chips, coke and samosas,  are we conveying the right message?

 

 

Rakhi Sunil Kumar

 

 

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  • Rakhi Sunil Kumar

    Rakhi Sunil Kumar has published three fictions – ‘Dancing Mirrors’, ‘Bougainvillea Anywhere Everywhere’ and ‘Songs of Water’. She has worked in IT for 30 Years, and now pursuing her interest in Creative Writing!

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