Mundan / Chudakaran
Removal of the “first” hair

 

 

Since time immemorial, people have been offering / sacrificing their first produce to the Gods as a “Thanks Giving”. 

 

Having obtained that elusive deer, the hunters offered up the best parts of that first kill to the Gods of hunting and nature.

Having harvested crops far in access to what they had planted, farmers offered a portion of their first crop to the Gods of Earth and rain.

First fruit, flower, first salary etc were offered to the Gods as a way of saying “Thank you” to the Gods.

While cooking, women in India still offer the first chapatti to the cow or other animals as an offering to the Gods.

 

Similarly, people believed that we should offer “something of the child” to the Gods to thank them for the life that was given to them.  Commonly, hair is chosen as the most precious and beautiful aspect of the child and is offered to the Gods after their 1st birthday.  Child mortality being what it was in those days, if a baby survived the first year of its life, it was expected to grow up to be strong and healthy.  Hence they thanked the Gods for the child’s survival with this ceremony.

 

In India, hair is considered to be the most visible and beautiful part of a person.  Long luscious hair is a sign of strong, vital, healthy person.  Well oiled and combed, it represents the epitome of a civilised person.  Combing, dressing and decorating hair is seen as an essential grooming exercise and women often spend hours doing it as a group activity in rural India. 

 

So it is reasonable that hair would be offered as a “first offering” from the child to the Gods.  Removing the hair that has been there since birth, is a purification rite as well.  It cleanses the child.  Usually, this done after child has passed the first, third or fifth birthday. 

 

Offering hair also had other connotations

  1. I am offering myself to the Gods.  Hair being part of the head, is given up to say I am dedicate my intellect and thoughts to the Gods.
  2. The God you offer the first hair to, is often the chief God of the sect the child is inducted in to.
  3. I am offering up my most visibly beautiful aspect to the Gods.
  4. Like the crops, my hair keeps growing !  My first crop is offered to the Gods.
  5. Animals molt and when their first feathers / fur goes away, the animal matures.  Removing the first hair encourages new hair to grow, thus growing the child.
  6. Hence, after this point, the child is no longer considered a baby and is treated like a toddler.  It is expected to start learning such civilised traits as speech and correct behaviour.
  7. First hair is usually fine, thin and “weak”.  After shaving, the new hair grows thicker, stronger and darker than before. 

 

In some cases, and some communities, offering the “first” to the Gods was taken a step further and even the first child was offered up to the Gods !  Ofcourse, the child was not “sacrificed”, but was “dedicated” to the Gods.  This would often mean the first child became a monk, priest or a temple servant, serving in the temple their parent dedicates them to.  If the child was female, this would mean she would become the Devdasi of the Gods.  Depending on her skill and talent, she may become a singer, dancer or a temple servant in the temple her parents dedicate her to.

 

 

 

Amongst Jews, Muslims and some Christian sects, offering the male genital’s foreskin serves a similar purpose.  They also use this is as a binding covenant (contract) between the child and their God.  In case of Abraham, he was asked to sacrifice his first child in person !  Later a goat / ram was found to take place of the child.  Muslims still celebrate this event during Id.

 

 

© Bhagwat    Bhagwat_s@Yahoo.com

 

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