Namkaran: the Hindu Naming Ceremony

Traditional Ritual of Giving Your Baby a Name

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Namkaran (also spelled Naamkaran) is one of the most important of the 16 Hindu 'samskaras' or rituals that celebrate rites of passage, the different stages in a person's life. In the Vedic traditional, 'Namkaran' (Sanskrit 'nam' = name; 'karan' = create) is the formal naming ceremony performed to select a newborn's name using traditional methods and following the astrological rules of naming.

This is generally a happy ritual, in which the family comes together to celebrate the birth of a child now that the tensions of childbirth have passed. Namkaran is also called 'Palanarohan' in some traditions, which refers to putting a child into the cradle (Sanskrit 'palana' = cradle; 'arohan' = onboard).

When Is Namkaran Held?

Traditionally, the Namkaran ceremony is conducted after the 'Jatakarma' samskara, a rite of passage celebrating the child's birth. Nowadays, with more and more births taking place in the hospital, this ritual has become a part of the Namkaran ceremony, and both are performed together within a few weeks of the baby's birth.

Strictly speaking, the naming ceremony should be held 11 days after birth immediately preceding the 'Sutika' or 'Shuddhikaran' period when the mother and child are confined to intensive post-partum or post-natal care. However, the 11th day is not fixed and can be decided by the parents based on a priest or an astrologer's advice, and can be delayed even up to the baby's first birthday.

Traditional Hindu Practice

The mother and father start the Namkaran ritual with pranayama, prayers, and mantra chanting in the presence of the family priest. In the absence of the father, the grandfather or uncle can perform the ritual. The priest performs the ritual with prayers to the Gods, Agni, the god of fire, the elements, and the spirits of the ancestors.

Rice grains are spread on a bronze 'thali' or dish and the father writes the chosen name in it using a gold stick while chanting the God's name. Then he whispers the name into the child's right ear, repeating it four times along with a prayer. All others present repeat a few words after the priest to formally accept the name. This is followed by the blessings of the elders along with gifts, and the ritual ends with a feast with family and friends. Usually, the family astrologer also presents the child's horoscope at this ceremony.

Selecting a Name

Hindu families rely on Vedic astrology to arrive at the name of a child. The initial letter is considered especially auspicious, and there are five general principles of determining what the initial letter of a child's name should be:

  • Janam Nakshatranam (by lunar asterism, composed of the birth star of the child, the position of planets at the time and date of birth, and the moon sign);
  • Masanam (according to the child's month of birth);
  • Devatanama (after the family deity);
  • Rashinama (according to the child's Zodiac sign); and
  • Samsarikanama (the worldly name), as an exception to all the above.

It is traditionally believed that a boy's name should have letters in even numbers (2, 4, 6, 8) and girls should consist of odd-numbered letters (3, 5, 7, 9), but 11 is considered the most auspicious length for both genders.

Hindus believe in selecting a child’s name based on his or her ‘Nakshatra’ or birth star as calculated by a Vedic astrologer during the Namkaran or naming ceremony. In the absence of a family astrologer, there are several reputable astrology sites to ascertain the Nakshatra based on the child’s birth date, time, and place. If you know the child's birth star, you can use the following table to arrive at the first letters of your baby girl's name as recommended by Vedic astrologers and select a name from the favorite Hindi girl names list.

Naming a Baby According to Birth Star (Nakshatra)

 

Baby's Birth Star (Nakshatra)

First Letter of Baby's Name

1

Aswini (अश्विनी)

Chu (चू) , Che (चे), Cho (चो), La (ला)

2

Bharani (भरणी)

Lee (ली), Lu (लू), Le (ले), Lo (लो)

3

Kritika (कृतिका)

A (आ), E (ई), U (उ), Ea (ऐ)

4

Rohini (रोहिणी)

O (ओ), Va (वा), Vi (वी), Vu (वू)

5

Mrigashira (मृगशिरा)

We (वे), Wo (वो), Ka (का), Ki (की)

6

Aardhra (आर्द्र)

Ku (कू), Gha (घ), Ing (ङ), Jha (झ)

7

Punarvasu (पुनर्वसु)

Ke (के), Ko (को), Ha (हा), Hi (ही)

8

Pushyami (पुष्य )

Hu (हू), He (हे), Ho (हो), Da (डा)

9

Ashlesha (अश्लेशा )

De (डी), Du (डू), De (डे), Do (डो)

10

Magha/Makha (मघा )

Ma (मा), Me (मी), Mu (मू), Me (मे)

11

Poorva Phalguni (पूर्व फाल्गुनी)

Mo (मो), Ta (टा), Ti (टी), Tu (टू)

12

Uttaraphalguni (उत्तरा फाल्गुनी)

Te (टे), To (टो), Pa (पा), Pe (पी)

13

Hasta (हस्त )

Pu (पू), Sha (ष), Na (ण), Teha (ठ)

14

Chitra (चित्रा )

Pe (पे), Po (पो), Ra (रा), Re (री)

15

Swaati (स्वाति )

Ru (रू), Re (रे), Ro (रो), Taa (ता)

16

Vishaakha (विशाखा )

Tee (ती), Tue (तू), Teaa (ते), Too (तो)

17

Anuraadha (अनुराधा )

Na (ना), Ne (नी), Nu (नू), Ne (ने)

18

Jyeshtha (ज्येष्ठ )

No (नो), Ya (या) Yi (यी), Uu (यू)

19

Moola (मूल )

Ye (ये), Yo (यो), Ba (भा), Be (भी)

20

Poorvashaada (पूर्वाषाढ़ा )

Bu (भू), Dha (धा), Ea (फा) Eaa (ढा)

21

Uttarashaada (उत्तराषाढ़ा )

Be (भे), Bo (भो), Ja (जा), Ji (जी)

22

Shravan (श्रवण )

Ju (खी), Je (खू), Jo (खे), Sha (खो)

23

Dhanishta (धनिष्ठा )

Ga (गा), Gi (गी), Gu (गू), Ge (गे)

24

Shatabhisha (शतभिषा )

Go (गो), Sa (सा), Si (सी), Su (सू)

25

Poorvabhadra (पूर्वभाद्र )

Se (से), So (सो), Da (दा), Di (दी)

26

Uttarabhadra (उत्तरभाद्र )

Du (दू), Tha (थ), Jha (झ), Jna (ञ)

27

Revati (रेवती )

De (दे), Do (दो), Cha (चा), Chi (ची)

Sources and Further Information