Indian Hindu culture has rituals surrounding reaching adolescence, marriage, pregnancy and birth. There is even a special baby shower thrown for expectant mothers in their seventh month called the Godh Bharai ceremony in North India and sometimes called Godh Bharna in other areas. This ceremony is held in the home of the expectant couple and attended only by the women of the family. The mother-to-be dresses in a sari and her female relatives make her up to look like a bride. After that, she sits in a chair and the women of the family place a gift (bharai or bharna) in her lap (godh) one at a time and whisper blessings for the future in her ear. Afterward, the pregnant woman eats special foods and general festivities begin. While many of the gifts in Godh Bharai are similar to gifts given in other cultures, others are specific to Indian Hindu beliefs.
Small, silver bangles gifted to the expectant mother during Godh Bharai mark the giver’s hope the new family will prosper. They also symbolise that the baby will be intelligent and successful, bringing further prosperity to the family when he grows to adulthood. Silver also represents strength, expressing a wish that the baby will be strong and healthy.
A coconut painted with a red swastika is another traditional Indian baby shower gift. The Indian swastika lines cross in the opposite direction of the infamous Nazi swastika and represent peace and prosperity. The coconut is a symbol of good fortune and prosperity because it contains sweet and nutritious fruit and liquid inside the brown shell.
While money is a welcome gift in any culture, during Indian baby showers, it does not just mean more resources to help the expectant couple prepare for their child. Money also represents the broader gift of good fortune. The family expects that the couple will use the money to help raise their child as best they can so she will live a successful and prosperous life. Rupees and squares of silk are also placed under the mother’s feet as she enters the shower.
The nada chhadi is a very significant gift given to the expectant mother by her sister-in-law. The mother-to-be first sips sweetened milk coloured with saffron offered by her sister-in-law. The sister-in-law then ties a yellow cord, the nada chhadi, around the expectant mother’s wrist. This cord is supposed to protect both mother and child during the pregnancy, promoting health and repelling illness and evil spirits.
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