North India  |  Custom and Tradition

Custom and Tradition

Birth, marriage and death are inextricably woven in the pattern of folk customs and tradition. The cultural cycle commences at conception, passes through birth and marriage, and continues even after death. The folks consider barrenness as a great misfortune for a family. Propitiation's are made to gods, treatments taken from wizards, talismans worn round necks, ants fed daily and many other devices employed to have a child. Once the pregnancy is established, all precautions are taken to protect the prospective mother from evil influences.

Charms are fastened round the neck and waist and a knife put under her pillow at night to avert the evil eye. She is not allowed to go for near mahua, khakra or khejara tree where spirits are believed to reside. It is customary that the daughter returns to her parents well in time for her first delivery.

Festivities start and women assemble to sing songs specially meant for such an occasion, some describing the changing behavior and liking of a pregnant woman

When the birth pangs begin, the woman is given some butter oil to drink to help facilitate the delivery. A cow dung cake is kept burning constantly, into which drops of butter-oil and some incense is cast from time to time and offerings are made to gods to ensure a safe and easy child-birth. Promises are made and vows taken that if the child is safely born parents will take the infant to the deity in due course and offer obeisance in person by shaving off the hair on head the baby. If the birth pains are excessive or unbearable, sorcerer's help is resorted to. Many women, to checkmate such an eventuality, start to wear charms prescribed by wizards as soon as they realize that the pregnancy has occurred.

When the child is born, the naval cord is cut with a scythe and the child rubbed with wheat flour and given a bath. The cord and the placenta are buried carefully by the new father's sister to prevent their coming in the possession of any animal, evil spirit or magician. The birth of the child is announced by midwife, the nayan-wife of the family barber or by a senior relatives and close friends and ties strings of mango leaves at their doors and with the help of cow dung or red earth draws a swastika, a symbolic representation of Sun, as a sign of good wishes and good news on the occasion.

The woman is given a partial bath after the delivery. A regular bath is given on the sixth or seventh day when she is dressed ceremoniously and is brought out from the delivery room by the younger brother of the husband to worship the Sun. the baby, anointed with oil and lamp-black put on the eye-line and a red or blue string tied round its waist, is brought out along with her. Both are then taken in a procession to the village well for worship called jalwa.

Although the birth of a son is the most welcome event, a daughter in the family is also considered essential. Parents who are not blessed with a daughter to offer in marriage feel themselves unfortunate, as kanyadan- bestowing of daughter is one of the samskaras- religious obligations prescribed by the tradition without which one's life is not considered complete. Children are named usually after gods and goddesses. The tribal folks name their children after the genius presiding over the days on which they are born.