God Bharai – Indian baby shower
It is one of the joys of my work to occasionally dip my toes into the rich culture of India. For instance last weekend I had the honour of doing henna at a lovely Indian woman’s “God bharai” or baby shower. I did some research and found out a little about this traditional, Hindu baby shower.
“God bharai” means literally to fill the lap. It has many names, in Bengal it is known as shaad, in Kerala, seemandham and in Tamil Nadu it is called valakappu. The function of the traditional shower is to welcome the unborn baby into the family and to bless the expectant mother and offer her gifts. ‘To fill the lap’ is the process of showering the mother with gifts. Food, henna, laughter and celebration are all part of the occasion.
This shower is generally done in the seventh or eighth month of pregnancy when the most delicate period of the baby’s development is over. A puja may be done on the day as part of the blessing. Guests, particularly the elders, may apply “tikka” (vermilion) to the mothers forehead. The mother may be hennaed, anointed with special oils and dressed in a sari, flowers and bangles as if she were a bride again.
Traditions vary amongst Indian communities around the world. Rajesh Reviews (rajeshcmehta.blogspot.com.au) writes about the ‘god bharai’.
“No religious task is accepted without the puja of Lord Ganesha. The expectant lady is made to sit on a baajotth and small red dot is put on the forehead … a yellow thread is put on the wrist of expectant lady by her sister in law. She also offers a cup of sweet curd for the expectant mother. This yellow thread is significant for the protection of expectant lady and her baby. This thread protects the baby from all evil spirits and blesses her with a lot of happiness and joys.”
As I drove home after the weekend of hennaing and attending the god bharai, stuffing myself with chocolates from the little gift bag I received, I felt happy having made such a lovely connection. Indians have a reputation for warmth and hospitality, and this little niche in the Australian suburbs certainly lived up to that reputation. I am thankful to them also for showing me that family, warmth and celebration are always the heart of life, in India in Australia, in the past and in the present.