Pasni: The Rice Feeding Ceremony – Why and How!
As soon as we are born, we cry, and the only thing we consume for a long time is our mother’s milk. It takes a long time for us – humans – to be able to develop a body that can digest solid food. Although mother’s milk is our only food source, it has all the nutrients that we need to grow both physically and mentally.
Over the course of the next 6 months, we grow from weak and helpless to a bit more capable infant. Finally, after 6 months of relying purely on breast milk, we are finally able to consume a bit of solid food. Since it is a milestone in our life, we celebrate it and this rice feeding ceremony is called Pasni.
The day is preplanned and everything is set to place. The scientific and the religious point of view intersect here as after 6 months after which the child’s digestive system is finally good enough to digest some amounts of solid foods.
But we do have the tradition of making it a religious offering with the blessings from our Hindu deities. The child is taken as a blessing from the god, and so is to be fed with the proper food elements with religious processes. But regardless of whether Pasni is done for religious or scientific reasons, this ceremony is just a phase in the life of a child where s/he is slowly being eased into eating solid foods.
Table of Contents
What is a Pasni?
Feeding or weaning as the westerns know – is a ceremony of feeding rice to an infant that we practice as Annaprashan or Pasni on an auspicious day. To feed an infant, we have to look for an auspicious day that has been stated by the guru or Jyotish. This ceremony is usually held on the 6th month from the birth of the child. However, if the auspicious day on the 6th month is missed for some reason, then you will have to wait for the guruji to find the next date in order to carry out this ceremony.
This day consists of having a simple puja to start the feeding ceremony. A pandit guru Ji is invited and all the elements and materials are prepared before the ceremony begins in earnest. Since the Pasni is a time of rejoicing, relatives and close friends gather around to celebrate this auspicious day.
Calling the Guru Ji
As soon as the infant is about to turn 6 months of age, a parent should consult with a Jyotish or pandit guru to choose the auspicious day to hold this festival. Pasni is held on the 5th month for the girls. Meanwhile, the same ceremony is held on the 6th month for the boy.
The reason for this is a traditional belief that the body of a female infant matures earlier than the male infant- which is a commonly accepted medical belief in modern times. During the consultation, everything that should be done and prepared for the day is learned and prepared.
Before the Main event
On the day of Pasni, required ingredients are prepared and laid out at the designated place before the pandit guru arrives. During this ceremony, a simple puja is done, which includes Diyo puja, Kalash Puja, and Ganesh puja. These three figures of gods are usually included in any simple puja and can be done with the guru’s guidance to have a boon from the day. However, this puja is not compulsory in the case of the Pasni.
Regardless of the Puja is done, Guru Ji lays out the rekhi to place the gods at their representative place and each ingredient is placed in tapara. The diyo is placed towards the east alongside Kalash and Ganesh on the other side.
Side note* the required ingredients for Pasni are listed out at the end.
While Pasni is indeed an important ceremony in the lives of Hindus, it is not necessary a ceremony is celebrated in just a single way. The one who made the rules probably understood that not everyone is equal and as a result, there are two processes to do the pasni. One of the processes is somewhat short and simple, the other one is a bit long and complicated as well.
The short and simpler process
Pasni can be done right at your home but as there are still other options, let’s spread them out. If you have a temple nearby the house, then it’s a good practice to go there since Pasni is not a big ceremony. Taking the puja ingredients and the food items to offer to the gods in the temple is heavily practiced in our Nepali Hindu customs anyways.
It’s an easier and simpler method of achieving the completion of the process. The guruji from the temple will guide you through the temple. There you will worship each god and bow down offering Puja for the blessings from God to your child.
After the puja is done, the offered food is taken on a clean spoon and fed to the child by the most elder head of the family or a young girl from the family- who is also known as a Kanya kumari. This step is usually carried out by the grandfather. However in the case that he is not present at the time, then this process is carried out by the next of kin.
As the child will be new to these kinds of tastes and textures, s/he is just fed a bit for the ceremony. And that ends the ceremony of feeding the infant to the world of different food items other than milk. As time passes however the child is indeed slowly eased into solid foods later on after Pasni.
In recent times, as the day commences, there will be a gathering where the child is given items of importance by the family, the near relatives, and family friends. It’s time to celebrate the auspicious day. The child would be happy to see all of the people.
The long process with guru’s Guidance
In the long process of Pasni, a simple puja is done, which includes Diyo puja, Kalash Puja, and Ganesh puja. These three figures of gods are usually included in most of the pujas. However, although these pujas are not compulsory for the Pasni, it is still practiced by the highly religious ones.
Guru Ji lays out the rekhi to place the gods in the representing place and each element is placed in tapara that consists of rice. Diyo is then placed towards the east alongside Kalash and Ganesh on the other side.
Diyo- Kalash- Ganesh Puja
The puja process begins with igniting the diyo and worshipping the fire god through it. Then a gaudan sankalpa is done with a sankalpa mantra chanted by the guru ji. This Sankalpa process is a will statement stated for doing this puja for the pasni ceremony in the name of the child. It is followed by Argha puja, where water, mustard seeds, dubo, kus, curd, and banana are placed in Arghya Patra. These ingredients are then offered in the name of the sun and placed back in their place.
The ignited diyo is touched with flowers, akshyata and worshipped upon. Different elements of puja like Abhir, Kesari, Chandan, akshita, veti, naived are placed upon the diyo.
The standing Kalash is now worshipped from the base on the earth, then the rice which it stands on, followed by the body of the Kalash, and finally ending with the mouth of the Kalash. The ingredients – which are the same ones used in the Diyo Puja, are placed inside the Kalash. Additionally, In Kalash, we worship Varun, the god of the seas, and tirtha, the river gods.
Ganesh, which is represented by Coconut wrapped with red cloth is touched with flowers, akshyata, and prayed for the blessings of the child. Once again the new batch of elements that were used while worshipping the Diyo, are offered to Lord Ganesh. 21 rupees as Dakshina, 21 blades of dubo grass is placed with red flowers as Ganesh is fond of these things.
Completing the puja ceremony with the guidance of Guruji, all the prepared food items are brought and offered to the gods worshipped there. The child is brought and placed with the parents. The paternal aunt holds the baby while feeding but if the aunt is unavailable, parents themselves can hold the child.
Now, a young girl from the family (Kanya Kumari) or the grandfather of the child starts the feeding process. The parents and the family members feed the child as well during this process. The kheer that is usually prepared is fed to the child as a Prashad from the puja. With this, the feeding ceremony ends. The ending process of the puja is done by the parents with the guidance of the guru. This includes Bali, Purnapatra, Puspanjali, Bisarjan, and Sidha for Bhraman guru.
The total time required for this ceremony is usually 1 to 2 hours but can extend as per the will of the ceremony holders. Receiving tika from the guru starting with the child, all the family members put tika and gift the child with long-lasting materials like gold and silver jewels and other necessary items along with Money as Dakshina for the just fed child. Then the guru is given a justifiable amount of money as tika and Dakshina and with a satisfying meal to bless the child.
This event lasts for the whole day as the child playfully sits with the parents and enjoys receiving blessings and gifts. From this day forward the child receives solid food items to some degree and other nutritious items that are semi-solid like Lito and kheer. Although the infant is fed solid foods, s/he is still mostly dependent on the mother’s milk for a bit longer.
The difference in the reasons for Pasni when compared with the western culture
As we have mentioned, a concept similar to Pasni exists in the west as well which is called weaning. This is not a coincidence however as both of these practices have a similar reason of origin.
The westerners equivalent/reasons to Pasni
All throughout human history we have been feeding infants with premastication (mouth feeding). But gradually it started to cause diseases in the infants from the parents. Due to this reason, the practice was slowly transitioned towards the produced liquidy foods, that the child can consume while still being breastfed.
The internal digestive system’s growth is what the feeding steps actually rely on. The first step makes it a bit stronger to digest the next close alternative of milk. This first step can last anywhere from 6 to 12 months. After which, the infant is fed a bit more solid food until the child is 2. By that time, the child should slowly be learning to eat by themselves. Over the course of these two years, breastfeeding is also lessened and eventually stopped, however in some cases this can take up to three years.
The traditional approach for Pasni in Nepal
Although Pasni is a ceremony that is specific to Nepal, it is not a unique ceremony as similar concepts exist all over the world. The base concept is to start feeding alternatives to breastmilk. But we do have the tradition of making it a religious offering with the blessings from our Hindu deities. The child is taken as a blessing from the god, and so is to be fed with the proper food elements with religious processes.
The celebration of this ceremony brings all the relatives from near and far – the reason being having a get together for the sake of a memorable time with the ones you count as your own, makes the event much more precious for any individual.
Here are the basic required materials that you can prepare for the puja that can be found in the local puja store.
The list of the required elements for Pasni with Puja:
- Abir (Vermillion)
- Saffron (Kesar)
- Black sesame (kalo Teel)
- Barley (jau)
- Halfa grass (kus)
- flowers (red, white, yellow, etc.)
- Bilva leaf (Bel Patra)
- Incense sticks (dhup batti)
- Fruits (of different shapes and color)
- Naivedya (cooked food, kheer for feeding)
- Red, White and Yellow cloth
- Janai (sacred thread)
- Betel nut (supari)
- Camphor (Kapur)
- Cow Milk Curd Ghee Cowdung Cow urine
- Leaves (Banyan, Peepal,mango and chhap)
- Bermuda grass (dubo)
- Yellow, black thread
- Rice powder
- Dhan Rice grain
- Purnapatra (a vessel full of rice)
- Dakchina (a certain amount of money)
- Duna, Tapari (disposable leaf plates)
- Mustard seeds
- Sarv Aushadhi (a mixture of different herbs)
- Sapta mritika (soil of seven places)
- Pancha Ratna (five different stones)
- Aachmani (copper utensils)
- Ritual bell (ghanta)
- Arghya Patra (a vessel to offer arghya)
- Pakwan (dishes like Selroti, puri etc)
- Betel nut
- Cotton wicks (batti)
- Sandalwood paste (chandan)
Before Pasni however, there another ceremony that a child has to go through. If you are curious about what that ceremony is, do check out our information on Everything About Nwaran You Need To Know About!
You require a child to fulfill the Pasni ceremony. That follows with the naming ceremony. Kindly go through the Ceremony of Naming of a newborn child, You might need it someday.