Author: Anu Karthik / Labels: , ,

Jan 29th 2010

Most people who belong to my community have the custom of tonsuring their child's head and offering the hair to a lord of their choice. This is done usually in the 1st or 3rd year of the child's life. Some offer it to their family deity and some offer to Lord Balaji of Thirupathi and many offer it to more than one diety, tonsuring multiple times. 

I think it is fair to say that I belong to a generation that questions old beliefs and superstitions and practices that our older generation does not have the explanation for. However I don't question the belief or practice that I am asked to follow, but often times I have searched for an explanation or a meaning. If something has been followed for eons, there most likely will be a reason is my belief. The trick lies in understanding, accepting and striking a balance if some of those beliefs or practices apply to  our lives today.

We tonsured my son's head and offered his hair to our family deity. While I never objected to doing it and agreed readily, actually seeing him cry throughout the whole process broke my heart. His dad and I are both softies where the most we have allowed him to cry has been a minute at max. So seeing him bawl and forcibly taking his hair off for a purpose he did not yet comprehend was a little unsettling for me. And when you see your child in a way stripped off his beauty, it takes some adjusting to do. 

My understanding before going into this process was just this - Hair is an adornment that beautifies your persona. One that God bestows on you. By offering it to him, you submit yourself to the almighty in all humility and as always submit for him to take control of you and your life. The part that I was finding hard striking a balance was forcing a child to do it when he had no such understanding or reasoning. But the other angle to this is that it is a lesson in humility for the parents too, because when you see your child without his hair (beauty), you again remind yourself that you had no doing in this creation. It is he that made and to him it all belongs.

For something that is such an age old practice, surprisingly there was very less on the net. The following are some links I found relevant to what I was looking for. Some affirm my belief, some provide the reason as conversion and also some others deem it as inauspicious to shave the entire head (as it done only when the father dies).  I think I like my understanding best :)

If you have any other light to spill, please leave a comment and let me know.

Trivia: While looking for answers, I found this info online. One belief is to not do the tonsuring when someone else in the family is pregnant.  This was followed in the past because the whole family would go to a different village to do the tonsure leaving behind the pregnant woman which was not advisable. However, in today's world it does not necessarily hold true, correct? So an instance of where you need to take some things with a grain of salt!


Meera said...

I thot it was to enhance hair growth too.. :):)
Am thinking if the same line of thought will hold good for ear piercing too :)

MaySan said...

I agree with what Meera says...enhances hair growth.

Anu Karthik said...

@ both: that again seems to be an old wives tale,really. do you mean to say that for kids who don't put does not grow well :P

Anu Karthik said...

My mil explained to me that another reason this is done, as she has known is so that the hair that was there in the amniotic fluid for the first 9 months of the baby's life has to be removed, which is why this is done.

youyemyae said...

Enhance growth, thats what the Romans believed in i guess. I happened to read somewhere when we tonsured A, that by growing hair, s/he is said to be free and tonsuring makes her/him a slave of God - as believed by Monks, Catholics and many more. But what still puzzles me is the hair being cut for the boy even on the day of his Upanayanam (??) When asked, my dad said, the boy is reborn as a brahmin and since sins adhere to the hair he gets rid of them.

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