This post is part of our ongoing series featuring the works of Professor LeBoeuf 's students in her Introduction to Religions of Asia course at Whittier College!
The Janam Naam Sanskar(Sikh baby naming ceremony) is a formal presentation of a newborn infant to Guru Granth, Sikh scripture and eternal guru to the Sikhs, and choosing a name from the scripture. When it comes to the time of the ceremony, there is no set marker for the time of the ceremony as the ceremony will only start once the mother and the child are in good health and able to bathe together. If not then a six -week recovery period may be observed so that the pair can be in the best shape possible for the ceremony. According to Sikhi Wiki, it states that as soon as the family is ready to undertake this ceremony, the father or another senior member of the family should make contact with their local Gurdwara, Sikh place of worship, and make arrangements for this brief ceremony (Sikhiwiki, 2010). The immediate family, relatives, and close friends gather together in the presence of the Guru Granth Sahib, the religious text of the Sikhs, either in the home or at the gurdwara for kirtan(prayer). The family then sings or recites hymns of rejoicing and blessing for the child such as: "Pootaa maataa kee aasees|| O son (child), this is your mother's blessing, hope, and prayer."
During the ceremony, a Sejh or Sadharan Paath, a non-continuous reading of the Guru Granth Sahib with no time limit, will be read from beginning to end in preparation for the child. If the reading is finished once the newborn’s ceremony is over than the family will celebrate its completion by having a Bhog, which are observances that follow after is underway on behalf of the newborn. The Akhand path is continuous and normally lasts 48 hours to complete, requiring a relay of readers for it to be completed. Next comes the Ardas, the petition to supreme authority(prayer), which is done to request to God for good body and mind for the child health and to enlighten the name of his/her family. This is also done to request a name for the child. Following the ardas, the Hukamnama is taken and a random verse from the Guru Granth is read: the first letter of the first word read in the Hukam is the letter to be used to give the name to the child.
Once you have chosen the name for the baby, the word "Kaur" is added to the names of girls and the name "Singh" is added to the names of boys. A name may be suggested by the one reading and is decided on by the family members. From Sikhnet it states that the suffix of Kaur(princess) completes the name of a baby girl and the suffix of Singh(lion) completes the name of a baby boy (Sikhnet, 2015). As in Religions of Asia: An Introduction by Sushil Mittal and Gene Thursby it states that “The underlying principle is that the child derives his or her identity from the Guru’s word and begin life as a Sikh” (Mittal, Thursby 142). There are no restrictions to names as long as they follow the name and have the same meaning across different languages as well. Sikhs should obey Guru’s order and not use their family names but instead use Singh and Kaur (Sikhnet 2015). From Sukhmandir Khalsa, she states that the Gianni (sage in Sikh customs) will pronounce the name of the child in the Sangat, religious body of the Sikh (Khalsa 2017). Once the name is pronounced everyone will hail the Jakarta – Jo bole so nihal – Sat Siri Akal or simply put the shout of victory.
From then on all of the relatives must begin to call the child by that name pronounced in the Sangat and should register the name with the legal authorities. The first five and final verses of Anand Sahib, "The Song of Bliss", are then sung or recited. Moreover, the offering of Karah Prashad, any food that was first offered to a deity, is prepared either by the family, or at the gurdwara, placed before the Guru Granth, and distributed to those gathered together for the Sikh baby naming ceremony. One final thing to note would be that in Sikhism hair or kes is supposed to be respected so the hair is kept intact and untouched throughout life. Hair is essential to Sikhism as Sikhs hair is the symbol of love for God and the respect for everything He has given us Sikhism. Yet with water and food, it is considered a life-sustaining gift and ordained by the will of the divine. Making clothing for the infant from the Rumala, draperies which cover the Guru Granth Sahib, is considered sacrilegious and contrary to the ideals of Sikhism.
About Noah Humphrey
Noah is a sophomore at Whittier College. He is majoring in religion and plan to double major within the WSP program to become chiropractor that utilizes prayer. He loves to write poetry and workout as is currently a defensive back for Whittier College football. With prayer and good wishes he hopes to connect to others and help them along their paths.
“Child Naming Ceremony.” Sikh Wiki, Encyclopedia of the Sikhs, Sikh Wiki, www.sikhiwiki.org/index.php/Child_Naming_Ceremony.
Khalsa, Sukhmandir. “Janam Naam Sanskar (Sikh Baby Naming Ceremony). ”ThoughtCo, ThoughtCo, 4 June 2017, www.thoughtco.com/janam-naam-sanskar-sikh-naming-ceremony-2993451.
“Naam Karan: The Sikh Naming Ceremony.” SikhNet, SikhNet, 28 Jan. 2014, www.sikhnet.com/news/naam-karan-sikh-naming-ceremony.
Mittal, Sushil, and Gene R. Thursby. Religions of South Asia: an Introduction. Routledge, 2010.