Q109. What is the Naming Ceremony among the Sikhs?
Sikh ceremonies are not rituals or occasions for the display of affluence and ego, but acts of thanks-giving and prayer, suited to the occasion. There is no ceremony at the time of the birth of the child in a Sikh family, even though the event produces a feeling of joy among the near relatives. However, when the mother and the child are in a position to move about, say a few weeks after the birth, the family takes the opportunity of performing the Naming Ceremony.
Generally a date is fixed by the parents, and the relatives and friends are informed of the date, time and venue. Generally the ceremony takes place in a Sikh Temple (Gurdwara). The family prepares some Karah Prasad at home or requests the Gurdwara to arrange for its preparation. The mother and child are taken to the Gurdwara. The family also takes a Rumala which is a piece of quality cotton or silk cloth about one metre square as a gift for the Guru Granth Sahib and sometimes sweets for distribution among the congregation. The Granthi or a senior member of the congregation present places a bowl of water near the Scripture. He places sugar-balls or pellets in the water and stirs the contents with a Kirpan(Sword) while reciting the first five Pauris of Guru Nanak’s Japji. Sometimes some hymns are then sung to seek a blessing for the new-born. Then the general prayer, the Ardas (Supplication) is recited requesting good health and a long life for the child. After the Ardas a hymn is sung on behalf of the mother for the gift of meditation and Gur-Sikhi, for her child as under:
“O Son, this blessing is sought by your mother:
May you never forget the Lord of the universe even for a moment;
May the True Guru be kind to you and
May you come to a love for the society of the saints”. (p. 496)
Thereafter a Hukam (a random reading from the Guru Granth Sahib) is made. The first letter of the first word of the reading becomes the initial letter of the child’s name. For example if the first letter of the reading is “S”, the child may be named Surjit Singh or Surinder Singh or any other name beginning with the letter “S”. If the newborn is a girl, her name would likewise begin with “S” but end with “Kaur” in place of “Singh”. There-after a few drops of “Amrit” or sweetened water prepared earlier, are put in the baby’s mouth, while the remaining water is drunk by the mother. The ceremony ends with the distribution of Karah-Parsad and the placing of the Rumala on Guru Granth Sahib. Sometimes, Langar is also served to those present, though this is not compulsory.
In places where there is no Sikh Temple or where the child and the mother are not in a position to move out, the Naming Ceremony may be held in the home. Friends and relatives may be invited. One of those present will recite a hymn or two, prepare the Amrit as mentioned above and offer Ardas before one of the other Sikh scripture if the Guru Granth Sahib is not available, they may then take a Hukam from the Pothi or Gutka (Selections of Gurbani or Hymns). They will then propose a name according to the first letter of the hymn read. Those present generally give the approval to a name by a jaikara or it may be left to the parents to choose a name later, but using the key initial letter from the Hukam. The use of caste name like Grewal, Arora etc. before or after the personal name is discouraged in the Sikh religion.