Meaning of Mundan or Tonsure for babies
Tonsuring a baby’s head is the act of shaving baby’s first hair on the head. Baby’s first hair removal ceremony is popularly known as ‘mundan’ in India and is widely practiced by Hindus and Muslims all over the world.
‘Mundan’ is a religious ceremony where the barber shaves the first hair of an infant. In Islam, it is done between 7-40 days for hygiene purposes and hindus do it anytime after 4 months but mostly around 9 months, 1 year and 3 years. Some communities tonsure only the boys and not the girls in the family. So, traditionally tonsuring and the time differs from community to community or even family to family.
But one thing is for sure that it is a widely accepted ceremony that is performed for infants. Deeper historical research suggests that it was a practice followed by all religions and used to be performed by native Americans as well.
Is it necessary to shave baby hair?
The practice has been questioned in recent times. The Sikhs in India do not cut their hair so do not subscribe to a mundan. However, I have heard of a few Sikh mothers who told me that the mundan is performed in their families even though they belong to the Sikh religion. So I do not understand the whys and hows of it.
As far as I know, many people do not shave their baby’s hair and they turn out to be fine.
Does mundan promote hair growth or any any other hair benefits?
There is no scientific reason to back up the popular belief that mundan or tonsuring promotes hair growth. It is a reason given most often by elders when we ask them the scientific reason behind tonsuring. The hair might look fuller and better after baby’s first tonsure because the hair grows out evenly but that’s all.
Why did I get Misha’s head tonsured?
As you all would know by now, I’m not one to follow religion or traditions blindly. I do not put a ‘kala tika’ on my baby- here’s why.
But when it came to a mundan or tonsuring my baby’s head or shaving her hair off, I did not fight against it. Here’s why:
- My instincts told me that tonsure for babies is done for a reason. I went ahead and did some research about it and found out that it was practiced in all religions world over. Now, I believe that the practices that were followed by such a large number of people must have been done with reason.
A lot of people’s first argument with mundan is that people don’t do it in the west nor is it done by the Sikh community in India. I have answered both these questions in the beginning of the post.
- Scientific Reason behind Mundan:
I went a deeper into Mundan Sanskar vidhi and why mundan ceremony is done. During the course of my research, I found out that Vitamin D is made faster and in more quantity by the baby’s body if the baby is exposed to sunlight without clothes or without hair. A fully clothed baby makes Vitamin D faster if a tonsured head is exposed to sunlight.
Vitamin D was never a problem in earlier times as people including babies got regular exposure to the sun but our generation prefers to keep babies protected inside homes. To counter this, doctors prescribe external Vitamin D supplements.
I am again against any medicines or supplements without any proof that my baby needs it or is deficient in it. I would rather that the baby got the Vitamin D from me or made it naturally. Mundan would help that cause and cut down in the time the baby needed to be exposed to the sun.
- The third reason was that my baby was born with a head full of hair and it has started to get matted because she would rub her head on the pillow. I had started noticing a bald patch.
At 4 months, she still had bits of her cradle cap and they refused to budge. Sometimes, bunched of hair would come out with parts of the cradle cap ! Getting a mundan done for my baby also helped with getting rid of her cradle cap.
My baby would also pull her own hair and the matted hair would get stuck in her fingers and would hurt her.
So at 4 months, when my parents were visiting me, we got her head tonsured in Ujjain, home to the Mahakaleahwar Jyotirlinga. We did not have a ceremony or anything but it gave my mom joy to get it done on the ghats of Ujjain and call it a ‘mundan’.
If would have used a trimmer and shaved my baby’s hair off myself if I wasn’t too scared. We did apply haldi mixed in the holy river water as haldi / turmeric has antiseptic properties.
So these were my reasons of getting a mundan sanskar for my daughter. Did you have a mundan ceremony too? Was it for religious reasons or did you go deeper into the reasons for mundan? Let me know in the comments below.