Baby Birth Rituals in Bunt Community
When a pregnant woman informs the start of labor pains, someone from the family goes to fetch the “bijalthi” or pedupavuna ponjovu. She is taken to the kotya. All necessary items required are gathered and taken to the kotya. It is common to have a helper to take care of the peddoldi (new mother) and the baby.
The helper or other elder women and the bijalthi make the expecting mother comfortable and coach her to push the baby. If the head of the baby comes out first, the delivery is going to be easy.If a hand or a leg comes out first, then the delivery is going to be complicated. The bijalthi orients in the baby to proper position to ease the complications. The bijalthi informs the waiting members the arrival of the baby. The time of the birth is recorded accordingly. This is later used to prepare jathaka of the child.
The puvoluda ballu (umbilical cord) is cut off using the gejjekatthi (a small knife) and tied with a fresh cotton thread. The baby is expected to cry as soon as it comes out. If it does not cry, they tap the baby’s face with warm water and make it cry. The baby is cleaned. During the wash, the nose, forehead and face are softly rubbed to define their shape. The baby is covered in clean clothes and placed in a thadpe or a paale. The head is placed on a cherige so that the head stays straight up.
Bijalthi checks for the presence of second baby. If there is no sign of the second baby, they wait for the kajel or kasa (placenta) to come out. Once the kajel is out, it is buried in a pit near the bathhouse. The peddoldi gets cleaned. A sari is tied to her stomach to constrain the loose belly, like a corset. She then gets a drink made of kaljirige and ole bella. Bijalthi’s work is now complete. She is appropriately rewarded for her service.
The nourishing of the mother begins and continues for next forty days. The helping woman gives bath to both the mother and the baby. Ponne oil is applied to the body and massaged before the bath. The peddoldi is not allowed to do any chores around the house. The diet for the first few days after the delivery is mainly solid with minimum fluid or water intake. Various types of food are prepared during the next few weeks. The peddoldi mard includes kaljeerige, garlic, shunti (ginger), ole bellaand common spices prepared in various forms and formulations. The food includes kori kashaya (chicken curry), manni,ganji (rice) with different lentils, and are eaten at various stages of the recovery process.
On the fifth day, the cleansing process begins. This ritual is called ame or ame shuddi. The madiwala lady or madyelthi orkelesi comes to help in this process. The mother and the baby get cleaned. The house is cleansed with cow-dung. Then, the theertha brought from the village temple is sprinkled in different directions of the house. The mother and the baby are then brought inside the house. Untill ame shuddi is done the members of her family have suthaka and are not allowed to enter temples or participate in any celebrations such as wedding.
On the sixteenth day of birth, the baby is ceremoniously placed in the cradle. This is called bale tottil padune. The auspicious moment for this ceremony is determined by the purohit . The cradle is suspended from the ceiling, the length of the cradle oriented along the east-west direction. Two women stand on either side of the cradle. One takes the baby from the mother and transfers to the other women over the cradle and then receives it back from her under the cradle. This is repeated three times. Then the baby is ceremoniously placed in the cradle, head facing east. If the family has planned to take the baby to a temple for his/her first rice meal, the baby is not fed in the cradle. Otherwise, crushed ganji is fed to the baby in the cradle. The guests place money or other gifts in the hands of the baby.
The naming ceremony is performed during the ame shuddhi or cradle ceremony. It is common to name the baby after the grand parents. The name could also be based on astrological method. The first character of the name is selected based on the janma nakshatra (birth star).
On the fortieth day, the mother is prepared for the nalpa neer meepune. This marks the final day of her recovery process. After finishing her bath, she would dress herself. Then she ceremonially draws water from the well in a small chembu. She pours part of the water from the chembu to the ‘tulasi katte’, and uses the rest to wash her feet. Then she goes to the village temple. Special meal is prepared for that day. Now, the mother is ready to take part in all household activities.
The husband along with a woman (sister or aunt) visits the new mother and the baby. The husband pays “maryadi” to the woman who took care of his wife and baby. This could include clothes, money or jewels. They decide on the day and time for the mother to return to her in-laws. The ceremony of the baby coming to its father’s house for the first time is called thottil bale popune. The first daughter generally gets the family thottil and she will take it with her. If she is not the first daughter, then a new thottil is purchased for her first child. The cradle used by the baby in mother’s house is not removed when the baby is gone.