chapter  III
8 Pages

RITES AFTER BIRTH

In north India on the Chhathi day female friends assemble, the mother bathes in warm water, and presents (chhuchak, a term also applied to the gifts which she receives after she visits her parents when the impurity period ends) are sent by her relations. When mother and child are dressed they come out of the delivery room (zachha or zacha-khana), she holding a Koran in her hands and keeping her eyes shut. When she comes out she opens her eyes and looks seven times at the sky. While she is out of the room a little boy is made to sit on her

CHAP, III RITES AF1'EH BIRTH 37

bed for a moment, a magical device to secure another boy, and before he goes out he demands a present. Then food made of seven kinds of grain (satnaja}, often used in magic, is laid before the mother, but before she eats, seven women whose husbands are alive each take a mouthful from the dish. The wives of the family barber and gardener make wreaths of green leaves, which are hung on the houses of relations who give them a present. 1 In the Panjab during the first six days after the delivery the mother is never left alone. This, it is said, is done to prevent her from overlaying the child, but more probably to protect her from evil spirits, and a lamp is kept burning for the same reason all the time. Behmata or Bidhimata, 'Mother Fate ', is here the goddess who records the child's destiny at birth. It is a deadly sin to refuse fire to her when she asks for it, and a story is told of a Faqir who did so and was turned into a glow-worm, which ever carries fire behind it in its tail. 2 The Brah iii:, as soon as a child is .born, paint a mark in indigo on all the four walls of the house, so that no spirit may enter, while some strew leaves of the pipal or sacred fig tree about the house to keep off witches, and thrust a knife into the ground near the child's head. This must remain there for forty days, and if the mother happens during that time to go out of doors she must carry it with her as a protective. 3

As among the Semites, the impurity of the mother lasts for forty days. 4 During that time she is not allowed to pray, touch the Koran, or enter a mosque. These taboos originaliy lasted as long as any issue of blood continued. In the Panjab she sits while she nurses her child, lest its nose may become deformed by pressing against her breasts.• In south India on the fortieth as well as on the sixth, twelfth, and thirteenth days her friends bring gifts for the child, in particular amulets (ta'wiz) of gold or silver with verses of the Koran engraved on them which are hung o.ver one shoulder, crossing the back and chest and reaching below the hip on the other side. This gift-giving

in north India is usually done on the sixth day. In the Panjab, among people who do not seclude their women, when the child is one month and ten days old, the mother bathes, is dressed in new clothes, puts on her head a couple of jars filled with boiled grain, goes to the well and offers the food to the water Saint, Khwaja Khizr, after which she fills the jars with water and goes home.1 In Gujarat little boats made of grass are taken to the nearest water and set afloat in the name of the Saint. 2 In south India the fortieth day is spent in amusements. Hijras or eunuchs are paid to sing and dance, and they go about the town shouting 'Where is a son born?'. If the child is a daughter they get little or nothing. If they are not paid they load the father with curses. 3 In the evening male friends are feasted. Tht: Fatiha is said over food in the name of Muhammad Mustafa the Chosen One-on whom be the Peace !-and it is then served to the guests. Some people take the mother and baby into the open air and make her count a few stars, after which a couple of arrows used to be shot into the air.