The ‘Seemantham’ function is a common traditional South Indian (Tamil, Telugu and Kannada) ritual celebrating the arrival of a couple’s (usually) first child. The function is performed in the odd months of pregnancy (3rd, 5th, 7th or 9th).The idea is to invoke various Hindu gods to bless the couple and baby with trouble-free delivery and a prosperous long life.
There are three components to this function:
- The Valaikaappu (lit. valai = bangle + kaapu = protection) function is first performed by the mother-to-be’s mother (or in-laws if convenient). The mother-to-be is given several bangles (made of either glass, gold or silver) to wear on her two wrists. It is believed that the sounds of these bangles clinging onto each other will reach the womb and make the baby happy.
- The Udakashanti (lit. udaka = water + shanti = peace) function: This is a common Hindu ritual that is performed to invoke various nature gods. It begins with an invocation to Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed deity, who is considered to be the remover of obstacles. This is followed by a puja (prayer) involving a kalasam (a vessel containing water and decorated with flowers and mango leaves) and chanting of hymns from the Krishna Yajur Veda. The water in the kalasam is symbolically meant to represent water from the river Ganga (in India) which is one of the most holy rivers for the Hindus. Varuna (the god of the oceans and waters) is invoked to purify the parents-to-be and help them with a trouble-free delivery. The water from the kalasam is then sprinkled on the couple by guests, symbolizing their good wishes. The deity Vishnu (considered the preserver of the universe) is finally invoked to bless the couple with good health. Following this, a small homam (type of puja) is performed with offerings to Agni, the god of fire and light. The couple is then considered to have attained the goodwill of Agni so that they are filled with confidence and courage on this new journey.
- The seemantham is the final ceremony wherein the water (considered to contain the blessings of the water god Varuna) is poured over the mother-to-be. Finally, the goddesses Lakshmi (goddess of prosperity) and Saraswati (goddess of wisdom) are invoked to bestow the child with both prosperity and intellect.
The entire ceremony lasts about 2-2.5 hours. Traditionally, the Seemantham function was performed for all children, but it is nowadays common to perform this function only for the first child.