Around the world there are pregnant women being celebrated and blessed to ensure a happy and safe entrance into motherhood. In Tamil Nadu, India this ceremony is called Valaikappu. The valaikappu is typically hosted by the woman’s parents in either her 9th or 11th month of pregnancy (though I have heard 5th or 7th is good too). However, my parents are Americans and don’t have the faintest idea about these things (and live in another state), and our friend Swathi was determined to see us properly blessed before she flew back to India and asked to host this ceremony for us–she is too sweet!
The date picked was the date of our first wedding anniversary. My husband and I felt there was no better way to celebrate our first anniversary than to be celebrating the upcoming birth of our first child.
While the event itself is generally non-religious, and is celebrated by Hindu, Muslim, and Christian woman across Tamil Nadu, ours incorporated a Hindu puja.
My friend told me I should wear my wedding saree for the valaikappu if I could. I did have my wedding saree from our Indian wedding ceremony but…oh my… ladies, can you imagine squeezing your pregnant hineys back into your wedding dress?? If I gained or lost a lb before the US ceremony then I had to get that gown professionally altered. Fit into it during my pregnancy? Ha!
“I’m so glad we have this beautiful tradition.”
Luckily, sarees (wedding or otherwise) always come with a generous seam allowance just for the purpose of weight gain. So I took out all of the seams and sewed along the very edge of the fabric…it [barely] fit. I breathed a sigh of relief–though not too big of a sigh, for fear of ripping my blouse.
For the ceremony you should have quite a few things.
You should have 9 or 11 fruits. The quantity of each fruit depends, but we did one of each–you should definitely have a coconut and bananas! We had: coconut, bananas, pineapple, apple, lemon, orange, pomegranate, plum, and a peach. We also had incense, ghee lamp, turmeric and uncooked rice, sandalwood paste, kumkum powder, flower petals, and sweets.
Our coconut was broken open and inside was a small baby coconut growing, which is considered to be very good luck. Hooray!
Glass Bangles are the most significant bangles for Valaikappu, as the music of them tapping together is supposed to awaken the babies senses. The mother-to-be wears them for the remainder of her pregnancy. The gold bangles went first, followed by the colored glass bangles. Red for the right arm, and green for the left in odd numbers.
The couple and Ganesh should be situated facing east. There was some argument as to which side of Shiva that Parvati sits (so as to determine my placement next to my husband), but it was determined that the best spot was on his right side. The ghee-lamp was passed in front of us, and then it was time to put on the bangles.
After the bangles, sandalwood paste was marked on our foreheads and hands and topped with kumkum powder. Turmeric-coated rice and rose petals were sprinkled on our heads and we were blessed.
We gave thanks to our elders and I fed my sweetie some sweets and then he fed me. Ladoo is a popular sweet, and is what we used–but I’m a sucker for gulab jamun sandwiches.
They look so delicious… I ate two of them later on…
Next was lunch! The common lunch for valaikappu is variety rice. Usually there are five kinds of variety rice: lemon rice, curd (yogurt) rice, tomato rice, sambhar rice, and a sweet rice. Our party was small so we had lemon, tomato, and curd. Lucky me, the mother-to-be eats first! Yum.