Chhaitun: A Childbirth Ritual in Nepal

A stage in the ritual © Anil Gandharba

In some parts of Asia, childbirth ritual still exists, guided either by religion or folk belief. Chhaitun, a childbirth ritual of the Gandharba community in Nepal, is held on the sixth day after the delivery of a child into the world. This is a major ritual where a fortune writer unveils the fate of a newborn.

The Gandharba community in Nepal believes that individual fortune is written by the Vabi or the god of fate. On the occasion, after dusk, the entire surrounding of the house is purified by sprinkling it with holy water from Marsyandi, the nearest river to the community and recognized as holy since its water comes from the Himalayas. The host family invites their neighbors for a musical performance. Older men in the community sing an auspicious song with their instruments to welcome the fortune writer. The main entrance of the house will be opened throughout the musical performance. The child will be kept alone in a room with its doors and windows open. The elder person in the family keeps a notebook and a pen placed beside the child together with one mana (local measurement of the volume of rice) of uncooked rice on a brass plate; a traditional oil lamp will be kept on middle of the same plate. The entire procession of welcoming the fortune writer takes about an hour but the musical performance lasts till midnight. The host family serves snakes and home-made wine to the neighbors. The ritual ends with the neighbors giving blessings to the child.

In other words, Chhaitun is far beyond of a short ritual where a fortune writer unveils the fate of a newborn but the whole package of blessing which includes the hours of celebration.