Ann-Prashan sacrament is the seventh sacrament. Ann-Prashan means eating solid food for the first time in life. The child receives the mother’s milk as soon as he/she is born. At that time the child has neither teeth to chew food nor is the child in a position to digest the food . For that time God has therefore arranged for the type of food that is suitable for the child during that period. God’s creation is such that not only has He provided the food, He as also ensured that it is readily available with the mother.
The question now arises as to how long should the child be dependent on the mother’s milk bearing in mind the mother’s health and the need to maintain the child’s health as well.
1. From the Mother’s point of view - Calcium is the main health giving element in milk. Feeding the baby with mother’s milk means the mother is giving away calcium from her body to the child. This means that for as long as she continues to feed the child with her milk she will continue to become weak in calcium. This is the reason why those mothers who continue to feed their child for a long period become weak. Nature has itself decided on the duration of feeding. When the child starts teething then it should be understood that the time for chewing food is drawing near. In that case the mother should herself reduce breast feeding and concentrate on giving solid foods.
It is often seen that many mothers do not pay attention to this, become weak and yet continue to breast feed the child. Ann-Prashan has been made a part of religion because of this, so that at the appropriate time the mother should stop breast feeding and give attention to feeding the child with solid foods so that her health may also be maintained. By determining it as a sacrament the mother is forced to concentrate on it, otherwise when neighbours see the mother breast feeding the child after the time for Ann-Prashan has passed, they would question as to whether Ann-Prashan Sacrament of the child had been done. From the mother’s viewpoint the importance of Ann-Prashan is the protection of her body.
2. From the child’s view point - There is no doubt that milk has all types of health giving elements, but nature has not made us to live on milk alone. For as long as milk is required and the stomach is soft, the child does not have teeth, however when the stomach strengthens and is able to digest solid food, then the child starts teething so that the child can chew solid food and eat to survive.
The child should not be brought off milk onto solid foods completely. In the beginning the child is able to take milk only, however after Ann-Prashan sacrament the child is able to take milk as well as solid foods. At the time of teething the child is in an uneasy state.
Procedure - According to Sanskar Vidhi , after conducting Havan, the child should be fed with a little boiled rice mixed with yoghurt, honey and ghee after reciting the following mantra-
OM ANN PATE ANNASYA NO DEHYANAMIWASYA SHUSHMINAH. PRA PRA DATARAM TARISH URJAM NO DHEHI DWIPADE CHATUSHPADE. Yajurved 11/83.
O God the giver of food! May You provide us with healthy and energy producing food. Grant happiness to those that give food in charity. May this food provide energy to all living beings.