Namkaran or Hindu naming ceremony is the traditional Hindu Indian practice of naming the baby child. Nama literally means 'name' and karana means 'to make, to effect'. The ceremony usually takes place on the twelfth day after birth. The Namkaran can be usually held at home or in a temple where the father of the child whispers the name in the child's right ear usually after the baby is 2 or 3 weeks old.
Since welcoming a new life is always a joy for any household, the naming of a Hindu baby is done with a lot of enthusiasm and fanfare. The Namkaran of a baby in the Hindus is followed by a few rules known as the Samskara. There are several Samskaras that revolve around a Hindu’s life. In the beginning there is Garbhadana i.e. conception, Punsavana i.e. fetus protection, Jatakarma i.e. child birth, Namakarna i.e. naming of the baby and Annaprasana i.e. feeding the baby with solid food. Namakarna is sometimes also performed according to the deity that a particular household is following. These names are called theophoric. During the ancient times, this custom was common in Persia, Greece and India. It is also possible to locate one’s lineage by just knowing his name. For example, in the Vedic times if Garga was the name of the father, the son would be named Gargi, likewise the grandson would be called Gargya and then Gargyayana would be the name of the great grandson.
Also, the name of a Hindu child depends on the caste of the family. Since the Indian Hindu system is divided into Brahmins – the upper class, the Kshatriyas – the warriors, the Vaisyas – merchants and farmer class and the last were the Shudra – the slave caste. Hence, it is important to give an appropriate name that belongs to the particular caste.
According to the Grihyasutras, there are 5 requisites to selecting a name for the baby. This is the name that the child is will be called. It depends on the culture, religion & education of the family, and should be auspicious.
1. The name of the baby should be easy to pronounce and sound pleasant.
2. The baby name should contain a specified number of syllables and vowels.
3. The new born baby name should indicate the sex of the baby.
4. The baby's name should signify wealth, fame or power.
5. The child's name should be suggestive of the caste of the family.
As there are hundreds of gods and goddesses in the Hindu religion, it is helpful to procure the names from mythology with a lot of variety be it for a boy or girl. Every name has to mean something like Atul means cannot be matched, Abhay is fearless, Nityanand is endless happiness and so on. Choosing a Hindu name is a difficult process. Friends and relatives are invited to celebrate the namkaran ceremony.
However in modern times, keeping in mind age old traditions people perform this ceremony according to changing times. With sons and daughters moving abroad, it can be quite difficult for foreigners to pronounce a tongue twisting mythological name. Hence, the custom and traditions are followed these days yet the names are kept simple.