For Hindu mothers there is a special ceremony that celebrates the new life on its way called the Godh Bharai. If you’re Hindu, you are probably familiar with the traditional baby celebration. You might also know that the Godh Bharai is traditionally thrown by the mother or mother-in-law. But we all know that many young couples move far from family and may create family among new friends. If you aren’t Hindu and you want to plan a celebration for a friend, there are a few things to understand. Traditionally, this is a women’s only function and features family heavily. While traditions vary slightly depending on the region the family comes from, the sentiment of the party remains constant. It is a celebration designed to bless the mother with gifts and pamper her before the big event.
Usually, the Godh Bharai takes place around the seventh month of gestation. This is considered a safe time, since the baby is almost ready to be born, and the risk of miscarriage and even severely premature birth are largely past. Talk with the mother-to-be’s family to make sure that you aren’t taking their place at this special time.
It is important, especially if you are inviting people of many cultures, to let your guests know that the Godh Bharai is a baby shower. Most Hindu ceremonies welcome those of any faith tradition, but it is important to let them know that the event is also a way to share the mother’s culture. Choose an invitation that celebrates the pregnancy and the coming life. While you are printing out the invitations, be sure to have some thank you notes printed at the same time. You can then address both the invitation and thank you note envelopes at the same time, saving the new mom many precious hours. Be sure to invite both the mother and mother-in-law, since they have big parts to play in the ceremony. If they cannot attend, talk to the mother-to-be about who she looks up to as a mother and ask them to stand in for the parents.
While different regions vary slightly, traditionally the mother-to-be is seated in a decorated swing. Throughout the party, guests come to her and swing her lightly. This represents the waves of joy that are coming into her life through the new baby. When you are planning where to have your Godh Bharai, choose a space that has room for a small patio swing. You can then decorate the legs and chains of the swing with an abundance of real or fake flowers and vines. Again, this mimics the abundance of life the mother is carrying. In many cases, the swing is part of the gifts to the mother, a special place for her to curl up with her growing child to nap or read stories.
Flowers, growing plants and full, ripe fruit are all very lovely and appropriate ways to decorate for a Godh Bharai. These all represent the growing life that is ripening within. The Godh Bharai is more than just celebrating new life. It is also about recognizing the change of the woman to a mother. Therefore, it is a nice touch to show how far she has come. Before the party, collect pictures of the mother from infancy on and create a Memory Lane effect as she goes through the party area. Include pictures of her favorite TV shows or movies. Place toys she loved or games she played as table centerpieces and even put out bowls of her favorite childhood candy if you can.
The blessing of the mother, or Puja is performed by the mother, mother-in-law, or the stand in chosen by the mother-to-be. The older woman approaches with a tray filled with rice and place a dot on the mother’s head for good luck. In some regions, the sister or sister-in-law also places a red thread around the mother-to-be’s wrist to ward evil away from her and the baby.
Then each of the guests comes forward, offering blessings to the mother and placing gifts in her lap. In fact the name “Godh Bharai means to fill the lap of the mother. This not only refers to her rapidly growing belly, but also how each guest places a gift in her lap.
Traditionally, Godh Bharai gifts are for the mother and are designed to pamper her. So, they might be comfortable clothing, jewelry, special foods, or even a spa basket. However, in recent years, more and more celebrations involve gifting baby clothes and other needed items. Both types of gifts are welcome.
You can help out the mother-to-be, by sitting nearby and recording each gift on a sticky note. You can then place the note on a thank you card and place it in the envelope already addressed to the giver. That way the mother knows exactly which gift came from which guest. All she needs to do is write a quick note and mail them off.
In addition to the gifts for the mother, it is traditional to send each guest away with a small gift of remembrance. This might be a nice picture frame that you can fill with a picture from the party. It might be some small piece of jewelry.
Games are an important part of a Godh Bharai. While many different games are played, the most popular surround trying to predict different aspects of the baby. You can pass around a roll of ribbon and ask each guest to cut a length that they think will just reach around the Mama’s belly. The one that comes closest wins a small gift. Another fun game is to guess the day and time of the baby’s birth. You can create a single game with both guesses or you can have two games giving each guest a chance to guess the day in one game and the hour in another. Obviously, you will not be able to hand out the prizes until after the baby is born.