Namakaran, or naming of the child, is the first real ceremony held for the newborn child. It is usually held on the twelfth day of the child's birth, though, according to one convention, it can be held on any day after the tenth day, and before the first birthday.
The twelfth day is also when the child's horoscope is formally drawn up.
The first ten days after birth are considered an 'impure' time for the mother and child. On the twelfth day, the mother and child are given a ritual bath. The mother swathes the baby in a piece of new cloth, applies kajal to its eyes, and makes a little beauty mark on the cheek.
The baby is then placed in the father's lap to be blessed. The priest offers prayers to all the gods and to Agni, the god of fire and the purifying factor, the elements, and the spirits of the forefathers, and entreats them to bless and protect the child. He also places the sheet on which the child's horoscope is written, in front of the image of the deity, for its blessings.
Then, the father leans towards the baby's right ear, and whispers its chosen name. Usually, the father does not whisper directly into the child's ear, but uses a betel leaf or its silver imprint, or a few leaves of kusa grass to direct the words to the child's ear.
The Rig Veda prescribes the formula of giving a name with four components: the nakshatra name, the name of the deity of the month, the family deity's name, and the popular name by which the child will generally be addressed.
This system, however, is rarely followed these days. The usual practice is to give one formal name and, if necessary, a short name by which the child will be called.
Some people coin a suitable name from a combination of the parents' names. In certain communities, the first child is named after the paternal grandparent; in others, the first son is given the same name as the father. Sometimes, the baby is named after the nakshatra, or star, of its birth. The child could also be named after the family deity or guru.
After the naming ritual is over, friends and relatives who have come for the ceremony then bless the child and touch some honey or sugar to its lips. It is a moment of all-round happiness if the baby smacks its lips.