Chudakarana / First Haircut

A few weeks ago we realized that we won’t be able to get our daughter’s hair cut until her 3rd year, more than 6 months away.

I guess I should have known better, and should have asked more questions about the traditional Chudakarana (first haircut).  After all, I’ve seen my nephews head to Tirupathi for their first haircuts as they neared their first birthday, so I knew that there was a serious ritual surrounding the first haircut.  We initially thought we’d do it on our trip to India last fall, but we weren’t able to make it to Tirupathi during that trip so we said we’d just do it back in the US.  Unfortunately we never made a firm plan for it, and only now that her hair is in her eyes and we’re looking to trim it, did we realize that we needed to do it either in her first year, or wait until her third year.

As I looked into this tradition more, I was surprised to learn that many countries and cultures have some form of this custom.  From Native Americans, to the Chinese and lots of places in between, first haircuts appear to be an important rite of passage, particularly for boys, but also for girls Wikipedia entry for “First Haircut”).

And just as the tradition of tying a black thread on a baby’s leg varies by country, family, etc., so does the tradition of chudakarana.  I was hoping that the timing was a variable, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.  That said one leniency according to our family’s tradition is that the cutting of the hair can actually be just a small snip to “give to the god,” though I know my nephews got shaved completely.

Has anyone out there decided not to follow the year 1 or 3 rule for whatever reason? Are there other interpretations out there?  Would love to hear more from other parents in similar predicaments!….


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