A Celebration of Life in the Tibetan Birthing Ritual

The Pang-sai, or birthing ritual in Tibetan culture, is a celebration of the 'journey' a child and it's soul takes coming into the world. The process cleanses the baby from anything on that journey that may affect it's life path. These rituals date back over 1500 years in their culture.


The conception of a baby is not considered a random occurrence in Tibetan Buddhism, rather a conscious choice and intention to bring a baby into the world. Both for the mother and the child who chooses it's parents. Everything in Tibetan culture reflects the idea of a soul traveling through lives and reincarnation is a direct effect of the karma brought onto oneself from previous lives. Ritual is present in every stage of the pregnancy and birthing process of a baby. The most famous in Tibetan culture are the post birth rituals.


After the birth of a child in Tibet everyone knows about it. It is a huge celebration and joyous occasion. When the child reaches 3 days old (4 for a girl) extended family, friends and the community welcome them into the world through a series of ritualistic actions to enhance their beginning stages of their new life. After three to four days it is more common that a baby will survive in the high altitude of Tibet, therefore celebrations begin after this time.


Image from Flickr


Firstly two banners are placed on the eaves of the roof of the home after a birth. One will ward off evil from their journey into this world and the second to bring good fortune and health for their life to come.


Next, extended family travel from far and wide to bring gifts of food and clothes. The family and others visitors will come and celebrate outside in the court yard until the child's naming ceremony which usually occurs a week after the birth. A visit from a monk is very important and ensures the development of wisdom in the baby's life. He will bring with him some religious totems and lead the guests in worship rituals.


No one at this time apart from immediate family and the monk enter the house of the newborn or see the baby. Celebrations in the courtyard continue until the naming ceremony. Long tables are laid out with delicacies and gifts from the guests. Sometimes the mother will spend this whole time resting inside with her baby. The father usually takes over the household chores and looks after the other children during this time.


The baby is named and presented to the world by the most respected person present, usually a monk. A naming ceremony takes place usually after a week. This is usually the first time anyone else outside the family can view the baby who is often held in the doorway by the monk.


After this ceremony still no one is to touch the baby for the first month of life apart from the monk and the child's immediate family while they stay inside. Usually the baby's first trip into the wide world after this point is to the local monastery to be presented to the gods. Black ash is rubbed onto the baby's nose before venturing out of the house to ward off evil and they are clothed in their finest outfit for their first blessing in the monastery.

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