By Swami Harshananda
Cuḍākarma literally means ‘rite of preparing the tuff.
Also called ‘caula,’ this is the eighth of the ṣoḍaśa-saṃskāras (sixteen sacraments) which every person of the first three castes was supposed to undergo. It is actually the first tonsure of the child should be done after the child completes one year, but before three years. The age-limit was gradually raised to seven years. In the modern days it is often done just before the upanayana ceremony.
This rite was to be performed on an auspicious day, when the moon is in conjunction with the constellation Punarvasu, but avoiding the ninth day of the lunar month. The principal act of this rite is the cutting of the hair of the child by its father to the chanting of appropriate Vedic mantras. The barber will then do the rest. Performance of homa (offerings in duly consecrated fire), feeding the brāhmaṇas and receiving their blessings are the other items of the rite. The hair that is cut off should be disposed off in such a way that none will have any access to it (for e.g., burying it in the cow pen, consigning it into a pond etc.).
The number and position of the śikhās (tufts of hair) varied according to the family traditions. Generally an eddy of hair was kept on the top of the head. Works on Ayurveda (the science of life and longevity) state that the śikhā protects the vital artery on the head and is conducive to long life. This rite could be performed for girls also but without the Vedic mantras. Even in the modern days, the practice of removing the first hair of the girl-child exists.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore