In Malaysia we witnessed a Hindu infant head shaving ceremony known as Mundan. We were visiting Batu Caves, a large Hindu Temple built atop a hillside, outside of Kuala Lumpur.
There were the typical souvenir stands outside it selling an interesting combination of shiny stuff and religious offerings. One shop stood out since the sign boldly stated “Head Shaved Bald.” I was intrigued by having my head shaved (although I probably should just stick to having it examined now and then) so we went over to check it out.
Families wait outside as babies get their head shaved.
The barber was busy preparing to perform Mundan on a two-month old baby. Hindus must shave their heads at least once in their life as part of a cleansing for the gods. It is easier to perform this task on infants: imagine trying to tell a teenage girl it’s time to have her head shaved?
With the family lined up around a squirming baby, who is likely thinking back fondly to their carefree days in the womb, it reminded us of a Jewish bris or Christian baptism.
In the seat of honor, an uncle holds the baby during the ceremony.
So there we were, in a barber shop with an Indian Malaysian family as their 2-month old son Anish (who had a whopping head of hair I quite envied) got his head shaved. The boy’s grandfather, Mr. Das, stood off to the side and provided us with a running commentary on the ritual.
The barber used a straight-edge razor and had an amazingly steady hand. The little boy was held in the lap of an uncle, which is custom, while his parents looked on. His mother videotaped the whole thing on her Samsung Galaxy (tradition meets technology.)
Anish was quiet through the entire experience (with the help of a pacifier) and only cried at the end when they washed his head. After the shaving was finished a pleasant smelling sandalwood solution was rubbed on his head to keep it cool and soothe any irritation.
Afterwards, mother, baby, grandfather and Little Rocky were all fine.
Little Anish did get the final word on the whole experience. As his grandparents leaned over to change his diaper he let out a prodigious stream of pee onto his grandfather’s shirt. The entire family cracked up over that one, a story we are sure will be told at Anish’s wedding someday.
Siblings and cousins celebrate the mundan ritual with Little Rocky.
Our favorite books about visiting Malaysia.