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We witness mundan, a Hindu head-shaving ceremony

by Michael on October 2, 2013

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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.

Mundan shaving bald salon

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.

Mundan baby with uncle

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.

Mundan head shaving ceremony

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.

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Mundan Batu caves

Siblings and cousins celebrate the mundan ritual with Little Rocky.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

wanderingeducators October 7, 2013 at 11:10 am

Interesting – and such colors! I know our daughter would never have been still enough for that…

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Bethaney - Flashpacker Family October 8, 2013 at 12:29 am

Don’t think I could shave my baby’s head but the result is pretty darn cute!!!

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Cat of Sunshine and Siestas October 8, 2013 at 3:42 am

Very cool to see something to ingrained in another culture – and I love that they could embrace ours, too, with Little Rocky!

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Terry at Overnight New York October 9, 2013 at 8:31 pm

Yikes — I don’t think I’d have wanted my daughter’s head shaved with a straight-edge razor when she was a baby, but the Mundan barber clearly knows his trade. Fascinating ritual — and great pictures!

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Michael October 9, 2013 at 8:38 pm

Quite frankly I’m too scared to have a barber use a straight edge on me even now. We learned that in Australia they call them cutthroats.

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Marina K. Villatoro October 11, 2013 at 11:04 pm

I’m always curious why kids need to be shaved. At least they do it there in style and ceremony. In Central America, it’s just plain weird if you DON’T shave your kids heads. We didn’t do it ours and the people, doctors couldn’t fathom it.

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Michael October 15, 2013 at 10:39 am

In some areas the head shaving is for sanitary reasons.

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Gabi (The Nomadic Family) October 12, 2013 at 5:16 pm

I think Mundan is pretty enjoyable ceremony for Hindu’s.Nice culture.

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Michael October 15, 2013 at 10:39 am

The kids watching it really enjoyed it.

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Mary @ Green Global Travel October 14, 2013 at 9:04 pm

I had no idea that shaving your head was part of a Hindu religious ceremony. Very interesting custom. I’m glad that this happen when Hindus are babies and not at Sweet 16 parties.

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Michael October 15, 2013 at 10:34 am

Doing that at a Sweet 16 would be rich.

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James November 16, 2013 at 12:56 pm

My wife is Indian and we traveled to her home state of Gujarat from the US to have a similar ceremony performed. The age to do this in her region is 2 year old and not 2 months. The babies hair cannot be cut until the ceremony is performed. My son looked like a surfer before it was cut. I personally believe that it’s to make sure the hair grows in even because baby hair can come in patchy.

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Michael November 16, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Hi James,

Thank you so much for providing this information. That’s pretty funny about looking like a surfer.

Cheers,

Michael

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