The Annaprashana (Sanskrit: अन्नप्राशन, Annaprāśana, Bengali: অন্নপ্রাসান, Onnoprashon) also known as annaprashana vidhi, annaprasan or Anna-prasanam, is a Hindu rite of passage ritual (Saṃskāra) that marks an infant's first intake of food other than milk. The term annaprashan literally means "food feeding" or "eating of food". The ceremony is usually arranged in consultation with a priest, who arranges an auspicious date on which to conduct the ceremony.
Commonly referred to in English as First Rice, the ceremony is usually carried out when the child is about 6 months of age. (some Hindu communities do it later). It is an occasion for celebration, and extended family, friends and neighbours will be invited to attend.
The mother or grandmother will prepare a small bowl of kheer (boiled rice, milk & sugar) which is blessed in a brief puja. The child will generally be held in the mother's lap, and the maternal uncle will feed the child first, followed by the mother, father and then other members of the family take turns to give the child a taste.
The feeding ceremony is often followed with a game, in which the child is presented with a tray containing a number of objects. These will include a bangle or jewel (symbolising wealth), a book (symbolising learning), a pen (symbolising career) and a clay pot or container of earth/soil (symbolising property). The child's future direction and prospects in life are indicated by the object which it prefers to hold and play with.
The authority for Annaprashana Samskar derives from Ashvalayans Grihyasutra (1.16.1,4,5). Also the authority of Paraskar Grihya Sutra.
The Annaprashana ceremony should be performed at the time when the child gains strength to digest cereal and preparations made from cereals. The first feeding of cereal commences with this ceremony. He who desires his child to be brilliant and famous should feed cooked rice mixed with ghee (clarified butter) or the rice mixed with honey, curd and ghee . The samskar ceremony for the first feeding commences with prayer, followed by Svastivachana, Shanitkarana and complete Samanya Prakarana. It is indicated that this ceremony should be performed (when the child is six months old) on the day on which the child was born.
The rice should be prepared thus: Rice is washed, cleaned, cooked nicely and ghee in proper quantity is mixed in the rice when it is in the cooking process. When this rice has been cooked properly and has become cold, then it should be placed in Homasthali or the tray of Homa. From this Homashali the rice is then given in small containers to the Yajman, to Purohita and Ritvij (Priests), accompanied with chanting of Mantras.
The Yajmana (father of the child) then performs Agnyadhan and Samidadhana. Offers four oblations of Aghavarajyabhagahuti and four oblations of Vyahriti. Thereafter the oblation of the cooked rice that was given to the Yajman and to the priests, should be offered with one Mantras from the Rig Veda and one Mantra from the Yajur Veda.
Thereafter the Yajmana mixes small quantity of curd, honey and ghee. Adds this to the rice that remained after the oblations. This should be fed to the child in minute quantity according to the desire of the child with the following Mantra from the Yajurveda:
"Om Annapateannasya No Dehyanamivasya Shushminah/
Pra Pra Dataaram Taarisha Oorjvam No Dhehi Dwipade Chatushpade
"O Lord of plenty (of food)! Vouchsafe us a share of food that invigorates us, and brings no sickness. O Lord, thou art our leader. Grant us nourishment (maintenance) both for bipeds and for quadrupeds."
Thereafter the child is blessed by the mother and father of the child and also by the priests, the elders and the guests. The child is blessed with the sentence:
"Twam Annapatihi Annavo Vardhamano Bhooyaaha" meaning
"O child, May you be endowed by God’s grace with Anna (grains or food). May you grow in strength and may you live a long life."