Annaprashan is one of the major Hindu rituals in India. A baby stays on only milk, till the time of his Anna Prashan ceremony. On this occasion, the food pattern of the baby is changed and he is given homemade food for the first time. Annaprashan ritual is known as also Annaprasanam or Choroonu ceremony and literally means feeding the baby Anna for the first time. 'Anna' means grain (food) while 'prashan' means to feed. In most of the families, the baby is fed rice as his first food. The Annaprashan ceremony welcomes the baby into the society.
Annaprashan sanskar is an important religious ceremony and is mandatory for all the children born in Hindu families. It generally takes place before teething and its ritual is different in case of boys and girls. In case of a girl child, Annaprashan is performed in an odd month, generally on 5th or the 7th month from the birth. On the other hand, in case of a boy child, the ritual is performed in an even months i.e. either on 6th or the 8th month from the birth.
Annaprasanam ritual is not an elaborate affair for a girl child. The ritual includes offering of water to the forefathers, worship of Lord Vishnu and feeding prasad (offerings made to the gods) to the baby. For the boy child, rituals are different and much more elaborate. Initially, the worship of Shasti takes place. It is followed by "Markendeo" Puja, performed for the child's wealth and happiness. Thereafter, Lord Ganesha and sixteen other deities are worshipped. It is known as "Shoras Matrika".
In addition to this, Basundhara Puja is also performed for the welfare and happiness of the house. There is another ritual performed during Choroonu Ceremony that is the 'Adhibus Kriya'. In the end a "Homn" (sacred fire) is performed to inform Lord Brahma of the date, time and position of the stars of the child. This is commonly known as "Aahuti". This completes the Annaprashan ceremony of the child and the child can start eating solid food from this moment onmwards.