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Syrian Catholic Baptism or Mamoodisa, Customs In Kerala

Updated on May 16, 2019

Syrian Catholic Baptism or Mamodisa

Syrian Catholic Baptism or Mamodisa (in Malayalam), is one among the seven sacraments of Catholics. Otherwise known as Christening, i.e., giving a christian name or making one a Christian or giving admission to Christianity, as per the rules of Church. Baptism is the first sacrament given to a person, who follows Christianity. Jesus itself started the public life, after getting baptized by St. John the Baptist at Jordan.

In Kerala, as soon as the child is born the next thing that comes into mind of Catholics is the Occasion of Baptism. There are also certain functions that happens in the family apart from the religious way. In this article, we will be discussing those customs also.

Baptism Set

The Baptism Set, which I made for the Baptism of my younger daughter Annie. It contains, Baptism Gown, Crown, Candle and the First frock.
The Baptism Set, which I made for the Baptism of my younger daughter Annie. It contains, Baptism Gown, Crown, Candle and the First frock. | Source

Seven Sacraments of Catholic Church

  1. Baptism.
  2. Eucharist.
  3. Confirmation.
  4. Reconciliation.
  5. Anointing of the sick.
  6. Marriage.
  7. Holy orders.

Among the seven sacraments - Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist are the Sacraments of initiation. Nowadays, a new believer is welcomed/ invited to Catholic Church by giving all the three of the Sacraments in the one go.

Author makes custom baptism sets upon order, here is one of her work

Syrian Catholic Baptism

Baptism is also known as the christening ceremony or the naming ceremony. Though we say Baptism, actually it includes receiving three sacraments (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist ) in the one go.

Baptism is becoming member of Catholic Church and prepares one to receive other sacraments. Confirmation is receiving Holy Spirit and Eucharist is receiving the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

Syrian Catholic Baptism : Things to remember

  1. Three Sacraments (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist) are given in one go. If due to any reason, if one cannot receive the other two sacraments at the time of Baptism, it should be considered serious and should give the other two sacraments as soon as possible, without any further delay.
  2. Naming the child is performed during the Baptism Ceremony and the custom followed to name the child is as follows. If first baby is boy, then he will get his Paternal Grand Father's name, if it's a Girl then she will receive her Paternal Grand Mother's name. If second is a Boy, he will receive the name of his Maternal Grand Father and if it's a girl, then she will be named after her maternal Grand Mother, rest of the children's name can be as per parents wish.
  3. Usually Catholics will have two names, one name in Church, i.e., the Baptism Name and the other one will be the Real name in records. Sometimes, Baptism name and Official name will be the same.
  4. Baptism is to be performed by God Parents and the custom followed is as below. For first child, God Parents comes from Paternal Side, usually child's Father's Sister and Spouse are to perform and for the Second child, God Parents comes from the Maternal Side.
  5. Baptism Function of First Child is to be conducted by the Maternal Family, rest of the children's function can be performed from any side.
  6. Usually the Baptism Dress and all are to be provided by the God Parents. But now a days, theme based Baptism ceremony's are going on and hence, Parents itself take care of the same.
  7. After the Baptism Function, Child will be gifted with Gold Ornaments.

Steps through Kerala Catholic Baptism

Preparing Baby for the Baptism
Preparing Baby for the Baptism | Source
Prayer before going to Church
Prayer before going to Church | Source
Church , receiving the baby at the Main Door
Church , receiving the baby at the Main Door | Source
Baby is invited into the church
Baby is invited into the church | Source
Baptism Performed
Baptism Performed | Source
Giving the Lighted Candle
Giving the Lighted Candle | Source
Giving, Eucharist
Giving, Eucharist | Source
After Baptism
After Baptism | Source
Author during the Baptism of her first Child - Anna
Author during the Baptism of her first Child - Anna | Source

There are many other ceremonies and customs followed along with the child birth. They are explained below :

Seventh Month Pregnancy Ceremony Among Syrian Catholics

In Kerala the pregnant women/wife/married girl will be staying with her husband alone or, along with husband's parents.

Once the married girl, get pregnant, there will be frequent visits from the maternal side. Specially the 5th Months visit will be official visit. And care will be taken towards the well being of the pregnant mother to be. She will be asked to offer prayers and special prayers to Mother Mary via Rosaries.

Pregnancy ceremonies from Hindu Culture

The first pregnancy and related customs are responsibilities of the parents/family of the pregnant mother to be. More than responsibility, it is their ownership and a matter of proud.

These customs among Syrian Catholics, have a relation with the Hindu culture of Kerala; as Ancestors of Syrian Catholics are Hindu Brahmins, who got Baptized by St. Thomas, one of the disciples of Jesus. So the Hindu Culture does influence the Catholic customs.

How 7th Month Pregnancy Ceremony Celebrated?

The first ceremony, after getting pregnant is, the 7th Month Pregnancy Ceremony, of getting the pregnant mother to be, to her maternal home for Special Care during pregnancy, child birth and until, the mother and baby goes back to her husband's home.

For the 7th month pregnancy ceremony, all the close relatives, will assemble in father to be's home. They will come with 7 items of homemade snacks (as it is the 7th month of pregnancy) and distribute before leaving to maternal home. The father to be, will be given a gold chain from the maternal side and then the pregnant mother to be, will be taken to the maternal home for prenatal care.

Seventh Month of Pregnancy

Author during her 7th month of Pregnancy, with her elder daughter Anna
Author during her 7th month of Pregnancy, with her elder daughter Anna | Source

Customs followed during Child Birth

There is a custom among Some Hindu's, that they check the right time via Astrology and fix time for the delivery of baby and even take the risk of accepting the cesarean to make their baby born on the right time .

But according to Catholic views, checking the time and fixing the child birth is against the God's wish and since they don't believe in astrology, such a custom is not followed.

Giving Gold and Honey to the newborn

As soon as the baby is born, the elder male member of the family will scratch any gold ornament like ring or locket in a spoon of honey and will give, three drops to the new born baby, saying Jesus is our Lord. Giving anything other than breast milk or formula milk is usually not allowed by the hospitals, and hence this is not done with their knowledge.

Post Natal Care - Customs followed after child birth

Customs followed after child birth/ delivery is usually the same across all the religions in Kerala.

After child birth, mother and baby is given postnatal care at her maternal house. Once the wound gets healed, the care is done. It includes ayurvedic bath, with herbal, medicated water, after the traditional oil massage using Kuzhambu (a thick oil formulae in ayurveda), followed by tummy bandage and in take of ayurvedic medicines.

Post Natal Care : the herbal water bath

The bath/'Kuli' in Malayalam, is usually performed after the delivery related wound is healed. Kuli is done for odd number of days starting from 3 days to 5,7,9 up to 21 days. The herbal bath, followed by traditional oil massage using 'Dhanwantharam Kuzhambu' is rejuvenating.

The herbal water will be too hot and that is the specialty of this bath. Usually the bath is actually assisted by an elder female, specially having practicing in doing this bath. The assistant will massage the body with kuzhambu, then with Turmeric / Manjal . Later will use Soap bark/ Incha and green gram powder/ Payar podi along with hot water to clean the kuzhambu. Actually after bathing, there will be remains of kuzhambu and the smell in the body, as no soap is used while bathing. So until the bath is over, the mother is given special clothes as it gets dirty because the Kuzhambu and Manjal. Along with mother, the baby is also bathed in the same herbal water, but the water will be warm, not hot.

28th Day ceremony

Among the Hindu Religion, there is a function, that is done on the 28th day, if it is a girl and 27th day if baby is a boy. It is actually the naming ceremony or custom followed by Hindus. In the function, a black thread along with gold chain, known as arinjanam, is tied to baby's waist and hence it is also called noolukettu (noolu means thread and kettu means tying) or irupathiyettukettu ( irupathiyettu means 28). It is actually a big function similar to marriage.

Similarly, Christians in Kerala also follows the custom of tying the black thread and golden chain on the babies waist, though it may not be celebrated as a big function.


Noolukettu Ceremony of Author's Daughter
Noolukettu Ceremony of Author's Daughter | Source

Author makes custom baptism sets upon order, here is one of her work

Hope you enjoyed, knowing the customs that is followed by the birth of a baby in Kerala, especially among Syrian Catholics.


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