By Swami Harshananda
Muṇḍana literally means ‘hair cutting,’ ‘shaving’.
In the life of a person, every act whether a part of daily routine or occasional, is considered sacred and hence done religiously. This attitude helps him to purify his whole being in course of time. Muṇḍana or keśavapana is one such act. The dharmaśāstras prescribe that it will be beneficial if done when certain stars are present like Hastā, Citrā and Svātī and during certain rāśis or zodiacal signs like:
As regards the saṅyāsins, some belonging to the Advaita tradition tonsure their heads completely whereas others mostly of Vaiṣṇava tradition keep the śikhā and shave the rest. Coming to the practice of tonsure of the widows, it may be noted that there is no Vedic authority or any reference in the early smṛtis and dharmaśāstras. The solitary exception is Skandapurāṇa. The practice that exists mostly among some sections of the brāhmaṇas in South India might not be older than the 14th century. It has practically disappeared now. The idea probably was to protect their chastity and inspire them to lead a life like that of a sanyāsin.
- Keśavapana means hair cutting or shaving.
- Śikhā means tuft of hair.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore