"Karnavedha" is a ceremony of piercing the ears or nose of the child among the Hindu families. According to "Katyayana Grihyasutra`, this ceremony is performed when the child is at the age of three or five year old. While as per "Brihaspati", the ceremony is performed at the tenth, the twelfth or the sixteenth day after the date of birth. Again, "Garga" considers the age of sixth, the seventh, the eighth or the twelfth month as a suitable period. Sripati opines that the "Karnavedha" should be performed before the teeth of the child grow and the child steel creeps on the lap of the mother. The "Katyayana sutra" again suggest for doing the "Karnavedha" ceremony at the third or the fifth year of the child. Nowadays, both the "Chudakarana" and the "Karnavedha" are done together.
The ancient people also used to wear different ornaments. So, the origin of "Karnavedha" dates back to many years. According to Susruta, ""Ears of a child should be bored for protection (from diseases in his opinion) and decoration." It is also said that the boring of ears prevents hydrocele and harnia. It is done in early age to prevent them from appearing in later part of life.
The Katyayana sutra says that the father of the child should perform the "Karnavedha" ceremony, but nothing is said about the person who will bore the ears. As per "Susruta", a surgeon has to pierce the ears. But "Sripati", a medieval writer prescribes for a professional needle maker or a goldsmith to do the job of piercing. But "Susruta" seems to be more reasonable in this regard.
The "Karnavedha" ritual needs a particular type of needle also. Gold needle is prescribed for elegance while the silver or iron needles can also be used. Copper needle is prescribed by the Smriti maharnava. The ears are pierced by covering with white yarn. It differs depending on the caste and the economic condition of the child. For example, for a prince gold needle is used, for Brahmana and Vaishya silver and for Sudra an iron needle is used.
As the years passed, the "Karnavedha" bacame religious attire so its recital became obligatory and not doing it is regarded as sin in some places. According to a mediaeval writer, "All the accumulated merits disappear at the sight of a Brahmana through whose ear holes do not pass the rays of the sun. No gift should be given to him in the Sraddha ceremonies. If one gives, he becomes an `asura` or demon."
The ceremony of "Karnavedha" is performed on an auspicious day and it should be performed on the first half of the day. The child is seated facing towards the east direction and offered sweets. At first the piercing is done in the right ear with this verse, "May we hear auspicious things through ears etc." Then the left ear is done with the verse, "Vaksyanti etc."
According to Susruta, after doing the preliminary rites, the child is placed on the lap of the mother or the nurse. Then the child is fondled with toys. The next step of "Karnavedha" will be pulling the ears by a surgeon with his left hand and bore it easily trough the natural bores, which can be said in the sunlight. The soft ears are pierced with a needle while a probe does the stiff ear. Then oil is applied to the ears with cotton.
In the later years, the ceremony of the "Karnavedha" became religious. So, on the day of the ceremony, a worship of Lord Vishnu, Siva, Brahma, the sun, the moon, deities of quarters, Nasatyas, Sarasvati, Brahmanas and the cows are conducted. The "Guru" of the family is decorated and given a seat. Then, the nurse wearing a white garment brings the child, whose ears are painted with red powder. The surgeon pierces the ear very lightly in one stroke. In case of a boy the right ear is pierced first and in case of a girl, it is the left one. On the day of "Karnavedha", the mother bathes the child first and dresses him well with new clothes and ornaments and takes to the `Yajnashala`.
The surgeon chants these lines while piercing the right ear, "O ye enlightened persons! You are fit for our association, may we ever hear with our ear such words, which are beneficial to all, and may we ever see with our eyes whatever is good. Ever praying with our firm limbs may we attain such state of Life through our bodies, which will be helpful to the cause of the enlightened persons".
While piercing the left ear, the surgeon chants the following lines, "This bow-string strained in the bow whispers like a woman, and preserves us in the combat, as a wife, fain to speak, offering advice, embraces her affectionate praiseworthy husband."
Then, the "Karnavedha" rituals continues with the same surgeon putting a bar or wire in the holes of piercing so that it does not fill up. A medicine is then applied on the holes so that it does not get rotted and cures earlier.
At the end of the "Karnavedha" ceremony, Brahmans, astrologers and the surgeon are given gifts and provided good foods. Thus the ceremony of the "Karnavedha" comes to an end.