Vidyarambham, a traditional Hindu ritual - initiating the kids into early learning process!!

Vidyarambham in Mangaluru,Karnataka

 The 9-day Hindu festival called Navaratri  commences soon and it is dedicated to the goddesses in the Hindu pantheon. It coincides with the Durga Puja in West Bengal. Associated with Navaratri celebration is  ''Vidyarambham''. a popular ritual that introduces the kids to the world of letters (characters of syllabary). 

Children's' education gets priority in the Indian society regardless of faith, caste and financial status. It is a must to progress in life and gain prosperity. Vidyarambham is an important  Hindu tradition of initiating  children  into learning. It is an initiation ceremony in which a child is introduced to  writing the alphabet in his native tongue. In Tamil Nadu it is called  ''Mudhal Ezhathu''. Normally, this ritual  is held on  Vijayadashami day in many states, including southern states. Children who want to learn music, dance, arts, etc.,  begin their first lesson on this auspicious day that is  the tenth and final day of the Navaratri celebrations,  Closely  related to the Ayudha Puja ritual, on the Vijayadasami day Goddess of learning Saraswati  gets prominence, so are the gurus - teachers. Hence, the initial step in the process of learning coincides with this day. The family members worship God Vishnu, Goddess Saraswati and God Ganesha. Invocation of the last deity is a must to initiate the arduous learning process. The child's educational journey will be a smooth one under his grace. Generally, children aged 3 to 5 are introduced to the world of knowledge, music, etc.
Vidyarambham in Kerala
 Vidyarambham (vidhya meaning "knowledge", arambham meaning "beginning') is an important event for the child - both male and female. The ceremony is normally held either in a temple or in the house. Many people would prefer taking their kid to the temple for the initiation process, be it in language, dance, etc. On that day the child takes bath in the morning and wears traditional dress and after initial prayer at home, he goes to the temple along with his parents and relatives.

Vidyarambham ceremony in Tamil Nadu temple

The ritual usually begins with the writing of the mantra
"Om hari sri ganapataye namah, Avikhnamasthu, Sree Guruve Namah, Sree Saraswathi Sahayam" (meaning: ''Salutations to Hari (Lord Vishnu), Shree (the Goddess of prosperity), and Lord Ganapathy'' .

The very first step is  the mantra is written on sand or in a tray of rice grains by the child, under the  direction of a Guru or priest. After this, the Guru/priest  writes the mantra on the child's tongue with gold. These acts have their own significance. 01 Writing on sand: it denotes practice, 02. Writing on grains: it  implies  acquisition of knowledge and most importantly 03. Writing on kid's tongue with gold: it implies invocation of the grace and blessings of Goddess of Learning; this is essential for the child's welfare, growth and prosperity. Besides,  invocation of God Ganapati is very important because in all Hindu families the auspicious rituals and holy functions begin with invocation to Ganapati, the god of wisdom who wrote the Mahabharata as dictated by sage Vyasa. Ganapati is believed to protect the devotees by removing the impediments on their way (Vinayaga meaning venai theerpavan).  It is to be borne in mind that one should not forget offering ''Gurudakshina'' to the Guru or priest, a sort of samphavana . This includes a few  betel leaves, Areca nut, with  clothes - a dhoti or Saree plus money.  It is an expression of family members' gratitude to the Guru for his services and blessings. In some families, the child is encouraged to distribute the stationary items such as slate/writing pad, pencils etc., to other children.