Vidyarambham - initiation into the world of letters - an essential Hindu ritual popular in Kerala

Vidyarambham, Kerala 

Giving quality education to the kids is an important duty of every responsible parent.  Countless schools are being run by  men with political clout and vested interest in states like Tamil Nadu and  their aim is to make  more money rather than imparting quality education  to the students. Nowadays  choosing  the right school among the mushrooming schools is a responsible task for the parents.

 Parents all over India living in the urban an semi urban areas, be they poor or  rich, are particular about their kid  going  to a good  nursery  or primary  school in their locality and they choose  an auspicious day to initiate the kid into the world of education.  This event is  associated with a ritual called Vidyarambham  (or Ezhuthiniruthu) which is quite popular in the state of Kerala. Vidyarambham (derived from Sanskrit; Vidya means "knowledge", arambham means "beginning") is an important Hindu  ritual meant for the kids going to  school for the first time.  It introduces young children into the world of education - alphabet,  letters, and the initial  process of learning. The child has to be between  the age of 3-5 years. The children are also formally introduced to learning of music, dance, languages and other folk arts

During the Navaratri festive days, the Vijayadashami day (10th and final day) is normally recommended for beginning the learning process  in any field. Tradition has been that this ritual is done mostly in the temple, a place of divinity so that the initiation  will help the  kid sail through the exams  and successfully leave the portals of education for a prospective career. 
The Vidyarambham ceremony is celebrated by Hindus  cutting across castes and creed, and the associated ritual  may vary depending on the communities. In the last  decade or so, the ritual is especially conducted in many churches across Kerala, besides  temples.  This state  has a large population of Christians of various denominations   and several local churches hold this initiation ceremony for the kids in the presence of a priest.

As part of the ceremony in the Hindu temples initially, the specified mantra is written on sand or rice grains  in a tray  by the child under the guidance of a guru or priest  after puja and invocation to goddess Saraswati - goddess of wisdom. Then, the guru  writes the mantra - ''Hari Sri''  on the child's tongue with a gold .ring. The  temple priest/ guru, with help from the elderly member from the family, will help the kid  write the alphabet in the native language and the number on the  grains. Writing on the sand grains implies  practice and on the  rice  grains acquisition of knowledge and prosperity in life. Whereas writing on the tongue with gold invokes the grace of Goddess of Learning, As it is a common Hindu tradition, at the very beginning, the  ritual starts with  an invocation to Lord Ganapathy for  his blessings and guidance. This process of initiation of  the kid  into the realm of education is held in the presence of parents' relatives.  On such an important and crucial occasion, the Guru / teacher must be revered and this is done by  offering a plate containing  betel leaves, Areca nut,  money and a new piece of clothing - a dhoti or saree.

Sree Krishna temple,

Thiruvullakkavu Sree Dharma Sastha Temple, Thrissur,
Thrikkavu Sri Durga Bhagavathy Temple, Malappuram

In Kerala where vidhyarabham is quite popular, there  are specific temples where the  ritual is held, Thiruvullakkavu Sree Dharma Sastha Temple, Thrissur, Cherpu in Thrissur district,  Sri Durga Bhagavathy Temple, Malappuram. It is one of the 108  Durga temples consecrated by Parasurama  (here  Ezhuthiniruthu, is one of the major festivals),  Sree Dakshina Mookambika Temple (dedicated to goddess saraswati - goddess of wisdom), at Paravur near Kochi; a famous  pilgrimage center that is known for Vidyarambham. Attukal Bhagavathy Temple, Thiruvananthapuram, (popularly known as  the Sabarimala for women), is also a venue for Vidyarambham. Also popular are 
 Panachikkad Saraswathy Temple in Kottayam and Ezhukone Mookambika Temple in Kollam,

Attukal Bhagavathy Temple,Thiruvananthapuram,
In Odisha it is known as Khadi Chuan and is done preferably on the Vinayaga Chathurthi day or vasant Panchami. During the Navratri festive days, the Vijayadashami day (10th and final day) is normally recommended for beginning learning in any field. In Andhra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, the Vijayadashami day is chosen by the parents for Vidhyarambham. In Tamil Nadu, it  goes by the name of   Mudhal Ezhathu. 

Koothanur Sarawati temple,

Above image: The Saraswati temple in Koothanur village near Thiruvarur town, Tamil Nadu is a rare temple dedicated to the goddess of learning and wisdom Saraswati. This historical temple built by the Chola ruler is a popular one among the students. They never fail to visit the temple to be blessed by the goddess before taking  tough exams. Invariably, most of them emerge with success and good grades. Likewise young kids are taken to the temple for Vidhyarambham. It has been a tradition here that students use the pens specifically  bought here to write the exams...............................