Thiruvananthapuram, Oct 24 (IANS) Thousands of tiny tots took the first step into the world of letters, through the ceremony called 'Vidyarambham' (beginning of knowledge) when they wrote the first letters of the Malayalam alphabet on sand or rice with the help of academics, litterateurs, teachers and politicians Wednesday.
Temples, institutions, clubs, media houses and even churches were used as venues for the ritual.
While the ceremony was traditionally confined to Hindu families, over the years, it has become a secular event, observed across different religious groups.
Tiny tots are placed in the laps of specially invited guests, who hold their hands and help them write the first letter of the Malayalam alphabet on a plate of rice; in some places, the letter is written in sand.
While Hindus write 'hari sree Ganapathaye namaha' in praise of Lord Ganesha, Christians write 'sree Yesu mishihaye', hailing Jesus Christ.
Then using a gold ring, a Malayalam word is written on the child's tongue by the adult who initiates the tiny tot.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy led the event in the capital city; among the others busy being first teachers to the children were veteran film personalities Adoor Gopalakrishnan, M.T. Vasudevan Nair, eminent doctors, academics and jurists.
A large crowd gathered at Thunchan Paramabu near Thrissur, the home of Malayalam litterateur Thunchathu Ezhuthachan.
The Saraswathy temple at Panachikkadu in Kottayam district also saw a large crowd on the occasion. This temple, also known as 'Dakshina' (south) Mookambika Temple, is popular as a venue for this ritual as Hindus here have a special devotion to goddess Mookambika, regarded as a manifestation of Shakti, Saraswati and Mahalakshmi.
Many devout Hindus would ideally have liked to perform the 'Vidyarambham' ceremony at the Kollur Mookambika Temple, a popular shrine for the people of Karnataka and Kerala, located in Kollur, about 135 km from Mangalore; but given the distance from south Kerala, they settle on the temple at Panachikkadu in Kottayam instead.