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Sep 28

Written by: Jayanthi
Monday, September 28, 2009

Books rest on Saraswathi Puja day

Vidhyarmbam: Conclusion of Navarathri in Kerala

By Guest Poster: Saju

 

The ceremony of Vidyarmbham (Vidya means "knowledge", arambham means "beginning”) for children is held on Vijayadashami (the last day of Navarathri) day. Ezhuthiniruthu is the Malayalam name for the ceremony of initiating children into writing. Every year, on the Vijayadasami Day in the Malayalam month of kanni, children are initiated into the study of alphabet, with extensive rituals and celebrations. In India the beginning of the learning of letters is celebrated by all with much gusto. It may be the great importance we give to education that has made this ceremony so sacrosanct in our society. In this context it also may be remembered that Keralites still retain the age old practice of rubbing on the tongue of babies a blend of sandal paste, powered Rudraksha, Honey and Vayamp (sweet flag) for better health, sweeter voice and sharper intelligence.

 

The nine-day Navarathri festival and the Vijayadashami day in Kerala is mainly dedicated to Goddess Saraswathi and is noted for the Vidyarambham ceremony. The ritual begins with an invocation to Lord Ganapathi, and proceeds with a prayer to Goddess Saraswathi, the goddess of letters. Another important ritual is the Ayudha Puja.

 

On the day before Vidyarmbham, Ayudha Puja day, students close their books for the puja in honor of Saraswathi.  (Other study materials are also given rest, like pens, pencils, computers, etc. and can be set in front of the golu or dolls display, as above. Photo: Jennifer Kumar) Workers, mechanics, craftsmen, engineers and all people who make living with tools and other implements perform Saraswathi pooja and Vishwakarma pooja. On the Ayudha Puja day, the books and tools are not touched. The pooja is broken and the books and tools are again utilized on the Vidyarambham day.

 

Rice overflows in Urali

The morning of the auspicious Vijayadasami day, before initiation into the world of alphabets, usually begins with the writing of the mantra "Om Hari Shree Ganapathaye Namah"(ഓം ഹരി ശ്രീ ഗണപതയേ നമഃ)Hari (ഹരി) refers to the Lord, Shree(ശ്രീ), to prosperity. Initially, the mantra is written on sand or in a tray of rice grains. Then, the master would write the mantra on the child's tongue with gold. Writing on sand denotes practice. Writing on grains denotes the acquisition of knowledge, which leads to prosperity. Writing on the tongue with gold invokes the grace of the Goddess of Learning, by which one attains the wealth of true knowledge. (Saju’s photo, click here.) The rationale behind this custom is the belief that Saraswathy, the goddess of wisdom, dwells on the tongue. Subsequently the initiated are made write the letters of Malayalam alphabet over dried rice kept in an Uruly (A utensil of bronze chiefly used in temple rites, pictured to the left. Photo: Jennifer Kumar) and pronounce each letter while writing it. (Saju’s photo, click here.) This is the traditional way of Ezhuthiniruth and this ritual is called Vidhyarambham. For children beginning at age three, this is their maiden step in the world of letters.

 

During Navarathri season, in almost all the temples, special Saraswathi Poojas are conducted from the day of Aswathi onwards. These pujas (religious rites) come to an end by the Vidhyarambam. On this auspicious day, at various centers of worship, beloved gurus and eminent persons from different walks of life initiate children into study of letters. This is done in the sacred presence of Vijayadasami day, the singers, dancers and the practitioners of other forms of art offer dakshina to their gurus and get their blessings. Vijayadashami is deemed the day of light and it was on this day that Mahadevi won victory over the forced of darkness by defeating the demon Mahishasura. In Kerala, Ezhuthiniruthu is observed by all the people irrespective of their caste or religion. There are many temples in Kerala which are famous centers of the ceremony of Ezhuthiniruthu. Panachikkada Sarasawthi temple in Kottayam Thiruvullakkavu in Thrissur and the Mookambika Temple Vadakkan Paravur Temple in Ernakulam District deserves special mention. Now a days Ezhuthiniruthu is conducted in churches also. In the mosque Kodungallor Cheraman Palli, the Palli Pardhani leads the ceremony of Vidyaramabham for the Muslim children. Thus in Kerala, Ezhuthiniruthu has already acquired the status of a secular ceremony. At Thunchanparambu, where Thunjath Ramanujan Ezhuthacchan, the father of Malayalam language lived, Ezhuthiniruth is celebrated with many programmes. Traditional Ezhuthasans, artists, writers and cultural leaders assemble at Thunchanparambu on the day of Vijayadasami to initiate the children into the world of letters. This place is considered the most sacred place for Ezhuthiniruth.

The ceremony is also conducted by publishing houses, newspapers and other social and religious organizations.

 

Original post with photos at Saju’s blog here.

 

==concluded==

Interesting cross-cultural note by blog author Jennifer Kumar. In 2007, when I kept (created) a kolu for Navarathri, we set a steel dish in front with rice inside. My father-in-law, a Malayalee, was here from India during that time. Since I want to learn Malayalam, he performed the Ezhuthiniruthu with me, teaching me to write some Malayalam letters. This was a true cross-cultural moment, as I as an American decide to put and celebrate Navarathri, and that with a golu (a Tamil Nadu tradition, mainly) and perform the Ezhuthiniruthu on Vidhyarmbam day (a Malayalee tradition). Life is beautiful!


When is Vidyharmbam in 2009? Monday, September 28, 2009. Navarathri 2009: September 19, 2009-September 28, 2009. Happy Navarathri!

 

 

Want to know when is Vidyharmbam? Follow the Alaivani America India Interfaith and Social Calendar!

 

Related Post:
Cheraman Juma Majid - A Mosque in Kerala influenced by Hindu architecture, and celebrating Vidyarmbam

Other posts about Navarathri

 

Navarathri Posts
Nothing like Navarathri: An American’s Passion and Continuation of Navarathri in US Part 1 (of 3)
Nothing Like Navarathri: Preparing for Festivities Part 2 (of 3)
Nothing Like Navarathri: What Is Celebrated During Navarathri Part 3 (of 3)
Saraswathi Puja Tribute 1 Reading Retreat
Vijaya Dashami Festival in Mauritius (Part 1 of 2)
Vijaya Dashami in Mauritius (Part 2 of 2)

Other posts about Hindu Goddesses:
Vinzai Devi's Utsav, April 2007 (Part 1 of 3)
Vinzai Devi's Utsav, April 2007 (Part 2 of 3)
Vinzai Devi Utsav - Hymn To Gayatri Mata (Part 3 of 3)
Varalakshmi Vratham


Our Navarathri Photos

Navarathri 2008
Photos by Krishna
Photos by Jennifer

Navarathri 2007
Photos by Krishna

Navarathri 2006
Photos by Jennifer

Navarathri 2003
Photos by Jennifer

Vijaya Dashami 2003
Photos by Jennifer

Add your Golu/ Dolls displays/Hina Matsuri photos to my flickr group! Click here. 

Thank you for spending your time here.

Copyright ©2009 Jennifer Jayanthi Kumar

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