Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Vidyarambham: How and why Malayalis celebrate writing the words ''Harisree Ganapathaye Namaha"

For Malayalis, Vidyarambham is an auspicious day on which the elders and children mark the day by writing the sacred words, "Harisree Ganapathayeh Namaha." The observance of this ritual may differ from region to region, community to community and family to family. Whatever I share here is based on how vidyarambham is celebrated in my home. 

Vidyarambham: How Malayalis observe this sacred day

In families where the children are gearing up to enter pre-school or play school and are not yet ready to join the formal schooling system, Vidyarambham marks an important occasion for an elder to introduce them to the world of "vidya" or "knowledge." The words ''Harisree Ganapathayeh Namaha" are written on the child's tongue by the grandparent, an elder or parent.  

                                     [Image credit: Travel Manorama Online ]

Vidyarambham: Why it matters 


An interesting aspect of Vidyarambham ceremony lies in the relationship with the person who is marking the words for the first time on the child's tongue. That person will always have a symbolic importance in the child's life.  For instance, children who have had their Vidyarambham conducted by my father tend to seek his blessings when they get a new job or something auspicious happens in their life. The relationship is considered sacred and lasts a lifetime, which is why in most families the ceremony is conducted by a grandparent or the parent.


Nowadays, many Malayalam TV channels also report that Churches are conducting this ceremony in their unique way. 

Vidyarambham: What's so nostalgic about it?

Vidyarambham is also a special "bonding" day when we hold our little ones close to our hearts, seat them beside us and we hold their fingers in our own. We know that we cannot control their destiny but can only guide them as far as they are willing to let us do so. In a small plate or vessel filled with raw rice grains, a dash of turmeric and kumkum, we put their little fingers into it and they are as delighted as we are, to feel this unique experience, to set in motion a different feel and energy into the many tiny grains of rice beneath their fingers.

Then we whisper and make them write,"Hari sree ganapathayeh namaha."

On this auspicious day, we teach our children to always invoke the divine energy within us to add grace to our efforts and bless us with the results that we aspire to attain. 

As I held my son's fingers in mine and wrote in Malayalam, "Hari Sree Ganapathayeh Namaha," I felt like a child.

As though I had stepped back in time, my parents' embrace held me close, their fingers holding mine as they taught me to write. 

Vidyarambham is such a beautiful experience and every Malayali knows how humbling and strangely empowering it feels. 

Perhaps the quest for knowledge begins here - in knowing and recognizing - there is a vast Universe to make sense of, a greater Divine energy that propels us to attain everything we aim to grasp and accompanied by an awareness that we have a long, long way to go before we can finally say, "Been there, done that. I know it all."

Now it's your turn - how do you celebrate Navarathri? Do you have special traditions and customs in your family just like the one that I have shared?

I'd love to know about it. Do write in!

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