Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Vidyarambham: Celebrating the 'write of passage

Vidyarambham: Celebrating the 'write of  passage'

Once upon a time, students used to look forward to Saraswati Puja not just for the holidays but also for the non-studying phase when the books would be put away for a few days.
The custom has nearly been done away with in Kerala as pushy parents find it a luxury their wards can do without.
But what has caught on, not just among Hindus but all communities, is Vidyarambham, the ritual of initiating children into the world of letters, which falls on Oct. 6.
If teachers used to do the ceremony in homes earlier, now it is done with great fanfare in temples, churches, community centres and even newspaper offices.

For cultural leaders, who do the honours at some high-profile Vidyarambham functions, it is a brilliant photo-op.
Shimit Job was one of those who took his daughter Rithika to a mass initiation ceremony organised by a newspaper last year.
“It was writer Sethu who made my daughter write the first letters of her life. I see it as a nice ceremony and don’t see any religious significance in it. In earlier times, teachers used to hold the hand of the children and teach them how to write in schools. Now, they start learning even before they go to schools,” says Shimit, who works in a pharma company. “If it is a Hindu ceremony, why would churches organise it?” he asks.
Father Prince Mathew of the St Mary’s Orthodox Cathedral Park Avenue says that though it may have become popular as a Hindu ritual, initiation into education is there in the Christian tradition as well and Christian priests had been doing it.
“It is in recent times, however, that it is being done as a fixed programme on a fixed day. This is because we cater to the demand by people to do it on the same day when everyone else does it,” he says.
“It is a significant moment in the life of a child and we do it in the name of God in the church, that’s all.” He adds that this is not the only practice that the churches have adopted from Indian tradition.
“Take the nilavilakku and kodimaram, for instance. What is wrong in taking the good aspects from the culture that we are part of?” he asks.
Chakkunni whose two grandchildren had their Vidyarambham in a church sees it as a ceremony that emphasises the importance of education.
“There was nothing like this for Christians in earlier times but I don’t see anything wrong with it. But why can’t people of different faiths do it together instead of doing it separately in temples and churches?” he wonders.
Writer and columnist S. Sharadakutty sees the development of Vidyarambham into a pan-Kerala practice as yet another example of the commercialisation of the society.
“Most of our practices spring from a particular faith or belief but commercial interests are clearly at play here. Vidya (education) itself has been commercialised, so what to talk of Vidyarambham?”
She doesn’t, however, see any great harm in this practice being embraced by all sections of the society.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Malayalam Screen Keyboard