THIRUVANANTHAPURAM -- In a time-honoured ritual that cuts across lines of religion, caste and culture, thousands of children entered the world of learning in Kerala as they scribbled their first letters on Vijayadasami today.
The 'Vidyarambham' ritual on Vijayadasami, which marks the culmination of the nine-day navaratri festival, is considered an auspicious occasion for children being introduced to learning in the state, which boasts of the highest literacy rate in the country.
Clad in new clothes, children, mostly aged between two and three, gathered with their parents in front of temples, cultural organisations and media houses to be taken through the 'vidyarambham' (the beginning of learning) ritual.
Elders wrote the auspicious first letters of the alphabet with gold rings on the tongues of children. The toddlers were also made to write the letters with their fingers in rice- filled brass platters.
At many places, teachers, artistes, musicians, politicians and even film personalities took part in the ritual to show children how to write their first letters.
Though basically a Hindu custom, the 'Vidyarambham' ritual has assumed a secular dimension in Kerala over the years, with a large number of people belonging to other religions also initiating their children into the world of learning on this day.
Hundreds of children performed the ceremony at Thunchan Parambu in Tirur in Malappuram district, the birthplace of Thunchathu Ezhuthachan, who is revered as the father of Malayalam literature.
The famed Panachikkadu temple in Kottayam and Daskshina Mookambika temple in Ernakulam witnessed heavy rush today for the 'Vidyarambham.