Be it Hindus or Christians, thousands of children in Kerala will write their first letters on a plate of rice as they are initiated into the world of learning on the auspicious occasion of Vijayadasami on Monday at temples, churches and schools.

Called Vidyarambham, what started off as a ritual among Hindus has become a popular custom followed by churches as well to initiate children into learning on Vijayadasami day.

The day is considered auspicious for learning and in many places across Kerala, the child’s parents, eminent litterateurs, teachers and even politicians hold the hands of the tiny tots and help them write Malayalam letters on a plate of rice.

While Hindus write ‘hari sree Ganapathaye namaha’ in praise of Lord Ganesha, Christians write ‘sree Yesu mishihaye namaha’, hailing Jesus Christ. Then using a gold ring, a Malayalam word is written on the child’s tongue.

P.G. Jose, parish vicar of the St. George Orthodox Church here, said they would be holding the function at the church on Monday. “It would be held in the church itself and all those children who wish to enter the world of letters would be initiated through prayers. It would be done by us and also senior members of the church,” he told IANS.

State Education Minister M.A. Baby, a Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader, said he too would be taking part in the function. “I have been doing it since I became (education) minister in 2006 and hence I will be glad to initiate tiny tots into the world of learning on Monday, but I am yet to decide where I will be taking part in this ceremony. There is no ideological barrier in this event,” Mr. Baby said.

Maximum crowds are expected at Thunachan Paramabu near Thrissur, the home of Malayalam litterateur Thunchathu Ezhuthachan. Over 5,000 children are likely to take part in the ceremony held there.