The 51st Kerala State School Arts Festival got off to a colourful start here on Tuesday morning.

Inaugurating the gala event, State Education and Culture Minister M.A. Baby stressed the role of co curricular activities in shaping the attitude to life in the impressionable minds and called upon the adults to take a healthy outlook towards the competitions in school arts and sports festivals.

Cocurricular activities in the cultural field in schools help not only to develop the latent talents in the children, but also to establish healthy linkages with the local cultural milieu, he pointed out. All are born multifaceted personalities and it was the responsibility of the society to ensure the all round development of the child. The festivals fundamentally act as a tool for self discovery for the young minds. “We fail to recognize this feature of the festivals and instead focus on a few come to the top,” Mr. Baby said.

Referring to the unhealthy tendencies witnessed by the festival venues, the Minister said the children were actually innocent victims of parental greed. “They want the children to go in for an education which would bring the highest pay packets once their wards are out of the colleges and take these festivals as part of the cut throat competitive world being built around them by highly commercialized social system,” Mr. Baby pointed out. This world view was myopic and it only helps to take the celebration spirit out of the festivals, he said.

The Minister hoped the School Arts Festival being held in a town like Kottayam which could boast of a rich cultural lineage and excellence in education, would turn a new leaf in the annals the half a century old arts festival.

Delivering his keynote address, the Guest of Honour and veteran Kathakali exponent Mathur Govindankutty said he too was a product of the arts festival. Festivals like the present one have contributed much to revive the traditional and classical art forms in Kerala and as such they are integral to the cultural stability of the society, he said.

The six day cultural extravaganza got formally opened with the hoisting of the flag by Director of Public Instruction (DPI) Mohammed Haneesh at 8 am on Tuesday. The ceremony was accompanied by panchavadyam recital and a short display by students. This was followed by the welcome dance at the main venue named after veteran Malayalam playwright Ponkunnam Varkey.

The stage came alive with the welcome dance in which 51 young dancer drawn from different schools in the town showcased an array of cultural motifs in the form of Baharathanatyam, Theyyam, Kathakali, Mohiniyattom and folk dance.

The DPI welcomed the gathering and made introductory remarks at the function chaired by V.N. Vasavan MLA.Deputy Speaker of Kerala Assembly Jose Baby, Jose K Mani MP, Kodikkunnil Suresh MP, Alphonse Kanamthanam, Thomas Chazhikkadan, Mons Joseph, P.C. George (all MLAs), Radha V. Nair, District Panchayat president, Sunny Kalloor, Kottayam Municipal Chairman, Mini Antony, district collector and others were present. The inaugural ceremony was followed by competitions in Bharathanatyam for Girls (High School) at the main venue.