Thousands of children were initiated into the world of letters on Monday at public functions organised by religious/educational institutions, charitable organisations, cultural and media establishments across the city as part of the Vidyarambham ritual marking the conclusion of the Navaratri festival.

The elders held the hands of small children and helped them write their first alphabets in a plate of rice grains.

Poets, scholars, teachers and painters were among those who helped the children write their first letters. They also ‘wrote’ a word on every child’s tongue with a gold ring.

Parents with chidren turned up in large numbers for the vidyarambham functions at many places. Cutting across religious lines, Christians joined Hindus in the celebration as many churches organised the ceremony for children in their community.

Elaborate arrangements were made for Vidyarambham at the Navaratri Mandapam before the Sri Padmanabha Swamy Temple, the Saraswathy Mandapam at Poojappura, Thunchan Smaraka Samithi at Iranimuttam and the Kumaranasan Memorial, Thonnakkal. Dozens of temples across the city and its suburbs arranged functions. Dancers, musicians, bureaucrats and political leaders were also present at the functions to administer the first letters to the children.

Scores of toddlers belonging to different faiths and communities were initiated into the world of letters on Vijayadashami day on Monday. Apart from temples, educational institutions, cultural and literary organizations, churches in the city also held `vidyarambham functions on the auspicious day of Vijayadashami, which marks the culmination of Navratri festival.

Hundreds throng Vettukadu Church

Hundreds of eager toddlers and parents flocked to the Madre de Dues Church in the city, popularly known as Vettukadu Church, which has been conducting special vidyarambham functions for more than five years now.``Children from not only our parish but from different parts of the state and belonging to different faiths come here to take part in the vidyarambham function at our church, said church vicar Fr Gladin Alex.

Around 400 children took part in the function at the Madre de Dues Church this year compared to 250 children last year. Fr Alex said that there has been a steady increase in the number of children participating in the vidyarambham function at the church in the last five years. Besides the ritual of writing letters on rice grains the function at the church included special prayers as well. The rituals were led by Fr Alex and Fr Joseph Chalil.

``We first started this ritual following demand from parents in our parish that their children take their first steps in education at the Gods abode. This is basically an Indian tradition and people from different communities follow this auspicious ritual, Fr Alex said.

Apart from Vettukaud Church, vidyarambham rituals were also conducted at St. George Orthodox Church at Spencer Junction and the Pattom Bishop House where four toddlers were initiated into the world of letters by Major Archbishop Mar Baselios Cleemis.

Meanwhile, around 30 children took part in the vidyarambham function at St. George Orthodox Church.

"We have been conducting vidyarambham ritual for the past three years now. This time the prayers and the ritual were led by Fr P.G. Jose and Fr Varghese Abraham," a spokesperson of the church said.

Vidyarambham is a South Indian tradition of initiating children between two and three years into the world of knowledge by wiring letters or a sacred mantra on sand or rice grain.