Sitting on her mother’s lap, three-year-old Zaahiya Sulaiman was introduced to the world of letters by former chief minister and Congress leader Oommen Chandy on ‘Vidyarambham’ Day.

Zaahiya’s father, Sulaiman, a former NRI, said all three of his children, including Zahiiya’s elder brothers, were initiated into the world of education in a similar way on Vidyarambham Day.

“We should accept the good in everything and live in harmony. If you look at all religions, they give the same teachings. I believe that instilling in children these values are very important. Humanity is the most important aspect. That is what I teach my children,” Sulaiman said.

‘Vidyarambham’ or introducing children to the world of letters at the end of Navarathri, is a Hindu ritual. However, in Kerala, people belonging to Christian and Muslim communities also take part in the practice.

This year, due to the pandemic, most places in the state, did not observe the ‘Vidyarambham’ Day, though it was conducted in some temple following protocol.

A member of St George Orthodox Church said many parents earlier also used to take their children to bishops and priests and made them write the first letters.

“More parents are coming forward every year to celebrate the occasion. In 2010, we decided to have it on the same day as Vidyarambham. We have been having this in our churches every year, but this year we did not observe it due to the coronavirus,” said KK Babu, the church committee member.

As children take their first steps towards education, priests and professors remain present during the occasion. “A Bible is kept nearby and children are made to write ‘Glory be to God’ in rice and with a gold ring on their tongue a cross is drawn,” Babu said.

At the Cheramon Juma Masjid, many parents bring their children on the day. The mosque, however, is shut for renovation. Faisal, administrative officer of the mosque, said, children from all communities come for the occasion.

“We started this from 2001, but we do not just practise it on Vidyarambhom Day, but on other days as well,” he said, adding mostly non-Muslims take part in the ritual.

Long queues are seen outside temples and cultural institutions like Tunchan Parambhu on Vidyarambham Day. Many parents want their children to write their first letters from writers, poets and even politicians.

During the day, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vjayan helped Devana, the grand-daughter of his driver, learn the first letter at his official residence Cliff House.

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