Friday, October 15, 2010
Durgashtami, Mahanavami and Vijayadashami
We are already into the 8th day of Navarathri. Durgashtami, Mahanavami and Vijayadashami are the 3 most important days of Navarathri. Durgashtami is specially celebrated in Kerala as “Pooja vaipu”(keeping for the pooja). On the evening of Durgashtami, after cleaning the Pooja room, children keep all their books on a decorated stool for pooja. All the holy books like Ramayana, Mahabharatha and other books of religious importance are arranged. The books are then covered with a red silk cloth.
On Mahanavami day, Saraswathi pooja is performed to the collection of books. All family members including the children perform the pooja. The neivedyam on Saraswathi pooja includes palpayasam, vella payar and vada. Arati and neivedyam are done in the evening also. On the next day, i.e., Vijaya dashami day, punarpooja is done to the collection of books. The neivedyam on Vijayadashami day includes neyyappam and payasam. After the pooja and arathi, the books are distributed to the respective owners. All the members sit facing east and after writing the alphabet (Vidhyarambham or initiation to studies) in rice, start reading the books.Children are sent to school only after Vidhyarambham.
Vidhyarambham or Aksharabhyasam (initiating to the alphabets) is done on Vijayadashami day for children above the age of 2 who are not yet initiated to letters. After the pooja, children sitting on the laps of their parent, are made to write “Om Maha Ganapathaye Namah” followed by all the alphabets on rice filled in a tray. From now on they can start reading and writing.
In Kerala Vidhyarambham as a community festival is conducted in many places, the more famous one being Thunjan Parambu. Thunjath Ramanujan Ezhuthassan was a very famous poet of Kerala and he is considered as the father of Malayalam language. The place (in Malappuram district of Kerala) where he lived has been converted into a memorial and huge function of initiating children to Vidhyarambham takes place here. It is believed that children who are introduced to learning here will attain great scholastic skills.
Many temples in and outside Kerala also have Vidhyarambham function on Vijayadashami day. Temples like Mookambika in Kollur (Karnataka) have Vidhyarambham function on all days of the year.
Saraswati pooja is also known as “Adachu pooja” (closed pooja) as the books are kept covered and not touched for two days. One is not supposed to read or write on these two days. When we were children, we would be so happy to keep the school books covered for two days. And yet, we did not miss out on any story books, for which we were promptly admonished. But these are not our school books, we used to say.
Vijaya Dashami is also celebrated as Aayudha Pooja. People keep all their tools and house hold knives etc., and do pooja to them. Vehicles are also decorated and pooja is done to them.My friend Veena, to whom Vidhyarambham was a new word when I introduced her to our custom, always asks me, "Why are you not keeping your household implements like knife, scissors etc., on pooja”? She would herself answer, "For you, books and pen are your tools”.
Happy Saraswathi pooja and Vidhyarambham!