Solilo has written about the custom of Vidyaarambham amongst Malayalis. It refreshed memories for me, of my daughter’s Vidyaarambham in the Sri Kollur Mookambika Temple in Mangalore, during our last vacation to India.
Normally, as Solilo has mentioned,the parents or other elders present , perform the initiation by writing ‘Om hari sree ganapataye namah’ on Vijayadashami day. In some cases like ours, where my husband was travelling at that time, one of the places that people go to do the Vidyaarambham done, is the Sri Kollur Mookambika Temple in Mangalore. Here, in this temple, Vidyaarambham can be done at anytime of the year. The temple is in the middle of a forest, and for miles before we reach it, it is quite a thick forest land. It is at the foot of the Western Ghats and on the banks of the River Sauparnika. People generally wash their feet at the River and then proceed to the temple.
The temple has an interesting history. Apparently Adi Shankaracharya, meditated in the Himalayas to Vaishno Devi. When she appeared, he begged of her, to come down to Kerala where he wanted to set up a place of worship for her. She agreed, on the condition, that he would have to lead the way, and not look back to see if she were following. She said, that if he did look back, then she would stay where she was and not go any further.
So all through the journey, Adi Shankaracharya, kept leading the way, and he could hear the Devi’s anklets , so he knew that she was following. Then when they reached Kollur, the sound of the anklets stopped. So he turned, and as promised, the Devi stopped where she was. After a lot of beseeching, she agreed to come further and set abode in Chottanikkara, near Ernakulam in Kerala. On the condition that another place of worship would be created for her at Kollur where she stopped. Apparently, the Aarti is first done and completed at Kollur before it can be done at the Chottanikkara Temple.
The Kollur Mookambika temple is apparently completely packed by devotees wanting to get their children’s Vidyaarambham done on Vijayadashami day. We did not go on that day, but our driver was telling us about how when he took his son for his Vidyaarambham, on Vijayadashami day, it was so crowded that not a single hotel or lodge was available, they actually stayed with some priest’s family. Apparently this happens quite a lot.
When we went, it was not ‘peak’ season, so it was a wonderful experience. The priest who did the Vidyaarambham was wonderful, he recited the shlokas and translated it for the benefit of anybody who did not understand and it was done in such a pious way, that I just could not take out my camera to take a pic. It was one of the few times, that I felt rather spiritual and moved. And it is one of the customs, that have a special place in my heart. Although I don’t have pictures to show my daughter, I do hope to take her there again to show her and let her experience it for herself again.