Monday, December 26, 2005

The Significance of Aksharabhyasam. ( Vashakkadai)

The significance of Aksharabyasam
Education is an important aspect of a culture. Most religions acknowledge this and make special provisions for the commencement of education. The Muslims have a ceremony that introduces the child to the Holy Koran. The Christians recognize the need for godparents to help with the child's religious education. In the world of today, where children are at school by the age of two and start lisping their alphabet even earlier, there seems a continuous process that begins almost as soon as the child is born. However understanding these ceremonies transport us back to a time when life was not so frenetic; a time when the beginning of learning was looked on as a milestone and not as a frantic need; a time when children were still allowed to be children.

In our Hindu religion when the mind of the child is ready to receive education, a function called the Aksharabyasam or Aksharambam is performed. The word Akshara means letters and Abyasam means practice. This function is the child's first introduction to the world of reading and writing. This is believed to be a later development as compared to many other childhood functions. Sanskrit was initially a spoken language. At that time, the Upanayanam marked the beginning of primary education. This education began with the memorizing of sacred bymns without any reading or writing. What writing was known at the time was not used for educational purposes.

As life progressed, writing became more and more important. Literature developed and different fields of learning evolved. It became more and more necessary to learn the alphabet in order to preserve the vast treasure of knowledge. Study now entailed instruction in reading and writing too. Thus a new ceremony was evolved to mark the beginning of this stage of education.

This function was traditionally performed around the age of five. Today however with the focus on early education, learning begins even before the age of three. Traditionally, this function was performed in a grand manner. Saffron and other materials were scattered on a silver tray and the letters written with a gold stylus. As education came to be accepted more and more widely, the letters soon came to be written on paddy grains.

While in early times the letters written were a salutation to the gods, it soon came to be simplifies by many to just the primordial Om. The child was taken to the school in a procession. In Guru Kula vasa period, the child was left there to serve the guru and commerce his education.

Today the ceremony has been all but forgotten. When it is conducted, it is simplified and short. The child is made to sit on his father's lap. In some cases, the maternal uncle or a close relative or friend plays the role. Guiding the child's forefinger, letters are written in the paddy grains spread on the floor. A small pooja is done and the Gods are invoked to help the child complete his education without a hitch. Some important slokas are chanted.

Vijayadasami is the tenth day of the Navarathri Pooja. This is the day that Shakthi is believed to have triumphed over the evil demon Mahishasura. The word Vijaya means victory. As this day is symbolic of victory, it is considered a good day to start a new venture. The previous day, which is the ninth day of the pooja is devoted to Goddess Saraswati. Poojas are done invoking her blessings on all learning.

In our web site www.kandamangalam.com under pooja section, we uploaded all the manthrams required to perform this function. Please make use of it and give a good start for the education of your children.



Vedhoktha Asirwatham

Gopala Dekshidhar



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