Thiruvananthapuram: Thousands of children were initiated into the world of letters, a tradition in Kerala on Vijaya Dashami, at functions held in temples, churches, clubs and media organisations here on Tuesday.
Earlier, this was basically a Hindu event as it takes place on Vijaya Dashami when thousands of elders both men and women help the tiny tots to write their first letter. But now, this has turned into more of an educational event than a religious one.
A mad rush was witnessed at the temples, clubs and media organisations, from early Tuesday morning onwards where parents mostly dressed in traditional Kerala attire, queued up with their children.
The child is made to sit on the lap of a ''teacher'' who holds their hand to help them write Malayalam letters on a plate of rice.
While the Hindu children write "Hari Sree Ganapathaye Namaha", Christians write "Sree Yesu Mishihaye Namaha".
At the famed Mother of God Church, Vettukad, children belonging to various religions stand in queue, waiting for their turn to sit on the lap of the priests to write their first letters.
And at most places, using a gold ring, the ''teacher'' writes a Malayalam word on the child''s tongue.
Everything gets over in a matter of minutes and the final act is when the parents hand over a an offering to the ''teacher'' for their services rendered.
As always, the biggest crowd was witnessed at the Thunachan Paramabu near Thrissur which is considered as the home of Malayalam litterateur Thunchathu Ezhuthachan.
Another place where crowds gather is the famed Panachikkadu Temple dedicated to the Goddess Saraswati, situated in Panachikkad, Kottayam.
The day also saw candidates from all political parties turning ''teachers'' to help the children write their first letters, including three candidates from the three major political parties fighting a tight poll battle at the Vattiyoorkavu Assembly by-election in the capital city.
The other prominent faces who turned a ''teacher'' for the day included veteran film maker Adoor Gopalakrishnan, former diplomat T.P. Sreenivasan and eminent oncologist V.P. Gangadharan.