Significance of the rituals on Vidyarambham
“Om Hari Sree Ganapataye Namah Avighnamasthu”
On the auspicious occasion of Vijayadasami, there occurs the age old tradition where the young children are initiated formally into the world of letters by reciting this sanskrit mantra, writing it on sand- symbolizing practice, on rice grains- symbolizing the acquisition of knowledge leading to prosperity and by writing the mantra on the tongue of the child- symbolising the wealth of knowledge. The ceremony termed as Vidyarambham - ‘Vidya’ meaning knowledge and ‘arambham’ meaning beginning- is performed on the last day of Navratri puja.
The mantra, ´Om Hari Sri Ganapataye Namah’ is said to signify all 51 devanagari letters that form the embodiment of the Naadarupini devi- the Goddess of Sound. The mantra can be translated in two ways according to scholars. In the first version, Hari represents the Paramatma or the lord of the universe. Sree represents Parasakti or the goddess of prosperity. Ganapati represents the soul of the Universe. Om denotes the pranava mantra that arises from Parasakti. In essence, the mantra is projected as a complete form of worship.
Traditionally the principle behind ‘Hari Sree’ being written on the tongues of infants with honey tipped gold by the guru involves a silent prayer - “May whatever this child speaks become as valuable as gold.” This also invokes the grace of the goddess of learning and the god of beginnings for the child to continue the journey of knowledge without obstacles. The other version of the mantra interprets the meaning as ‘Let us bow our heads to the master of ‘hariganam‘ that includes vowels and ‘sriganam’ that consists of consonants in the alphabetical group. Today Vidyarambham is seen to be practised by many, irrespective of caste or religion, with slight variations in rituals.
Although knowledge in itself is invaluable, the tradition has it that the guru holding the child’s hand, guides him in writing his first letters. The belief behind this is that knowledge can attain full bloom only when it flows through the teacher. The teacher represents the supreme principle of God. Inherent in this practice is also the concept of Sharanagati—total surrender towards the supreme. Also involved is a commitment from the teacher to provide unconditional support to his disciple to overcome hurdles in the path to proficiency.
Another valuable point has it that the index finger represents our ego. We use the index finger to point out the faults of others, forgetting the other fingers directed back at us indicating that our mistakes may be several times worse. It is this index finger that is offered to the teacher, holding which, he helps the child write his first letters, introducing him into the world of knowledge. Here there is a resolve involved to give up the burden of ego to achieve true knowledge and wisdom.
We learn through these traditions, the significance to always remain a beginner, with alertness, patience and enthusiasm and to approach life as a book from which we can constantly learn. The rituals also convey the idea of having respect for everything, bowing down with humility to all, ever with the heart of a novice who is eager to learn from anything around him.
When we understand the underlying oneness in every being, compassion will arise in our hearts. When this feeling of empathy expresses itself, we realise the conviction to help people who experience sorrow in this world. This eventually would enable each human being to strive towards creating universal happiness.
May this Vijayadasami be an awakening to all of us to shed our egos, remain grateful, practise humility as well as respect and to bring peace to our fellow beings which is the real goal of acquiring knowledge!
(The writer is Chairperson CSA, Sr Dir FWO, Editor The Intl Journal, Dir TGL)