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In the world of letters, religion is no bar
George Iype in Kochi | October 01, 2003 17:50 IST
A church and a mosque in Kerala are setting a new trend in religious harmony by preparing to conduct Vidyarambham, a traditional Hindu ritual to initiate children into the world of letters and learning.
Every year Vidyarambham is conducted in the first week of October at the time of Navratri celebrations in Hindu temples. But on October 5, the St George's Orthodox Syrian Church at Thiruvananthapuram will initiate the children of the faith into the world of letters.
"This is our best way to tell Hindus that we love their religion and culture. Vidyarambham is a sacred occasion for Hindus. So I thought why can't we initiate the children of this parish church into the world of letters on such an auspicious occasion," said Father Geevarghese Erakkath, the St George Church vicar.
St George's Orthodox Syrian Church isn't the only minority religious institution lining up to initiate children into the fine of art of letters. A mosque in Kerala's Kodungallur is also preparing for a similar programme.
Al Hafiz Fathahudin, the Imam of the Cheraman Juma Masjid at Kodungallur, has announced the mosque would conduct Vidyarambham on next Sunday. "You know imparting knowledge to the children is an integral part of Islamic religious tradition. We are happy that we will teach the letters to the little children on the Hindu festival day," the Imam said.
Observers said the church and mosque are breaking new ground by taking up a practice that is usually prevalent in Hindu temples.
"It is a great thing that Christians and Muslims in Kerala regard Vidyarambham, generally a Hindu religious programme, as the best method of imparting knowledge to children," said K Krishnan Nair, a schoolteacher at Kochi.
According to Father Erakkath, there is nothing 'revolutionary in the church's decision to observer a Hindu celebration'. "This is the best example through which we need to show that secularism and tolerance is the essence of all religions in India," he said.
Quoting history, the priest said that as early as the ninth century, Hindus helped Christians build churches. "In turn, the church has immensely helped the Hindus benefit through education."
The priest said he decided to organise Vidyarambham in the church because as a child he himself was initiated into the world of letters by a Hindu priest on the Vidyarambham day. "Vidyarambham is a strictly local custom. We become more secular only by imbibing the culture and customs of all religions in the country," Father Erakkath added.
To prove that he means business, the Christian priest is planning to conduct the Vidyarambham event in an elaborate manner. "We hope to put up pictures of gods and goddesses of all religions outside the church, the venue of the Vidyarambham," a local parishioner said.
According to the parishioner, many members of the church have already registered to bring in their children for the function. "We also want Hindus and Muslims to bring their children to the church to make is a truly secular event," he added.
More reports from Kerala