Fascinating Little True Kerala Stories
A very dear friend of mine told me the following episodes of his own family members and himself. They are fascinating and true. Today I will briefly sketch just three.
1. There is a tradition in Kerala called Vidyarambham. It is a little ritual performed for every child symbolizing his or her initiation to literacy. He still remembers his own and seeing the same of many of other children including his own daughter. When he was about three Vidyarambham was arranged for him. One of the elderly village women who officiated over these rituals was called. Dressed in silk dhoti he was seated on a slightly raised sand seat in a pit used by children to play in. The priestess made a colored decorative design around the seat and chanted some mantras addressed to the divine builder Vishwakarma and the goddess of learning, Saraswati. She then put a little twig pen in his hand and helped him write a few letters of the alphabet. This marked the beginning of his formal education. He quite clearly remembers going to another teacher few years later to learn reading, writing and arithmetic. This had been the tradition passed down from generation to generation through the centuries.
2. In Kerala the carpenters, masons and architects were highly respected. Their art was revered as divine. Architects were well versed in Vastushastra, the art of orienting buildings in respect to the elements. They also gave attention to details of suitably placing kitchen, bedrooms and other functional sections of the house. For instance, a family dwelling was oriented in such a way that it would be comfortable in all seasons of the year without requiring fans and other additional aids. My friend’s brother is a nationally known architect. On visiting some famous old Kerala buildings he found them fascinating and worth studying closely. Part of his family is still in Kerala and his own ancestral house retains marks of the superb local skills. At the height of his career he decided actually to seek training from a traditional Acharya. A suitable teacher was not difficult to arrange but it was not easy to follow the disciple he prescribed; for instance, minimum of six months without break, wearing only traditional attire, following strict metal and spiritual discipline, rigorous work hours and attention to minute details. He used much of this in his professional work afterwards to his great joy.
3. The third story is the most fascinating of all. There are small groups of Afro-Asian aboriginal groups still living in remote areas on hilltops or deep valleys in the thick forests of Kerala. People avoid them from fear of their knowledge of black magic. My friend’s younger brother became fascinated with these people and wanted to actually learn black magic. He found out about a man who sounded just right for his purpose. So, one day he walked into the forest, found his house and knocked at his door. The man was surprised to see him and said, “Most people are afraid of coming here, have you no fear? What brings you to me?”
“I have come to be your disciple. Please teach me the art of magic,” said my friend’s brother.
“What you seek is most unusual, but to learn you must agree to do whatever I say without question.”
He then spat on the man’s hand and asked him to drink the spittle. This he could not do and was therefore rejected.
There is much more to share. Perhaps we will be able to do that later.
Partap AggarwalJune 23, 2007
Lina Krishnan to me
show details Jun 24 (17 hours ago)
Yes, we celebrate Vidyarambham each year on Dussehra day. The Daybefore (9th day of navaratri) is for Saraswati pujai, where books,pens, musical instruments, even needles & thread... are kept in puja &kids are not allowed to read that day (hardest day of my childhoodyears!). Next day, after Vidyarambham, the ban is off with a lot ofsinging.Apart from the 1st writing its also a day for initiation into music,and for paying respects to your guru if youre already learning.Thought these extra snippets would interest you.Love & Peace, Lina