Aksharabhyasam Meaning'Akshara' means letters (alphabets) in Sanskrit and 'abhyasam' means practice. Aksharabhyasam is a traditional religious function of Hindus. It is also known as 'Vidyaarambham' which literally means starting of education. In this function a child is given initiation for writing / education. With this function the child is ready to receive formal education in a school. The function is performed in different ways in different regions of India.
When to perform aksharabhyasamIn the olden days, aksharabhyasam was performed when the child was 5 years old. But presently because of early education at Kindergarten level, parents perform this ceremony when the child is in his 3rd year i.e. after the child completes 2 years. Normally there is a belief that aksharabhyasam should not be performed after the child completes 3 years and is in its 4th year.
Where to perform aksharabhyasamThe function can be performed either in a temple or at home. In the olden days it was performed in homes but as there is a change in the lifestyle, people started performing the function in nearby temples.
Procedure to perform aksharabhyasam at homeEngage a priest and fix an auspicious day / time. Invite close relatives for the function. Make preparations for the function in advance by getting the list of items required for the puja. On the day of the function, make the necessary arrangements and dress up in your traditional attire. Also dress up the child in a traditional way (of course depending on the comfort of the child). If the child becomes fussy, let the child wear which dress it wants to wear.
Light up lamp / deepam in the puja mandir and be seated in a comfortable way / place. When the priest starts chanting mantras, keep do as per instructions.
Normally the child sits in his father's or maternal uncle's lap for 'aksharabhyasam'. The child is made to hold a plate full of rice grains spread on it or a slate. The person in whose lap the child sits, holds its hand (normally right hand) and makes him / her write the first letters which are either 'AUM' or 'Om Namah Sivaya' in regional language after the pooja is performed by the priest.
At the end of the puja, offer naivedyam like kheer / payasam or halwa.
List of items for the pooja
- Turmeric powder - 1 small pack
- Kumkum (vermilion)- 1 small pack
- Sandalwood powder (Chandan) - 1 small pack
- Agarbatti - 1 small packet
- Camphor (karpooram) - 1 small pack
- Flowers / garland, preferably yellow or white
- Fruits - bananas or any other fruits
- Coconuts - 2
- Quality rice - 1 Kg
- Betel leaves and nuts - 11
- Payasam / Kheer or Chakra Pongali for naivedyam
- Traditional slate for writing, slate chalk pencil, small notebook and a small pencil
Normally aksharabhyasam is performed in Hindu temples. However, it is determination and dedication to perform the function which is more important than taking pains to travel long distances and troubling the little ones.
Important temples for performing aksharabhyasam
- Basara Saraswati Temple, Telangana
- Kollur Mookambika Devi Temple in Karnataka
- Vijayawada Kanakadurga Temple, Andhra Pradesh
- Koothanur Saraswati Temple, Tamil Nadu
- Vargal Saraswati Temple, Telangana
- Other Saraswati temples in India
How to perform Aksharabhyasam at Basara TempleFor performing the function at Basara temple, take care of the following things:
- For performing the function in the main temple premises in front of the main deity of Goddess Saraswati, buy Aksharabhyasam (special pooja) ticket for Rs.1000/- (subject to change). The temple opens daily at 4.00 a.m and tickets are sold from 4.00 a.m to 4.30 a.m.
- Aksharabhyasam timings - 7.30 a.m to 12.00 noon and 2.00 p.m to 6.30 p.m. Temple remains closed from 12 noon to 2.00 p.m.
- The function is performed in mass and hundreds of families are crowded / seated inside the main temple.
- An important point to note. This is performed in mass and hundreds of families are seated inside the main temple. The temple priest gives instructions in the mike before starting the pooja. Concentrate and follow the instructions carefully so that you can easily and successfully complete the pooja.
- It will be very congested inside and a bit noisy too. You would find it difficult to sit properly due to crowd. Adjust yourself and try to sit at ease. Keep all the required items in your lap. And let your child sit in his / her father's or in the lap of other family member who accompanies you. By doing so, you may feel convenient while performing the function.
- Mantras will be chanted in the mike by the priest. Repeat the same and do as instructed in the mike. After the pooja is over, go in lines, give the slate along with the rice spread on it to the priest who is seated on a platform. He will make your child write 'OM' on the slate. You can then continue in the line, have darshan of Goddess Saraswati and move out.
- You can even perform the function at any place within the temple premises but outside the sanctum sanctorum. Ticket for ordinary Aksharabhyasam pooja is Rs.100/-.
Try to keep yourself engaged in some activity so as to kill the boredom. Keep your child / children engaged to avoid their fussiness. Get a couple of their favorite toys / books / play things and keep them engaged.
Carry some dry eatables like biscuits, cookies, chips etc to feed your child and also keep some healthy drinks, juices and water bottle particularly for your child. Do not feed too much food to your child as you might find it difficult to get out of the line in case of urgency like going to toilet.
Things to carry to the temple for the pooja
- 1 Kg rice to be spread on the slate while performing the pooja when the priest instructs to do so.
- 1 small pack turmeric powder (pasupu), 1 small pack kumkuma to apply on the slate / book before starting the pooja.
- A small piece of new cotton towel on which the new slate has to be kept. It it is not compulsory.
- All other materials like notebook, pencil, slate, slate chalk, flowers, coconut, garland, flowers and all other pooja materials are available in the shops in the temple premises.