The Navarathri (nine nights) festival that offers a vibrant annual kutcheri (concert) circuit for practitioners of Indian art and culture climaxes with an assurance of continuity for the artistes’ service, on Vijaya Dashami (10th Day Victory).
This occasion – celebrated as the day when Durga Devi vanquished the demon Mahishasura and Lord Ramachandra slayed the 10-headed demon Ravana to rescue his wife Sita – is also a day to glorify the noble gurus who dedicate their lives to keep alive the rich tradition of Indian arts and culture all over the world.
Lavished with gifts and offerings of respect by students and their parents on this day, the gurus respond in kind by beginning new lessons for students and formally accept fresh students in the auspicious time and atmosphere of this day of victory.
Another cherished ritual of the day is the initiation of young children into the field of education. Photographer S. Sugumaran had the good fortune to capture the scene of tiny tots taking baby steps on the path of learning led by priest Siva Sri Balamurugan Gurukkal of the Aathipuriswarar Temple at Jalan Ang Seng in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur.
In this age old Hindu tradition, the gurukkal first symbolically writes the divine Pranava Aum (primordial sound) syllable on the child’s tongue using a straw of Kusa grass. He then holds the little child’s forefinger to write the primary Tamil alphabets on a layer of saffron coloured rice in a metal tray. By means of this ritual parents seek the blessings and permission of the goddess of learning, Saraswathi Devi for their children to pursue knowledge.
According to the wisdom of Hinduism or Sanatana Dharma the human race is required to seek the permission of the respective guardians of the various material facilities of Education, Wealth and Valour; Saraswathi, Laxmi and Parvathi in order to pursue these disciplines.
This is the crux of the nine day annual celebration where the goddesses are glorified for three consecutive days each – starting with Parvathi or Durga followed by Laxmi and Saraswathi – to appease them and seek their blessings.