In the good olden days, schooling used to start only at the age of five. Child, sufficiently grown up to understand the intricacies of schooling by that time, would be made to enter the school premises and present himself before the primary school teacher. In the village scene, the school used to be a ‘street school’, usually a two or three roomed thatched hut or even at times the shade of a neem tree, a banyan tree etc. The teacher always happened to be an old looking learned man with the traditional attire, with a vermilion mark or vibhuti markings adorning his forehead. He always used to have a ruffled book in one hand and a cane in the other.
During the very beginning days of schooling the child would be made to recite the poem mentioned below, a chaaTu poem, in the morning prayer or in the evening, before leaving the school till the poem was by hearted. This is a prayer to Goddess Sarasvati, the Hindu goddess of learning. The poem is in ‘Saardula vikriiditam’ meter:
“Tallii! ninnu dalaMchi pustakamu cheataM buunitin niivu naa
yullaM baMduna nilchi jRMbhaNamugaa nuktul suSabdaMbu Soe
bhillan palkumu naadu vaakkunanu saMpriitin jaganmoehinii!
phullabjaakshii! sarasvatii! bhagavatii! puurNeaMdu biMbaananaa!”
“శా. తల్లీ! నిన్ను దలంచి పుస్తకము చేతం బూనితిన్ నీవు నా
యుల్లం బందున నిల్చి జృంభణముగా నుక్తుల్ సుశబ్దంబు శో
భిల్లన్ పల్కుము నాదు వాక్కునను సంప్రీతిన్ జగన్మోహినీ!
ఫుల్లబ్జాక్షీ! సరస్వతీ! భగవతీ! పూర్ణేందు బింబాననా!”
Mother! (1) Thinking of you I have taken the book in my hand
Stay in my intellect and speak in the abundance of words I utter
For them to glow in good meaning, Oh charmer of the universe!(2) You,
Lotus eyed!(3) Sarasvati! Bhagavati! (4) woman with face resembling full moon!(5)
Notes: (1) Goddess Sarasvati, the Hindu goddess of learning. She is the daughter of Brahma, the creator of universe. Brahma conceived her by imagining her and hence She is known as Brahma’s ‘maanasa putrika’, which means a daughter who has taken birth from imagination and intellect. (2) Her presence in a persons intellect (budhdhi) is considered absolutely necessary since it is the intellect that guides a person to all kinds of fulfillments in life. She is, therefore, desired by every one. (3) (5): These are popular figures of speech used in Telugu classical poetry, which are very often used while describing a divine female or a woman of exceptional beauty, a kaavya naayika, the leading female character of a kaavya. (4) The Almighty Goddess, the feminine gender of the Almighty God BhagavaMtuDu.