New Delhi: Giving a slight twist to the much-hyped Valentine’s Day, schools in Surat in Gujarat on Friday organised ‘Matru-Pitru Pujan Diwas’ (Mother-Father Worship Day), to “cultivate Indian cultural values among school children”.

The event was inaugurated in various schools across the city as students offered flowers to goddess Saraswati, lit an earthen lamp and chanted prayers. After that, the students were asked to serve and obey their parents. The celebration was started by Indian spiritual leader Sant Asaram Bapu in 2007 as an alternative to Valentine’s Day.

A circular issued by the Surat district education officer laid down guidelines on how to celebrate Matru-Pitru Pujan Diwas and instructed schools to invite five to ten couples who will be worshipped by their sons or daughters studying there with flowers, vermilion, chant prayers and offer sweets.

Schools were asked to invite special guests, like local corporators, school management committee members or social workers, and speeches will be delivered highlighting the importance of the day.

The circular said that schools may organise similar events to inspire students and create awareness among them about the day. A detailed report is to be submitted to the district education office with details of the function accompanied by photographs.

However, the event was criticised by Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi for creatig an unnecessary diversion from the quality of education that requires improvement. “We know the importance of parents in our life and culture. The circular directing schools to celebrate Parents Worship Day is a way to divert attention from shortcomings plaguing the school system in the state,” he said

“Instead of issuing circulars meant to improve school education, the education department is issuing new fatwas. It is working in the direction of creating new controversies. It is a drama because the education department is directionless,” Doshi added.