GANESHPURI SCHOOL VISITS, by Karen McGraw
I had an opportunity to visit two different schools near Fire Mountain Ashram. One is a boarding school for children of migrant farm workers. We brought fruit trees for the children to plant at their school. The gardener from the Ashram came to oversee the planting and to demonstrate how to properly plant the trees. The children dug the holes, carried water and pails of composted soil. This is a co-ed school so both boys and girls, in their colorful dress, participated. It was a sight to see a dusty, dry open space turn into a promise of green that will produce fruit to eat and beauty for the eyes. I was particularly struck with the way the project was conducted because the idea is to teach the children how to plant and care for the trees, not just to give them the trees.
The second school is a 15-minute walk from Fire Mountain on a hard packed narrow path that wends its way through dry rice paddies waiting for the monsoons, past a working brickmaking operation, and a newly established neighboring Ashram. The village is charming with fences, swept yards, planted tees and even trash cans. The school children were waiting for us. Cynthia, from Fire Mountain Ashram, organized learning centers for the five of us to supervise. The children rotated through each center with different activities such as completing a puzzle, playing with Legos, having a story read or my activity which was teaching colors and shapes. The students were delighted and delightful.
THE NITYANANDA PARADE, Thursday February 14, 2013 by Padmakshi (Andrea Wasserman)
You may have already read about the early morning abhishek (ritual bathing) of the Nityananda murti in the temple in Ganeshpuri. While the large, life-sized murti is bathed daily, so is a small murti of Nityananda that sits right next to it. On the lunar anniversary of the installation of the murti on Nityandanda’s tomb, many special events occur in Ganeshpuri.
After sunset, the small murti is placed inside a fancy hand-held carriage, reminiscent of how royalty would be carried from place to place. Flower garlands are draped around Nityandanda’s neck, and the inside of the carriage is adorned with flowers. The carriage is slowly paraded around town as mantras are chanted, from the temple, through the streets, stopping often so the villagers can touch the murti, offer more flowers, and even take a blessed flower petal from inside the carriage.
The parade winds its way back to the temple, where the carriage is placed on the floor as more rituals are performed, and the villagers crowd around, all trying to touch the murti for blessings and to retrieve a flower or two. The murti is then reverently picked up by a Brahmin (priest) and returned to his resting place on the altar.
For me, this portrayed rural India, many people of all ages, peacefully gathering together to bow to a great Master, joyful in the chanting of the mantras, devotional in every aspect of their lives. Kind, peaceful, simple hard-working folk incorporating deep beliefs and rituals into their daily lives.