Forest fires, river sounds and mountain sweeps

Laughter, fun and frolic and above all being in the lap of nature. Every year, students from across our Chatralayams go on outdoor trips. Such outings help them to bond with each in an informal environment.

Our students from the Swami Dayananda AIM for Seva Chatralayam for Boys, Utnoor, Telangana recently partook in a Vanabhojanam. Vanabhojanam is an annual ritualistic picnic undertaken during Karthigai month in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. It is a cultural festival that celebrates our plant diversity with people cooking food under trees (amla) , offering it to the Gods and then partaking in the prasad.

The Utnoor Chatralayam is home to 45 boys.

Similarly, our students from the Sri Kaveri AIM for Seva Chatralayam for Boys, Chunchunakatte, Karnataka were taken on a day trip to Brahmagiri Hills, Kodagu, Tala Kaveri in Karnataka. Talakaveri is considered to be the mouth of river Kaveri. It is located on Brahmagiri Hills near Bhagamandala in Coorg district. The Chunchunakatte Chatralayam is home to 40 boys.

Fully Booked!

AIM for Seva partnered with Pratham Books and celebrated International Literacy Day on September 8 across our Chatralayams in Maharashtra. To make the event enjoyable for our older readers and younger ones, our students were given the option of choosing from two titles: ‘Gappu Can’t Dance’ (a Level 1 book written by Menaka Raman and illustrated by Krishna Chandan) and ‘The Weightlifting Princess’ (a Level 3 book written by Sowmya Rajendran and illustrated by Debasmita Dasgupta). It was a fun-filled session with our students from the Amboli and Rajgurunagar Chatralayams in Maharashtra having a gala time reading, narrating and enacting stories.

Last year, AIM for Seva partnered with Pratham Books, and our students from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana were introduced to ‘A Cloud of Trash’ (written by Karanjeet Kaur). The story is about a little girl called Cheekoo, who has a cloud of trash hanging over her head. This makes her very, very unhappy and, as we follow her story, we learn a little more about trash, and about keeping our surroundings clean. Our students across 16 hostels in both states read the story out aloud and enjoyed enacting it.

CELEBRATIONS

Our hostels across India bore a festive look this season. We share some glimpses of major celebrations across our Chatralayams.

  • Karthigai Deepam

The Atmalaya Swami Dayananda AIM for Seva Chatralayam for Girls, Udumalpet, Tamil Nadu geared up for Karthigai Deepam in the true festive spirit.

  • Gita Jayanthi

Gita Jayanthi was celebrated in the Swami Dayananda AIM for Seva Chatralayam for Boys, Amreli, Gujarat. This hostel is home to 30 boys. The decor was floral with our boys and other volunteers from the region doing group chanting on the occasion.

Gita Jayanthi was also celebrated at the Swami Dayananda AIM for Seva Chatralayam for Boys, Chikhali, Maharashtra. This hostel is home to 42 boys.

Children’s Day Celebrations

November is the month of children. On 14th November, Children’s Day is celebrated across the country as a tribute to the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru who advocated for children to have a fulfilled education.

We share some snapshots of Children’s Day celebrations across our Chatralayams.

  • Our students from the Anaikatti Chatralayam, Tamil Nadu participated and won prizes in various competitions held in their school on the occasion of Children’s Day.
  • Our students from the S.Viswanathan Memorial AIM for Seva Chatralayam for Boys, Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu, won prizes in fancy dress, elocution and drawing on the occasion of Children’s Day held in their school.
  • Our boys from the Swami Dayananda AIM for Seva Chatralayam for Boys, Utnoor, Telangana, performed the traditional tribal dance form of the state – ‘Gusadi Dance’ on the occasion of Children’s Day celebrations held at the district collectorate office.
  • The Innerwheel Club of Mirzapur Samanway celebrated Children’s Day with students from the Seth Bhavani Das Binani AIM for Seva Chatralayam for Boys, Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh. A general health check up for students was held as part of the celebrations.
  • Girls from the Swami Dayananda AIM for Seva Chatralayam for Girls, Belgaum, Karnataka participated and performed the traditional folk dance of Tripura on the occasion of Children’s Day organised by Kranti Mahila Mandal, Uma Sangeet Pratisthan and Ladies Wing – The Hind Co-operative Housing Society, Belgaum, Karnataka.

Festive Splendour Across Our Chatralayams

It is a time for colourful hand-crafted threads and eco-friendly Ganeshas. Culture validation is an important component of the value-education model followed across our 104 Chatralayams and 7 educational institutions. Our founder, Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati firmly believed that students would transform into confident and empowered citizens of India only if they understood the richness of our tradition.

AIM for Seva reinforces culture-based education through various ways. Be it the daily yoga regimen, music classes or festive celebrations, our student respect their tradition in varied ways.

On this festive occasion, we share our greetings to all our countless supporters – donors, volunteers, well wishers and others – without whom our journey of educating rural India would have been incomplete. The festival season has commenced across the country. Our Chatralayams and schools have all geared up in the true festive spirit.

Ganesh Chathurthi and Janamasthami

Our 39 differently-abled adult men from Krupa Care celebrated Ganesh Chathurthi in the true festive spirit. Similarly, Janamasthami was celebrated across our Chatralayams with many of our students dressing up as Lord Krishna.

Raksha Bandhan

At the newly inaugurated Swami Dayananda Saraswati Vidyalaya, Khargone, Madhya Pradesh, our students celebrated the day with handmade rachis. Our girl students from the Madhu & Rajkumar Nigam AIM for Seva Chatralayam for Girls, Unnao, Uttar Pradesh made beautiful rakhis.

Independence Day

Independence Day was celebrated across our network on August 15. On this occasion, the tricolour was unfurled and our students made a commitment to work towards the progress of the nation.

Founder’s Day Celebrations

Born on 15th August 1930, Pujya Swami Dayananda’s Saraswati influence on the world stage has been enormous.

A profound thinker, philosopher, spiritual teacher and one of the greatest masters of Vedanta, Swamiji’s influence on the world stage has been enormous.

He founded AIM for Seva in 2000 as a movement of caring.

On the occasion of Founder’s Day this year (August 15), we reaffirmed our commitment to the ideals visualised by our founder.

We share with you some glimpses of our celebrations.

Our students performed prayers and showcased their prowess in martial arts. Some students and hostel coordinators celebrated the day by creating awareness on fire safety.

College Times

The movement in Manjakkudi, Tamil Nadu (the birthplace of our founder, Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati), began in 2001. The Swami Dayananda College of Arts & Science, Manjakkudi, Tamil Nadu, was set up in the same year to empower rural areas, especially women, through education. Today, Manjakkudi has evolved into a knowledge hub with 5,000 students from around 300 villages coming to study in 2 schools and college in the region.

The Swami Dayananda College of Arts & Science, Manjakkudi offers 35 fully equipped and well-ventilated classrooms and 17 courses. We have 71 teaching and 63 non-teaching staff, a well-developed computer lab with 118 computers, a library with over 9,000 books and a 1,000-seater air-conditioned auditorium. We share with you some glimpses of the major events conducted in the Swami Dayananda College of Arts & Science, Manjakkudi in recent months.

The Morning Raga

Celebrated across India, navaratri is a time for worship, sacred offerings and classic music. Spirit of the Earth presents ‘The Morning Raga’ – an open house where nine talented musicians will take centre stage and perform classical compositions.

The joy and contentment derived from listening to classical music is unparalleled. It imparts serenity, peace of mind for both the performer as well as the rasika. Our founder, Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati extolled, “We have a profound form of music, unheard of in other cultures. Also through Carnatic music, one is in constant with the ancient dharma.”

Music is the language of emotion, and no art arouses emotions so deeply as music. We believe singing or listening to Carnatic music evokes positive emotions in a person. This navaratri, come and listen to the music over nine days.

Programme:

Date Name
29 September Kadambari Prasad with Acharya Pavithra Srinivasan
30 September Gopika Devarajan
1 October Chinmaya Arjun Raja
2 October Alladi Sumana
3 October Samyuktha Raghuraman
4 October Arya Karthikeyan
5 October S. Athmanam
6 October Tanvi Kamat
7 October Smt.N Visalakshi & Neelayathakshi

Dates: September 29 – October 7, 2019

Time: 10:30 am – 11:15 am

 

Spirit of the Earth, an initiative by AIM for Seva, was set up in 2017 to promote and encourage sustainable lifestyle practices. We believe that the planet’s resources are not merely a source for our consumption and personal gratification; like earth, we need to learn to share (vibhakthi), to give in abundance (vriddhi), provide nutrition (vrihi) and be compassionate (daya) – to render harmony in society. Spirit of the Earth is committed to increasing social impact, reducing carbon footprint and protecting the earth’s resources. The immersion centre operates as a non-profit outlet that sells organic artisanal heritage rice cultivated at our 40 acre farm in Manjakkudi, Tamil Nadu. We also retail hand-crafted lifestyle products made by differently-abled adults living in Krupa Home. In parallel, our interactive workshops, events and discussions provide experiential opportunities that encourage people to move towards conscious living and through all this, we believe we can create awareness and motivate consumers to become contributors.

Ananda 2019

Ananda, the first of our fundraiser series, was held from March 7 to 9, 2019, at the Music Academy, Chennai. The proceeds from this fundraiser are being utilised towards Krupa Care, Chatralayams and our integrated community development initiatives at Manjakkudi, the birthplace of our founder, Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati.

MARCH 7

A unique music concert by Smt. Bombay Jayashri Ramnath titled, ‘Chintaye Guruvaram,’ a tribute by the acclaimed artiste to her Gurus, who have led her on the journey of life and gone ahead to pave the path for her to walk on. The concert was a freshly woven production with narratives. Highlights included songs from the Thiruppugazh, and an accompanying dance segment by dancers Lakshmi Parthasarathy Athreya and Bhavajan Kumar.

MARCH 8

A theatre performance directed by Dr. Gowri Ramnarayan, titled Kurukshetra: When Things Fall Apart. An original play in English, it brought to life three characters from the Mahabharata:  Drona, the teacher of the Kuru princes, his wife Kripi, and their son, Ashwatthama. The play touched on their complex family relationship, the tug of war between duty and preference, and the final choices they made.

MARCH 9

A unique dance theatre production by Dr. Anita Ratnam, titled A Million Sitas. The performance was based on the stories of four iconic women in The Raamayana (Mandodari, Manthara, Ahalya and Surpanakha), and retold the epic from a woman’s perspective. The performance used sets and prop elements sourced from South Africa, South America, Malaysia, Japan and Europe.

Jagat Pavani Ganga 2018

The fund raiser, held on August 17, 2018, was presented by Revathi Ramachandran’s Kalasadhanalaya. The dance-drama-theatre presentation extolled the purity and sanctity of the Ganga with an underlying message to protect the hallowed river. The production interwove Bharatanatyam, classical Carnatic music, Garhwali folk music and mime and theatre, to depict the incomparable splendour of the Himalayan Ganga. The narrative was embedded in the tapestry of stories of the river and towards the end, the dance drama showcased contemporary issues concerning India’s most venerated river– pollution and preservation of the holy waters.

Nandalala 2018

On August 16, 2018, AIM for Seva presented Nandalala, A Nritya Natak, directed by Smt. Anitha Guha. Lord Krishna’s life was brought alive on the dais by the renowned choreographer’s ensemble, Bharathanjali, in this multilingual thematic dance presentation on Krishna. The mesmerising story of the dark hued Lord coupled with songs of composers like Purandara Dasa, Annamacharya, Surdaas, Meera, Narayana Theerthar, Jayadeva, (Ashtapathis), Oothukadu Venkatasubaiyar, enthralled the audience.

Antar Yatra 2016

‘Antar-Yatra – The Journey Within’ was choreographed and directed by Smt. Sharmila Biswas, a Sangeet Natak Akademi Awardee and founder of the Odissi Vision & Movement Centre, Kolkata. This magical programme, featuring nine dancers showcased a wide range of talent – three classical Indian dance forms, songs sung in six different languages, and included the art of shadow puppetry and ‘kollattam’- a rural game from Tamil Nadu. This dance-drama traversed the inner conflicts of a creative artiste’s mind, the thoughts, emotions, and paradoxes that are encountered during introspection and reflection.

Meera: The Soul Divine 2016

‘Meera-The Soul Divine’, an AIM for Seva presentation, touches the enchanting story of Meerabai, the princess who renounced the world in search of Lord Krishna. Ideated and executed by Padmashri awardee and legendary dancer, teacher and choreographer, Chitra Visweswaran and her team from the Chidambaram Dance Company, with music composed by Smt. Bombay Jayashri, featuring traditional bhajans, ‘Meera-The Soul Divine’ captured the hearts and minds of the audience.

New Year: New Hostel for Boys

The formal inauguration of AIM for Seva’s Chatralayam for Boys in Tondikatti,  Karnataka was held on December 28 2019. Located in Belgaum district, this 4,595 square feet Chatralayam will support and provide value-based education to 100 boys from the neighbouring villages.

The Tondikatti hostel project is supported by LIC Housing Finance. Last April, a Bhoomi Pooja of the AIM for Seva Chatralayam for Boys, Tondikatti was held.

Guest and dignitaries from the nearby villages such as Bijaguppi, Bundikhurd, Kunnal, Kamakeri, Guttugoli and Hosakoti attended the event.

We thank LIC Housing Finance for supporting our journey in educating rural India.

A glimpse into the Swami Dayananda Vedapatshala

Manjakkudi is the Janmabhoomi of our founder, Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati.

Pujya Swamiji was the foremost teacher in Vedanta in modern times. In keeping with his vision, the Swami Dayananda Educational Trust is committed to conserve, preserve and propagate Vedic studies through the Swami Dayananda Vedapatashala located in Kodavasal- near Manjakkudi–a place steeped in history.

  • Started in 2006, the Vedapatahala runs a 7 year course that teaches mantrams and yagnams, and is run by expert faculty members.

World Disability Day celebrated at Swami Dayananda Krupa Care

It was a clear morning and a big day.  About 42 kms away from Chennai, the residents of Swami Dayananda Krupa Care got together to celebrate World Disability Day in a very special way.

The 10.5 acre facility located at Maduvankarai, Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu bore a festive look with colourful festoons, balloons and decorative rangolis greeting the guests. World Disability Day was celebrated in the premises with Mr. B.Charles Prabakaran, assistant director Commissionerate for the Disabled Welfare, Tamil Nadu presiding over the function. Dr. Sathyodhan from the medical department at M/s. Delphi TVS was also part of the function.

The parents and extended family members and staff from AIM for Seva central office also participated in the function. The programme began with Bharata Desa Hitaya and it was followed by the lighting of the lamp.

Special Parent—Support Group by Swami Dayananda Krupa Care

In line with the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (December 3), Swami Dayananda Krupa Care has launched a Special Parent- Support Group.

It’s critical that parents of a child with special needs have a good support system in place. Besides learning to cope with the unique aspects of their child’s disorder, such a network will also help them learn how to manage their feelings and emotions when faced with the challenges of raising a special child.

The Special Parent-Support Group aims to provide a platform for parents of special children where they can meet each other and discover, through their common experience, and in turn act as a support for their peers.

At each meeting, a specific topic will be delivered and appropriate guest speakers will be invited on a regular basis as part of continuous education and training efforts.

This initiative is spearheaded by Dr Radhika Soundararajan, Director, Swami Dayananda Krupa Care. A psychologist by training, she will equip parents with clarity of intellect to deal with the challenges of life, using the principles of psychology and Vedanta. “We would like this Support Group to evolve as a network where the participants can eventually have access to all information and other requirements with respect to developmental disabilities,” says Dr Radhika.

Topics Include:

  • Orientation – Understanding Myself, Understanding My Child
  • Day to Day Living
  • Stress Management
  • Positive Interventions
  • Sibling Relations
  • Communication Challenges between child and parent
  • Explaining Grief

Date: Every Alternate Friday, starting from December 6, 2019

Time: 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

This is an open group. All are welcome (no fees will be charged). To register, please call +91-95000 82142.

Welcoming Retreat

The ‘Swami Dayananda Saraswati Memorial Centre’, now renamed ‘Jnana Pravaha’, was inaugurated by Swami Paramarthananda Saraswati on March 19, 2018, at Manjakkudi, the birth place of our founder, Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati. Gathered for the auspicious function were revered Swamis and Swaminis from across India, dignitaries and devotees of Pujya Swamiji.

Located at the heart of Swami Dayananda Campus in Manjakkudi, Tamil Nadu, the centre has been carefully designed. Spread across 3,106 square feet, it is built of teak wood and has been dressed with sandstone flooring. The exterior brims bright with traditional red oxide floor, solid wooden pillars and a sunken garden area with granite that creates a picturesque welcoming view.

Jnana Pravāha is equipped with a lecture hall with all attendant facilities like comfortable seating arrangement for around 40 students and a dais for the Acarya, audio-visual facilities and a white board for class-room sessions. The acoustics and air-conditioned ambience with adequate lighting in the presence of Pujya Swamiji’s murti presents a calming study-friendly ambience.

Dipped in quietness, Jñāna Pravāha is a welcoming destination for Vedanta retreats, lectures, discussions and meetings of AIM for Seva. The centre has an archive of Pujya Swamiji’s three-year courses as audios, e-books, a library of Swamiji authored books, reading room and is a complete aesthetic and spiritual hub.

AIM for Seva is in Such Great Hands!

AIM for Seva is formally set to launch a new hostel building for girls in Rishikesh, Uttarakhand. Once functional, this building will be able to accommodate 50 girls. In the first phase, 15 of our girls who are currently studying and living in a rented Chatralayam facility in Dehradun will move to the new building. One of AIM for Seva’s supporters recently visited the upcoming girls Chatralayam in Rishikesh and came back impressed with with our efforts to promote rural education. Here is his account:

“I had a great opportunity to visit Rishikesh recently and got to see some of AIM for Seva’s activities in the region. There is a girls’ hostel in the area that currently operates out of a rented space. Last year, a very generous donor from Seattle, Mr. Shyam Oberoi, decided to sponsor the building of a brand new hostel so that those girls can have a permanent space and more girl students can also join the facility. I was joined on this trip by Mr. Oberoi’s son, Rajat, and his daughter-in-law, Nidhi, plus some of our other family members from India.

The purpose of my visit was to interact with the girl students and also do the inaugural pooja of the new hostel building which is almost ready to move-in. As a bonus, I got to visit Pujya Swamiji’s ashram in Rishikesh and saw his mahasamadhi.

The current Chatralayam houses 15 girls who study in a local private English medium school located nearby. The girls greeted us all with a beautiful welcome song in English. The girl student ranging from 8 to 16 years are super excited about learning and studies, with maths being a favourite subject for many. Many of them dream to become doctors or teachers.

The new three story building sponsored by donors from Seattle and will become operational by mid-November

As part of the inaugural, we participated in a traditional pooja ceremony. The Ganesh pooja was followed by a navagraha homam.

On the whole, it was an emotional and eventful visit. After meeting the girls, we are even more convinced that by providing access to underprivileged children to benefit from good education, we can get them out of the poverty trap.

My faith in the efforts of AIM for Seva was enhanced further after meeting Swami Hamsananda Saraswati ji (the coordinator of AIM for Seva’s projects in Uttarakhand). He has dedicated his entire life’s work to AIM for Seva! He loves the children and he supports them as his own kids and the kids in turn adore and respect him tremendously.

His warmth and caring is infectious and after meeting him I felt so confident that AIM for Seva is in such great hands!”

‘Gau’s’ that! Dairy milk from the heartland

Located on the banks of Chozha Choodamani, a tributary of the Cauvery, is Manjakkudi, a small hamlet in Tamil Nadu’s Tiruvarur district.

The Swami Dayananda Educational Trust (SDET), an implementation partner of AIM for Seva has embarked on an integrated community development initiative in this village since 2003. As part of societal transformation, one focus area has been the running of a unique dairy farm that supports sustainable farming.

The Swami Dayananda Goshala was set up in 2012. At the time of inception, the goshala housed 30 cows. Seven years down the line, this figure has almost quadrupled to 104 cows.  The project has provided the villagers a sustainable means of livelihood. The Trust has employed nine farmhands from in and around Manjakkudi to supervise and maintain the goshala 24*7.

We are happy to share that a simple dairy farm project has resulted in community participation across levels.

All the 104 cows are fed with high quality fodder. The primary feed is natural grass which is supplemented by healthy cattle feed that comprises sesame oil cake, wheat/rice husks, maize oil cake, molasses, and combo feed.

In addition, the Swami Dayananda Educational Trust has also appointed a veterinary doctor to oversee the health and well being of the animals round the clock. The Joint director, Animal Husbandry, Tiruvarur district, visits our Goshala thrice a month and gives us valuable suggestions regarding their maintenance.

And as the cow is venerated in our tradition, we have ensured that these animals are fed and looked after well at all times. Our cow-sheds are well ventilated and we follow the best hygienic practices and eco-friendly principles when it comes to day to day running of the goshala.

We prevent the older cows from entering the slaughter houses by buying them and housing and tending to them with love and care in our goshala.

Such efforts have borne fruits. As the fodder given by us is of superior quality, these local / domestic / home breed cows produce thicker milk which is of high quality. A daily yield of 85 litres of organic milk is sold to state-owned milk cooperatives in the region.

On a lighter note, our goshala imbibes the pluralistic Indian tradition – all under one small thatched roof! We have indigenous cows from the four corners of the country. There are local breeds from Haryana,Tharparkars from the deserts of Rajasthan, Gir from Rajkot and Amreli districts of Gujarat, Red Sindhi and Sahiwal from Punjab, the Punganur variety from Andhra Pradesh and Umblacherry from Tamil Nadu.

Rice to the Occasion

As part of a collaborative project with The Park Chennai, Spirit of the Earth presented six varieties of artisanal heritage rice at the ‘Rice of Change’ food festival held last month.

Executive Chef Ashutosh Nerlekar and Sous Chef Wayne came up with a menu which crossed borders. The rice, though wonderful when cooked and topped with ghee, found its way in a spectrum of dishes like the Portugese falboured soup, caldo verde; the bisi bela bath was stirred together with a strain called the Acharmati, but had broccoli and asparagus. The chefs ensured that the flavours and the fragrance of the rice grains were intact, but gave each dish a twist.

“It was very interesting to get associated with Spirit of the Earth. There is so much in food that is to be explored. These ancient rice varieties are interesting to handle, to see how each grain is different from the other in terms of texture, aroma and taste. To add to that, these grains are grown organically, needless to say this is the way forward in terms of healthy eating,” says Ashutosh Nerlekar, Executive Chef, The Park.

Through this festival, Spirit of the Earth not only introduced and spread awareness of these long lost grains, but also reminded us that rice – the grain that is gluten-free and non-allergic – can take many avatars, if only we give it a chance.