Monthly Archives: June 2009

What Lies Beneath: De-junking the Lake!

Today was Gundicha Marjana, a day when hundreds of years ago in Puri, on the East coast of India, worshippers of Lord Jagannath gathered to cleanse the Gundicha temple from top to bottom. They took a vow to speak only Krishna’s name whilst they worked –  splashing water everywhere and competing to see who could sweep up the most dirt. At the end of  long day of cleaning they lined up with the piles they’d collected. Whoever hadn’t collected enough was required to pay a tax in sweets and other delectable goodies. Afterwards they feasted together and cleansed their hearts by continuing to chant the names of the Lord.

At Bhaktivedanta Manor today, a big clean up was scheduled to commemorate this event. Some of us youth really wanted to get involved, so we chose the most interesting sounding task (anything involving waders, water and litter pickers is a recipe for fun!) – cleaning up the lake.

Armpit high trousers are all the rage this season.

We boated around for four hours, dredging up foul smelling plastic bags; broken deities; tennis balls; crisp packets; bottles and cans; and even a jewellery case! Our top find had to be coconuts – we pulled up about one hundred, in various states of decay.

As we worked, the water began to look more sparkly…Prahlad got the enviable task of paddling the boat of giggling girls around.

Because many visitors view the temple lake as a holy place, they seem to feel that this means it’s acceptable to throw any puja remnants or offerings into the water. As for the rubbish – I have no idea what’s going on there. Sometimes people’s attitude toward the environment is totally unfathomable.

Cleaning the dock. You missed a spot Mohini.

We had great fun though. It was the perfect day to be wading around in the (albeit stinky) water – clear, hot and sunny.By lunchtime we had pulled out six bags of rubbish, and dumped it into a more appropriate resting place – the skip.

As for the deities, we could hardly consider them rubbish. They stayed by the lake – presiding over the muddy waters…

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G is for Graduation, Gratitude, and also ‘Goodbye’.

I graduated last month, and whilst initially I was just enjoying the feeling of not having to sit at my computer, racking my brains and consulting a stack of books, for the past week or so I’ve been tying up loose ends and preparing to leave England for yet another summer.

Part of leaving has been saying thank you to all of those people who have helped me, taught me, inspired me or just been friends to me. If that seems a bit final, perhaps it’s only because we often wait until the last moment to show gratitude. I think it’s so important, and I’m really trying to remind myself to make a point of appreciating people as a natural habit.

Since I’ve had more time lately, my gratitude has been coming out creatively, which has been doubly satisfying.

I’ve also had time for other little creative projects, like designing things for the new farm shop at the Manor.

And just having time to draw – for no reason!

So what’s next? I will be travelling to the west of Canada in a few days, to the Hare Krishna farm community in British Columbia – known as Saranagati. I’ll be there for a little time and will then be joining Gaura Vani and As Kindred Spirits for recording and touring in different places in America. It’s exciting, but I’m also just a little nervous. I am taking the first step on the path of ‘life after university’. So far I’ve been overwhelmed with the way that things have beautifully fallen into place. This is surely all by Krishna’s merciful arrangement, and I hope to never, ever forget it.

I’m hoping to keep this blog updated as far as possible while I’m away. For other updates, check www.gauravani.com, where you can see photos and download kirtans from all of the shows we do.

Since it’s possible to do almost everything on the internet, I figure I can also seek your blessings. Please bless me to strive for sincerity, humility and real devotion – and if you see me on my travels, say hello!

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P is for Puja

In my house, the morning is a time for offering respects to God, and to those masters that help us understand how we can develop our relationship with him. These daily practices are known in Sanskrit as puja – worship.

Every morning my father worships his deity, blowing a conchshell at the beginning and the end of the ceremony. I love to hear this sound, and the ringing of the bell as he offers flowers other items. Every sense feels purified by seeing, touching, smelling and hearing these things. After some puja where food is offered, taste is purified too, as we accept the prasad (mercy) afterward.

I came across a charming painting this morning, by artist, Kalyani (http://surfkye.com/) that made me miss those mornings in India, where it feels as if the whole country is awake in the early hours, sincerely making offerings of devotion.

Here’s what Kalyani had to say about her painting:

Having lived in South Bangalore for a long time, on several occasions I would encounter little boys going for their morning prayers, in little groups, rehearsing their chanting, some with offerings. I painted what I thought was a magical morning through a little girl’s eyes.

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BBT Art Seminar 2009

When I wrote a report of the first ever BBT Art Seminar in 2007 many people asked when further seminars would be taking place. Last November, the second one was successfully held, and I’ve just received the dates for this year’s seminar: October 20th-November 9th, again, in Vrindavan.

It’s a wonderful experience, and I’d really encourage anyone who wants to explore how they can offer their creativity to Krishna, as well as learn a skill that serves in so many ways, to attend. Here’s a video of the 2007 seminar.

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Stamping at Stonehenge

Last Friday I travelled with the other members of Srishti Yuva Culture to Stonehenge in Salisbury. We were there to perform our collaboration with Kuljit Bhamra and his band as part of Salisbury Arts Festival. The piece imagined what the stones would say about their experience if they could speak – from their creation within the depths of the earth, to being used to construct a sacred temple by the Druids of Ancient Britain.

It was a really unique experience. We began working on the choreography as a group a month ago, but only had one rehearsal with the live musicians. Stonehenge is a protected site and tourist attraction, open to the public every day – so there was no chance to rehearse on site until an hour before the show! We were all nervous about how this would affect the performance. Whilst we are senior Bharatanatyam students, we aren’t professionals, and sometimes this  difference in level of experience can be crucial in confidently navigating a semi-improvised collaboration like this.

Our biggest challenges were using the stones creatively in the choreography without prior rehearsal, and dancing on grass – a surprisingly resistant surface! Also, we didn’t realise how little dressing time we had when we arrived, and had to do a run-through before we were ready. We ended with ten minutes left to finish dressing and sprinted back to the little office cabin we’d been given to use. The audience were already streaming onto the site, and they pointed at us as we ran past, holding on our jewellery with one hand, our saris flying behind.

Ultimately the evening was magical. The sun lowered as we began, and our worries floated away as we just enjoyed dancing in the open air, surrounded by rolling fields, staring sheep and birds circling overhead. It was wonderful to be dancing to live music, especially from the talented percussionists that accompanied Kuljit. Amongst them, they played tablas, djembes, clay pots, bells, steel drums, shakers, snare drums and mridangams. We were also lucky to have our music teacher, Y Yadavan singing. Afterwards, many people came up to us and said how lucky we were to have touched the stones. Normally visitors are kept behind a barrier three metres from the stones, and guards were present to make sure no one sneaked over the rope after the show. I hadn’t realised how rare it was to get near the stones – many years ago I visited when this was still allowed.

For more photos of the event, see www.flickr.com/photos/bimala

Before our group of six dancers left, we gathered in the shade of the tallest stone, and recited our Bhumi Pranam – the Sanskrit prayer to Mother Earth that we say before and after dancing:

Vishnu shakti samutpanne

Sarva varna maheetale

Aneka ratna sampanne

Bhumi devi namostute

O Mother Earth! You are born of the power of Lord Vishnu, and are made up of many jewel-like good qualities, therefore I bow to you.

All photos by Bimala Naysmith (copyright protected). http://www.bimala.com

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