Beauty and Harmony
Author: Shyam Kumari
Last Updated: March 10, 2008
Here I would like to share with you a great inspiration by Shyam Kumari, who proposes very concrete changes in the life environment of the surrounding villages. Her expertise and experience is very deep and precise in these matters. I am publishing here her letter to me with her proposal.
Here is her letter:
When you told me about the scheme for improving the village environment in Auroville I felt enthused and inspired. Here are some of my dreams and thoughts. They may be of some use.
Beauty and Harmony
"Beauty and Harmony are two attributes of Mahalakshmi.", says Sri Aurobindo.
Sadly, India, especially its villages in flat country side, devoid of natural beauty, have become so ugly that they repulse the delicate presence of Mahalakshmi. To win Mahalakshmi back to our villages, we have to transform their environment -- both inner and outer -- and their ecology.
Recently I went to Matrimandir. Due to some road construction the taxi driver took a short cut. The poverty and ugliness of a village, on the way, with its wretched huts were heart-rending. I hung my head with shame. Poverty does not and need not mean ugliness. The austere huts in the Ashrams of Rishis in olden India, though made of thatch and mud, used to be peaceful, enchanting and plentiful with fruits and flowers. Let us make all the villages of Auroville, an extension of the Matrimandir, give them a touch of the magical and ethereal beauty of Matrimandir's surroundings.
Sri Aurobindo has written that mankind could make the earth indescribably beautiful.
It is not difficult, costly or time consuming to create beauty. If we make our villages beautiful, it will automatically raise the spirit and morale of the villagers. They will have something to be proud of, something to give them self-respect, dignity and status. Life will become valuable, worthy of respect and a precious commodity. Time will no more be an enemy, to ignore and become oblivious of whom, villagers get drunk and align themselves to death, rather it will become a cherished aid.
Once our villages become beautiful and their degraded environment is transformed into green, flowering loveliness, the broken and lethargic spirit of our villagers will fall away and instead will take birth and evolve a resurgent and enthusiastic spirit. There will be a scented laughter in the air, a kaleidoscope of light making myriad patterns while peeping through leaves.
Surrounded by green beauty our villagers will feel self-confident. They will have something to be proud of. They will walk with firm steps, with laughter in their eyes and joy in their hearts. Simple villagers of India laugh easily, in spite of their wretched state.
Yet, it is so easy to transform our villages and make them beautiful like the hermitages of the old Rishis. There is not much money involved, nor is needed too much time.
First Step: Auroville Villages In The Shape Of The Mother's Symbol:
First step towards beautiful and fruitful environment is to make Auroville villages in the shape of the Mother's symbol.
If the villagers can be persuaded to relocate their huts and the whole villages remade in the shape of the Mother's symbol, there will be a great occult and spiritual Force behind the project.
It will be difficult to persuade the villagers to allow a new lay-out of their villages. Each one will cling to his patch of land but, if we can show them that by agreeing to the project, they lose nothing and gain in every way, then they may agree. Nothing is impossible with the Grace of the Mother.
In the centre of each village there can be the most spacious Mandapam, where the village deity can be installed and where the village meetings can take place, a Panchayat Hall.
Then four huts can be made at equal distance from each-other, in an inner circle, and 12 in the outer circle. Thus each unit will have 17 Mandals or circular huts. The village can have many groups of 17 huts, all in the shape of the Mother's symbol. The huts may not be as good as the Aspiration Community's huts but they can be, cheap, simple yet dignified.
After this revolutionary relocation can be taken the second step.
Second Step- A Nine Month Revolution
a. Manure Pits
Let us persuade each villager to dig four pits, each one meter wide, one meter long and one meter deep, at four corners of his hut/house. The pits at the back of the hut should be a little far from the plinth, while in the front they should be only one or two feet away from the door, on both sides. With a cart load of manure these pits will be ready for planting at once.
If the Auroville environment board cannot provide manure then these pits should be filled with coconut husk at the bottom, then filled with dung, straw and dry leaves and again covered with coconut husk and earth. If possible, this should be done before rains. In three months compost will be ready. If the villages do not have water, Auroville can send a tanker to flood all the pits, once a week.
b. Mangalmaya or Auspicious Banana
Banana is considered a very auspicious plant in India. All over India, during marriages and other auspicious functions, banana plants with fruits are brought and placed on both sides of the outer doors.
We will make everyday a celebration in the life of villagers by planting on both sides of the doors of each hut, banana sapling. The water from the washing of vessels can be channeled to these pits.
These plantain trees should be of some small variety, which does not grow too tall. The banana plants, at their highest, should be still one or two feet lower than the roof level of the hut. In one year, the hut-owner will have two bunches of bananas (at least 300-400 fruits) as well as four or five saplings, from which he should keep two to replace the ones that have fruited and sell the rest. The old trees can be cut and used in diverse ways about which Auroville Nursery will teach the villagers. The water from washing the vessels and clothes should be enough for the watering.
c. Devotion (Tulsi) and Plasticity (marigold) plants --
At about one foot distance from the banana saplings, some Devotion (Tulsi) and Plasticity (marigold) plants should be planted. These are most easy to grow and Auroville nursery, from a one meter bed, can provide them in thousands within one month. In two months they will flower. Thus as soon as one comes near the hut, one will see, banana trees swaying and bent under the load of big bunches of fruit and smiling marigold flowers air scented and breathe the air purified by Tulsi leaves.
d. Creepers on the roofs
On the back side of the front pits, by the side of the bananas should be planted Purity
(Jasmine), Power, (Hibiscus) and Harmony (Antigonon) and Sweetness (Bitter gourd) creepers, which can be trained on the roofs of the huts. These creepers being light-weight, will not put too much weight on the straw roofs of the huts. The roofs will look so beautiful with clusters of pink Antogonon, red hibiscus, white jasmine, and yellow bitter gourd flowers. Each hut will become a bower.
d. Steadfastness (Guava) And Hygienic Organisation (Drumstick) Trees
In each of the two backside pits, one guava and one drumstick tree can be planted. These plants start bearing fruits within nine months of planting. On the edges of these pits, can be planted tomatoes, mint, coriander, chilies and curry leaf plants, for the kitchen. The village children will grow robust with the nourishment provided by the guava fruits.
e. Wealth (Water Lily) in Pots
In each hut near the front door two old earthen pots can be sunk, a little distance from the bananas and water lilies can be planted in them. (See the cement trough near the Reading Room corner in the Ashram). Water lily being the plant of Wealth, Lakshmi will be present in each hut and smile through the flowers.
g. Protection and Victory (Allamanda cathartica) Bund
The soil dug out from the four pits should be arranged around the hut in a circle, leaving a space for a door. On this one foot high bund, many bougainvillea creepers' cuttings, of different colours and Victory (Allamanda cathartica) can be planted. Within six months there will be a riot of colours, and beauty will wander all around. The bougainvillea creepers will act as a hedge against animals. Hardly any water or special care is need for these creepers. They will have to be regularly pruned and will thus provide some firewood also.
h. Tank With gold Fish
If there is enough place, then there can be a small tank at the back
of each hut, where the owners can grow gold fish and sell them. They can even rear fish to eat and also plant lotus flowers.
I. Village Restaurant
One hut can be reserved for a restaurant, where visitors, attracted by the beauty of the village, can rest and be served hot idlis, sambhar, health drinks etc., thus earning money for the villagers. Other village products can be sold here to the visitors.
Third Step : Each Field : A Dream Land
a. A Dreams (Aloe Vera) Bund
Each field of each village should have a two or three feet high earthen bund around it. The soil will come from the well (see next section). On top of this bund can be grown Dreams (Mother's name) ie.Aloe Vera, which grows very fast and sends out dozens of shoots and needs very little water and its leavers can be harvested and sold from 8-9 months onwards. There is a great demand for Aloe Vera leaves in medical and cosmetics industries. The bund will conserve rain-water, and raise the level of ground water. All along the bund, on the inner side, Amlak plants of the small variety, with big fruits, can be planted. Hundreds of birds will sit on the trees and eat the insects and as there is an assured market for Amlak in the Aurvedic medicine industry, this will be a cash crop like Aloe Vera. The villagers should be taught to eat one Amalak fruit daily, which is called Amrit Phal (nectar fruit) in the Vedas. It will take care of their vitamin needs. The villagers can be taught to make Amlak preserve and chutney etc., for sale and consumption.
b. One Well In Each Field
Each field should have a well where the rain water will collect. If one inch running channels are made through the field and a one feet wide trench made around the well, drop by drop water will come through the running channels from all sides and collect in the trench and through two or three, one or two feet pipes, placed at the bottom of the trench piercing the wall of the well, will channel all the seeping water in the well and in a year or two the wells will be full of water.
c. Peepal : The Oxygen Tree
In one corner of each field there should be a peepal tree, which gives hundred times more oxygen then any other tree.
Fourth Step: Collective Environment : Roads Lined With Trees
Realization (Gulmohur), Imagination (Indian Laburnum), Spiritual Atmosphere (Neem, Margosa) trees can be planted along large and medium size roads, and small trees like Divine Love (pomegranate), Psychological Perfection (Plumeria), Power (Hibiscus) and Aspiration (Night jasmine) Sweetness of Thoughts Exclusively Turned Towards The Divine (Oleander) can be planted along the smaller roads.
Fifth Step: A Wonder of Beauty: The Common Groundsa.
a. Aspiration (Night Jasmine)
In each village there should be a piece of common or temple or government land where to one side a clump of Aspiration trees should be planted. Before sunrise, sitting under the trees, with the delicate flowers falling all around, villagers can sit and pray and chant hymns and mantras.
b. Divine Grace (Hibiscus mutabilis)
There should be a row, or bower of Divine Grace (Hibiscus mutabilis) plants, which will be an enchantment through out the day.
c. Bowers or rows of Imagination (Indian Laburnum) and Realisation (Gul Mohur) trees
Behind or next to Divine Grace, should be planted a row of Imagination (Indian Laburnum) and Realisation trees. Thus will be created a place of great beauty.
Sixth Step: Panchvati : Five Sacred Trees
In India the Shashtras say that meditation in Panchvati : the grove of five sacred trees gives realisation. Sri Ram planted them in Dandaranyak and Sri Ramakrishna in Dakshineshwar. The five trees are: Ashwatha (Peepal), Vata (Banyan), Devotional Attitude (Vilva or Bael Tree: Shiva loves the leaves of this tree) Dhatri (Amalak) and Asoka (Saraca Indica).
Each village and each community of Auroville should have a Panchvati to mediate in. The Panchvati will repel hostile forces and increase the level of spiritual atmosphere.
Thus, within one year we can have Beauty and Harmony -- both the attributes of Mahalakshmi, at least, in some of the villages of Auroville.
Seventh Step : Ponds
Water is an eternal necessity. We are using recklessly our water resources. In ancient India each village used to have a pond. Unfortunately, to earn more revenue, the British got all the ponds filled and planted. Some ponds silted due to lack of care.
Now in some parts of Rajasthan Magsaysay Award winner Rajendra Singh has revived many dead rivers by digging ponds in villages and thus raising the ground water table. Aurovillians are working on many such projects.
Let the villagers dig a big pond in each village. Pipes can be run to it from different areas so that rain water is saved and stored. In two or three years the ponds will become full with the resultant benefits : swaying lotus flowers, water chestnuts, children swimming and fishes darting, villagers bathing and children diving.
Most Important Step: The Spiritual Environment And Cultural Enrichment : Opening of Veda-Gita Centers
Outer beauty and harmony will bring only outer changes. Inner changes have to come with spiritual upliftment. A cultural rejuvenation of the villages is an imperative necessity.
For the spiritual-cultural regeneration of Auroville villages I, as the founder-chairperson of Sri Aravinda Sanskrit Vidyalaya, in Pondicherry, suggest that a Veda-Gita Centre be opened in each village, where once a week teachers can go in the evening and hold in the Panchayat Ghars or schools or temples, recitation of Gita and Veda Mantras and acting of Ramayana and Mahabharata plays.
Our teachers will take audio-video equipment along. Slowly, from listening to mantras and watching plays, the villagers of all ages will be encouraged to learn Sanskrit. Because the Mother has said "Sanskrit ought to be the National language of India."
By implementing these schemes, the futile evenings of the villagers, when except the terrible TV fare, they have no recourse to any cultural activities or entertainment, will be dramatically changed. They will learn dance, drama, Sanskrit and watch inspiring movies.
Of course one or two crore of Rs. will be needed to take up this project with any success.
These are some of the ideas I share with you. We can enlarge upon them and diversify in numerous ways to make them a greater success.
Victory to the Mother.
Yours in the Mother's Love