28 October 2008

Sri Narayani Mobile Clinic - the waiting room

This was the second clinic I photographed had a stronger sense of joy , the doctor explained that people here had their own land.

would write more... but internet access not easy here... so just these images today.xxx

27 October 2008

Sri Narayani Hospital Mobile Clinic - portraits

Here is my first set of portraits from the first mobile clinic I attended. Each woman holds a paper, this has her name on it and weight and the prescription will be written on it if she needs free medication.

I found this a really difficult village to be in, I havent yet quite put my finger on it. The following village was easier to photograph as the women seemed to have a stronger sense of themselves, a more marked sense of their own dignity.

Waiting to see the doctor.

26 October 2008

Sri Narayani Mobile Clinic

Here is the wonderful team of shakti women - Dr Kannike (pink sari) is a woman with a mission - she is 57 and is relentless in her energy and vision for getting new programmes up. Her next vision is to tend to teenagers within the rural area.

Here is Dr Kannike tending to a young boy in the community clinic - we travel in a van to the village, they put up a sign outside the 'local' space, a 'puja' by the village leader is done (a short prayer ritual to Sakthi Amma Narayani, the Divine Mother and incense is lit) and women, children and men turn up all morning.

Sri Narayani mobile clinic

Have had no access to internet in over a week - and so much has happened... firstly my little niece was born this morning in Sydney to Hanna-Mari, my sister-in-law from Finland and my brother Chris...

As for life in India - here is the beginning of the mobile medical camp run by Sri Narayani Hospital.

The camp is the initial stage of supplying free medical service to villages within the area (with a long term vision of setting up a full time clinic for 4-5 villages).

21 October 2008

beauty moth and big bug at my doorstep

I was having breakfast with three friends and Shakti Amma on Amma's porch. As soon as I sat down, this moth came and sat on my hand and stayed there for about 3 hours as we talked and had breakfast, then goh puja (a prayer ritual honouring mother earth/ the sacred cow). During which the moth had gone to sleep (I thought it had died) and woken up again...

I was admiring the beauty + lines of the moth with Jeni when Amma said "see that moth on your hand, the Divine's work is as detailed in everything as it is in that moth."

Then I went back to the guest house and the moth stayed with me all that time (it was about a 10 minute walk to the guest house). Enough time to take a photo of it (above) then I went to have a nap (and the moth stayed there on my hand as I snoozed... it was gone when I woke up).

Not sure what the lesson was in that but it was a unique experience to have this delicate animal so comfortably sitting with me for so long.

Then when i awoke, I found that the moth had left and this giant critter (never seen one before like this) was waiting outside my door...

16 October 2008

goddesses - navarathri

This is the last posting about filming the Vedic chanting - but I just couldn't miss out on sharing this!

Navarathri is the festival in celebration of the Goddess who fights for 9 days and overcomes the demon on the 10th day. And as I was filming at Sri Narayani Peedam, the seat of the Divine Mother : the role of 'mother' 'goddess' is given great value.

During  the Navaratri festival whilst the vedic chanting ceremony was coming to completion, each day,  two married women and one girl were honoured as goddesses.

If this photo you can see the woman leaning over, painting the lady's feet and hands (symbols of the sacred) with tumeric and kumkum.

Here is a snap of the goddesses: left is the woman who 'painted' on the goddesses' hands and feet.

Mum with her two little goddesses (mum and the elder daughter, left, were adorned) and both were given blessed apples and all goddesses went home with a goddess-care package full of goodies.

15 October 2008

vedas - more on guardians project

Here are some more pix from filming the vedic chanting over 10 days in celebration of the Navarathri festival.

At the end of the evening after everyone had left, I was walking out of the hall, when  I saw this beautiful scene of the smoke rising against the light, so put down my backpack of equipment down and pulled out my camera.

The following day, I showed the photo to Professor Dixit, the head priest of the 10 day vedic chanting, and he pointed to the smoke and smiled. 

It is the smoke that feeds the heavenly beings / gods and they, in turn help out on earth.

Here is Krishna setting up the altar on the first day.  After the ten days of chanting the goddess Narayani was bathed in the water that was in the jars (each coconut sits on a jar) : the water having been 'charged' by the vedas over the 10 days.

14 October 2008

vedas: offerings and rain (guardians project)

The heat was sweltering  over the 10 days of filming the vedas at Sri Narayani Peedam, two hours west of Chennai, South India...  35 degrees celcius each day... so you can imagine my joy when the rain finally started to CASCADE down on the 9th day of chanting...

The first intense rainfall was  at 3.45 pm (when this photo was taken, just before starting the evening chanting) and at around 6pm (during the evening chanting which was much more intense).

The priests were all smiling at the rain : as this is nature's response to their nine days of chanting.  I have seen nature respond to the vedas like this before and it brings me joy each time to see this invisible connection. 

Here is Professor Dixit in prayer just after the offerings of sari and coconuts (filled with delicious goodies) are given to the fire. After this prayer the main ritual of offering is over and he sits together with the other 8 priests and they chant to close the morning or evening chanting. 

13 October 2008

10 days filming the vedas/ GUARDIANS : offerings

Here are some photos from last week's filming.

This week I totally change topics.... and will be photographing the Sri Narayani Hospital and its community activities.  However, before I endeavour into that theme... here are a few more images of the wonderful time I had filming the vedas.  It was extremely intense, and I admire the endurance of the priests (on the 7th day I spent the whole day in bed with headache, sore throat etc... all week the weather was about 35C and the fire was blazing + smokey... I didnt chant one bit but had such a sore throat!)  The vedas are definately a new love of mine.

Here is Ragavinda, preparing the offering to the agni (fire). First a silk sari is folded and laid in a basket.

Then a coconut filled with kumkum (red) and tumeric (orange) surrounded by flowers.

Added to the shelled coconut is a gold(?) coin of with the image of Lakshmi (the Goddess of abundance and wealth). To worship Lakshmi is to wish abundance  for everyone, so no one in the world goes hungry - this includes abundance of food and rainfall for the fields of food. It also translates to abundance / having 'enough' of what is needed to live (in order to alleviate poverty).

When people are alleviated from poverty and hunger and have knowledge/ wisdom/ education (Goddess Saraswathi is the Goddess of knowledge, wisdom, arts) then there is the space for people to grow to be compassionate beings (and this world is in need of more of this...)

Another offering of coconuts (just the flesh, no shell) are cut in half and filled with kumkum, tumeric, cashew nuts etc.

And each coconut is then topped up with a flower. All offerings to Goddess Narayani (mother Nature).

These two offerings to the agni (fire) are also accompanied by ghee being poured through a wooden hollow stick with a lion's face at the end of it (it looks like the lion is spitting out the ghee).  

12 October 2008

navarathri more +...

As I spent most of the Navarathri festival filming the vedas (being chanted as a sacred offering to Mother Earth), I missed almost all of the dance performances happening at the Sripuram temple each night over the ten days.

However, I did get to catch a group of young girls dressed up in their classical dance gear, before they were heading out to perform. They are locals, from Vellore, 14 km up the road from here.

Not sure if the small size of these photos reveal the level of the details / ornate decorations on these little goddesses... their hands and feet have henna tattoos, and they are adorned with jewellery in their hair, on their wrists and around their necks.

There was something very endearing of the combination of the sophisticated dress, their naturalness of being little girls and the process of their awareness growing as they learn this dance tradition.

10 October 2008

navarathri more...

These images were taken on the first evening of Navarathri : over 200 women from ages of 8 to 70 danced at the entrance of Sripuram.

I was so moved to see this performance of so many women dancing together in unison. And there was such a strong sense that these women belonged to this 'stick' dance (dandiya), it is a part of their culture and has been for generations. And here it was being performed in total authenticity, not for tourists, but in celebration of the Goddess Narayani and her 9 days of battle with the demon/ darker forces of the universe (in which she wins on the 10th day).

Each evening there were musical and dance performances.  I asked why and was told "after the Goddess Narayani has battled all day with the demon, she is tired in the evening and likes to relax by listening to beautiful music and dancing."

The first step for the beginning of a dance : bringing eachother's stick together. Note the henna tattooed hands on the left.

The younger dancers

A prayer is offered before the dancing commences at sunset.

prayer offering

05 October 2008

guardians - the vedas section has begun

I arrived in South India a week ago and found my favourite room number 25 at Narayani Peedam, home of Sri Shakti Amma, two hours west of Chennai.  

I have come to start on the VEDAS part of the GUARDIANS project (a part of the SAFEGUARDING series -check post from 22 sept) and complete the book on Amma's humanitarian work.

I had no idea I would be starting the VEDAS work so soon ! 

That is what I love about projects that have a life of their own... As things would have it... 

I arrived two days before NAVARATHRI - the great 10 day festival of the goddess who fights the demon for 9 days and on the tenth day claims victory.

During the day throughout the festival, the VEDAS are recited for about six hours per day (this is what I am so gratefully filming) and in the evening, the goddess relaxes (after a day of fighting) to cultural events such as music and dance (so we have the best performers from South India performing here each night !).  

Each day I am filming my favourite head priest from Bangalore (in next image in white serving ghee to the fire) and 8 other lovely vedic scholars (ages 18 - 31) chanting the ancient vedas from 9 am, finishing at 7pm (with a 4 hour break in the afternoon).


Offerings (of ghee, flowers, rice, wood etc) are made to the AGNI (fire god) as they chant...
We have just completed the vedic chanting of first three days of Goddess DURGA (strength) , the next three days of Goddess LAKSHMI (abundance and wealth).  Tomorrow we begin the three days of my favourite Goddess SARASWATHI (wisdom, knowledge, the arts, music)...