Bellur: Giving Back To Mother India
February 2014 was the last time I was blessed by the physical presence of Yogacharya Iyengar. Seeing him daily filled the heart with warmth and expansion. As he said, “I live in my cells , I live in my heart.”
One day that month I introduced our friend Veronique Porter and her daughter, Chloe, to Guruji Iyengar. Veronique presented him with a small version of her Sahasrara Chakra Mandala Painting. She created the original work as a fundraiser for the Bellur Village Project and the Clennell film Sadhana. It is now housed in the educational complex in his natal village.
The following is a story of our visit to Bellur Village, and the painting's arrival.
Guruji spoke of the Bellur project to us. He explained that it was a pilot project as the teachers and students both practiced yoga. He told us of his transformation through the practice of yoga. From TB to health; from little education, to author of many books. From village child to yogi. He paved the way for us all through his personal quest, being the R&D master of yoga.
Making yoga available in the Bellur village schools provides students with a jump start. It was Guruji’s wish that this project continue. We are the future now. For more about the village project click here.
The next day Veronique, Chloe and I were off to visit the village and see firsthand the impact made. The painting was to arrive at the village the day before thanks to Deb Moore, a student at the Center who had connections with FedEx!
The following is part one of our 2 day visit. All photos were taken by Chloe. We arrived at night by cab from Bangalore airport. Silhouettes of temples and Hanuman, the Indian monkey deity of devotion, could be made out in the night, along with towering palm trees of the south. We were greeted by Mr. Govindajulu. He told us the package had arrived! Once in our room we slept soundly in the fresh country air, knowing all had fallen into place.
The next morning we walked thru the village. As this was my third visit to the village over the years, I could see the changes. People looked healthier and greeted us with warm smiles. Posters of Guruji’s smiling face could be seen on the buildings. They were of congratulations from the villagers on his receiving the Padmabusham Award from the Indian government.
We passed the Primary School, the first building funded by Guruji and his students in the 1960's. We headed straight to the Patanjali temple complex. There, the Pujari, the temple priest, lead us inside and performed a small blessing ceremony. Five and one half years before I had been there with Mr. Iyengar and many students during his 90th birthday celebration. Hundreds of us all squeezed in at that time during the sacred ceremony. Once again we stood in humble awe inside the first temple built to Patanjali known today. While excavating for it, an ancient Hanuman Murti-statue was uncovered, which now stands in the compound next to Patanjali.
You see, Mr Iyengar breathed culture. His message that through yoga one could culture the mind and body is present today. He renovated and built more than one temple complex of devotional art for the people. We next moved towards the Rama temple recently restored to its glory, now, an Indian archeological site. On the way children played and guided us thru the village. We saw adorable long eared goats, content in the warm Sunday morning sun.
After our practice in the yoga hall, we had a sumptuous south Indian lunch. That afternoon we met with the officials in charge of the Bellur Village Project. We learned the project serves all surrounding villages, not just Bellur. Five hundred sixty plus students from over 30 villages attend the schools. And there is a fairly even ratio of girls/boys. If not for this project the children would be working in the fields.
The students receive uniforms, books, lunch daily, as well as an education and yoga classes. Some who live far away lodge there. The complex now has a college preparatory school as well. Being there inspires one to continue support of this project. We bore witness, first hand of how many families are being touched by our support! Thousands!
We unpacked the painting, which was in wonderful shape, and learned more of the scope of the project and vision with project leaders. Guruji thought of everything from clean drinking water, a hospital and health care units, 3 levels of schools, educational and vocational training for villagers.
Thanks to the children and their transformation the parents are now believers and participants in the project. Some may become future teachers. Trust has been established, which is the first step to any aid project.
One could only see the glory and light of Guruji’s practice spreading to the people at all levels of society.
A copy of the original Sahasrara Chakra painting is found in our yoga Center entrance. The original now stands in Guruji’s natal village filled with one thousand crystals resting on each petal. Each crystal donation represents sponsorship of our brothers and sisters in yoga in India, and our shared spark of yogic consciousness.