Sunday, April 29, 2007

Of the 15 small-medium farms in Auroville, there are at least five who use EM

Making sense of garbage Friday April 27 2007 22:26 IST Rosella Stephen
If this sounds too good to be true, check out institutions like Auroville in Pondicherry and Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham in Coimbatore who practise the EM way of living, especially with agriculture. “Of the 15 small-medium farms in Auroville, there are at least five who use EM on a regular basis,” admits Dr Lucas Dengel, Eco-Pro, Auroville. And for a closer look at EM’s results, drop by Amethyst in Chennai. The city’s popular boutique and café is surrounded by brilliant green foliage, one of its biggest attractions, all thanks to EM. “I know of EM’s many uses but for me, it is most successful in composting,” says Kiran Rao, owner, Amethyst, who used EM to tackle the waste generated from their flowershop and café. With a little more interaction, EM can go a long way, adds Rao: “We really need more outreach programmes to make EM more popular on the domestic scene.” For details, contact or 01352657119

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Joan Sala and Aloka Marti have been engaged in over the past 14 years with Auroville children

There are very few activities in Auroville which can be termed ‘cutting-edge'. One of them is the work which Joan Sala and Aloka Marti have been engaged in over the past 14 years with Auroville children. Originally termed ‘Body Awareness', they later changed the name to ‘Awareness through the Body' to better express the intention of their work. Now they are bringing out a book – Awareness through the Body: a way to enhance concentration, relaxation and self-knowledge for children and adults - to share what they have learned.
In 1992 Joan and Aloka, who have backgrounds in physical therapy and body work, were requested by teachers at Transition School to give classes to improve the posture of the children. In the book they describe how “after a few classes we realized that, along with work on posture, there were a number of other things that the children needed to know and experience. They needed to acquire more self-awareness, responsibility for themselves and their actions, and an understanding of their limits and capacities.”
Joan and Aloka already knew techniques that, in its own particular way, encouraged a journey of self-discovery, self-mastery, and the ability to experience reality in a more complete way. Now they set about adapting them to the needs and capabilities of the children. Their goal? “To provide tools for individuals to expand consciousness, explore different planes of the being, discover their inner selves and eventually their psychic being.” And the method they chose was “to discover and explore the body and through the body awaken the consciousness of the entire being and all the parts that form it.”
It sounds awfully ambitious, particularly when one realizes they had agreed not only to teach Transition School students but also Kindergarten children, some of whom were as young as four years. Moreover many of the children, they were soon to discover, needed sense of boundaries and responsibility. “When we began,” write Joan and Aloka, “we found we were navigating high seas in a wholly inadequate boat....Before class we often had to gather the children from the tree-tops”.
Over the years, however, Aloka and Joan evolved a programme which has proven to be not only very popular with the students, but highly effective in attaining certain objectives. These include enhancing concentration and focus, developing awareness of the different levels of consciousness, refining the senses, learning how to explore, understand and manage emotions, developing a sense of how to collaborate with others, and cultivating the ‘witness attitude'.
All of this, and more, is achieved through deceptively simple exercises which, under Joan and Aloka's sensitive guidance, draw out the children's latent knowledge and abilities.
Take the ‘witness consciousness', for example, which Joan and Aloka describe as a place from which one observes, without partiality or emotion, all that happens both within and outside the being. How, you might wonder, could Joan and Aloka develop such an advanced ability in children? The answer is, it takes time. With the youngest they simply ask, “How's life today? How are you feeling?” As they get older, Joan and Aloka ask them to ‘scan' their breath, their mood and thoughts. Then, when they judge the children are ready, they ask the children to identify that part in themselves which is able to observe all this without becoming involved. “This positioning of oneself,” they explain, “is what we call the witness .”
“The witness attitude,” write Joan and Aloka, “is at the foundation of all the principles we use.” To put it another way, the exercises they use are opportunities, more than exercises, for the students to expand their awareness and understand themselves better.
Other simple exercises are used to improve concentration and relaxation, to heighten sensory awareness, to use the mind as a sixth sense, and to make the student aware of his subtle physical body. Two major series of exercises explore the influence of the five elements and of evolution on the individual's body, mind and emotions.
Joan and Aloka stress that theirs is not a rigid programme. They are constantly modifying and adjusting it according to the needs of the children. It's a dialogue: sometimes Joan and Aloka lead, sometimes they step back and let the children innovate. But the aim is always to expand awareness and to provide the children with the means to make the most conscious and effective use of their enhanced capabilities.
This is a fine book, not only because of the practical wisdom it contains but also because of the values it embodies. Heidi Watts lists some of these in her introduction. “An equal and integrated address to all aspects of the person. The omnipresent thread of reflection which runs through all the activities....An unspoken and implicit trust in the students to find their own way with the right balance of challenge and support....The integrity of the work which remains true to its principles in every manifestation.”
Perhaps the best compliment, however, comes from one of their students who wrote “It is good how you two are ready for us at any moment.”
It's also good to know that the future of Auroville will rest, partially at least, in the hands of those who have received such a profound and important training. Alan
Awareness through the Body: A way to enhance concentration, relaxation and self-knowledge in children and adults by Aloka Marti and Joan Sala. 304 pps, 264 colour photos. Published by SAIIER More info:

Sunday, April 22, 2007

If a tree is ill, tree doctors are invited from Pondicherry's Auroville

Magazine Ecowatch Wealth out of waste SWAHILYA The Hindu Sunday, Apr 22, 2007
Clanging metals and a tranquil forest: the success story of Sundaram-Clayton's integrated industrial waste management. Here trees really are taken care of. "If a tree is ill, tree doctors are invited from Pondicherry's Auroville. They have tools with which they operate upon the trees and even apply medicines and antiseptics and bandage the wounds!" says a staffer.
Sultan Ahmed Ismail, Director of the Ecoscience Research Foundation, who has advised the company on its sludge management and composting, is highly appreciative of their attempt to integrate every aspect of waste management into one composite whole.
Taking from nature and giving back in the same measure seems to be the motto of Sundaram-Clayton, which has been successfully practising the art of composting and soil-regeneration for over seven years now.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Herbal Medicine in/around Auroville

17.4.07 This paper was written by Nikita Sharma for the Spring 2007 Living Routes program in Auroville. A Practice from the Past or an Answer for the Future?
The local plants and trees of southern India have many medicinal qualities. If local people are taught some of this ancient knowledge that once sustained many communities, herbal medicine can provide a natural solution to common sicknesses without the hassle of visiting a clinic. In this paper, I will explore the history of traditional medicine and the extent to which it is present in the local area of Auroville and its surrounding villages. I will also look at how communities across the globe are propagating this information. For my project, I have interviewed a local siddha vaidya, Logonathan, to better understand the status of herbal medicine. I have also taught local children about some basic herbal healthcare methods in order to spread some of this knowledge.
Expensive and frequently excessive medical procedures, healthcare costs and legal processes are all causes of immense stress and waste time and energy in societies across the world. The mentality of needing instant gratification and “quick fixes” permeates through the minds of many people. A common cold or fever often prompt a visit to the doctor; a few chemicals are received in order to provide the patient immediate relief. In many areas, such as the tropical environment of south India, plants and trees that possess the medicinal capability to cure these common ailments grow commonly in the tropical climate. These properties, however, are not as commonly known as they once were because modern medicine has made traditional, natural methods of treatment obsolete. The ancient practices of eastern medicine, such as ayurveda and siddha, are practiced by vaidyas who have inherited this knowledge from their ancestors; more recently, this knowledge has also been available in colleges around India. If this information is spread to the people, traditional medicine can regain its former prevalence and replace modern medicine as a more accessible form of treatment. I will look briefly at the history of ayurveda and siddha medicine, specifically, and assess the extent of their presence among communities in southeastern India, such as Auroville and the surrounding areas. I will examine the ways in which this ancient knowledge is being revived and propagated through various local organizations. Since the indigenous plants of India possess many medicinal qualities, basic awareness among the locals of these healing capabilities will reduce unnecessary and often not easily accessible hospital visits. This ancient information will enable families to maintain their health at home as opposed to visiting a hospital.
Introduction to Auroville
I will be looking at the revitalization of local health traditions in the context of its presence in southeast India. As part of this semester stay, I will research, explore and meet others who are studying traditional medicine or practice it. It is important, however, to understand the background of this environment in order to put these findings into perspective. In southeast India, there is an international community called Auroville with around 2,000 permanent residents and many visitors. Based on a vision of human unity, Auroville attracts people with varying interests from all around the world to explore the community and the surrounding areas such as the town of Pondicherry. In the center of this galaxy shaped community is a huge dome called the Matrimandir that serves as the spiritual center of Auroville. People are attracted to Auroville for different reasons: for some, it is the spirituality and the philosophies of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother; for others, it is the movement towards sustainability and the farms and organizations involved; still others come for leisure purposes, tourism and the ideal location next to the beach. Within these groups, people with diverse backgrounds interact on a regular basis and come in contact with the local villagers. In some cases, Auroville serves as a haven for this local village interaction; organizations like Martuvam and Tamarai provide children from the villages and the city of Pondicherry with a place to interact and play with other children. At any given point in time, there is a wide variety of projects taking place in Auroville and staying in this community facilitates the learning of Indian and other Eastern cultures. There are many controversial issues, such as water usage and future expansion of Auroville, and opinions are divided between those who prioritize spiritual intentions and those who focus more on environmental concerns.
History of Ayurveda and Siddha Medicine and their Current Prevalence
When learning about the current standing of a tradition in modern society, it is important to look at its history. Ayurveda and Siddha Medicine are two forms of traditional medicine that originated in India around 3-5,000 years ago. This ancient knowledge was put into writing by Vedavyasa, an avatar of Vishnu, and has been passed down through the generations. (“History of Ayurveda”)These practices focus on treating patients with herbal preparations, modifying one’s diet, practicing yoga, and the purification of the body. A core concept of traditional medicine is interacting and developing a relationship with healing plants that grow in one’s area. This concept is known as bioregional herbalism as defined by Christopher Hobbs. Although allopathy has replaced these forms of medicine as the dominant method of treatment in many countries, 90% of the people in Ethiopia and 70% of the people in Benin, India, Rwanda, and Tanzania still use traditional medicine to meet their primary healthcare needs according to the World Health Organization (WHO) as opposed to the 42% in the United States. ("World Health Organization 1”) However, in a meeting with a local herb provider I learned that many local villagers are unaware of the practices of traditional medicine and turn to allopathy as a solution. The WHO also says that the advantages of traditional medicine include its widespread accessibility and relative cheapness. In poverty stricken countries, this form of healthcare seems to be the most practical. In the United States however, the sales of pharmaceutical drugs are $160 billion per annum, and Claritin and 2 similar drugs bring in more money than the entire herbal industry. For the country that spends the most money on healthcare, we develop “surprisingly few innovative new drugs.” (Hobbs 134) Reviving the ancient knowledge of traditional medicine around the world can potentially save a lot of money and still provide effective healthcare.
Herbal Medicine in/around Auroville
In Auroville and the surrounding areas, these forms of herbal medicine are used to treat common illnesses, and this basic knowledge continues to be propagated to the surrounding areas. In Auroville itself, there is a health center with a physician available in the mornings and the Quiet Healing Centre is the main alternative health care facility. There are two medicinal forests in Auroville, Pitchandikulam and Martuvam. The older of the two, developed in 1973, is now an area of 50 acres within the green belt of the Auroville International Community. It was a dry eroded plateau among palmyra trees. This area, now known as Pitchandikulam, “has evolved into a self generating forest ecosystem with more than 600 species of plants.” (“Ethno Medical Forest) In 1992, this organization began working with the Foundation for Revitalization of Local Health Traditions (FRLHT) and now offers training and demonstration programs to help reestablish local health traditions. Also within this program, there are outreach programs that work with local villages and healers in order to spread traditional knowledge and educate the local people about alternative healthcare methods to provide them with a substitute for antibiotics. Another recently formed organization in Auroville, Tamarai, is a program that strives to build relations between Aurovilians and the local villagers. Children come to the center for play groups, study groups and a variety of classes. In conjunction with Pitchandikulam and other Aurovilians, Tamarai is in the process of reviving a medicinal herb garden that was once planted there. As part of my project, I have taught the local children about the uses of these herbs and others that grow locally.
Lack of healthcare in Education and Communities
As of now, there are many areas in which children and communities as a whole lack the knowledge of basic healthcare. If they can be provided with some fundamental principles, the next generation can carry on natural treatments that have been around for centuries. Many villagers buy antibiotics and allopathic treatments for common fevers and colds because they are unaware that these ailments can be treated naturally with the plants in their local areas. (Logonathan, personal interview) According to the Nutrition Foundation of India, “it is important that these communities with high rates of illiteracy (especially female illiteracy), are at least equipped with the basic knowledge about how best to protect their health and avoid disease.” This is the goal of organizations such as Martuvam and organizations around the world, such as the FRLHT. The NFI also mentions that “the importance of health education even in the current context of poverty…should not be underestimated.” Not only are many local people uneducated about easy methods of treatment, the hospitals that they rely on are extremely hard to access. For people who live in rural areas, “medical help is inaccessible and beyond means” and “those who require hospitalization are perennially repaying debts. In fact, rural indebtedness caused by illness is far greater than that caused by crop failure.” (Shaw) It is estimated that 50% of the people in rural areas visit the hospital at least once a week and only about 10% rely solely on herbal medicine. According to Logonathan, 90% of the illnesses that bring these people to the hospitals are treatable at home via common herbal preparations and healing methods. (Logonathan, personal interview)
Process/benefits of Introducing Basic Healthcare into Communities
There are already groups that exist in this area and around the world, as mentioned, that have the purpose of spreading the knowledge of basic herbal medicine. As this knowledge spreads, families will be able to frequent the hospital less often and treat common ailments at home. One proposal for this is “long term programs for the eradication of diseases [that] have to be conceived and implemented throughout the country. Specialist folk practitioners of each area have to be included in order to achieve this program in a more sustainable way” (Muduliar 185). Until the past decade, 13,000 midwives of Tamil Nadu, known as village health nurses, were only trained in allopathy and had no concept of herbal medicine. In the past ten years, the Indian traditional system of medicine has been integrated into the nurses’ education, and now these midwives have a basic idea of how to use 150 plants and know how to make about 50 herbal mixtures. Empowered with this knowledge, these village health nurses will be able to spread these newly revived methods among the local people. They will bring this knowledge into the school system as well as to the women of local communities. Also in the past decade, primary healthcare methods have started to be introduced into the school system. Supported mainly by non-governmental organizations with some government support, children are able to buy herbs at school for one rupee and use them at home. One example of this is the herb vallarei, used for memory improvement, which has been widely introduced into the school system. As the current generation matures, the implementation and effects of their knowledge will begin to manifest themselves in the communities. Although the healthcare in the school system is still inadequate, it will slowly improve with the continued efforts of organizations and people who are dedicated to reviving traditional medicine. (Logonathan, personal interview)
Basic Herbal Remedies
Fundamental herbal medicine includes plant identification and basic knowledge of their uses. There are many medicinal uses of indigenous plants in the surrounding areas of southeastern India such as the extensive use of the neem tree, which grows plentifully in this area. This form of medicine is ideal for rural areas because of the wide availability of these plants. I went to Tamarai, a village outreach program and taught a group of young children, ages 10-14 about a few simple herbal remedies. I taught them how to identify neem trees and told them that chewing on neem twigs is good for dental hygiene. There was a study conducted by the World Health Organization in 1990 that compared the chewing of twigs to chemical toothpaste. The study showed that chewing the twigs of certain trees was indeed better for dental health than common toothpaste. (Ranade 146) I also showed them a tulasi plant, which was growing in their own backyard, and taught them that 5 or 6 leaves in a cup of tea had anti cold and fever properties. I also showed them the proper amount of ginger to put in tea to treat upset stomachs. Lastly, I mentioned that warm water with honey or lemon juice was effective for common colds. (Ranade #s) One of the older girls seemed to be quite aware of some of these properties and told the others that eating neem leaves was also good for general health. One of the younger girls wanted to keep the poster there for reference, so I left it hanging on the wall for the children to see in the future.
Having a basic understanding of the current status of siddha medicine, and having much more to learn, it is ironic that a medicine with a 4,000 year history now has to prove itself to “modern medicine” which is at the most 500 years old. Efforts are being made around the world to propagate this ancient knowledge, through organizations such as Martuvam, Pitchandikulam, and on a global scale, the Foundation for the Revitalization of Traditional Knowledge. As local people begin to implement this knowledge, the need for expensive allopathic medication and hard to access hospital visits will diminish. Using indigenous plants and trees to cure common ailments will allow families to maintain their health in a more sustainable way. Although the world of medicine is always rapidly changing, the observation of ancient tradition will allow the human race to look back to its roots for answers to the future...Posted by Jake Pollack at 8:47 AM

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Mother asked Narad to design the gardens

Mother asked Narad to design the gardens. This he was unable to do. “I couldn't catch the vision. Instead Mother gave me the opening to working with the soil and with plants.” During the 1970s, Narad and his helpers built up a unique collection of rare and beautiful plants. In the early 1980s he returned to the U.S. , but he continued to contact nurseries and friends around the world for special plants for Matrimandir. In recent years Narad has revisited Auroville annually for longer periods and at present he is fully engaged in the Matrimandir gardens.
His particular focus at the moment is to plant grass on all the petals by 21st February. “It's a big job. Every petal will have 1300 square feet of grass, but before it can be planted we have to prepare the compost and eliminate all the nut-grass, which is the bane of our work here in the tropics. I've even seen it grow through concrete!”
Grass is a whole world in itself. Narad reels off the names of some of the different varieties he is introducing at Matrimandir: Tif dwarf, Tifton 10, Tifton 419, Princess 77, St. Augustine , Centipede. “Many of the grasses come from the Agricultural Experimental Station at Tifton , Georgia , which is where they grow the finest golf course grass in the world. The qualities we are looking for include low-water tolerance, disease and insect-resistance, high-traffic tolerance and low-nutrient needs. But the first thing we look for is beauty. Each of these fine grasses has a different colour, texture and leaf shape. There's the bluish Tifton 10, the rich green Tifton 410, the emerald green Centipede...” Narad is using different varieties to create interesting variations.
What excites Narad most, however, is not the success he has had with the new grasses (of the 17 varieties he brought, 15 have succeeded), nor the successful cross-pollination of the 29 varieties of ‘Prayer' (Zephyrantes) which he has just brought from the U.S. avtoday/March_07

Thursday, April 12, 2007

There are so many opportunities here and so many things to do

Teresa's Journey April 12 More on Auroville
Auroville covers a 20 km region and is very green and covered in trees - all colors, shapes and sizes. (Banyan, Peepal, eucalyptus, bamboo to name a few) 40 years ago it was complete desert so a huge gratitude to all the people who planted this amazing vegetation. The earth is red which looks very pretty against the green. Most people travel around by motorbike (as its sooo hot) but I'm still on my bicycle or cycle as they call them here and wonder how long I will hold out?. I'm really enjoying cycling for now as there are these very cool 'cycle lanes' which run beside the main roads and are covered by shade from the trees, they wind and twist and have so much character.
Its lovely to wake up in the mornings to the sounds of the many birds and creatures from the forest. It really is quite something - a complete orchestra all singing together in harmony or what sounds like. Their music starts at day break which is around 5.30 - 6.00 am which is the time I usually rise as its reasonably cool this time of day. As we are now coming into summer (April/May/June) it gets hotter every day - currently around mid 30's and its humid so the lease bit of exertion and the sweat pours... So far so good I'm really enjoying this climate and feel energised by the heat/sunshine - it agrees with me. Its important though to work with it and do low key activities from around 11.00 to 3.30pm...
I am currently doing some volunteer work in a organic food processing unit for a few hours some afternoons. This involves preparing and making peanut butter, seasame butter, pestos, noodles, cookies etc. Its a really nice place to be and I'm working with some inspiring Indian Women who are teaching me so much. I'm also involved in an organisation who are doing tremendous work with handicapped children from the surrounding villages. As part of their programme they take the children to a horse riding stables where there is a healing horse. Its so lovely to see the childrens confidence around the horse and to see the horse so patient with the children. they are doing this for around a year now and are making great progress.
There are so many opportunities here and so many things to do but I am trying to pace myself and take everything slowly as this heat dictates the pace... My email: is the best way to make contact with me....7:05 AM Add a comment Trackbacks (0) Blog it