Tag Archives: Ecospirituality

Eco-rice festival celebrated in alfresco ambiance

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Patna. 13 Jan: Students hailing from Don Bosco, St. Joseph’s, May Flower, A.N College and St. Xavier’s College congregated under the expansive Kamroop tree in Tarumitra to welcome back the life-giving Sun from the Southern hemisphere, now entering the zodiac of Makar “Capricorn.”
The Chief Guest of the occasion, the director of May Flower higher secondary School, Sri Jairam Sharma led the students to the tasting of Organic Chura “flattened rice”and curd with his wise words.

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A PowerPoint presentation on Makar Sankranti facilitated in giving the Festival an ecological slant

Fr. Robert Athickal, thru a special colorful PowerPoint presentation on the occasion gave the students ample invitation to reflect on the rice cultivation in the State and beyond. He underlined the fact that Asian cultures are based on rice and rice preparations. Rice forms the central staple food in Asia.

The scanty monsoon last two years meant that very few farmers managed to cultivate their traditional rice crop. In fact rice cultivation is not popular at all among the present generation of youngsters.

Tarumitra students celebrate the Solar feast of Makar Sankranti  as Chura Dahi parv, essentially as a festival of the Sun by reverentially consuming rice, curd and sesame seeds. Traditionally people all over the state organize a repast made of flattened rice, sesame seeds and freshly made curd for the occasion. The students under the leadership of Anushka and Shivani from St. Xavier’s College organized the Organic festival of Rice with the same fare.

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St. Xavier’s college students, Shivani and Anushka compered the program

“The distinct feature of the celebration was that the feast was entirely organic and eco-friendly, ” said Anushka. ” We are using the freshly pounded rice from our own organic farm!” said Anunshka.

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Among the generous souls came to help out the farm work: Loreto Juniors from Kolkata and Jesuit Juniors from Khaspur posing with Robert Athickal SJ(extreme right).

Students from different schools and colleges worked hard to produce totally organic rice from last summer. “We did not employ any hired labor to work in the rice field, instead we did the whole chore ourselves!” said Vishal, post graduate student of Environmental Sciences from A.N College. “We did not resort to the use of any chemical fertilizer or pesticides in the crop. The sowing, harvesting and threshing of the rice was entirely done by students,” said Gaurav from the same college.

Organic farm work

Margaret (right) helping the volunteers from A.N College with the work in the Organic Farm. Vishal (center) coordinated the participation.

Speaking on the occasion former activist of Tarumitra, Eva Gagan from Australia who was present on the occasion along with her husband Gagan and son Evang said that the festival reminded the people of the bygone variety-rich rice fields of Bihar. She said that the varieties have disappeared at the onslaught of hybrid rice. Very few farmers have the determination and courage to cultivate the traditional rice.

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Devopriya Dutta (4th from left) and Maragaret Molomoo (2nd from right) co-ordinated the entire cultivation and harvesting.

Coordinator of the Organic Farming, Ms Margaret Molomoo said every Indian village had its own rice variety conserved and handed over by many generations. Scientists estimated a total of over 20,000 rice varieties in the country. An earlier Tarumitra survey showed that people in Bihar cultivated less than 80 varieties of rice.

It was also the inauguration of a specially designed alfresco outdoor class room “Oxygen bar” in Tarumitra.

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A team from Solar Alternatives helped Banares  (top) to set up the Oxygen Bar

“Oval shaped, the class room under the trees can seat 150 students. The place is totally protected from mosquitoes inside a giant netting system!” said Saharsh who contributed to construct the innovative classroom which the students have named, “Oxygen Bar!”

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Director of May Flower school, Jairam Sharma cut the ribbon and inaugurated the Oxygen Bar!

The Oxygen Bar has its own story to narrate!

An earlier tremor from 2016 left one of our water reservoirs extremely damaged. While plans for repair came up, one of our visitors suggested the possibility of converting it into an outdoor classroom. The idea got spruced up with a design and plan of action by the students.

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Dr Jeffrey Chirayil and his wife Dr Meril Chirayil, Dallas USA offered to sponsor the Oxygen Bar as soon as they heard of it

There was this offer of sponsorship from Dr. Meril Abraham Chirayil and her husband, Dr. Jeffrey Joseph Chirayil from Dallas USA. They took time from their hospital work to learn as how we were going to make the bar with a difference!

Paul Mariadoss SJ, from Solar Alternatives, suggested covering the space with netting to protect the students from mosquitoes.

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Paul Mariadoss SJ, software and hardware engineer,   has  been organizing solar campaigns from the Jesuit center at Phulwarisharif. (http://www.patnajesuits.org/ECOLOGYM.aspx)

The problem was to find a huge mosquito net for the roof!
Being a physicist, Fr. Paul used his good ol’ math’s formula to calculate the roof-size and got the plastic Netting tailor-made for the spot. That was hard work.

Oxygen bar construction

Students from St. Xavier’s worked hard to get the foundation done in time

Banaras and his team of masons then built it up summarily with students from St. Xavier’s college helping out to dig up the foundations for posts. Gaurav, Vishal and Priti from A.N College worked on the spot several days before the place took shape.

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Students from different colleges helped out to build the structure

“The spot is an excellent place for meditation in the mornings!” said Sr. Amalia who advocates the promotion of an earth-building eco-spirituality for our times. The Tertian Sisters spent a week at Tarumitra listening to Fr, Robert Athickal SJ presenting the inspiring insights of Big History of the universe.

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When completed Oxygen Bar could seat 150 students inside in a full circle, overlooking the water inside

The director of May Flower School, Jairam Sharma, by cutting a ribbon inducted the classroom. It is now being used daily, especially for the campaign to inform people about the issues of clean drinking water.

Students suggested the appellation for the al fresco classroom:  Oxygen Bar!

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Students offered special thanks to Drs. Meril and Jeffrey Chirayil!

The celebration of Makar Sankranti continued under the Pakur tree when the participating students served curd, rice and sesame seeds in leaf-plates and ate them with relish.

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Fatema Hussain (left), an Intern from Jindal University, Sonipat Haryana said that it was her first such celebration under the trees. The CJ tertian Sisters from Allahabad, Bangalore and Patna helped to serve the dishes

 

River Ganga “Ganges” Chatt and women from Six Continents

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As we write these lines sitting inside the Tarumitra Bio-reserve in Patna, the festival of Chatt is on. It is an agricultural festival falls on the  6th day after Divali, the Festival of lights.
What marks the Chatt festival is that the whole thing is solemnized at the banks of River Ganga “Ganges.” Nothing less than a million people congregate on the banks of this river in the capital district of Patna alone. Known as the perfect festival with the whole city spruced up, washed and decked, zillions of lights and thousands of volunteers guiding the people for their annual march to the great River.
People, women in particular offer baskets of fruits, vegetables and sweets to the setting Sun in the evenings and the rising Sun in the mornings. It is a huge festival of family reunion and within the radius of lofty sentiments to the Father Sun, Mother Earth and Sister River.

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A Million people gather around River Ganges during the festival of Chatt within the district of Patna

River Ganga “Ganges” takes the brunt of the Festival!
When a million people take bath and cook their meals by the river, one can imagine the impact this human activity has on the river. Water turns murky and foul smelling and perfectly unhealthy as declared by the Pollution Control Board and the scientific community.
We are reminded of what Ann Bankroft and team told us just a year back when they traveled along the River Ganga “Ganges” in their boat.

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Ann Bankroft (fourth from left) and team Photos by Yourexpedition.com

Renowned polar explorers and educators  Ann Bancroft and Liv Arnesen led a team of six women, from six continents, on an 2525 km (1,569 mile), 60-day long expedition following the river Ganges from her origin Gaumukh to the Bay of Bengal. They undertook this adventurous trip to raise the attention of people to the pathetic situation of the River Ganges that flowed through the Indian peninsula from times immemorial.
They took breaks on and off along the course of the river. They stopped by us at the Tarumitra Bio-reserve on 22 November 2015!
Ann Bancroft and Liv Arnesen, along with 6 women explorers from around the globe, each representing their continent and their own unique water crisis.

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Student leaders from different schools received the Explorers along with a Team from TERI Delhi

Expedition team with Tarumitra students: Ann Bancroft, Minnesota, USA Liv Arnesen, Oslo, Norway Olfat Haider, Haifa, Israel Cindy Jiaojiao Hu, Beijing, China Marcia Gutierrez, Temuco, Chile Kim Smith, Cape Town, South Africa Lisa te Heuheu, Turangi, New Zealand Krushnaa Patil, Mumbai
Ann Bancroft, first known woman to reach both the North and South Poles on foot and Liv Arnesen, first woman to ski solo to the South Pole teamed up in 2000 to become the first women to ski across Antarctica. They did this with the help of 3 million kids following along and they continue that partnership with their most lofty expedition yet. Ann and Liv have handpicked a woman from each continent to create the team to achieve Access Water.

Ganga route

Ann Bankroft and team traveled on the River along the most crowded part of the country: River Ganges gives water to 400 million people

Goal
Ann Bancroft’s goal was to lead a conversation with millions of youth that will raise awareness and inspire the future leaders of the world to work towards a safe and abundant world, starting with access to clean water.

Why River Ganges?
Today Indian people are slowly realizing the fact that they have a crisis on drinking water. Humans need fresh water to survive. We grow food with it, drink it, cook with it and bathe in it. We use it to create the goods and services that form our global economy. There is no substitute for fresh water. It is more crucial for human survival than any source of fuel.
River Ganga along her tributaries supplies drinking water to roughly 400 million people, one third of the entire country.

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The Students felicitated the Explorers under the sprawling Kadam tree in the Bio-reserve

But fresh water is becoming scarce. One in eight people lack access to clean water and more than three million die each year from water-related health problems. Battles for water are creating tensions between people, interests groups and regions. In some cases, they are causing armed conflicts. Left untouched, these challenges will only worsen. Within just 15 years from now, nearly two hundred crores (2 billion) people will live in areas of severe water scarcity. The consequences are clear.
“We can solve the water crisis by bringing it to the forefront of the global agenda. This means raising awareness on water access issues, promoting resource efficiency and cooperation on the problems of pollution and climate change,” commented one of the women from Anne Bankroft’s team.
1.1 billion people in the world do not have access to safe drinking water, roughly one-sixth of the world’s population.
2.2 million people in developing countries, most of them children, die every year from diseases associated with lack of access to safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene.
Half of the world’s hospital beds are filled with people suffering from water related illnesses.
More people die from lack of clean water and sanitation each year than are killed by all forms of violence, including war. (Source: Blue Planet Network)
400 million residents rely on the Ganges for water, food, bathing, and worship. The Ganges River is one of the most important and sacred rivers in the world and water has a major impact on the human and animal inhabitants living along the river.
Ann Bankroft and team spent half a day at Tarumitra

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TISS scholar Siji Varghese SJ in conversation with Ann Bankroft among the 19 year old trees initially planted by students

Working in tandem with TERI, Delhi, Tarumitra students welcomed the expedition to the forested ambience of Tarumitra. Namita Sharma and Garima Kaushik from TERI, Delhi camped in Patna to welcome the team.

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TERI team member, Garima Kaushik helped the students to interact with the Explorers!

Ann Bankroft spent considerable amount of time taking a walk around the organic farm and talked to many students on their work to protect the planet. Interacting with students who were seated under the Kadamb tree, she answered their queries adding a small fire in their hearts for adventures.
Each of the team mates from the six continents spoke in turn and conveyed their global concern for drinking water. The 18 year old Krishna Patil of course was a crowd puller. Having climbed the Mount Everest before she was 18, Krishna had very interesting anecdotes to share.

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The ICM Educators take a ride River Ganges on a country boat as part of their Eco-retreat at Tarumitra

Siji Noorokaryil SJ, research student from TISS, Mumbai said that he was awed by the presence of the eight extraordinary courageous women from all the continents, sharing breathtaking moments with students in Patna.
Drinking water crisis in Bihar: the ubiquitous RO Machines
It was a memorable day for the Water-activists of Tarumitra!
Tarumitra students have been on several campaigns related to Water. There has been a concerted effort from the part of RO Machines (Reverse Osmosis) to belittle the available safe drinking water in the Gangetic plains. They frighten people in such a way, people resort to the RO Machines for filtering the already safe drinking water.
Tarumitra students organized a through testing of drinking water from 27 water sources in Patna in the heartland of India and found that none of the sources were contaminated. The RO machine companies probably got some rare stories of contaminated water planted in the media to a level an ordinary citizen was convinced that his/her water taps were contaminated. This resulted in the largescale marketing of RO machines all over the country.

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Shweta Marandi and Sanskriti Singh led the campaign on water purifiers

Sanskriti Singh from Christ University Bangalore who led the campaign said, “While the bottled water is bereft of all naturally available minerals, the tap water which we tested had all the necessary minerals for the human body.” Devopriya Dutta who carries forward the message on the deadly water available in bottles, is confident that thousands of people got a chance to open their eyes and examine for themselves if they really needed to buy the expensive filtration machines.

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Tarumitra campaign for drinking water: Carmel students organize a meditation session in the water

Dr. Ashok Ghosh who is called the “Water man of Patna” opined that the growing water crisis in Patna is created by the RO machines. He told the students, “I have no water purifiers in my home in Patna. I drink water straight from the tap and I am perfectly healthy!”  Dr. Ghosh insists that no water purifier should be put up without testing the water sources at least once in a good lab.

Ann and team with St Xaviers

Students from St. Xavier’s school danced a farewell song to Ann Bankroft and team of explorers..