Celebrations & events
These are important events which bring us together even more. There are many occasions such as birthdays, farewells for volunteers or guests who offer a special programme such as clowning or theater games. We do celebrate Christmas which is usually not celebrated at the homes of our children, as most of them originate from “Hindu” families. The meaning of Christmas is explained to them the same as the meaning of the Indian festivals and the significance in the local culture. We consider this as an important part of the education which we offer to our children.
The birthday of Lord Ganesha, the elephant faced god, who brings fortune and happiness and removes obstacles. In India it is a must to have a Ganesha at every house. At Deepam we have a Ganesh statue out of stone sitting under the Banyan tree in our garden. In September, Ganesh’s birthday is celebrated all over India. During a pooja (ceremony), Lord Ganesha is offered his favorite sweets and fruits. This food gets shared after the ceremony.
Saraswati is the goddess of perfection and knowledge. In October, at every school a “pooja” is performed to receive the blessings of goddess Saraswati. This ceremony is part of a ten days festival called Vijaya Dhasami. The so-called “Aayudha Pooja” gets celebrated at every work place in Tamil Nadu – all the tools and vehicles which are used daily get cleaned and decorated with flowers and sandalwood paste. At Deepam it is usual that our tools, the account books, the boxes with the addresses of our donors and even the cash box gets lined up and blessed with the fire of camphor in honor of goddess Saraswati.
Krishna Jayanthi is the birthday of Lord Krishna, the God who appears in blue and plays the flute. In the last years this occasion became a real educational project at Deepam. Over many weeks decoration and costumes are prepared for an amazing drama-performance in the garden on a simple make-shift stage. It is gorgeous to see how all of them, also the least able ones, are made up and how daring they play the traditional story of Krishna.
In Tamil Nadu the Deepam Festival of Light has been traditionally celebrated for centuries in the month of Khartigai, end of November or beginning of December, just before the full moon. Its origin is based on a legend of Lord Shiva having transformed himself into a divine flame. A typical earthen oil lamp is called “Deepam”, which means light or flame.
At Deepam we celebrate this festival with more than a thousand little clay lamps filled with oil. At dusk these lamps are lit creating a wonderful, serene atmosphere. Word has spread in the nearby village and in Auroville and we receive several hundred guests for this occasion.
See more photos: Deepam festival
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Each year before Christmas we borrow big trays from the nearby Auroville Bakery and prepare our own Christmas cookies. For the big event – our Christmas celebration – the place is decorated with many self-made handicrafts. After lunch we play games. Most liked is the game with a huge ball made out of tightly rolled newspaper sheets. To a musical beat, it passes around the circle from child to child. When the music suddenly stops, it is unwrapped bit by bit. The excitement increases and a big mess of newspaper pieces float around until finally a packet of sweets, which was hidden in the middle of the paper ball, appears and is shared by everybody.
The Santa Claus – every year it’s another child – shakes hands with everybody and distributes his gifts proudly. Our boys get a pair of trousers and a T-Shirt and the girls a Punjabi dress (baggy trousers with a long top).
Pongal is a three day thanksgiving festival celebrated in the middle of January.
One day is ear-marked to honor the cows and bullocks. Their horns get painted and they get decorated with flowers, bananas and balloons. The traditional cow race attracts many spectators from some of the local villages.
At Pongal, at every household, freshly harvested rice is cooked with milk in a new clay pot. When it boils over everybody calls out “Pongalo, Pongalo!” At Deepam, we do a simple ceremony cooking the yummy sweet “Pongal rice” with raisins and cashew nuts in it.