Monday, June 10, 2013

Atithi Devo Bhava: Experiencing True India - A day to remember...

When visitors come to India, they see "Atithi Devo Bahava" (i.e. "Visitors are like God") advertisements and as majority of them only visit metros, they leave India with an eagerness of where can they experience "Atithi Devo Bhava". Many of them leave with the unpleasant experiences of beggars almost snatching things from their hands; or people trying to make a fast buck out of foreigners. I have heard those stories so many times, and I am sure you did too...
But June 5, 2013 had something different in store for us. I was accompanying 11 students from Exeter University of England to a cultural field trip to Shantidham Gurukul near Sangam along with a visit to a nearby village.  
As soon as we reached the Gurukul, we were received by the students and the acharyas with pleasant and auspicious Vedic chants. As we all walked towards the Yajna-shala, we could only hear the chanting or the birds chirping - adding to the chorus. Living in the city for so long, not hearing traffic noise and impatient ALL OF US honking; is a peaceful experience in itself.  
After a warm welcome ceremony, the Gurukul reverberated with the Vedic chanting of 60+ young bramhcharis. Their heartily charting created mesmerizing environment in the middle of nature's abode. After many other informative and interesting sessions on Indian culture; we were served a traditional lunch on Banana leaves. I have been a regular visitor to this Gurukul; and if you want to experience "Atithi Devo Bhava" in action; this Gurukul is the place to go.

Arya ji from Gurukul had also arranged a village visit for us. I never imagined that the next phase of our visit will be a unique experience even for me as well. As we took a mud road, a gentleman appeared who then led us to the village center. We were standing in front of a 300 year old house in which people were still living. Marvelous piece of architecture, with stone foundation and beautifully carved wooden pillars. What took my breath away was the provision this house had for rain water harvesting. As you will see in the picture, in the middle of the house was a rectangular corridor, with roof sloped inwards and there was an opening. On a sunny day, the opening brings light and fresh air into the house. On a rainy day, water gets collected into the reservoir below. The reservoir also had water removal duct that could be opened at will. I was amazed at the planning this house overall had.
There was was water tank; special earthen pots to keep grains for years.We even saw a woman grinding Raagi using a hand mill. The residents of the house were happy to receive us in their home and offered whatever they had available. We had home grown peanuts with Jaggery, the combination was loved by all of us.

As all of us moved around the village, the curious residents were outside their homes; and I felt life in the village came to a standstill.  But that is how life in India villages probably is - they value people and the time they can spend in human interactions. We where offered some of the sweetest coconut water I have ever had. When we tried paying the villagers, they felt offended and told us that we are their guest and they are doing what a good host should do. They wanted us to carry pleasant memories of the visit.
The picture of smiling grandmas' made me think, how materialistic conveniences of life have nothing to do with happiness and true smile. These people in picture might not have gadgets, fancy cars or expensive clothes; yet they have big hearts and loving thoughts for fellow human beings.

The experiences of the day surely touched hearts of visiting students, in addition, we were left in awe and proud to be an Indian. When you next time see a celebrity talking about "Atithi Devo Bhava" and you wonder "where", especially after what happened in recent months in New Delhi and other metros; do visit any Indian village, which is still untouched by the modernization. And you can yourself see Spirituality in Action; not as a fancy concept but as a Way of Life. 

1 comment:

Sowmya Krishna said...

Had a nice feeling reading this :) keep posting!