Khadjuraho: hot, hot, hot!

I met Fabien at Jhansi, in the middle way (speaking of time) between Auroville where he is coming from and Pendjab where I was. Then we went together to Khajurâho and its famous temples. The couchsurfeurs hosting us have organized an incredible program for us. We visited many temples, and went around by motorbike, enjoying swimming in various rivers. From the 85 initial temples, only 25 remain nowadays. They are silently expecting the tourists in the hot weather like eternal sand castles. At this season, the current 40°C make us sweat at any move.

Not only the weather is hot, but also the temple sculptures! Sexy women have been curved in the stone in very provoking positions with their partners… Indians, so shy nowadays, are discovering a 3D Kama sutra on the temples. This is why these temples are so famous, even if they also illustrate many other daily life activities, battles and gods and goddess. But visiting temples is quiet repetitive, and what attracts our attention is the daily life in the villages around…

In low houses, squeezed along narrow streets, multigenerational families are living. In late afternoon, after the major heat, the deserted villages suddenly animated itself. Women are going out to get water at the pump, kids are playing croquet and men are coming back for the fields with their buffalos. A few tractors are going around among the wheat fields. It is a real pleasure to have a quick look at this life as we are coming back from the river.

We spend most of the evenings at weddings parties because it is the wedding season and the family hosting us (from the Brahman cast, the higher one) is invited everywhere. Weddings last three or four days and are an occasion the feed the whole neighborhood. According to the cast, the number of guest and the meal may vary, but the purpose is the same: tens or hundreds of guests are gathering around a buffet every night, and leave as soon as their belly is full. We enjoyed chapatti, various “subdje” and also delicious pastries, fruits and ice-creams, and we almost didn’t see the bride! The cast system seems to be still very important in Khadjuraho, with separated neighborhoods, specific rules to respect and various social levels.

Dharamasla: finaly a fresh and green place !

 

South India becoming really to hot, I escaped at the feet of the Himalayan Mountains. I joined Iqbal (I met at Kumbah Mela) in New Dehli. It took us a few days to reach Dharamsala taking many different trains and local buses. It was a pleasure not to have to worry about logistic for a few days: Iqbal was taking care of everything, and in Hindi, it is always faster and cheaper! But it’s necessary to be patient and to be able to squeeze in any already crowded train or bus. On the way, we stop at à Chintpouni and Kangra, two holly places with a big temple. In these small cities, I didn’t see any tourist, but long processions of Indians wearing clothes of all tons of yellow. Many of them had a moody hand trace in their back, symbol of the holy cow. Whole families, from the new-born to the grand-mother, are walking toward the temple, crossing many shops full of spirituals books, flowers and food for the gods’ offering and many kind of jewelries and kids toys.

As we are getting closer to Dharamsala, the weather is getting colder and the road steeper. Our bus is following slopes around the mountain, letting us discovering successfully beautiful trees, a lovely river, a nice fort, hordes of monkeys and suddenly the Himalayan Mountains, full of snow! We settled in the mountains, a few feet away from a waterfall. The atmosphere is very relaxed. We rapidly meet many travelers and hippies residents around a chai and a guitar. Iqbal finds the best and cheapest cook of the neighborhood, preparing every day great typical Panjabi food. Every day is a new adventure, discovering a waterfall or walking toward the Himalayan Mountains (to walk in, I will wait to be better equipped). I also visit the House of the Dalaï-lama where I discover that arguing is a spiritual discipline for the monks. But this place is first a symbol, a desperate cry from all these Tibetans people who lost their freedom, their land, their culture… Every day, voluntary immolations of young Tibetans people remind this peaceful fight to the world, so that one day, Tibet could be a free and peaceful place again.

After a few days spent in Dharamsala, I followed Iqbal in his native village in the middle of the Panjabi mountains. His family welcomed me like a queen (or a goddess I should say, as Indians consider the guest as a God). I improved my skills in Hindi, and learned more about the rural life in India. Each house has electricity continuously and water from time to time. The family of Iqbal is Rajput, meaning the warrior caste. They owned a lot of land in the past, but they have been redistributed to the poorest by the state. The family is now leaving modestly thanks to his small wheat fields and his few cows and buffalos. The day starts at 5:30 am by milking the cows and cooking chapattis for breakfast. Then we go cut the wheat in the fields around the house before the heat gets to high. Then Iqbal’s father leads the cattle toward green pastries. I enjoyed eating homemade lassi (typical Indians yogurt) and sauce made with curd. I learned how to harvest wheat and milk cows manually. Ii was such a great time!

Auroville: between dream and reality

I spent almost one month in Auroville, observing the various activities and communities there. I was volunteering at Sapney Farm (meaning “dream” in Sanskrit), which doesn’t officialy belong to Auroville but is geographically in the middle of it.

The Auroville dream started in 1971 when representatives of more than 100 states put a hand of soil of their country in a big pot, which is still in the middle of Auroville. The purpose was to create a living place without any private property, any money exchange, any religion or social hierarchy, a place dedicated to spiritual growing, where the social position has no meaning anymore, a place to promote peace among all the nations. Millions of pioneers came to make the dream come true…

40 years later, Auroville gathers 120 communities and families representing in total more than 2000 inhabitants and 43 different nationalities. The eroded ground has been replaced by forest by planting more than 1,5 millions trees, schools and health center have been built. Schools are promoting a balanced growing of the children without any exams and marks, but letting them to opportunity to pass official degrees. Health centers are centered on Ayurveda medicine but also use European medicines. Yoga, Thai massages and meditation places are numerous. Auroville is connected to the local electricity service, but also produce some energy thanks to solar panels, windmills and biogas. Many farms are experimenting organic farming and local water treatment systems.

But little by little, traditional houses in bamboo have been replaced by compacted soil construction (containing cement) and motorbikes have colonized the small roads, which have then been cemented also. And while the community is getting bigger, rules are getting stricter and decision harder to take. Money has also become a big issue, as well as the water overconsumption. The phreatic nap is dangerously decreasing and getting infected by salty water, to answer “occidental” needs… Reforestation seems not to be enough to answer this issue…

Today, becoming a permanent resident called « Aurovillien » has become very difficult. I have to have good savings in order to survive during 3 years by yourself in Auroville. Only then the community accepts you, but you still have to build a house on a land which will never belongs to you. And all this time you are paying an allocation to Auroville. Only the Aurovillians working for Auroville are getting some money.

The massive visit of volunteers also represents a source of incomes for the farms, which benefit from free human resources but also some money coming from their contributions. In exchange the volunteer are learning more about organic farming and community leaving. But welcoming volunteer is a hard task, and some farms prefer to work with local Indians workers. They kind of remember the colonial farms… Some other farms are between these two models, which I would defined as followed:

 

 

 

 

 

Stable farms

Evolutive farms

Inhabitants

A majority of permanent people

A majority of short term volunteers

Human resources

A majority of local Indians workers (from villagers nearby)

A majority of short term volunteers

Responsible

A family or a small group of people

A small group of people with long term volunteers

Type of activity

Essentially crops and animals farming

Essentially vegetables and fruits farming, rarely crops

Products use

Transformed and sold to Auroville

Self-consumption

Cultivated surface

Large fields

Small gardens