The festival of Navratri has its significance in India. This year, the celebrations starts from the last week of September. Navratri, the festival of nine nights is dedicated to Goddess Durga and her nine forms. According to the Hindu calendar, Navratri begins from the first day of the bright fortnight of Ashwin.
Durga, the divine mother, had destroyed the evil force (in the form of the demon Mahisashura) during this period.
The festival is celebrated with true devotion and purity all over the country. People from various sections of the society irrespective of caste and creed celebrate this festival by visiting temples and offering pujas at the Mother’s feet.
In the houses, people use to exhibit steps in which many dolls will be arranged. These exhibitions is a traditional one and is called as Kolu.
In some places special pujas are also held by setting the images of Mother Durga on beautifully decorated pandals. Temples dedicated to Shakti also make arrangement for pujas and bratas to mark these nine days as true symbols of devotion and adoration towards the divine mother.
Contributed by Nadia Chellam | India Social Manager.
It was the last day I spent in Seva Ashram. One of the former day, we had played a game
with the girls. I asked theme to sit in circle and one after the other, they had to tell me the name of a country. The one who didn't know or said a name that had already been said were out. I realized that a lot of theme thought that some states of India were countries. So the next day, I bought two maps. One of them is world and one of India. I showed theme to the girls who were interested. I showed theme were was my country Switzerland, the trip I had to make to come to India, I showed theme were was India, Tamil Nadu and we searched for all the other countries and other states they could name. I had such a lovely time then and some of theme showed such interest that I really felt I was bringing a little something, even if it wasn't much. I really had a great time with theme, and I'm happy my last day went on so well. It was the best way to end this wonderful trip, although it made me even sadder to leave.
Contributed by Caroline Lettry | Care
“Unforgettable!” that’s what I thought during my first drive from the airport to the centre ofMadurai. And truly this awesome first view ofIndiathrough the dusty window of the jeep still stays in my mind like yesterday. The intensive smell, the shiny colors, the expanding rubbish, the back-breaking heat, the craggy road which made you jump up every now and then; but most of all the people in the small villages we passed through are burned into my memories.
I traveled a lot, or at least tried to do it, but nonetheless I never saw something comparable to that. Almost everything seemed to be different. Each corner showed a new interesting facet of the Indian life and made my wish grow, to jump out of the jeep and go around to see all the little things closer and get in touch with them and the people.
I saw locals sitting in front of their door, talking to their neighbors and eating with their hands from palm leafs, while some other washed their clothes in a bucket in a small backstreet. Equally impressing was a man sitting next to a lying cow, which had bounded her feet together (probably the man was a kind of a blacksmith).
Most of the Indians who noticed the jeep and his charge were starring at me like at an alien. Some of them smiled, some others waved to me and again others were just standing still and watching.
At this moment I remembered a certain sentence of a movie, a book or maybe a song, which captured my situation and my feelings exactly: “She was a stranger between strangers.”
Totally unprepared and lost in my thoughts, I was shocked as a cow crossed slowly and unimpressed our road. But this lonely cow was just a perfect example for all the following animals I saw on this trip to the centre; dogs, cats, donkeys, goats and - how already mentioned - cows seemed to live without any problems in a certain harmony with humans. Like is it was nothing to see a woman was sitting in a shady place next to a dangerous looking horned cow.
However not just the obvious things made me wonder but also the culture and tradition behind it which I got to know later.
Like the different types of religion which you can recover everywhere by just holding your eyes open. On almost every wall, car (or rikshaw) and even every shop you find little stickers or paintings of Jesus, Ganesh,Krishnaand many other symbols of belief. It would take a while to get into this colossal aspect of religion inIndia- which includes so many different types of persuasions like Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism and a lot of other small groups.
So in the end if somebody asks me to tell him something about India, I must confess that I’m not able to do this because with the eyes of a foreigner everything seems to be extraordinary and kind of unreal, so that it’s hard to recognize the real life beyond this strangeness.
As if you watch a big anthill, everything appeared chaotic but with a hidden system behind it.
Contributed bv Katharina SCHNEIDER (Germany) - Journalism
Meine Zeit im Journalismus-Projekt war sehr interessant, ich habe von Sozialarbeit gewechselt und war überrascht, dass ich soviel Spaß hatte, obwohl das Projekt nun ein ganz anderes war..
Das Journalismus-Projekt beim Madurai Messenger ist sehr gut organisiert. Am Montag Morgen setzen sich alle zusammen in einen Kreis und diskutieren über ihre Fortschritte der letzten Woche, neue Ideen für weitere Artikel und was sonst so am Wochenende passiert ist. Es ist immer eine aufgeweckte lustige Runde und ein guter Start in die neue Woche.
Das Magazin ist sehr hochwertig und wird an Bildungseinrichtungen weitergegeben um die Schüler/ Studierenden zu über ihre Stadt und Umgebung zu informieren.
Inhaltlich ist der humane Aspekt sehr groß geschrieben. In den monatlichen Ausgaben gibt es verschiedene Kategorien die immer einem besondern Überthema untergeordnet sind, wie zum Beispiel Village Voices, People, Art, Business, Beauty, Travel und es gibt naturlich immer eine Titelgeschichte. Jedenfalls ist für jeden was dabei, und es gibt eine Vielzahl an Auswahlmöglichkeiten.
Fährt man zu einem Interwiew, ist man nie auf sich alleine gestellt: Da die meisten Leute, die man interviewt kein Englisch sprechen, hat man einen Dolmetscher dabei, der alles übersetzt. Es ist wahnsinnig interessant, so viele echte Erfahrungen und Informationen über das Leben und die Menschen in Indien zu bekommen. Meistens kommen auch erst während des Interviews die spannenden Geschichten zum Vorschein.
Neben den Interviews, der Recherche und dem Schreiben unserer Artikel war immer noch ein bisschen Zeit fuer diverse Workshops. Unter Anderem besuchten wir einen Foto-Workshop, einen allgemeinen Medien-Workshop, eine Art Schreibwerkstatt und lernten dabei mit viel Spaß neue und vor allem professionelle Seiten des Journalismus kennen.
Außerdem ist toll, dass man den ganzen Tag Internetverbindung hat, sei es zum Recherchieren für die Artikel oder um den Kontakt nach Hause zu halten.
Die Stimmung im Journalismus-Projekt ist sehr offen und familiär. Man kann mit seinen Problemen, seien sie kulturell, persönlich oder projekt-bezogen, immer einen Ansprechpartner finden und fühlt sich sehr gut aufgehoben und wirklich ernst genommen.Die Arbeit ist außerdem nicht zu streng, man kann während der Arbeitszeit, die man größtenteils selbst einteilt, viel mit den anderen Freiwilligen rumalbern, somit ist kommt auch der Spaß nicht zurz.
von Ameli ZIEGLER (Germany) / Journalism
Finally my adventures begin in India. Months and months of meticulous planning, organising, vaccinations and purchasing items necessary for 2 months travel in India. Actually, I haven’t planned much except for my volunteer work in India for the first month. The rest is, let’s see what happens!
If I had to choose one word to describe India, I would say it is “impossible”. Impossible that it can be so humid, impossible that so much rubbish can be thrown out onto the streets, impossible that traffic can be so chaotic, impossible that people enjoy living in these conditions and impossible that tourists, including myself can fall in love with the place and enjoy the experience so much.
Below is an account of my first five days in India. I will start with the volunteer work as that was the main purpose of my visit.
Firstly, if you are unsure on whether you will be able to cope/survive in India or the volunteer work you decide to undertake, then fear not. The staff at Projects Abroad and your placement are wonderful and will do everything humanly possible to make your experience a joyous one. I joined the Care program, looking after and assisting disabled children. My previous experience with disabled people and child care was absolutely nil and I enjoyed every moment.
(To be Continued.....)
Contributed by Our Care Volunteer - Mr Mauro VENNITTI | Australia
It is without hesitation that I can say that travelling is my biggest passion. For me, immersing myself in a different culture and learning a new way of life is an experience that is both truly exciting and rewarding. It was in the winter of 2011 that I decided that I wanted to embark on an adventurous journey. My main desire was that I wanted to take part in a trip where I would be able to do some volunteering while also being able to ‘’back pack.’’ I was lucky enough to have a friend who had already travelled with Projects Abroad. After having met with her, I realised that it was the perfect organisation that would permit me to have that mixture of volunteering and travelling. I then started to prepare myself for what would be one of the best experiences of my life…
To get from Canada to India, I had to endure a gruelling three days of travelling. First was a flight from Ottawa to Frankfurt. Afterwards was a flight from Frankfurt to Chennai. When my flight was approaching landing time in Chennai, I was so excited but a bit nervous. I had done a lot of research on India but I couldn’t believe I was actually here. After I cleared customs, I had to find a place to spend the night because I had a flight in the morning for Madurai. As soon as I stepped out of the International Airport, the incredible Indian heat that I heard so much about hit me. It was like an invisible wave of something thick, humid and sticky had invaded the atmosphere. Beads of sweat we’re dripping from my face uncontrollably. The second thing that hit me instantly was the immense crowd of Indian men who were all waiting outside the airport. Some of them were picking up passengers, others were taxi drivers, others were operating little food stands, others were trying to sell you cheap hotel accommodations, etc. It was just incredible that the streets could be so filled with people at 1.30am. I ended up spending the night in the airport dormitory. The next morning I left Chennai and arrived in Madurai after a short hour and half flight. There I was greeted by Austin, a Projects Abroad worker. He took me and a German girl, who had arrived in Madurai at the same time as me, for a breakfast at a nearby restaurant. It was here that I had my first taste of Indian food.
Austin ordered everybody a dosa. It was this very long thin cone that was very crispy. Around the dosa were various spicy substances in which you dipped your dosa. It was an extremely odd thing to eat for breakfast but it was delicious! This was only the beginning of all the diverse foods I would be trying. For the first couple of weeks, I would be eating something different every day. The common meal I ate during my volunteer work was plain white rice with spices and a thick sauce that you would mix together. In restaurants, there was always a large variety to choose from. My favourite dishes, among many others, were chapatti, dosa, idly, poori, sambar, rasam and masala. It is important to note that Indian dishes are always spicy and hot!
My volunteer placement was called Amar Seva Sangam. It is a care home for children with physical and mental disability. There I worked with one Australian and two Danes. My first encounter with the children was a heart-warming experience. They all ran towards me, surrounded me, grabbed my hands and asked for my name. They radiated joy. Happiness instantly took over my body because I saw how my simple presence made them so cheerful and lively.
A typical day at Amar Seva Sangam included a handful of different duties I could do. The three other volunteers and I would usually start our day by bathing the children and getting them dressed. During the morning, we would help them with their school work. The only subject in which we could provide real assistance was English. Usually, you would sit with the children, show them a picture of an object and make them repeat the English word for it. This was always a rewarding experience as most of the children are so determined to learn new English words. They always wanted to improve. This was also a very enriching experience because it permitted them to teach me a few Tamil words. They usually had the rest of the day to enjoy themselves since it was summer holiday for them at the time. I could therefore spend the majority of my day playing with them. One thing that both the children and I adored was when I would pick them up, throw them in the air and make them fly like airplanes. They would always laugh loudly and that would just melt my heart. Every time they wanted to be picked up, they would point their finger in the air and say “up”. It was always so precious when they did this.
Another popular activity among the children was cricket. It is a hugely popular sport in India that I had never really watched before stepping into the country. Having never participated in a cricket match, I was by far the worse player. In spite of this, the children always insisted on having me on their team and always wished for me to bat first. Finally, one of my favourite things to do with the children during the day was to participate in their prayer time. Every day, in the late afternoon, the children would gather in this long room and sit in the line for boys or in the line for girls. At the front of this room, there were statues and pictures of various Hindu Gods. The children would hymn prayers while playing various instruments. Although I didn’t understand what was being said, it was beautiful to listen to. To feel more part of it, I would always ask one of the boys to paint my forehead with the traditional religious markings.
The other three volunteers and I always took time to leave for weekly excursions and we would always seem to have wild stories when it came to the modes of transportation. For our first trip, we decided to go to the west coast to Cochin. Since we had not been properly informed about the departure time of our bus, we were stuck at the Tenkasi bus stand at 3am. Luckily for us, a man, with whom we could negotiate a price, came out of nowhere and offered to drive us all the way to Cochin. This was a strange concept because never in Canada would someone accept a stranger’s offer to drive you for hours but in India, these kind of un-regulated services are very common and safe. Scenarios like these were common. During another excursion, our night train got an engine failure and we were stuck in a field for 2 hours (until 1.30am). Also during this same excursion, we had been yet again misinformed on the departure time of a night bus and were consequently forced to spend the night at a noisy and smelly outdoor Madurai bus stand.
During our excursions, we got to see magnificence of India. I got the chance to swim in all the major bodies of water that surround the country (Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea). I explored the epic beautifulness of the country’s landscape that consists of beautiful beaches, forests of tropical trees, vast fields of tea leaves and other herbs and spectacular mountains. I particularly enjoyed the tea fields in the mountains of Munnar. Furthermore, we got to immerse ourselves in Indian history by exploring different ancient landmarks. For example we went to visit various Hindu temples, all of which were still in use. In the temples, we could witness people getting blessed by holy water and elephants, religious parades, group prayers, etc. Moreover, we got to learn so much about the Indian people by just walking through the cities. The first thing you would observe is the insane traffic and constant noise of the cars, motorbikes, buses and animals sharing the same road. You have vehicles that have to swerve out of the way to avoid hitting each other. Another thing you’ll observe is the street life. The streets are always packed with vendors selling everything one could need or desire. You’ll see one selling fruit and another one selling ankle bracelets. There was just always so much energy and life on the streets of India.
The five weeks I spent in India was truly a magical time for me. I have developed a strong connection with the country that will stay with me forever. Never will I forget the people I met and the experiences I lived. The volunteers I worked with were more than just travel companions, they became great friends and every Indian I met had something to teach me. It is safe to say that India changed me for the better. It gave me the chance to see things in a whole different light.
Contributed by Our Care volunteer - Mr Stephane McCARTIN | Canada
Dirty day for the month of August been held at Anbarasi Social Action located at Dindigul which is about 1.5 hours drive from Madurai.
Our previous Care volunteer - Mr Manuel Wamser who did his care project at Anbarasi Social Action bring us the request to paint the new buliding which has been constructed recently.Since the placement didn't have enough funds to do painting, Manuel brought the issue to Projects Abroad.
We felt happy for giving us the chance to support the placement.And Projects Abroad sponsored all the required materials and the expenses of the Volunteers. And the dirty weekend was planned to be on 28th of September 2011.
On 26-Sep-11, about 7 volunteers started from Madurai and the two volunteers at Anbarasi were staying there at Anbarasi.Projects Abroad staff - Ms Nadia Chellam assist the volunteers in reaching the place.We reached Anbarasi Social Action at about 9am in the morning.
The day was quite long with many walls to paint but our volunteers were really very hard working and completed all the painting work in that particular day itself.
Also our volunteer artisits drew some pictures on the wall which the children really appreciate.
Contributed by Ms Nadia Chellam - Social Manager | India
Ma troisième année de baccalauréat en droit derrière le dos, vient enfin la plannification des trois mois de vacances qui s’offrent à moi avant que je n’entame mon master en droit. Deux objectifs en tête : améliorer ma connaissance de la langue anglaise et découvrir un pays qui me fascine depuis si longtemps, l’Inde. Le stage en journalisme au sein du Madurai Messenger que propose Projects Abroad semblait être la solution idéale.
Le Madurai Messenger est une édition locale, dont les bureaux sont situés à Madurai comme son nom l’indique. Un magazine pas comme les autres, un magazine cosmopolite ! En effet, les articles sont exclusivement rédigés par des volontaires, sous la tutelle d’une équipe locale. Des articles forcement liés à la culture indienne que beaucoup de volontaires découvrent souvent pour la première fois. Ce choc des cultures donne donc à ce magazine une touche plus qu’intéressante. Les articles sont abordés d’une toute autre façon que s’ils avaient été écrits par des Indiens. Durant tout le processus de la rédaction de l’article, allant de l’interview jusqu’à l’avis de Nandini, l’éditrice, en passant par les contacts avec tout le staff du Madurai Messenger, les échanges sont très enrichissants.
Durant un mois passé dans cette équipe, j’ai eu l’occasion de rédiger deux articles. Le premier racontait comment une avocate indienne a réussi à vaincre la stigmatisation opérée vis-à-vis des femmes dans le milieu du droit, mais surtout comment elle parvient à combiner sa profession avec sa vie familiale, qui prime de facon absolue dans la culture indienne. Le deuxième portait sur la destinée des enfants handicapés en Inde, qui souvent sont laissés en marge de la société, avec une attention particulière sur la compagnie Teddy Exports. Celle-ci est à la fois un trust et permet de cette manière aux enfants handicapés du quartier de recevoir une éducation adaptée.
En plus de la rédaction de mes propres articles, j’ai pu accompagner d’autres volontaires lors d’interviews afin de prendre des photos et les aider à prendre des notes.
S’intéresser de cette façon à des sujets aussi diversifiés les uns que les autres m’a très certainement permis d’alimenter ma connaissance de la langue anglaise de nouveaux mots que je n’aurais pas appris dans d’autres contextes, mais cela m’a également donné l’occasion de visiter des endroits qu’on ne renseigne pas dans les guides touristiques (District Court de Madurai, Teddy Exports, Indian Colleges).
Un conseil pour les futurs volontaires : surtout ne pas hésiter à prendre des initiatives, sans quoi on vous laisserait bien flâner sur Internet toute la journée !
Contributed by Our Journalism Volunteer - Mr William GOUTARD | France
As per Hindu Mythology, it is believed that the god Ganesha is the beginner of all thing and he removes all the obstacle of our life. Hindu religion says that Ganesh is the son of Goddess Parvati and she created her first son Vinayaka out of clay and gave life. A story in Hindu mythology says that Goddess Parvati went to have her bath by asking her son Lord Ganesh to guard her at the door steps. At that time Lord Shiva returned, the child Ganesh who had never seen him before didn't allow Lord Shiva to enter inside.
At this moment Lord Shiva got angry and severed the head of the child. Goddess Parvati returned back after finishing her bath and saw that her son was killed by her husband. Devi begged Shiva to give him back alive. Lord Shiva accepted her obligation and searched for the head of any child, but he didn't find human kid head. Finally he got a head of a baby elephant and fixed it on the body of Vinayaka and gave re-birth to him. This is birth of lord Ganesha story.
Celebrations in India: The festival of Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated the states of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh and many other parts of India. In Tamilnadu, it is been celebrated in the name of Vinayakar Chaturthi. This festival is celebrated to thank lord Vigneshwara for giving wisdom, prosperity and auspiciousness in life. The Hindu mythology tells that Ganesh Chaturthi is the birth day of Lord Ganesh. This year Ganapathi festival is celebrated on September 1st 2011. Every year Vinayakar Chaturthi comes on the fourth day after new moon in the Hindu month of Bhadrapada. The festival is so popular that the preparations begin months in advance.
Ganesha statues installed in street corners and in homes, and elaborate arrangements are made for lighting, decoration, mirrors and the most common of flowers. Poojas (prayer services) are performed daily. The artists who make the idols of Ganesh compete with each other to make bigger and more magnificent and elegant idols. The relevantly larger ones are anything from 10 meters to 30 meters in height. These statues are then carried on decorated floats to be immersed in the sea after one, three, five, seven and ten days. Thousands of processions converge on the beaches to immerse the holy idols in the sea. This procession and immersion is accompanied by drum- beats, devotional songs and dancing.
With the immersion of the idol amidst the chanting of "Ganesh Maharaj Ki Jai!" (Hail Lord Ganesh). The festival ends with pleas to Ganesha to return the next year with chants of "Ganpati bappa morya, pudcha varshi laukar ya" (Hail Lord Ganesh, return again soon next year. In Tamil Nadu Vinayaka Chaturthi is celebrated as 1 day festival. Each day special prayers are performed by preparing Prasadam (food which is favorite to Ganesh)in all Hindu homes. It is also celebrated in the streets of Tamilnadu. Thousands of Vignesh idols are installed in various public places of Tamilnadu. At the end of the festival the idols are immersed in the large water bodies which are popularly called Ganesh Visarjan ceremony.
I took part in the journalism placement at the Madurai Messenger magazine in July 2011 for one month. The best part of this placement was that I was completely thrown in at the deep end! I was asked to do the cover story, and with only a little journalistic experience to my name, it was quite daunting at first. However, as my stay was a relatively short one this allowed me to get the most out of my placement and I appreciate a good challenge! I learnt many new skills that I know will be useful in the future. As well as improving my general communication skills, interviews were a great help to me as I need them for my university dissertation next year! Interviewing also gave me the opportunity to meet new people, unearth amazing aspects of their life and explore small, rural villages that I would never have seen otherwise. For example, whilst accompanying another volunteer to an interview, we met a woman who was a pioneering and influential figure in the field of Indian medicine and constructed a programme to give rural children adequate healthcare. I also developed skills I didn’t think I would be good at, such as photography and creating titles, photo-captions and lead-ins to articles! It is hard to find the words to sum up my first impressions of India – chaotic, intoxicating, enriching and sensuous are to name but a few. Amid the hustle bustle of the streets, and the many stares you get as a foreigner, I found there to be a peaceful slowness to the Indian people. At times this can be frustrating as we are used to working strictly by the clock in the West, but I soon adapted to the so-called ‘Indian Time’, and I soon found I quite liked it! In particular, I found the tailor market and the streets in and around the Meenakshi Temple to be the most fascinating of places. Muggy smells, teamed with soft aromas of the jasmine flowers sold by the street stalls and decorations in the women’s hair, sift through the air, as well as the sweet smell of cooking at surrounding vendors. Yes, you will get hassled, and cries of ‘Madam! Madam!’ will become common sounds as people will try their best to sell you ankle bracelets, jasmine flowers, bindis, scarves, toys, and anything else you can imagine in a vast array of vibrant colours. I found it at first to be overwhelming and at times exasperating as you tried to weave your way through the crowds, but after a while, embracing it and remaining calm, cool and relaxed is the best way to ensure that you enjoy it. My host family were one of the most welcoming and patient families I have ever met. Myself and some other volunteers arrived around ten o’clock at night and our host mother, Jeba, was standing at the front door ready to greet us with a giant smile. The family had two young children – Jesnitha who is five and Jeniss who is nine. I have fond memories of trying to teach Jeniss the board game, ‘Cluedo’, yet none of us had any idea and we just made the game up as we went along! I hope that he will learn the real rules one day – I’m sorry Jeniss! Jesnitha was our own personal wake-up call every morning, I found it amazing how much energy she had and how happy she was all the time. The father of the household, Kani, was a patient and kind man, who always made humorous remarks if we did something silly or he thought was funny. For example, one morning we had slept in slightly and Jeba came to wake us up and I got such a fright I screamed really loudly! Although, I only stayed a month, I really felt like part of the family after only a few days. I still laugh now, when I remember taking ‘language lessons’ with my French roommates, and I kept saying very stupid sentences in French that would make no sense and it kept us laughing all night. The family had a dog named Lucky, who I regret not taking for a walk. I love dogs, and he was the happiest dog I’ve ever met, I swear he was always smiling! His barking also made a good alarm, and also made for some sleepless nights, but I always knew I was safe with Lucky barking away at any dangerous chickens that happened to be wandering by! One of my most treasured memories was myself and my housemates being invited to dinner by a lovely lady who worked at one of the stalls at the tailor market. We bought so many beautiful scarfs from her almost every day and then on my last night we ate a delicious meal at her home. We sat on the floor in front of big banana leaves loaded with food. The amount seemed to be endless as we kept being topped up! I still have the red nail varnish on my toes that her mother insisted on painting! The warm hospitality and generosity I will honestly never forget. On my last day it was also my host mother’s birthday. We ordered a birthday cake with all our names on it and sang happy birthday whilst waiting for the taxi to arrive. These are my final memories of India, and I am so grateful to have met and lived amongst so many amazing people. Contributed by Ms Jennifer BYRES | Volunteer - United Kingdom
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