Open Day 15 March 2016

Posted on April 14, 2016 by Damayanti Young No Comments

It was a bright sunny day in Dol-Gobindapur, the future location for the school building which will host the Golden Avatar school. A temporary construction of bamboo and canvas had been erected, to shelter the patrons of the event from the hot tropical sun. Pictures which had been drawn and painted by the students festively decorated the tented area, which was adorned with festoons and coloured drapes in a simple yet splendidly attractive manner. 

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Over a hundred international guests, mostly pilgrims who had come for the Gaura­-purnima Festival (coinciding with the Festival of Colours), were transported to the semi-rural spot by electric rick-shaws along a series of ponds which once formed the path of the sacred Ganges river. She has since shifted her course.

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Many onlookers gathered with curiosity as they witnessed the novelty of the foreign guests arriving. On approaching the site, the guests were welcomed by the sweet chiming of hand-symbols and rhythmic pulsation of the traditional Bengali mridanga drum (also known as khol). These instruments, being played by the children, were accompanied by the chorus of their sweet voices, uttering sacred chants assuring the auspiciousness of the occasion.

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Once the guests had settled, the children began their presentation, which was richly flavoured with the spiritual culture of the region. First up were the girls, who set their simple folk-fusion style dance to the tunes of a traditional Bengali song “Mama mana mandire—In the temple of my heart”. Next were the boys, who presented their drumming skills on the mridangas with much finesse and enthusiasm. The next feature was a drama based on teachings from the sacred text, the Bhagavad-gita, presenting the entrapment of the mind and senses by the various impulses of nature. A somewhat lofty idea, but I must say that they did an excellent job given the challenge of the piece.

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Some of the senior guests were invited to speak and share their guidance and insights, and Dalia was also called on to speak about some of the challenges the school is facing in trying to give an education to children with such impoverished backgrounds.

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Soon after, the guest of honour arrived. He was Srila Bhakti-vijnan Bharati Maharaj, one of the most senior living teachers and representatives of the Gaudiya-vaishnava tradition—a spiritual tradition which has its historical roots in the Nabadwip region. As he had to travel a considerable distance to get to the site, it was a pleasant surprise and a great honour for us when he confirmed his attendance just the day before. He brought with him an entourage of devotees and together they all uplifted the atmosphere. Everyone was joyful. Maharaj, once seated, gave an encouraging and insightful discourse about the real meaning of education. The gist of his talk is that education which relates to transient economic and bodily needs is not true education; real education relates to the self, to one’s essential and lasting happiness. This education is truly enlightening. The fruit of true education, Maharaj explained, is humility.

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At the end of the program, a delicious feast of traditional Bengali preparations was served, including pushpanna (Bengali fried rice), paneer-pasinda (crispy paneer cheese and relish fritters), doi-portol (pointed gourd in yoghurt sauce), ichor-torkadi (unripe jackfruit curry), aam-chutni (green mango chutney), papadams and finally for dessert, fresh hot pantua (fried paneer balls in rose syrup).

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