I have a vision... a hospital , a boarding/guest  house, a high school...

Bellur-© Dominik Ketz 2013-006
Bellur-© Dominik Ketz 2013-004

1st Visit to Bellur, 17. 12. 2004

Inauguration of the first and only Patanjali Temple

Why did they bring us here! Waste land, red earth, windswept grass and weeds, nothing to see but rocks, rocks everywhere, not even good to take a plough. I was part of a group of Iyengar Yoga students who had gathered in the village of Bellur, it was December 2004, after the Yog-Sadana in Honour of Geetas 60th birthday. We had sat for hours through the various phases and stages of the long pujas. We watched, sweating red faced in front of the ‘homa’ fire, the cleansing of the idol of Patanjali that marked the final stage in the establishment of the 1st only Patanjali Temple in Gurujis Home village of Bellur. Many of us had come because we were interested in Gurujij’s plans for his village, which we were supporting through the Trust (the Bellur Krishnamachar Seshama Smarak Niddhi Trust), it was a chance to be with Guruji on this auspicious occasion and to see the village for ourselves.

Finally it was all over, we were tired from the long puja’s, full of the rich feast given by Guruji to everyone.  We had wandered about the village meeting people and seeing the water tank and the new addition to the primary school. We were ready to climb on our busses and go back, anxious to be in time for our flights and trains. However no sooner were we on the road, we were diverted along a rough bumpy track. “You have to see this!” they told us. See what there was nothing to see. “Oh! its the 16 acres the trust has bought!” We peered out at the 16 acres of rocky landscape.

Rita: And Guruji said:
I have a vision... a hospital , a boarding/guest  house, a high school...


2nd Visit to Bellur, November 06

It is now November 2006, two years have past. Students from Pune, Bombay and all over India have come together on that same 16 acres of land. We had come to celebrate the work of the Trust. We have come to be with Guruji on the occasion of the opening of the new Ramamani Sunderaraja Iyengar Hospital.

In the two years that has past we could see a change that is phenomenal to the 16acres of land. The area has been transformed dramatically. The work that has gone into making it what it is now, is inspiring.

Where there had been a rocky waste, not even suitable for ploughing, now houses, a bustling high school attended by girls and boys from not only Bellur village, but also many other local surrounding villages; they study all the typical High school subjects such as maths, sciences, computers, geography, history etc., etc. However, these students are benefited in their studies in a very unique way. On the second floor of the high school is a large Yoga room where all the students attend weekly and take yoga classes. The school has been running for two years now and next year will see it running to its full capacity, it covers the grades of 8th, 9th and 10th (the year when all students sit the national exams). The response has been good; the students’ grades have improved. The students are happy and keen to further themselves. The trust is considering that they may need to establish an intermediate level college, where the students prepare for Tertiary education, universities and undergraduate colleges.

Adjacent to the right of the high school there is a newly built vast flat roofed structure. On one end is the kitchen that provides the schools midday meals. The remaining space is for cottage industries for the village, with a very large ground for space and a mezzanine floor for activities that do not require heavy machinery.

Behind the High school is the guest cottage and Trust office. At this time occupied by Guruji and his large extended family who have come to take part in the celebrations. Like Guruji they too have a love of the old village that gave birth to them or their parents and nurtured them in their youth. Many of the family members are also trustees.

On this occasson it was for the opening of the New Ramamani Sundararaja Iyengar Hospital that we had all come together. The ceremonies performed around the fires of the “homa”, under the charge of the tireless priests, who conducted the elaborate rituals that mark the opening of such ventures as the Cottage industries hall and the New hospital. The pujas began at seven in the evening and continued on until two in the morning, when it was deemed suitable to make a break for rest in the proceedings. The puja continued the next morning and was finally concluded shortly before midday.

Bellur-© Dominik Ketz 2013-010
Bellur-© Dominik Ketz 2013-012
Bellur-© Dominik Ketz 2013-018
Bellur-© Dominik Ketz 2013-015
Bellur-© Dominik Ketz 2013-016

The puja was attended in its entirety by Guruji himself, his immediate family of Prashant, Suchita and her husband Shridar, Vanita and her husband Shridar and very his Son-in-law, Raghu and Daughter Savita.

Guruji, though we all know is unique and one alone, his presence is everywhere at all times. He is present to welcome each of his relatives, and kindly acknowledges each of his students as they arrive from all over India, sitting with all hearing their news, seeing that all are accommodated and well fed. In the morning of the 1st day he is sitting having breakfast with everyone and then seeing to the preparations of the ceremonies. Talking to the various village and district authorities, smoothing over small arguments that threaten the smooth running of the programme, looking into the details that need looking into and again sitting with everyone for the midday meal, then more meetings and discussions. In the early evening Guruji is sitting and partaking in the pujas that go on all night and into the early hours of the morning. For hours the priests are reciting the appropriate recommendations to the multitudes of deities that are regarded to be present on these occasions. Very early the next morning the Pujas resume, the fires continue to be presided over by the priests, chanted to implored to bring great benefit to all in the name of the hospital. Along with all the observed actions to bring boon, including a led circumambulation of two (reluctant) cows, there is the unflagging bright presence of Guruji. By midday the pujas are finally complete. A break and it is lunch time, another sumptuous South Indian feast, generously provided personally by Guruji to thousands, all of us who have come for the occasion, all the various visiting dignitaries and their assisting retinues and not forgetting a single villager who may wish to join. Seemingly without a break Guruji is present at the ribboned door of the Hospital building to chat with his special invited dignitaries and politicians who are to officially open the Hospital. Not more than ten minutes after the completion of ribbon cutting and inspection. Guruji is in the large Hall for the speeches and bestowing of garlands, shawls and coconuts that always accompany an event such as this in India. Then after all have given their speeches Guruji himself takes to the dais and delivers a talk to the assembled crowd. The man was tireless, patient, welcoming, generous, indefatigable and undefeatable. His stamina on this occasion far greater than ours. His energy, his love, his desire that the people of his hometown should have better that what they have received in life is clearly shown in his unfailing devotion to the work he has undertaken.

Gurujis son-in-law and daughter; Raghu and Savita together have been responsible in overseeing the construction of all these buildings in little under two years. Not only the construction but also their proper fitting, painting, to the necessary electrical and water supply. They have organised for there to be flowering gardens and fresh green lawns surrounding these constructions. They have seen to the paving and fencing, in the entrance of the hospital there is a fountain with water burbling and gushing over rocks bathing a host of idols seated in amongst the rocks. The 16 acres has been transformed from a state bleary and barren to a beautiful oasis.

I had some idea that the hospital would be a small “day-clinic” where a doctor would come perhaps a few days a week from Bangalore and attend to a few of the cases from the village. But, there is in Ramamaninagar (the name given to the 16 acres) a fully equipped hospital with operating theatre, accident and trauma clinics, reception, overnight wards and doctors consulting rooms. It has a beautiful entrance with the water fountain and a welcoming reception desk. It has a ramp to transport patients in the future to the upper level, as yet un-constructed. But for now, the first floor is a complete and functioning.

Some great news that Guruji has received was to hear that all newly trained doctors now have to do part of their internship in a rural hospital. In this district so far, there is only one hospital, in Kolar, 20 miles away, where they can do this. Now there are two! This means that there will be no shortage of staff for the facility. As from the 6th December the Hospital will have 24hr medical coverage. Two Medical Officers, a midwife and nurse will be staffing the hospital. Any required surgery will be performed by two visiting surgeons from Bangalore and Kolar Hospital.

To the left of the high school one can see the foundation work of what will be the staff quarters for the doctors and nurses of the newly opened hospital. The Kolar hospital has indicated to the Trust that they are keen to see a college of nursing established. Soon to be erected around the entire complex at Ramamaninagar will be a compound wall, running along aprox 3,000feet in length.

When finally we left for Bangalore it felt like we had been in Bellur for two weeks, not just two days. The occasion was full and rich, the Hospital was open and now its services available for those who need it. We spent two days in Bangalore, we were given the opportunity to join Guruji on the occasion of the opening of a new Ganesh temple, again Guruji was ever present, he was the special Honoured guest. Along side him again were his family. Savita and Raghu overseeing the temple inauguration ceremonies provided us all with breakfasts and valuable guidance’s in the art of shopping in Bangalore. We all accepted the blessings of the temple of the Elephant headed God and finally on Sunday, around midday; Devki, Manoj Naik, Rajlaksmi, Nandu, Sindu and myself said goodbye to our helpful friend Ian, and our very gracious host, Guruji, and took our flights back to Pune.

Bellur-© Dominik Ketz 2013-025
Bellur-© Dominik Ketz 2013-023

Fotos: Dominik Ketz