Caring for India’s Sacred Cows at Lakshmigrama
India has about 30 different varieties of cows which, for a country of India’s size, is a modest number. Native to India are Kangayam, Gir, Red Sindhi, Sahiwal, Vechur, Deoni, Hariyana, and Ongole breeds, to name a few. At Punarnava Ayurveda Trust we have built Lakshmigrama, the go-shala, (cow shelter) and are taking care of several of our native species, for instance Kangayam, Vechur, Red Sindhi and Sahiwal breeds.
To identify the various breeds of Indian cows, we look at differences in parts of the cow’s anatomy; for instance, we can see distinctions in the hump, the horns, the skin under the neck etc. The quality of milk that these cows bless us with in India is the most suitable for human consumption; it is A2 milk. The Panchagavya medicines are made only from the products of Indian cows. Cow dung (gomaya) and cow urine (gomutra) derived from Indian bred cows is most effective for use in agriculture. Cow dung is mixed with water and applied to the front of houses every day, acting as a disinfectant. Dried cow dung mixed with herbs is burnt to ward of mosquitoes and other insects, and dried cow dung is used as fuel at Vaidyagrama, as well as a fertiliser in the fields. Thus the cow plays an important role is protecting and nourishing our environment and it is therefore a welcome duty to protect the cows.
Lord Krishna grew up as a cow herd, and was always seen in the company of cows. He is known as Govinda, and Gopala, which means protector of cows. Hindus believe that Goddess Mahalakshmi resides in the rear part of the cow.
At Lakshmigrama, we have three Red Sindhi cows. They were brought to us by their owner. He left them with us, saying there was no water or fodder on his farm land; hence he was obliged to sell them. Since the native breeds of cows are facing extinction, at Vaidyagrama we feel it is our duty to protect them. We are now committed to purchasing the cows at the cost of Rs 270,000/- (USD415). Until such time as we can raise the money, the owner has allowed us to keep the cows at Lakshmigrama. In this way, they will remain healthy and safe.
We seek your support to pay the farmer, so that the cows can stay with us permanently. According to Hindu tradition, donating a cow and calf in one’s life time (Go-dānam) is a
sacred duty. The Sāstras recommend the performance of a minimum of 10 Go-dānams during one's life-time, followed by 3 Go-dānams by the family after an individual's demise. Go-dānams have been prescribed for many other occasions also.
The cost of maintaining the 30 cows/bulls is very high, and the Trust is unable to maintain them without support. One can adopt a cow by donating funds to cover their sustenance for a year. The cost of feeding a cow per day is Rs 65/- ( USD 1), One month ( USD 30) and one year (USD 365)
Narayaneeyam. A healing prayer for all mankind
A healing prayer for all mankind, gifted by Shri Melpathur Narayana Bhattathiri in the form of Narayaneeyam, was recited at Vaidyagrama on Feb 27th, 2017.
The divine ladies from Coimbatore poured their hearts out in prayer for the welfare of all the patients and staff at Vaidyagrama.
Consecration anniversary of Dhanwantari Temple
The Dhanwantari temple was consecrated on May 2nd, 2015. This year is therefore the second year anniversary of the consecration and we plan to celebrate the anniversary, (on May 9th) as a community event. We have arranged a reading of the Bhagavatam by a group of ladies from Palakkad, Kerala, from May 3rd to 9th, 2017. On the 9th May 2017 we have arranged a puja, homam, panchavadyam (a confluence of 5 musical instruments, which is indeed a treat) and a grand lunch for the villagers, who are invited to join in with us on all the 7 days.
Annual summer camp for local children
The fourth annual summer camp is scheduled for May 1st through 10th, 2017 at Balagrama. This year we have selected 6 values which will form the theme of the camp; Care and Compassion, Discipline, Team Spirit, Surrender, Self Sustenance, Connection with the Environment and Society. We also plan to teach the children some of the traditional games played in previous generations in the area. The children will also be taking part in the community activities of the Trust. A full programme!
Vaidya sangamam: meeting of the Ayurveda doctors
A Vaidya sangamam, a special seminar on Ayurveda for the doctors, was held at Vaidyagrama. The special guest was Dr K V Ramankutty Warrier and discussions centred on the different yogas in Ashtanga Hridayam. Dr Warrier shared his clinical experience with the doctors. It was an enriching experience for all.
Every day food is being distributed to the old and needy members of the community. In addition, Annam beneficiaries are receiving regular medical care. Each month, during the medical camp on the first Saturday, we arrange consultations for all the beneficiaries of daily meal.
Sivaratri. Bowing to the shiva tattva within us.
On 24 February 2017, a special puja was arranged at Vaidaygrama to mark the Shivaratri festival. Shri Gnanasambandam Gurukkal performed Abhishekam for Narmadeswar, the Sivalinga at Brahmakamalam at Vaidyagrama. This puja, where Lord Shiva is worshiped in his ‘Rudra’ form, is hailed by all Vedic scriptures as one of the greatest pujas to remove all evils, to attain all desires and for all round prosperity.
Abhishekam is the ritual bathing of the idol, amidst chanting of shlokas in a very pious and charged atmosphere. The devotees join in the puja by bathing the idol with water, milk, honey, turmeric, curd, sandal paste, annam, panchamritham (a mixture of five foods used in Hindu worship; usually honey, sugar, milk, yogurt and ghee)
Pongal harvest festival of thanks
Pongal, the annual harvest festival of Tamil Nadu, is celebrated every year on 15th Jan 2017. On this day, we pray to the Sun God for giving us light and heat, bow down to the cows and bulls for giving us milk, cow dung, cow urine, and also for helping the farmer to plough the land. The farmer is also thanked for helping grow the food for the mankind.
Swiss nursing students visit Vaidyagrama
Every year for one month, the PSG College of Nursing, at Coimbatore hosts nursing students from Switzerland for a study exchange program. The students visited various hospitals to understand what holistic treatment options are available in India. These students visited Vaidyagrama to learn about Ayurveda treatments, our community living initiatives, the go-shala, the senior residences etc.
Alliance University MBA students study Vaidyagrama’s management model
Eight students from Alliance University MBA program visited Vaidyagrama to study the unique model of management.
They interviewed staff members belonging to different categories such as doctors, managers, housekeeping, garden staff, kitchen staff etc.
They also interacted with patients to understand their views on Vaidyagrama. The students were also briefed about all the community initiatives we have been nurturing over the past 4 years.
Nehru College National Social Service students study Punarnava local Initiatives
Seventy-five National Social Service students from Nehru College of Arts and Science, Kaliapuram, Coimbatore, stayed at Agraharam from March 1st, 2017 for 5 days to study the local community initiatives being undertaken by Punarnava Trust. They also took part in a rally to raise awareness amongst the villagers about the need to conserve rain water.
In addition, the students helped to clean the river bed of a deadly plant called Seema Karuvelam. The river is dry at the moment, due to lack of rain. The students and their teachers got into the river bed and used a JCB to clean the site of the toxic trees. The biological name of this plant is Acacia Nilotica or Acacia Arabica. It is a potentially toxic plant, which harms the environment by removing the water content from the soil and thus inhibiting the growth of useful plants
The community lunch at Rottigoundanur every month (on the first Saturday) is welcomed by the villagers. They also look forward to receiving Ayurveda medicines at the Ayurveda medical camp. In fact, it is so popular that the villagers from the next village, Kaliapuram, approached us to conduct an Ayurveda medical camp and community lunch at their village. They enthusiastically agreed to cook the food themselves. This is indeed a breakthrough for us! Our vision is to create a community kitchen in each village where the old and the destitute in the community are provided with food by the younger members.
Nehru College NSS (National Social Service) student volunteers took part in the community lunches, served to villagers on March 4th, 2017 alongside Punarnava Trust.
Punarnava Trust is growing vegetables in its gardens for use in all community meal programs of the Trust’s operations as well as in Vaidyagrama. Almost all of the gourd varieties of vegetables used for patients meals are grown in the Trust gardens. Some of the other vegetables deemed unsuitable for the patients, such as eggplant, are used in the staff kitchen. At Balagrama, drip irrigation is used for watering the plants. We plan to bring some puppies to a newly built kennel for the children to play with, and also plan to rear some cows so that the children will have enough milk to drink.
Agraharam Community living for staff at Vaidyagrama
To accommodate the delegates during the conference of December 2015, Agraharam homes were built using bamboo. Now these semi permanent structures are getting a facelift and the bamboo outer walls are being replaced by mud blocks. At present staff families and therapy students are staying there. Once the repair work is completed, all the houses will be occupied, becoming a thriving community in harmony with children of Balagrama.
Punarnava Trust Shop
As a means of funding Trust activities, we have opened a shop at Vaidyagrama! The profits from sales are used for funding our activities. We sell products manufactured by self help groups in the villages including felt shoes, caps, rugs from Assam, Agarabathis and rudraksh from Rishikesh, herbal soaps from villages in Cochin etc. All these products are specially chosen on the basis of providing benefit to groups of women.
Auera living residences for seniors
We have received very good response for the membership of Auera Living, the community living programme for senior citizen. The house construction is underway and members are expected to occupy the houses in 2018. All share the vision and values of Punarnava Trust and are interested in working in the local community for the benefit of those less fortunate in the society.
Sarpabali. Paying homage to the snakes
Every year on January 20th, Vaidaygrama celebrates Sarpabali, a day when we pay our obeisance to snakes, whose lands we have taken over for our living. The homam and puja, performed by Shri Pathirikunnath Krishnan Namboodiri,was breathtaking. The atmosphere was charged with prayers and energy from over 250 lamps lit around the homam area.
New Graduates of Punarnava Therapy Training
Punarnava Ayurveda Institute conducted two courses this year, AYS 008, Certificate course in Ayurveda and Panchakarma and AYS 018, a one year Diploma in Ayurveda and Panchakarma. We had one student, Ms Sladana Syamanandini, who completed the 6 month course and Ganesh and Vinitha who did the one year diploma.
Balagrama to welcome 15 boys in the next academic year
Balagrama, the children’s village, is gearing up to welcome its first intake of children in the next academic year beginning June 2017. Fifteen boys from the nearby villages have been selected. They will be staying in Balagrama from June 1st, 2017.
On weekends, they may be allowed to join their families when important functions at home or in the village occur; this way the children will retain their place in their community as well. They will be attending their regular schools, and will have vocational training in various trades such as carpentry, electrics, plumbing, in addition to Sanskrit, Yoga, meditation etc.
The kitchen is the heart of Balagrama!
Construction of the heart of Balagrama, the kitchen, is now underway and is scheduled for completion by end of April, 2017. This means the Summer Camp will be catered for from the new Balagrama kitchen building. We are looking forward to preparing meals for the children in the Trust’s own kitchen. The cost of construction is Rs 18,000,000 or USD 28,000. Many of our friends supported us in this mission.
We are praying that the global community will indeed make sure that the next generation is well cared for at Balagrama!
Infectious diseases awareness and prevention
Punarnava Trust has taken on the responsibility, together with NSS College, of spreading themessageofinfectiousdiseaseprevention. Conditionssuchasdenguefeverandmalaria in particular are targeted by administering ‘bitter medicine’ to the children. The relevant Kashayam, called Nilavembu , is a natural preventive medicine for dengue.
Patients from far and wide enjoy their healing time at Vaidyagrama!
Every year, hundreds of patients from India and the world over arrive at Vaidyagrama for treatment. Most of them stay for 3 weeks, sufficient time to naturally bond with one another. While undergoing their treatment during the morning hours, they interact with their vaidyas, read the wonderful books in the library, attend lectures and Satsangs and enjoy the weekly group dinners. The morning and evening pujas are very popular with the patients. Most of them become familiar with the Vishnu and Lalitha Sahasranamams by the time they leave after 3 weeks.
Satsangs by patients for patients!
Jaisri Lambert ji is an Ayurveda practioner residing in Vancouver, Canada and Vanessa Gheorghiu ji is from France.
Vaidyagrama is very fortunate to have the presence of great lovers of Ayurveda like Jaisri Lambertji and Vanessa Gheorghiuji staying with us from time to time. Jaisri ji gave a satsang about Tongue Diagnosis, sharing her wisdom and experience with the audience consisting mostly of patients, while Vanessa ji conducted a class on Glorious Food, which was very much appreciated by all the patients.
Meditation by all Staff
Change is the only constant, as we all know.
For this reason, Vaidyagrama is always evolving! The staff members of Vaidyagrama are enthusiastically practising meditation every day after their meeting at 2.15pm.
We are sure this positive reinforcment will help the staff cope with the stress that is naturally part of their very valuable work at Vaidyagrama.
Anyone who has passed by the landscape of Vaidyagrama will know that the lands and the horizon, surrounded by the western ghats on one side and the hills of Kerala on the other, are so beautiful that one can’t help but catch one’s breath!
Cookery Corner: Wheat Vermicelli Upma
Vermicelli (Wheat) 1 Packet
Onion- 1- cut in small pieces
Ginger- 1⁄2 inch piece cut in small pieces
Mustard seeds – 2 teaspoons
Coriander leaves- 2 tablespoons
Udid Dal- 2 teaspoons
Asafoetida- 2 pinches
Coconut oil-2 table spoon
Scrapped coconut- Half cup.
Salt to taste
Wash the vermicelli in a metal colander under the running water and set it aside to dry. Make a water bath in an open pot. When the water boils, place the colander on the pot, cover the colander with a lid and steam the vermicelli for 5 minutes.
Keep the pan on the lighted gas. Add two tablespoon oil. When the oil is heated add the mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds splutter, add curry leaves, udid dal, asafoetida, ginger and fry them gently but well. Add the grated coconut and fry for 2 minutes. Add the steamed vermicelli and mix well. Add salt to taste. Add coriander leaves and scrapped coconut to the mixture to garnish and serve.