SAIIER 2014:Savitri Bhavan

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Savitri Study Circle
Savitri Bhavan



The activities of Savitri Bhavan, which are open to the general interested public and aim to foster a living sense of Human Unity through research and education based on the vision and teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, continued uninterrupted throughout the year, with 10 regular weekly classes as well as frequent special events, all of which registered increased attendance this year.

Some highlights of the year included:

The fourth annual Dr. M.V. Nadkarni Memorial Lecture

This event was held on August 15th and attended by an audience of over 200 people, including Mrs. Nadkarni, the widow of the great scholar. This year the lecture was given by Shraddhavan, project coordinator of Savitri Bhavan, on the topic "The Traveller and the Worlds: Part One of Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri". This talk was based on original research carried out at Savitri Bhavan. A video film was made of the occasion, to be made available for public distribution in 2014; and the full text of the talk was published in the November 2013 issue of the Bhavan’s journal Invocation – Study Notes on Savitri. (See separate report: "The Traveller and the Worlds: Part One of Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri".)

A first residential study camp on Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri

This was attended by 12 participants, who stayed in the Savitri Hostel (opened September 2012). The camp was held from 23-30 August 2013 and focussed on Canto Four of Book One of Savitri, ‘The Secret Knowledge’. This canto can be taken as an introductory statement of the Vedantic knowledge which underlies Sri Aurobindo’s revelatory epic. Two guided study sessions were held each morning, and in the afternoons and evenings participants were offered a wide variety of study materials including documentation, audio and video recordings and films, in which to immerse themselves individually or as a group. This was the first time that it has been possible to offer a residential course thanks to the facilities provided by the Hostel. The experience was enthusiastically received by the participants, and further similar events are planned.

"Our Gratitude" première

To celebrate the Centenary a musical offering was composed by Mme. Shobha Mitra, head of the Ashram’s music department. It was to be performed by over 200 singers in the Ashram Playground on the evening of March 30, 2014, but in the morning of the same day, the composer arranged for 20 of her singers to perform the piece for the first time in the Amphitheatre of Savitri Bhavan. The programme, which was attended by about 200 listeners, lasted about 40 minutes and closed with a recording of the Mother giving a moving message to all her children. The text of this message, in the original French and an English translation was distributed as a memento of the occasion.

Launching of Savitri Bhavan website

On November 24, 2013, the 19th anniversary of the launching of the Auroville Savitri Study Circle out of whose activities the whole Savitri Bhavan campus has emerged, a new step forward in the Bhavan’s Outreach programme was initiated with the launching of savitribhavan.org. This new organ of communication is enabling the team to share more easily with students around the world some of the learning materials and study aids developed at the Bhavan. A young Indian volunteer created the site and uploaded the first information and study materials.

Tamil activities

Two regular classes of Savitri study are offered in Tamil every week, one for adults at Savitri Bhavan and one for children at Arulvazhi School. On November 16, 2013, a special programme was organised at Savitri Bhavan for the children of Arulvazhi School. On February 22, 2014 the adult students of the weekly Savitri class in Tamil at Savitri Bhavan offered a programme of recitations entitled ‘Guru-stotram and lines from Savitri’, as part of the celebrations around the Centenary of the Mother’s first arrival in Pondicherry. On June 23, 2013, an orientation programme was organised for devotees from the Mother and Sri Aurobindo Centre, Karaikudi, Tamil Nadu.

Research

Original research forms the foundation of all the activities of Savitri Bhavan, providing learning materials and study aids to assist people interested in gaining a deeper insight into the vision and teachings of Sri Aurobindo, supporting the various classes and courses offered by the Bhavan, and assisting the team to respond to reference queries received from all over the world. In 2013-14 eight research projects were underway.

One which stands out as especially worthy of attention is the major study which has been undertaken by Muriel over the past 4 years on Sri Aurobindo’s book The Human Cycle with the intention of making this important work of Sri Aurobindo very interesting and accessible to teenagers and young adults. This year her study reached a certain stage of completion with the production of a guide to the book in the form of a PowerPoint presentation covering all the chapters in detail. This was shared with a sample group of students in daily sessions from September 2013 to March 2014. The students’ responses were highly appreciative, and one of them, a teacher from Germany, has undertaken to translate the whole presentation into German to share with her students there. (See separate report: The Human Cycle - A Student/Teacher Guide.)

Another unusual project was undertaken by visiting researcher and story-teller Ms. Paula Murphy from the USA. During a three month stay from December 2013 to March 2014 she identified allusions to ancient Greek mythology used by Sri Aurobindo in Savitri. She then referred to standard reference works to research the myths behind the allusions, and selected some of them as the basis for three sessions of story-telling, which were well attended and enthusiastically received. At the end of the last session there was a lively discussion amongst the audience on the relevance and value of myth in the development of consciousness. These sessions were recorded. (See separate report: Greek Mythology in Sri Aurobindo's Writings.)

An exhibition titled "Glimpses of the Mother’s Life" was researched and prepared at Savitri Bhavan to celebrate the Centenary of the Mother’s first arrival in Pondicherry and first meeting with Sri Aurobindo on March 29, 1914. The 54 panels of photos and text were on display at Savitri Bhavan throughout February and March. (See separate report: "Glimpses of The Mother")

For reports on other projects see:

Sustainability of the built environment

Electricity: The installation by Auroville unit Sunlit Future in March 2013 of a solar system to power the fans, lights and other appliances in use in the First Phase building, which currently houses the Reading Room and Digital Library, resulted not only in uninterrupted power supply throughout the year for all the activities held in that building, but also a halving of the electricity bill for the entire campus. This encourages us to envisage increasing facilities for solar supply to cover the Hostel and the Main Building, as soon as this becomes feasible.

Water: throughout 2013-14 the gardens have been watered solely with re-cycled water pumped from the extended ‘root zone’ treatment plant, which purifies all the water used in the buildings for re-use in the gardens.

Visits

  • Special OM Choir sessions led by Narad were held on October 12, 2013 and March 6, 2014 for 30 pupils of the J.B. Petit High School, Mumbai.
  • On August 6, 2013 the Consul General of Thailand in Chennai visited Savitri Bhavan as part of a tour of Auroville, bringing with him the Abbot of the Thai monastery at Bodh Gaya, who is the head of all Thai temples and monasteries in India and Nepal.
  • On August 11, 2013 the family of Gujarati artist Shiv Kumar Paliya visited the exhibition of his paintings inspired by Savitri which was then on display.
  • The family of George Nakashima, distinguished wood craftsman and architect who lived and worked in the Ashram on their famous ‘Golconde’ building in the 1930s, visited Auroville in February 2014 for the inauguration of the Peace Hall built at the Unity Pavilion to house the Peace Table for Asia, crafted by him and presented to Auroville; they also visited Savitri Bhavan and spent a morning touring the premises.

Apart from these visits it is also worth mentioning the 3 months spent in Auroville by Ms. Emily Kilburn, a post-graduate student of Oxford University in the UK. She had come to further her research into the Integral Yoga psychology and philosophy of Sri Aurobindo, and made Savitri Bhavan her base during her stay. In addition to attending many of the courses and using the study resources of the Bhavan, she also initiated a series of weekly gatherings where Aurovilians and Newcomers shared their experiences and understandings of Sri Aurobindo’s teachings. Ms. Kilburn recorded these proceedings to provide material for her doctoral thesis.

Other special events

  • Six exhibitions
  • Three musical offerings
  • A mime performance
  • Forty-seven film shows
  • Eight orientation sessions for groups of visiting students
  • Six orientation programmes for newcomers to Auroville organised by the Auroville Entry Service
  • Five visits of architecture students guided by Sonali (1 visit) and Lalit (4 visits)
  • Thirty workshops of various kinds led by Aurovilians