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Opening of Greenland Ashram in Tiruvannamalai, Honoring Sai Baba

September 7, 2014

We were invited to a pooja on 29 August 2014 for the opening of Greenland Ashram. The founders, Kiran and Philippe, used to live in the other side of the duplex we presently live in. After not talking to Kiran for at least one year, Carol called her to say hello on the 28th. It turned out that her pooja was being held the next morning. Kiran told Carol that the pooja started at 4 AM, but that we could come by about 8 for breakfast and to see the place.

We knew that they had bought some property and planned to build on it, but we had no idea of what they had planned. It was just grace that we found out about this pooja, and we wanted to go see what they had built. When they started out, this ashram was not their plan. It evolved in their minds during the last four years. They bought the land in September 2011, took two and half years to settle the papers and preparation of the construction. They first started building a small house (where they live now) in May 2013.

We headed west on Bangalore Road, about 4 KM past the Sparsa road, and turned right. There was a sign on the right on Bangalore Road, “Greenland.” After a bit we came to a village, and at the start of it there is a road and another Greenland sign, pointing to the right (shown below).

 

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Another bit of a drive, then a sign points left, “Welcome to Greenland.”

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Below is a map I generated from Google Earth that shows their location. It is west of Tiruvannamalai, in a quiet place near a small village. There are a couple of other ashrams that we passed by on the way here today. I think many of these are places where you can come and stay and have a quiet time near Arunachala. Each operates under its own rules, so what you can do at one place, you may not be able to do at the next, so if you are interested in staying in a place like this, check out the ashram rules first.

A young man in the village is trying to change the name of the road to “Sri Sathya Sai Road,” and this is what shows on Google Maps now. I think the man was stimulated to act by this new ashram, dedicated to Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Philippe got to name the road to his ashram, so named it, “Enlightenment Road.”

Greenland Ashram

The ashram is near to this twin-peaked hill that you can see to the northwest of Arunachala. Anyone know its name?

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We approach the ashram, and see that it is a big compound, with a brick wall on the front side.

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Here is their sign. I think they were the first in this area, and they got to name it. So they are in Sathya Sai Nagar.

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The gateway is decorated for today’s event. Through the gate is a much bigger development than I had ever imagined!

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Looking from the gateway, we see that it was built facing Arunachala.

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Inside the gate is Ganesha.

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Soon Nandi will be in place, facing Siva-Arunachala.

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The next thing you see is the main meditation hall, still under construction. There is still much work going on, but they say that the key things will all be done within a few weeks.

In this hall, “Eashwaramma Hall”, there will be three big pictures: Sathya Sai Baba, Ramana Maharshi, and Shiva Jyoti Munna Siddhar. The structure of the roof is planned to be with iron rafters and beam, for the roof will be either tiles or coconut leaves and sambo grass.

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Inside the meditation hall. This will be a nice big space. It faces Arunachala.

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Two of the cottages.

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One cottage is almost ready for occupancy.

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Its doorway is decorated for today’s event. Above each doorway is a circle symbol. I don’t know the meaning of this, but I bet there is one.

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The front room. Notice the cute fan, and the stonework on the lower part of the walls. All through the place you see much attention to detail.

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The sleeping room with two single beds. They will have mattresses, etc.

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The bath and dressing room. It has nicer storage area than the place we live in!

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Looking to the front of the cottage. Notice the nice details on the windows, and the niches.

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We walk to the site of today’s event. This will be the residence for Kiran and Philippe when construction is totally complete.

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It is decorated for the pooja.

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As soon as we arrived there was a commotion outside.

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A swami was blessing the people here. He is Sri Siva Jothi Mona Siddhar. He was “discovered” accidently by Kiran and Philippe, guided by Philippe’s mother, while they were driving around.

Here is what Philippe told me about the swami:

“Shiva Jyoti Munna Siddhar Swamy had a normal life, but nothing was working for him. At some point he committed himself to end his life by jumping off a high cliff on a mountain hill. When he was about to jump, a sadhu coming from the temple top, called him; ‘Hey you, come here and sleep with me in the temple!’ Forgetting his intention, he slept with the swamy just to wake up in the middle of the night alone. The sadhu was nowhere to be found. That’s how his spiritual journey started.

He wandered as a sadhu for many years, in Himalayas and South India. He suffered many times from starvation and always asked the divine mother to come and feed him.

After many years of hard penance, he isolated himself from the world and meditated for 6 months in a cave. There people start to come and ask him for blessings. Coming out of his sadhana, he created, with the help of some devotees, his ashram near Sethavarai, off Vettavalam Road. There he received daily people burdened with problems and difficulties. He blesses them, takes away their karma, heals them, heals their soul, and frees them from their problems. He heals cancer or dangerous diseases. He even brought  a small children back to life. He receives people in his ashram all day long privately.”

Shiva Jyoti Munna Siddhar will sometimes stay at Greenland. Most of the time he is in his own ashram. Here is information for  it:

Sri Siva Jothi Mona Siddhar Dharma Paribalana Trust
Sethavarai, Nallan Pillai Petral Village and Post
Ginjee Tk, Villupuram District, Tamil Nadu
Landline (0)4145-295514

I think he has been performing this morning’s pooja.

He blesses children.

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Families come up to honor him and ask for his blessing.

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Before he left today he had some words with Philippe’s mother, Martine, who was here for this event, along with her husband (Philippe’s father), Rene-Charles Millet. They were here from France.

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Indian people watching the goings on.

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The family with the swami. Kiran is on the right and Rene-Charles Millet is standing in blue next to her.

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Arunachala from the front porch of the building.

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Remnants of the morning’s pooja and fire offering.

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Ganesha (and Ramana), to whom the pooja was offered.

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As an example of the nice detailing, here is a niche with a Ganesha in it, decorated for today’s event.

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Then from the front of the ashram drums started to sound.

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It is a procession for the pandit, Ilavarasar Ashok Gurukal, from the Arunachaleswara temple in Tiruvannamalai, come to bless the opening of this ashram. 

Here is a video (and audio) of the procession. Indian know how to do these things with a certain sense of drama and style.

http://youtu.be/5Uu03mgwkhg

 

Then the presentation of Annamalai and Unnamalai to Philippe.

http://youtu.be/nCD1l0BvKMI

 

Philippe receives the gift.

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As is often the case with the posts on this blog, there are stories within stories. A big story is the way in which the ashram was built, using traditional techniques and materials when they could. The walls are finished with mud, the traditional treatment. They say this lasts better than the concrete. Natural, unshaped stone is used where possible, all originating on this land. The workmen had to be trained for all of this. Even though they were using traditional approaches, this does not mean that builders today know how to do this kind of work.

Philippe says:

“By this type of project and construction we hoped to show that old techniques in a village surrounding is not at all a backward way of life, but for a meaningful living aware of the area and climate we live in and conscious of the inner force that drive us all to the divine union.

Greenland as some say, was a name use in Europe to talk about a new Earth, the idea of conscious living and devotion to the One. Well we hope certainly to work in this direction: with Arunachala’s omnipresence how could it be different?

Greenland is open to all seekers of truth from all walks of life and religions or creeds. Starting with a quality accommodation, we wanted to offer a place for sadhakas, pilgrims, travelers, seekers and others to reflect on the inner self and discover the goal of life. Away from the mundane and noisy city life, Greenland will follow the traditional rules and code of conduct of an ashram in India, with the image of traditional hermitage in Vedic times.

This place is open to groups and individuals for satsangs, meditation, yoga etc. We can accommodate comfortably 16 persons, with extra beds we can reach 29. A canteen will serve a good vegetarian food. Regular bhajan and pujas will be held in the hall and will be open to the local community during festival times.”

The man pictured below, Damodaran, has been the project manager since the beginning of the construction. A builder himself, he had to put aside all his previous knowledge of construction to be able to work with the “new” traditional techniques. He is proud of the work his workmen have been able to do.

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They also had a surprise gift for Kiran and Philippe. It was brought after the pandit came.

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This wooden model of ship was given to “Mr and Mrs Philippe,”

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Then we went to the Sadhaka dwellings. They are circular, open to the air and light in the central area, (with good drainage for when it rains).

There is much wood used, for doors and windows. This is all old wood, salvaged from antique yards.

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A room, still under construction. Between each two rooms in these quarters is a bathroom, shared between the two rooms.

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We walk over to the other “singles” room.

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This is the “Gents” accommodation.

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The entrance shows the circular shape above the door.

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Inside is nicely painted. They could have just painted the walls a solid color, but here is a curved shape painted onto the wall.

Damodaran is explaining some details about the building to Karen.

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As we left, Damodaran made sure we looked at the water tank. He wanted us to notice the walls, made of unshaped rock without any mortar. Again, this is how everything used to be made, but now it is concrete everywhere.

Getting water at the site was a real problem. They drilled hole after hole finding no water. They drilled over 1000 feet deep, still no water. They used all traditional ways to find water, including consulting the best geologists from Chennai and Bangalore./ All of these failed. All together they drilled 13 wells before they found water. Finally after prayer rather than science the struck water, a borewell that produces 10,000 liters an hour 24/7.This was the only one obtained after prayers and humble surrender, which in Philippe’s opinion, was the only technique required.

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This round area will be the cookhouse and canteen in a few weeks, with a coconut leaf roof.

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As we were leaving we stopped and took a closer look at some of the decorations on the walls.

The flower “stems” are cut through the mud covering. The “flowers” are impressions of local leaves, pressed into the mud walls.

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Philippe and Kiran have done a magnificent job designing and building this place. Now there is one more wonderful place, quiet and peaceful, for those who want to come and be with Arunachala.

Bookings

Booking to stay there has already started: for double large cottage it is 700 rs/day, extra bed 350/day. Single cottage 600 rs/day, extra bed 300/day, double cottage with 2 rooms available 500 rs/day each, extra bed 250 rs/day. More is on their web site, http://greenlandashram.com/accommodation. You can book stays for singles, couples or groups, for a day, a month, or even more. They will have a kitchen and provide meals. 

Sadhaka dwellings for single men/woman with common bathroom for two rooms 350 rs/days extra bed 200 rs/day.

As with the Sai Baba ashram in Puttaparthi, men and women are separated; they eat separately and sit on different sides in the meditation hall. Single person housing is also segregated by sex. Couples can share accommodations in the cottages. See this page of their site for more: http://greenlandashram.com/guidelines-and-code-of-conducts.

Consider this as a place for your next stay.


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