A local group, the Arunachala Animal Sanctuary and Rescue Shelter, cms.arunachalasanctuary.com celebrated its seventh anniversary recently. The occasion was marked by pooja done at the there on January 10, 2014. This post shows this celebration.
It is about 5:30 in the evening. Many motorbikes are parked outside.
For those of you who do not know where the shelter is, it is on the corner of Chengam Road and Perumbakkam Road, on the far side of the open field where the Deepam cattle fair takes place.
People sit in the entrance to the shelter, waiting for the pooja.
This sadhu is one of the shelter’s local friends.
Here is their permanent altar. It is always decorated with flowers.
In the center of this altar is Sri Ramana Maharshi.
Leslie Robinson, the founder of the shelter, sits with some of the 150 dogs presently cared for here. The direct love and affection he shows these animals is a key part of the approach to care. This same love and caring attitude is carried by the staff of the shelter. “The Power of Love” is the main theme of the shelter. Here is a wonderful video that shows this.
Leslie greets a man who was a great help to the shelter. He was a local official who got the land for the shelter, without which there would be no facility.
While we wait, a dog is being treated by the main animal doctor, Dr. Rajasekar, “Dr. Raja,” the Director of Medicine. Emergency animal care does not stop because of any celebration.
This is the boy who brought the dog in. Indians are often afraid of dogs, but due to the goods works of the shelter this is changing in Tiruvannamalai. Before it was started there was a major problem with canine rabies, and people were rightfully afraid of the dogs who live on the streets. After seven years and many thousands of rabies vaccinations, this has changed. This boy is helping the dog. It is probably his pet, I would guess. To move the perception of dogs from feared dangers to family pets is a big change.
One photo on the wall is a famous one of Sri Ramana Maharshi with his beloved cow Lakshmi.
Local women who are shelter supporters.
Pooja materials are laid out in the main treatment room.
An altar for this occasion has been set up in this room, festooned with hundreds of flowers.
In the center of this altar is a plate of fruit as an offering to the gods.
On one side of the room is a shelf with medicines used to care for the animals.
The Brahmin, Sri Dandabani, getting ready to begin the ceremony. He is a priest at Ramanasramam.
Leslie gets dotted with kumkum by Sri Dandabani.
As does the shelter manager (Director of Operations), Vishwa.
Now Leslie is seated at the pooja area and things are ready to begin.
A flower mala is being placed around Leslie’s neck.
Sri Dandabani readies a mala for Vishwa.
And places it around his neck.
Time for a chant.
A woman sings.
Ready to toss flowers. Leslie has a handful. Vishwa’s hand is seen in motion in back of Leslie.
Leslie, Vishwa and Sri Dandabani perform the Nadi-awakening gestures that are part of the Ganesh (Ganapati) pooja.
The flowers are then offered.
Sri Dandabani places some camphor on a plate and lights it.
The plate is taken by some of the women present.
And together, they offer the flame to the pooja.
And then drop the burning camphor into the fire pit, the Havan Kunda, to start the sacrificial Homa fire.
A doggie watches everything through a dog-level gate into the treatment room.
Sri Dandabani adds special sacrificial wooden sticks to the fire, then adds ghee to make it burn better.
The people here watch with rapt attention.
Leslie makes an offering to the fire.
Now he will offer some ghee, too.
There is a lot of interest from the doggie side.
Leslie is offering ghee. The flame intensifies.
Sri Dandabani gives Leslie the next offering for the fire.
Leslie and Vishwa give the offering.
Now women make offerings to the fire.
The workers all come up and are honored and hugged by Leslie. They show love not only for the dogs but for each other.
The fire burns brightly. The room gets hot and filled with smoke.
Sri Dandabani is making a special offering of sacred wood and grasses that will be bound in a cloth ball.
The red ball is offered to each of us so we can add our blessings.
It is then given to Leslie.
Leslie holds it with Vishwa.
Sri Dandabani chants.
Leslie closes his eyes and listens.
Leslie then places the red ball into the fire.
The Brahmin adds ghee to build up the fire so that it can consume the new offering.
Leslie does too.
As do others who are here.
Then they move to the altar.
Another dog watched through the gate.
A woman is given a camphor lamp. She listens as Sri Dandabani chants.
She then offers light to the altar.
The people are happy. This is Dr. Raja’s mother.
In turn the light is offered to the sacred fire…
…to Leslie and Vishwa…
…and then to all of us.
Then a melon is brought in, and a camphor flame started on it while Sri Dandabani chants.
The flame is offered to the altar and to the fire pit.
After this, the melon will be taken outside and smashed at the entrance to the shelter, to bless this place.
Sri Dandabani comes to Leslie.
And adorns his head with an offering of flowers.
Sweets are then offered to all of us, as prasad after the pooja.
Here are both parents of Dr. Raja. They must be very proud of him. We noticed that Dr. Raja hasn’t been taking part in the pooja. We wonder what happened to him?
And last, Sri Dandabani makes up two more malas…
…and places them around Carol’s and my necks. I am not sure what this had to do with anything, but it was nice. He was the same priest who performed the ritual for Richard’s birthday, just a few days before.
As we left, we saw where Dr. Raja had been all during the pooja—outside, treating a distressed dog that someone had brought in right when the pooja started. It was given anesthesia for the procedure and is still asleep on a treatment table.
Since the shelter opened in January, 2007, they have:
- Performed 5,192 ABC sterilizations.
- Given 8,561 anti-rabies injections (the homeless dog population is rabies free…people bitten still have to get the anti-rabies serum injections…there’s always the remote possibility that a dog had been bitten by a rabid bat, or other wild animal)
- Gone out on 1,638 emergency rescues. (In the last twelve months, averaged 45 rescues a month).
- Had 20,879 out-patient visits for treatment in the clinic. (And have seen over 4,000 "owner dogs"…That’s a guesstimate).
- Given 64,442 in-patient treatments.
- Found good homes for 633 puppies/dogs, and 12 cats/kittens.
- Treated 1,812 animals other than dogs: 327 cats, 480 birds, 373 cows & calves, 354 goats, lambs, & sheep, 71 monkeys, 83 rabbits, 12 squirrels, 28 donkeys, 3 pigs, 24 peacocks, 18 parrots, 3 eagles, 14 horses, 3 bullocks, 6 deer, 2 snakes, 5 turkeys, 1 owl, and 5 ducks.
Leslie thought you might like to read this article on the shelter. http://www.anaflora.com/articles/fe-ther-ani/india-shelter.html so I have included the link. You can also read my previous blog about Leslie’s work, and see some heart-breaking photos, here.
Such good work is done by these people at the Arunachala Animal Sanctuary and Rescue Shelter. Leslie has brought his love for animals here, and given this to all his staff, who follow his example. This showing of love makes this shelter a place unlike any other I have seen. If you are moved by it, go to the shelter’s donation page, cms.arunachalasanctuary.com/compassion and make a donation. These donations are what keeps the shelter open and able to provide care.
Here is the link again to another post on the shelter, done in late 2012:
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