A special event is going to be held in Tiruvannamalai on 1 Feb 2014 through 9 Feb. It is a recitation of the Ramanaya in Hindi. It is being done by Morari Bapu, who is a renowned exponent of the Ram Charit Manas and has been reciting Ram Kathas for over fifty years throughout the world. Look at this site for more about him.
The program schedule is:
Saturday, February 1st : 4.00 pm to 6.30 pm
February 2nd to February 9th : 09.30 am to 1.00 pm and evening chanting
More details about the Ramayana and Ram Charit Manas can be found here.
They have been building the recitation pavilion for the last week near our house. From the road it looks like this.
The Ram Katha will be performed near Arunachala’s Pradakshina Road. Here is a map.
Naturally, we knew nothing about this in advance. On the 23rd and 24th of January we noticed a bulldozer scraping the land to clear it of weeds. We thought that the property, which has been for sale for a year or so, was being spruced up to help sell it. But then in the evening of the 25th we saw a truck unloading metal pipe. I thought, “Oh no. The land has been sold and tonight they are going to drill a well for water. How will we sleep through all the noise?” When we went to bed, I could still hear pipe clanging as it was unloaded. After a while it became quiet for a good sleep for us.
When we woke up and went out to look, we saw lots of activity, but nothing like we expected. There was a truck alright, but not a drilling rig. It was a freight truck.
It was unloading sheets of corrugated steel.
One of the men saw us. In case you ever wanted to know the attitude of most Indians about having their photo taken, this is it.
On the ground there were pipes. They were spread out over much of the field.
We could see that they were getting ready to build some kind of structure, probably (we hoped!) some kind of temporary one.
The men are assembling iron pieces into a tall roof support. They use two wooden poles to lift and move the heavy metal pole.
They have to slide the base piece onto the pole. To slide it into position, a man is ramming a heavy metal pole into the base, to drive it onto the upper part.
Meanwhile, another team is bolting the roof frame together. Look at the size of the wrenches!
Some of the guys. I think the team was 15 or 20 people.
To lift up the structure into place they brought in a crane. It has put the first section into place, and is now moving to lift the second section. Men have climbed the poles to do assembly work. I notice that a diagonal support piece has already been added to each pole.
Starting to lift the second segment.
A worker has climbed on board to ride the piece up.
It is all in the air now.
They set up the first post. It is being held vertical by a team at its bottom. One man has climbed up it, and is guiding the big piece into place where it can be bolted to the pole. This is not easy or risk-free work!
A view of the site at its present stage.
Putting the second pole in place. It is carried into position…
…then one of the construction acrobats scampers up the pole…
…and starts bolting it into place.
Men working up on the steel.
The second support is in place now. Secondary supports are being bolted between the primary supports.
The structure is still not solidly together, so teams of men try to keep everything in place.
Now metal poles are being bolted between the supports.
Work goes on.
The building is taking shape.
The structure is finished. They put up seven primary support elements in total, bolted them together, and bolted poles between them to make a supportive bed for a roof.
They are not through for the day. They start lifting sheets of corrugated steel up to the roof.
It is the next day now. The roof is starting to take shape.
More pieces are lifted up.
Arunachala watches it all, unmoved.
Another piece, up.
Their job right now is to sit on these pieces of the soon-to-be-built platform.
A pooja has been done. Here are some of its remains.
The base of a support pole has been blessed.
Now we get another truck, this one filled past the top with wooden poles.
And big balls of rope to tie them together with.
Each piece is unloaded.
Onto the scene today comes this white-garbed man. He stays at the site. I think he must be from whatever group is putting on the coming event. We still have no idea what it will be. The workers have little English. We piece together the idea that they are people from Calcutta and there will be a several day chanting of the Ramanaya.
The platform as been raised to create the stage for the event.
And now they start digging holes for the wooden poles.
Some wooden poles are being used to line three of the sides of the structure.
Time for a break. They are happy for Carol to take photos of them.
The “white swami” is in the background.
The next morning they are working to finish the wall of poles around the site.
Another truck has rolled in. Men sit on its roof. One looks asleep.
The driver is conked out. I bet they drove all night to get here.
The sign says it all. If only we could read Hindi. We were told that the truck contains the sound system for the event. I think they do enough of these Ram Kathas to warrant their owning of this complex kit to use to build their chanting spaces around India.
They are unloading the truck. First are piles of cloth.
While this is going on, corrugated iron pieces are set against the wooden pole fence. They will make this into an enclosed space.
Here is our man again, the next day.
Now this is interesting. They are tying cloth to the ceiling.
Acrobats scamper across the struts, tying it into place.
Look at this! How nice. This really makes the space seem special.
Time for another break. Our “white swami guy” is happy. Workers are playing cards, using wrenches as gambling chips.
Working up high.
Now yellow cloth gets added.
One more day begins. It is looking pretty complete.
A sadhu from nearby Girivalam Road comes in to look around.
Our guy comes, ready for another day. Today he rode up in a rickshaw.
Shipping boxes, I bet for audio equipment.
Cloth is being put onto the platform.
More is ready. Maybe this will be on the ground in front. I don’t see them bringing in any chairs yet.
We see what some worker was doing list night.
Progress on the platform.
People have already started to arrive. They are from Gujurat. Our first report of the group coming from Calcutta was incorrect. They speak a little English, but no Tamil. The event will be conducted entirely in Hindi. I wonder if the event organizers knew that very few people around here know any Hindi.
Gold cloth has been put up to line the inside of the wooden-pole-and-metal-sheet walls.
On Pradakshina Road, a sign has been put up.
And here is the ceremonial space, almost ready to go. It starts tomorrow afternoon.
It looks good inside.
A big poster is up on the back wall, showing Ramana Maharshi, Arunachala, and Hanuman.
Here is Hanuman. It almost looks like our guy is going to climb a ladder up to God.
I really do not know what to tell locals and Westerners about this. We have this big special event, all in Hindi. I guess you can come and be absorbed in the scene, and by the sound and rhythm of the chanting. I am not sure where you will go to the bathroom, since I do not see “porta-potties.” We heard that they expect 500 people. Some will stay at local hotels, but I bet many of them will camp out nearby. I think many who come will be from North India, and able to follow the reading and instructions in Hindi.
This is what our life is like, living with Arunachala. We are just doing whatever it is that we do. Then something starts to happen around us. We go see, and nowadays, take our cameras and start taking photos. Maybe it is another fascinating piece of life in India.