Sunday, October 17, 2010

Dasara Elephant Bums and More!

India is all about festivals, and today there was a big parade at the Mysore Palace to celebrate Dasara, a major event in the Hindu calendar.  I didn't actually get to watch the festivities, because after an intense yoga practice, sitting in the sun for hours on end and being jostled by a mob of people wasn't particularly appealing, so I gave up and went home before the whole shabang actually got started.  I did get to see the elephants dressed up and painted however, and I got this rather charming photo of their bums, with a nice backdrop of cotton candy clouds floating through the sky.  (Unfortunately these clouds weren't helping keep the sun off of our seating area...)  The elephants were really all I wanted to see, so mission accomplished. 

Yesterday was also an important day of the Dasara festival (it runs for nine nights and ten days) and there were decorated rickshaws, cars, buses and motorcycles zipping all over town, trailing flower petals and banana leaves in the breeze. 

I love the fact that vehicles get blessings too!

Another noteworthy tidbit of my day yesterday: I arrived at the coconut stand quite early and had the opportunity to watch Guru, the expert coco-opener of Gokulam, lighting incense and doing his morning prayers to Ganesha.  Watching someone communicating with God (in whatever faith or manifestation) is pretty powerful; devotion is a beautiful thing to observe.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Mehndi Magic at Odanadi

Odanadi is an organization based in Mysore, India, that aims to raise awareness about the difficult reality of sexual exploitation and human trafficking.  The founders of Odanadi rescue women and children from these situations and give them a safe place to live, recover, and discover their strength, talent and passions in a nurturing environment.  They provide ways for these survivors to express themselves through outlets like dance, yoga, karate, and art, but they also encourage them to become self sufficient and have meaningful human interactions by inviting visitors out to the center for event days that double as fundraisers.

Yesterday about ten ladies, including myself, were welcomed into the Odanadi center to experience Mehndi, the application of henna body art, and as we arrived, everyone was charmed by the children's immediate affection and 1000 watt smiles.

By the time we got settled down and the Mehndi process was underway, the younger children had crowded around to watch and play with anyone who was still waiting, and were especially excited by being allowed to borrow our cameras and take their own photos of all the action.  The older girls, who were creating our beautiful henna designs, showed a great deal of confidence and remarkable focus in a pretty chaotic situation. I have been visiting Odanadi twice a week to teach dance lessons, but many of my friends had never been there, and to see their reactions to the kids and the whole experience in general was really extraordinary. 


The group energy was off the charts and everyone left with immense gratitude for the opportunity to spend time with these incredibly strong women and children, and the beautiful body art that we will be able to admire for the next few weeks.