Celebration of Cleaning at Sabarimala

India, the land of spirituality and sages, is respected across the world for its cultural heritage. The sages understood the importance and power of nature to sustain life on earth; they received the messages on sustenance in the form of slokas from nature itself. One of them is as follows

Samudravasane devi,
parvatastana mandite,
visnupatni namastubhyam,
padasparsham kshamasvame

(Oh Goddess Earth, you whose garments are the oceans and whose breasts are the hills and mountain ranges; please forgive me as I walk on you this day.)

Along with the changing times this reverence to Mother Earth declined. Thus exploration changed to exploitation of nature leading to deforestation, untreated hazardous waste disposal and so on, that further lead to a vicious circle of destruction. We are severing the very ‘hand of nature’ that is protecting us. This creates an imbalance in nature resulting in disastrous natural calamities – tsunamis, floods, earthquakes, cyclones, famine, drought, avalanches, landslides…, the list continues.

Can we ask, who is responsible for this? Can we ask why are we doing this? Can we predict the future of the forth coming generations, if there will be any?

Now, the ultimate question – Who can restore this imbalance back?

As and when nature is destroyed beyond repair, as and when nature’s fury strikes back – A Guru or an Avatar sets forth to guide humans to restore this imbalance. God wants us humans to unite and work as a single entity and undo all that we have done to nature.

The Amala Bharatham Campaign launched by Mata Amaritanandamayi Math under the guidance of Satguru Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, lovingly called ‘Amma’  is an answer to restore this imbalance. The year 2011, was no ordinary calendar year, it was the year when the Math organized and successfully executed several such campaigns with a Motto – Clean India, Beautiful India. Mammoth qualities of waste was collected, recycled and reused.

Table 1: Timeline of planning and execution of ABC @ Sabarimala

Date Stages of Planning and Execution of ABC
September 2010 Inauguration of Amala Bharatham Campaign by Amma on Her 57th Birthday
October 2011 Amma Instructs cleaning of Sabarimala
1st and 19th October 2011 and 2nd November 2011 ABC Organizers meet officials from Sabarimala Devaswom Board and the governing authorities of Pattanamthitta District and discuss the execution of the event
4th November 2011 Ammas devotees from all districts of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu meet at Pampa.
5th November 2011 Devotees trek up to Sannidhanam after collecting their ID tags at Pampa. Ashram Residents also join here to clean Sannidhanam Area
6th -7th November 2011 Students from various campuses join the cleaning effort at Pampa and Sannidhanam.

The vision and blessings of Amma, weeks of meticulous planning, collaboration with the government of Kerala lead to the advent of “ ABC @ Sabarimala ” ie Amala Bharatham Campaign at Sabarimala aimed at “Restoring the pristine beauty of Sabarimala”, the abode of Lord Ayyappa was announced.  The entire campaign was executed across a span of 3 days – 5th to 7th November 2011. The pilgrim center was segmented into two geographical segments  1. Sannidhanam and surrounding areas and 2. The Holy River Pampa and surrounding areas.   Each of these segments was further divided into sub-segments thereby enhancing micro management of all locations under the purview of ABC.

Table 2 : The 12 sub segments of Sannidhanam Area

1) Sarana Sethu to the 18 steps
2) The copra collection are to the east of the main shelter
3) Around Bhasmakkulam
4) Police Barracks and surroundings
5) Waste dump yard and surroundings
6) Viri Panthal (resting place of pilgrims) next to the Police Barracks, and surroundings
7) Area from Viri Panthal to Incinerator
8 ) Viri Panthal next to the Incinerator, and surroundings
9) Pandittaavalam (resting place for Tamil pilgrims) and surroundings
10) Surroundings of Sri Subrahmanya Trust and Sabari Guest House
11) Area around Kitchen and Aravana Plant
12) Surroundings of Malikapuram and other buildings

Each section was assigned to one of the 12 groups. According to the intensity of the cleaning required in each area,  60 – 250 volunteers were assigned to work at a time under one group leader brahmachari. The volunteers included Ashram Residents of Mata Amritanandamayi Math, students from all the campuses (Amritapuri, Banagalore, Coimbatore, Kochi and Mysore ) of Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, devotees from across Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu participated in this event.

Love goes beyond boundaries. This event signified the same. There were over 200 international volunteers who participated. Name a nation and you can get a volunteer, it was as close as this. Each volunteer was clad in their ABC attire – Orange coat, Orange gloves, Gum Boots and a broom or a basket or a shovel in hand. People from all walks of life, cultures, countries, languages and above all most inspiring different age groups, right from the age of 18 to the age of 80 plus all working under a single umbrella of LOVE.

This mighty diverse army of volunteers worked for 3 days. The entire Sabarimala seemed to be virtually carpeted ‘Orange’, with volunteers attempting to clean every creek and crevice leaving no stone unturned.

Table3: Volunteers at Sannidhanam alone

Date

No. of Volunteers

5th November 2011

1115

6th November 2011

2078

7th November 2011

1904

Total

5097

What they felt

To share an experience – a technocrat from the United States who was participating in the event, said it was the mantra, ‘Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu’ preached by Amma that had lured him to India in search of the Truth.

“The British say, ‘God save the king.’ Americans say ‘God bless America.’ but Indians say ‘Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu,’ meaning ‘May all beings everywhere be happy.’ This sublime thought is the very inspiration of the thousands of volunteers taking part in the cleaning drive at Sabarimala,” he said.

Another 62-year woman from the United States said it had been a wonderful experience to visit the holy hill and clean the filth accumulated in the surroundings of the temple pond.

“I saw the Vedic maxim, ‘Tatvamasi,’ meaning ‘thou art that’ or ‘that is you,’ written in Malayalam atop the Ayyappa Temple. It was a Keralite friend who had read out the maxim for me, and I was impressed to know that it encapsulated the very philosophy of the Sabarimala pilgrimage,” she said.

A student Ranjini from Amrita University said “I was very reluctant to clean the area beside the Ganapathi Temple at Pampa. It was littered with plastic covers. After I saw the senior ladies aged around 60-62 yrs cleaning it up, I was inspired and started cleaning. This gave me immense happiness and in no time there was a competition between my classmates – who will pick up and fill up the maximum number of bags carrying waste. I also vowed that from that day onwards I will never litter any waste anywhere”

Another student Rohit said “I was visiting Sabarimala for the fourth time and every time I visited, I asked something or the other from Lord Ayyappa. I was always seeking grace. And the Lord always gave it to me. Now I felt that it was my chance to serve the Lord, to offer something to Lord Ayyappa. Then it was as if grace engulfed me. This time it came unasked. I was surprised. I felt grace overflowing. I want to share this happiness of cleaning a holy place like Sabarimala to others and also send a message to the community to never litter such holy places. The moment we restrain ourselves, the moment we dispose the waste in the waste bins rather than throwing them on the pathways, we will surely feel a sense of happiness and comfort”

Sreenath, a student from the School of Business of Amrita University said “I had expected plastic waste, but not in such large quantities. We were working near the incinerator area. There were layers and layers of plastic bottles settled since more than a year. We filled six to seven large bags with these drinking water bottles in less than 3 hours. But nothing seemed to change. It was never ending. We felt depressed. Why are we not able to clean a single spot? Finally we understood that the efforts would not fructify. We asked for a JCB to come in and dig out the waste. Then it was packed in bags. Towards the end of each day we felt a sense of completeness and happiness. I vow never to litter any plastic bottle anywhere. I will reuse the mineral water bottles several times before disposing it. I will also communicate this feeling to the social community which is within my control”

Tools and Accessories:

There were 15 tractor loads of brooms, gloves, recyclable waste bags, gumboots, spades, shovels etc that was carried from the Pampa river to Sannidhanam. The government of Kerala had sponsored 10 tractors for assistance and the remaining load of 5 tractors was shared among the volunteers. Even heavy loads feel light as a feather when they are divided and carried with Love.

The result? More than 50,000 – fifty thousand – bags of waste was  collected and segregated by the end of 7th November in a short span of just 72 hours.

The surroundings of Sabarimala were no longer the same. The small rivulet blocked for long started flowing to Bhasmakulam again. The mountains started breathing fresh air again.  Mother Nature was smiling again.

Table 4: Tools and accessories

Tool items

Quantity

Small Sacks

9250

Large Knife

15

Large Sacks

8350

Brooms

175

Spades

164

Gumboots

396

Big Plastic tray

234

Raker

296

Gloves

6,000

Shovels

74

Total Tools and Accessories

24,994

The 7th of November a special function was held in Pampa. On this occasion, the Chief Minister of Kerala, Oommen Chandy recollected that Mata Amritanandamayi Math lead by Amma is there in the forefront for all major social welfare activities. The Finance Minister of Kerala, K M Mani congratulated Amma for having initiated the Amala Bharatham Campaign. He also expressed happiness that ABC had taken up the cleaning of Sabarimala. Minister Tiruvanjur Radhakrishnan thanked the ABC volunteers who had been inspired by Amma to participate in the Sabarimala cleanup. Devaswam Minister Sivakumar lauded the sincerity of the volunteers. Recalling the initial meetings pertaining to the cleanup of Sabarimala, K. Jayakumar, Chairperson, Sabarimala High Power Committee, said, “When we asked for 500 volunteers, the Mata Amritanandamayi Math pledged to send as many volunteers as needed.” He pointed out that on the three previous days, 3,000 ABC volunteers had been involved daily in the cleanup activities.


Table 5: Day-wise details of volunteers posted at various locations

Date

Location

Volunteers

Volunteers from

5th Nov 2011

Sannidhanam

2000

Ashram residents, devotees from all districts of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, Amrita TV staff

6th Nov 2011

Sannidhanam

3500

Ashram residents, devotees from all districts of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, Students from all campuses of Amrita University, Amrita TV staff

7th Nov 2011

Sannidhanam and Pampa

3700

Ashram residents, devotees from all districts of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, Students from all campuses of Amrita University, Female devotees and girl students to clean Pampa areas, Amrita TV staff

This event was not an event of cleaning externally alone. This event was an event where people were transformed internally as well. It was an amazing feat where octogenarians trekked uphill for 3 hours , worked for 3 days , trekked down for 3 hours and still kept smiling all throughout. None of the elements may it be rain, heat, dust, insects or even leeches could ever attempt to stop the power of ignited love in the hearts of the volunteers. This was a congregation of LOVE. This was a congregation for a cause. This was a congregation to restore the imbalance in nature.

Here, cleaning was not just cleaning -  cleaning was happiness, cleaning was bliss, cleaning was Love and yes — Cleaning was a Celebration

- Avinash

 

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About Amrita

Hari oM
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2 Responses to Celebration of Cleaning at Sabarimala

  1. pandalays says:

    AMME SARANAM. None but only AMMA can do this. AMMAs unconditional love gives the motivation and energy to Her children.

  2. sameerpnair says:

    The Amala Bharatam Initiative lead by Amma is a remarkable message to the world.
    If we serve our Mother Nature one fold, she showers her blessings in many many folds.
    So let us take care of our Mother Earth, to our best possible extend.
    Such a task needs to be under a great leader who leads by example. We are really fortunate to have Amma as our leader and Guru, who drives us to participate in such great initiatives like Amala Bharatam.

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