Field TRIP TO SKANDA VALE
On the 23 February 2015, our first twelvemonth Anthropology pupils went on an nightlong field trip to the Skanda Vale ashram. Skanda Vale is located near the small town of Llanpumsaint, and near Carmarthen in Wales and surrounded by 100s of estates of vale forest. Equally shortly as we entered the precincts of the ashram at approximately 11:00 a.m. , I automatically felt a sense of tranquility and composure. Bing an ashram, we were required to function our visit as a pilgrim and non as a tourer, and hence, we had to partake in all their supplications and offerings and follow the ashram residents’ agenda. Upon our reaching, we were greeted by the occupant priest who gave us a brief account about Skanda Vale, its historical background and beginnings, and its milieus, before continuing to demo us to our adjustment which consisted of 5 trains in entire, separated by gender. Skanda Vale was established in 1973 by its laminitis, Guru Sri Subramaniam and is a multi-faith ashram. Its beginnings are traced back to Sri Lanka as that is where Guru Sri Subramaniam was given the power and authorization from the Lord, to assist set up Sanathana Dharma in the United Kingdom. Sanathana Dharma is a recent term for Hinduism and it is of import to observe that it represents ageless faith, in conformity with the religious instructions of Lord Krishna as set out in the Bhagavad Gita. The instructions of Sanathana Dharma are based on the “timeless consciousness of God” and this belief is of the position that all faith stems from and unify into the one World ; God is one, although His signifiers are many.(www.skandavale.org) .
Skanda Vale consists of three temples, i.e. the Murugan ( or Subramaniam ) temple ; the Maha Shakti ( or Kali ) temple and the Sri Ranganatha ( or Vishnu ) temple. The Maha Shakti temple is situated at the top of the ashram, and to walk up a steep hill is portion of a person’s pilgrim’s journey. The statue of Sri Ranganatha is situated in the Centre of a lake, amongst other divinities. Pujas ( or supplications ) are held six times a twenty-four hours wherein all people, irrespective of religion or denomination are invited to go to. However, being a community united by common pattern, it is a regulation that pilgrims should non devour meat, fish or domestic fowl three yearss before coming to Skanda Vale, as a mark of pureness. If so, they will non be allowed to sit in the forepart of the temple for puja.(www.skandavale.org)
The puja in itself is spiritually informative, with “bhajans” ( vocals ) being sung and mantras chanted. For one of the pujas, the priest undressed and washed the divinity, so bathed the divinity in Crocus sativus H2O, milk and yogurt. The divinity was so dressed once more in a new “sari” and adorned with flowers. At the terminal of the puja, the priest offers the “vibuthi” ( ash ) and prasadam ( milk ) and “aarthi” ( fire or sacred fire ) as a symbol of offering and approval, and these are passed around. Our Anthropology category attended all the pujas the earlier being at 5a.m. and the concluding 1 at 9 p.m. Each puja had a different ritual being performed and we were required to detect each of them and observe the differences between each rite into our several journals. Siting following to friends whom I see during talks is a wholly different feeling to sitting with them during a puja. The atmosphere of the puja and the rites automatically gives one a feeling of sharing, every bit confidant as supplication with a group of friends. I noticed that the huge bulk of the priests, monastics and nuns are white, but the bulk of fans were of South Asiatic descent. Bear a Hindu, and holding visited temples for many old ages and being familiar with how pujas are conducted, I, personally, felt proud explicating to my fellow Anthropology pupils on the behavior of the pujas, the offerings given and what we were supposed to make with the “vibuthi” , “prasadam” and “aarthi” .
The community that live in the ashram are jointly known as the “Community of the Many Names of God” and they dedicate their lives to loving and functioning God through supplication, ritual and worship and functioning others with a right attitude, in order to function God in itself i.e. “karma yoga” and “bhakti yoga” . The priests, monastics and nuns have taken lifetime vows of poorness, celibacy and obeisance. My involvement was captured by the fact that the community lived a simple, but highly happy life. Everyday work includes cookery, cleansing and lovingness for an one-year fold of about 90,000 pilgrims a twelvemonth.
As described by Skanda Vale’s web site, “Nobody at Skanda Vale is paid and being a registered charity, all community members are wholly dependent on the grace of God for their day-to-day demands and it is funded entirely through voluntary contributions. They do non bear down anyone for nutrient, adjustment or services and everything is offered wholly free of charge. The community is really self-sufficing and wholly independent from any spiritual or commercial organisations” . (www.skandavale.org) .Contributions and gifts including a significant sum of nutrient that are brought to the community are offered anonymously in the temple to God and are used in the service of God for the public benefit. By making so, the populace are able to idolize God without experiencing that they are expected to supply goods or money to the community.
In add-on to trusting on contributions for nutrient, Skanda Vale have a assortment of animate beings kept and reared in their evidences. Most of these animate beings were rescued from disregard and slaughter and some were donated. Skanda Vale’s doctrine is that all life is sacred, and to this consequence, caring for the ignored and reclaimed animate beings is seen as portion of the community’s subject and preparation. The herd of cattles sustain the community by supplying milk, butter, yogurt and cheese and these merchandises are besides an indispensable ingredient in Skanda Vale’s pujas and rites. In add-on to the cattles, there are besides caprine animals, cervid, American bison, coneies and a assortment of birds. The temple elephant, named Valli, donated by the Sri Lankan authorities in the 1980’s, is the star at Skanda Vale. Valli late had a new insulated place built for it, complete with a fountain and a disco ball. Some of my fellow pupils and I volunteered the undertaking of cleaning Valli’s place, when it was taken out for a walk into the jungle by its animal trainer. Valli returned, one time we had finished, and we were allowed to feed it bananas and sugar cane. I managed to stroke its bole and in return, Valli sprayed H2O into the air as a mark of gaiety and likely as a mark of blessing on its well cleaned place! That was likely the high spot of my fellow Anthropology students’ trip! In April 2007, Skanda Vale became embroiled in a contention when their sacred bullock, Shambo, tested positive for bovine TB and the Welsh authorities ruled that the bullock was to be destroyed. An international run was made mounted to salvage him and the High Court in Cardiff quashed the opinion made by the National Assembly for Wales, and that it had non in its determination to butcher the bullock:“given the serious violation of the community’s right under Article Nine of the European Convention on Human Rights thatslaughter would affect” . However in July 2007, Shambo once more faced executing after the Court of Appeal ruled that it should be slaughtered and Shambo was euthanized via deadly injection in July 2007. The Welsh governments thenceforth reported that marks of TB were present upon post-mortem scrutiny(www.worldheritage.org) .
We besides helped out with assorted other undertakings during our stay at Skanda Vale, including clean uping up the priests’ office and to clean Windowss, and such squad work with my fellow pupils and friends non merely made us experience like portion of the community and have a sense of belonging and accomplishment, but led us to believe of a wholly different manner of life. Our repasts were provided in a “canteen-like” country and was wholly vegetarian and consisted of delightful curries and rice and assorted veggies, and the spicy nutrient and olfactory property, particularly the lentil curry, instantly made me believe of place.
One of the other countries of work is Skanda Vale Hospice, opened in 2004, and which offers personal attention for people with life –threatening unwellnesss, wholly free of charge. The hospice is staffed entirely by voluntaries, largely from the Skanda Vale sistership.(www.skandavale.org)
The field trip to Skanda Vale brings life to different universe positions that we study and makes us better prepared for a planetary society that we have become. However, more significantly, our trip to Skanda Vale was non simply an exciting and academic anthropological trip. Towards the terminal, I felt that it was more of a religious journey. Those who do non believe in faith would likely get down to grok and gain that there is a existent “way of life” for some people. Skanda Vale being a multi-faith ashram, was set up to assist people of all faiths experience God, instead than to merely believe in God. By being a portion of the community at Skanda Vale, one can detect the freedom, peace and joy of populating a simple and happy life in the consciousness of the Divine. Upon understanding that Sanathana Dharma represents a manner of life instead than merely faith, in order to make enlightenment, it became easier and relevant to grok the plants and intent of the priests, monastics and nuns at the ashram. The community in Skanda Vale does non seek to change over others, but alternatively, its purpose is to heighten the original religion of each person by promoting religious experience.
Skanda Vale is genuinely a particular topographic point, with belief that all Gods are finally, the faces of the Divine, and by protecting life where they can and offering connexion to those that can come with the right head. The community’s purpose is to educate pilgrims on how to develop a life partnership with God and for the populace to hold a better understanding about the life and work of the community in the context of a religious life. It besides focuses on how we can break ourselves by fostering positive qualities.
My experience at Skanda Vale reflected non merely a faith, but a manner of life through simpleness and service to others in order to make enlightenment. We can merely make our best as retainers of God with the right attitude in head and with spiritualty, but our karma ( fate ) rests in the custodies of God itself. Bing a Hindu myself, it simply reinforced my belief in spiritualty and am pleased that the laminitis, Guru Sri Subramaniam’s bequest lives on in footings of regenerating religious consciousness.
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