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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

SKIE Camp at Nilambur - Dec2016

The first of the 2 camps for the year 2016-17, was held at Sri Ramakrishna Ashrama, Palemad, Nilambur. The Asrama is headed by Swami Atmaswarupananda.

On 24th December the participants reached the private Bus Stand at Kodungallur, by 6:45 am. After the initial travel to Thrissur by bus, everyone had an exciting journey by train to Nilambur. For some of the children, it was the first time that they were traveling by an ordinary passenger train.
Train journeys are always accompanied by lots of snacks, fun and frolic, which included some anthakshari. There is always to the rush to grab the window seat. The wind gushing on the face as the trains speeds is a great experience, it is not just the wind, there are different fragrances that whiff through... the smell of smoke from the engine, the trees that recede away, the green paddy fields, and of course the smell from the open snack boxes ;-)

During the train journey, one came across many an old multistoried thatched house, a rare spectacle in the modern town. we reached Nilambur Road(Railway Station) by around 1:30 pm and were overjoyed to meet Swami Atmaswarupanandaji who had come down to the Nilambur station to receive us.

At the Sri RamakrishnAshrama, Palemad, Nilambur, the children did not loose any time and after a quick delicious lunch they started exploring the surroundings; Joy, excitement, curiosity at seeing the lush green surroundings with the red soil. The spirit and excitement of the children got the elders to follow....

Post this everyone retired for sometime to freshen up for the Sandhya Bhajan. The Ashrama and its surroundings reverberated to the Omkara, kirtans and chantings. Soon it was time for dinner and we were served with a sumptuous meal.

25th morning after Prarthana and yoga, it was time for a short walk and exploration. The experience of walking on a log bridge; Climbing up this small hillock, in the cool hours of the morning, to have a sneak peek of the sunrise. The sun had risen some time back, however we got to see it then. What would it be like to hold the Sun?

A sunrise cannot be complete without a group photo....Time for a selfie too...


It was time to move out to explore Nilambur. The first stop was Aruvakode,  a small village situated close to Nilambur. Known for its fine pottery carried out by a traditional community named Kumbharan. The advent of globalization has literally killed this art form and it is Artist K.B Jinan who initiated the Kumbham Handicraft Project to revive the art form and save the people from the clutches of poverty. It is also said that the artisans originally belonged to Andhra Pradesh, and were provided land by the then rulers of the Nilambur Kovilakam.

A visit to Nilambur cannot be complete without the visit to Conolly's Plot. Named after H. V. Conolly, the British Malabar district collector, who was instrumental in the systematic planting of teak there. However it was Chathu Menon, a forest officer, who organized the planting of the saplings, and as like all other things the creator/inventor always remain obscured....nature is the best example. The initial plantation was about 1500 acres, of this abut 9.1 acres of teak were chopped off to meet the requirements of the allies in World War II.The two sides of the plot are bordered by the rivers Chaliyar and Kurinjipuzha, the other two sides by the dense forests of Kerala. Kurinjipuzha supposedly has the purest water in the region in all the seasons, it merges with the Chaliyar at the corner of the Conolly's plot.

Framing, yes the base of this tree is so huge that it is perfect frame for a group photo. A group shot on the longest hanging bridge, on the Chaliyar river at Conoly's plot, is a must :-) Nilambur Kovilakam, the seat of erstwhile Nilambur rulers was the next stop. However, we were not able to see the interiors.  A visit to the teak museum, Nilambur was next on the card.

The children had a surprise visit from Sri Mahadev an avid traveller, Photographer and Managing Trustee of Sukritham Girls Home, Kozhikode. He was accompanied by Sri Manoharan.  Sri Mahadev introduced"Sukritham" and then transported each of us on a mystical journey to Shrikhand Mahadev and Kinner Kailash with his photo presentation.

On 26th morning after prathah smaran, yoga and breakfast we visited Karakkode Kavu and Sri Ramananda Asramam. 'Kavu' means sacred grove.The 'Kavu' is very unique to Kerala and is generally a self-sustaining ecosystem. It is believed that Parasurama the great sage had his penance in this area. The ancient Devi temple of Goddess Vana Durga represents the vision received by the sage from his penance.
'I come from haunts of coot and hern,

I make a sudden sally
And sparkle out among the fern,
To bicker down a valley. ....' "The Brook - Poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson"
The beautiful Karakkoden Puzha a tributary of the Chaliyar river flows through the Ashram premises.....'I chatter over stony ways,
In little sharps and trebles,
I bubble into eddying bays,
I babble on the pebbles. ' The children were thrilled...and amidst their chatter 'I chatter, chatter, as I flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on forever. '
A group photo along with Dr. Dharmananda Swamiji, the present head of Sri Ramananda Asramam and Swami Atmaswarupanda(who led us here). Post the visit to the Kavu, it was trekking time,  walking along SH28 towards the Tamil Nadu border.The high energy of the children and group inspired the driver of our vehicle to join the trek.....And we keep blaming that children are always glued to TV and mobiles. Finally after a long walk we reached the border.


Back at Sri Ramakrishna Ashrama, Palemad, had a delicious lunch prepared by Narayanan Chetan. A short rest and it was time for krida. Swami Atmaswarupananda, who heads the Sri Ramakrishna Ashrama, at Palemad, Nilambur to whom we are so grateful to, to accommodate us. The interactions with Swamiji were highly knowledge gaining and thought provoking for each of us in its own ways...
In the front row the first person from the left is Sri Narayanan Chetan, person behind the hunger needs of all of us. The food was absolutely mouth watering and a big namaskar to him for managing the kitchen single-handedly. He even packed lunch for us to have in the train on the way back.

With memories, experiences, knowledge and lots of energy locked away inside the camp to a close.... eagerly waiting for the next one...

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