Mohanam purpose and vision
Marutham Community Awareness Centre,
Summer Camp 2008
Since the beginning, Mohanam Cultural Center has been conducting summer camps every year between the months of April and May. This year it was a special occasion because at the end of the camp the new cultural center opened in the Temple in the Alangkuppam village. The center was named as “Marutham”.
There were about 150 students that participated in this camp. Various art classes were offered such as drawing, painting and crayons, the traditional martial arts 'Silambam', folk dance 'Kolattam', classical dance 'Bharathanatyam', yoga for health, and music classes for the children between the ages of 5 and 18 years old. The children were from the villages of Alangkuppam, Annai Nagar, Pudhu Nagar, Aaparam Pattu and Thuruvai.
The camp was organized for about a week and a half. The children eagerly participated in the camp and benefited from the various activities that were organized and were able to establish relationships with their local peers.
A day before the end of the camp, Mohanam organized a fun trip to the Auroville beach. Most of the students took part in the trip and enjoyed the evening by playing various games.
On the last day of camp a special performance was arranged. Most of the students from the camp participated and danced for their parents and the village people.
Certificates were issued for the participants. From seeing their amazing talents on the stage, the village headmen offered the use of the Alangkuppam temple for cultural activities in order to make these precious arts more available for the children.
On June 28, the Mohanam Cultural Centre senior girls' students staged their Bharathanatyam performance in Sri Aurobindo Auditorium at Bharat Nivas, Auroville on the eve of their graduation day.
The students Anila, Kavithanjali, Sandhiya and Suryaprabha were awarded by Mrs Shanthi Babu H.O.D of Bharathiyar Palkalai Koodam in Pondicherry for their five years of learning in the classical dance with their master Smt S.Sumathi and the director of Ezhillar Kalai Koodam Puducherry.
Thiru R.Anbazhagan, the drawing Teacher of Mohanam Cultural Center welcomed the chief guest and the audience. Chief guest Kalaimamani Mrs. Shanthi Babu presided over the function along with the other chief guests Tmt R.Meenakshi from Tamil Heritage Centre, Bharat Nivas Auroville, Tmt Bhavana of Auroville Village Action Group and Mr.Aurelio, the advisor of Mohanam and Executive of Svaram, Auroville.
The dance performance was accompanied by the artists Smt S.Sumathi M.Phil, Phd –Nattuvangam, Thiru V.Gnana Pragasam M.Phil – Vocal, Thiru M.Prasanna M.Phil – Mirudangam, Violin by Thiru T.Srinivasan M.A, Selvi Kavitha M.A – Make up, Stage Decoration by Thiru Anbazhagan. The announcements for the program were led by Thiru K.Anbu B.Sc., M.A.
Temple Program at Irumbai
It was a blessing that the Mohanam Cultural Centre was able to perform at Irumbai Sivan Temple on the special occasion of the Full moon.
On the 21st of June, Mohanam Performing Youth Group performed a 20-minute program at Sivan Temple in Irumbai. Aurelio, the advisor of Mohanam Cultural Centre presided over the performing youth group.
In the midst of the huge crowd of devotees the musical sound of the youth group started with the gong and bell sound from the east side of the temple. As the whirl and vibrations of the sounds moved out of the temple, people started to recognize the music of the performance. The youth group carried out the procession up to the water pool just opposite of the second gate of the east side of the temple. Then candles were lit and floated on the water in the pool. On the stage at the pool, drums were already placed under the tree and were waiting to be beat by the youth.
Once the young boys started to beat the drums, the whole crowd was enthralled. The sounds of the drums echoed out for 5 to 10 minutes before the boys walked towards the entrance of the temple. Each one carried a drum and started their magic of sound with dance. In the beginning, some of the youth in the crowd became embarrassed and blushed during the performance, because this type of dance with the drums is also performed in the death ceremony in the villages of Tamil Nadu, which is usually not respected. But once the dance with the drums took its momentum every one became spellbound. The energy and the concentration in the performance of the dance, with different styles of movements, by holding the drums in hand, captured the eyes and hearts of the crowd. This typical extraordinary performance is called “Thappattam” which means a dance with drums.
It can be said that the Thappattam performance lured every one's ears and hearts with its beats. As a result, it was an extraordinary performance.
‘Painting exhibition' is one of the dreams of the Mohanam Team. Recently our Mohanam students Murugan, Mohanmoorthy, Anandabaskar, Sivakumar, Rajasekar and Jeevarathinam exhibited their art work at Kala Kendra's 'Gallery Art Square Circle at Bharat Nivas in Auroville, from the 8th to the 14 th of Dec 2008.
The exhibition was inaugurated with a music festival on the 8th of December at 5 pm at Kala Kendra ' Gallery Art Square Circle' . Our chief guest Luise lit the lamp to symbolize the inauguration of the exhibition. Our advisory board member, Aurelio and the drawing Master Anbazhagan were invited as chief guests to inaugurate the exhibition. The audience was delighted with the performance by the Mohanam Sound Crew . Anbazhagan also participated in the opening ceremony.
The Exhibition ended on the 14th of December 2008 with the closing ceremony by the Mohanam Sound Crew . The Exhibition was extra special, since a renowned artist from Pondicherry was present.
Dynamized water set up for Sanjeevi Nagar.
May 5, 2008
On 5, May 2008 Mohanam Cultural Centre inaugurated a Dynamized Water Tank, along with the Auroville Water Harvest at Sanjeevi Nagar village.
The Villages of Alankuppam, Sanjeevi Nagar, Pudu Kuppam, Anai Nagar and the other surrounding villages of Alankuppam and Sanjeevi Nagar people face serious kidney and other health problems due to the amalgamated chemicals in the water that they consume everyday. In order to put these problems to an end, Mohanam Cultural Centre has approached a donor from Holland . They provided money to help start and set up a Purified Water System for the Sanjeevi Nagar people. Mohanam Cultural Centre along with the help of Water Harvest decided to take up the task in setting up the Dynamized Water Tank for the Sanjeevi Nagar people. The Dynamized Water plant was successfully installed and tested for its function. A day was called for its inauguration at Sanjeevi Nagar. Shajahan, the minister of Puducherry, inaugurated the start of the function of the project. Many village headmen and important people participated in the inauguration. Mohanam Cultural Centre organized a cultural dance and music performance on the eve of the inauguration.
Classes by guests and friends
Albença, from Slovenia gave dance classes for a period of one month between July and August. The classes were organized for the Mohanam boys and girls every Saturday between 11 am and 12.30 pm. T here were about 20 students that benefited from this class.
On going classes
Tiago and Ana long-term guests of Auroville gave Shamba music classes for the Mohanam youth group . The classes were every Saturday between 2 pm and 3:30 pm and started the last week of September, and continued to the first week of November.
Night school activities
Mohanam Cultural Centre conducts a night school at its centre in Sanjeevi Nagar. It has students from 1st standard to 9th standard. These students come to the centre and do their homework with the help of the Mohanam students, Manikandan, Gomath, Vijayabaskar, Anandbaskar and Rajesekar who are doing their graduation and secondary school at Puducherry. Manikandan is doing B.Sc III year in Chemistry, Gomath is also doing B.Sc III year in Chemistry, Vijayabaskar has completed his B.Com graduation at a private college in Puducherry, Anandhabaskar is doing his II year in Bio-Chemistry in Puducherry, and Rajesekar is doing 12th standard in Puducherry.
There are about 35 students who are receiving private tuition at this centre for the classes that are held between 6:00 and 8:15 pm.
Women's Group Activities
One of our internship trainee, Vanessa who is from Germany gave workshops for the women on health and hygiene for three Sundays at Mohanam Cultural Centre. About 20 women participated in this workshop.
Dance and Music
Mohanam's activities reflect the richness, diversity and legend of Tamil culture along with other contemporary cultures constantly evolving and offering new possibilities.
The centre offers classes for youths in Bharatnatyam, Folk dance, Carnatic singing, Drawing, English, Hatha Yoga, Martial Arts, Theatre practice and Clay art. Children from the villages are being well trained in Bharatnatyam by qualified teachers.
The folk dances offered by Mohanam are Kummi, Karagaatam and Kolaattam . Kummi is an ancient Tamil folk dance of the villages of Tamilnadu. Karagaattam is the most popular folk dance of Tamil Nadu. Traditionally, the villagers perform this folk dance in praise of the rain goddess ‘Mari Amman'.
Kolaattam , which is danced by a team of ten or twelve participants, is a dance form in which two sticks are used for producing rhythmic sounds with movement and music. Each dancer sings songs, moves and beats the two sticks. The dance performances are conducted in open space. The participants wear clothes of uniform colour , mainly dhoties tied up, anklets on the feet and coloured ribbons around their heads.
Children and youth from the villages around Auroville benefit these programmes. It is offered free for them.
Silambam is a traditional stick martial art which has been in existence for over 5000 years, even before the arrival of the Indo-Aryans. Silambam is said to be the oldest in the world since the use of the stick was the first weapon used in pre-historic times. It received royal patronage from all the Tamil Kings beginning from the Sangam era.
Mohanam offers classes for the village youth in this martial art form in an attempt to revive it and pass it on to the next generations.
Therukoothu , the Theatre art of Tamilnadu, is usually conducted during village festivals where three or four streets meet; in open air, the place being lit by gas lights. Only men take part; the female roles also played by them. The performance consists of story-telling, dialogue-rendering, songs and dance, all performed by the artistes.
The stories are taken from Hindu epics and also from local folklore. The play starts in the late evening and gets over only during the small hours of the nights. The performance is so captivating that the audience are spell-bound unaware of the longs hours. Therukoothu is more popular in the northern districts of Tamilnadu.
Interested youths have been trained in this original Tamil theatre practice and seasonally Mohanam conducts theatre classes inviting experts in Therukoothu.
In February 2004 Mohanam started a Kinder garden project called Mohanam Crèche with a strong emphasis on a creative and child-centered approach, taking the experience of modern child psychology and new pedagogical methods. Continuing to stay in touch with the best of the traditional ways of loving care inner guidance, is what makes the difference in the Mohanam kinder garden in contrast to the government pre-school places that are available.
The aim is to give the children a firm base to be able to develop the necessary faculties for an independent and progress-oriented life. The Kindergarten-project is in its fourth year with more than 45 children and 3 teachers. The project offers the children lots of opportunities to be creative and learn in a joyful way through handicrafts, dancing, singing, painting, clay works and sports.
Empowering women economically, making them self dependent, fulfilling their needs without depending on the male breadwinners of their families is the main objective for the formation of Mohanam women's group. Known as Mohanam Malargal House, it was started on 13th February 2006 with 24 women from Sanjeevinagar and surrounding villages.
The women are trained in skills like tailoring, embroidery and fabric painting. Besides, they participate in workshops through which they learn leadership skills and self defense. Kolam, the traditional art form of Tamil culture and landscape, with their orderly and often highly symmetrical designs has been brought to the fabrics by Mohanam through a project ‘ Kolam Arts'.
Today some of the village women who have been offered training in hand embroidery make beautiful Kolam patterns on fabrics which are made into bags, pouches, purses and belts. This project is now providing employment for a small group of village women and continues to grow.
Mohanam has been involved in community welfare and development work in Sanjeevi nagar and Alankuppam villages near Auroville. Mohanam's youth and the youth from the villages join hands in the developmental works like environment safety, health and hygiene.
With the help of donors, a drinking water project worth Rs. 6 lakhs was inaugurated recently in Sanjeevinagar village.
Mohanam Performing Arts Youth Group
Mohanam firmly believes that young people play a significant role in addressing social issues and that a space should be provided for self-expression among them. We see art and cultural expression as a key medium for promoting the positive impact youth have on the world.
We involve young people, provide them with a space where their energy and creativity can be channeled in a background that promotes the brotherhood and solidarity between them and at the same time, make them conscious of the problems that are a human responsibility, through inviting them to take part in an activity to discover our culture and traditions.
The group's programmes
The group through their arts and culture activities not only preserves the original culture but also raises awareness about social issues like HIV/AIDS, labour and employment, indigenous rights, sustainable development and agriculture, peace building, human rights, health, youth culture and empowerment and environment education.
Our performing youth group consists of young boys and girls from the rural village backgrounds. Though they may be from under-privileged sections of the community and without much education, they possess knowledge and skill in their native arts and culture which makes them outstanding from other youths.
The group is led by a Tamil Aurovillian Balasundaram, who is a cultural activist and a youth leader. The boys' wing of the group performs original Tamil folk dances Kolattam and Thappattam. The group has been trained well in the Tamil Martial art Silambam . They also perform the traditional Tamil folk theatre art Therukoothu .
As some of them are working in Svaram Musical Research Center in Auroville , they also get an exposure in musical improvisations with newly developed musical instruments.
The girls' wing performs the classical dance, Bharatnatyam and the folk dances Karagaattam and Kummi.
Seasonally, the group gives dance presentations in Auroville and other parts of the country. The group has also started participating and performing cultural and theatre festivals in other parts of the country.
Youth Learning Garden ( Thoppu Veedu )
The Learning Centre is in Thoppu Veedu, a quiet coconut grove and a learning center for the youngsters in Sanjeevinagar village near Auroville. Here they practice and rehearse various performing arts.
It has a Music House, a traditional hut which is a platform for the youngsters to play and learn various sound and percussion instruments. It is also a musical laboratory wherein they experiment with different sounds for their dance and theater performances.
The learning garden offers the youth a deeper connection to nature and its cycles and helps to create environmental awareness and responsibility.
Cultural Festivals in the Village
Mohanam conducts cultural events and festivals throughout the year. The centre organizes events to celebrate special occasions like Pongal, Republic day, Independence day, Children's day, Teachers day, Women's day, Earth day, Christmas and Vijayadasami.
During Pongal, the special festival of the Tamil people, the centre conducts cultural and traditional events for the villagers around Auroville. Traditional games like Kabaddi, Ilavatta Kal Thookuthal and Nondi aattam are conducted along with contemporary sports like slow bi-cycle race and slow motor-bike race.
Village women get a chance to show their artistic talents through the traditional Tamil art ‘Kolam'. Every year, a number of them participate in the competition and show their exemplary and beautiful designs in Kolam. Kolam is a local art, performed daily by women decorating their doorsteps with chalk drawn traditional geometric mazes. Mohanam has been conducting Kolam festivals for the last four years in Sanjeevi Nagar village.
Mohanam hopes that these events will stimulate similar happenings in other surrounding villages and inspire the youth not to give up their traditional games. In future, Mohanam Cultural Centre will be introducing more traditional games and events with the collaboration of the villagers.
Yatra - The 5 Lands
Mohanam Performing Arts Youth Group and other children from the villages acted in a children's movie called 'Yatra - The five lands'. It is a beautiful and fantasy-like film that transcends through the five lands known in the Tamil legends as kurinji, mullai, marutham, neythal, and paalai (peasant fields, mountains, forests, desert and sea). It is a movie with a message for children. Directed by Srinivas, this movie will be screened in many schools throughout Tamilnadu and overseas.
See also the Mohanam website