A grand Pooja is being organized by the Iyengar family at Bellur commemorating Guruji Sri. B.K.S. Iyengar's first death Anniversary on 8th of September 2015. The entire Iyengar family was present along with hundreds of Iyengar yogis from different parts of the World to offer prayers for Guruji.
The day began with a chanting session of Patanjali Yoga Sutras by Geetaji and a group of people gathered at the technical college followed by traditional pooja at Yoga hall. The newly built yoga hall was reverberated with the vedic chants till noon.
At the end of Pooja, people walked to Geetaji and Prashantji to seek their blessings. Both sat patiently and received one and every individual with complete humbleness and generosity which is the hallmark of Iyengar's.
Later a good traditional food is served as Guruji's prasad along with some dakshina as part of their tradition to all the visitors present over there.
Apart from this, many developments took place in Bellur ever since I visited couple of years ago. For those who couldn't make it to Bellur, I want to put before you a visual presentation of the developments that are taking place at the moment. I hope this article on Bellur will make you feel the presence of Bellur at home. Those who have not visited yet will motivate them to visit.
Most of the Iyengar yogis who were unable to visit Bellur for some reason might have come to know about Bellur Project through Yoga Rahasya as stories on Bellur is regularly published in it. For many of those who doesn't know what is happening at Bellur and why Bellur is so special to Guruji and his family, here is a sneak peak.
Bellur always had a special place in Guruji's heart. Though he left Bellur at the very young age of 5 to Bangalore and then to Pune and grew to international fame through his practice of yoga, never forgot his birth place.
Guruji established 'BKSSNT' - Bellur Krishnamachar and Seshamma Smaraka Nidhi Trust with a vision to serve the village Bellur with all the necessities. The prime motto of the Trust is to promote Rural Education, Social Welfare and Health as well as to safeguard the cultural activities of the village.
BKSSNT is built up in an area of around 33 acres at a picturesque location of Bellur village surrounded by rocky hills across. Great work has been done so far and yet some prestigious projects are under construction.
As a first step to serve the village, Guruji established a beautiful school in the name of his wife Smt. Ramamani Sundararaja Iyengar High School providing high school education to the children of Bellur.
Guruji found that the girl child of Bellur is not getting proper education after Grade 7 as there is no high school in the village. Parents were reluctant to send their teenage daughters to the neighboring village school. The school was established by Guruji in the year 2005 and since then it is fully functional providing high school education to the boys and girls of Bellur and surrounding villages. The high school is now recording highest number of admissions and pass outs in the entire district which is a great progress in the very short span of time.
With the assistance of a social welfare organization called Adamya Chetana Sansthan from Bangalore the institution is able to provide mid-day meals to all the students studying in the school.
Pre University College:
When I last visited Bellur in 2012, Guruji inaugurated a beautiful Pre-University College building for boys and girls of Bellur on his 94th birthday on 27th November 2012 as per Indian Calendar. The college has all the modern amenities of a corporate college. It has a huge conference hall, a beautiful library, laboratories, play ground etc.
From the year 2014 the college began to provide education for Graduation. By end of the academic year 2017 this college is going give the first batch of graduates from the village of Bellur and surroundings.
I learned that a village girl called Chaitra, the first admitted and a pass out of the first batch of Smt. Ramamani Sundararaja Iyengar High School is now teaching the students of B.Com II year in the degree college established by Guruji after completing her Master's in Commerce and B.Ed. She made herself, Guruji and the entire village proud. Bravo Chaitra.
50 senior students are now planning to form a student's association with a vision to track the progress of every individual to inspire, assist and guide themselves and the junior students under the leadership of Chaitra.
College for Technical Training:
Guruji inaugurated Smt Ramamani Sundararaja Iyengar Technical Training Center on his last visit to Bellur on 31st May 2014 with a vision to help students of Bellur and other villages find jobs in the surrounding factories. The institute is currently providing technical training in the field of welding. Three batches have already gone out of the school and the institute helped some of those students find employment in the nearby factories. Few students are now said to be working as Supervisors in some prestigious industries around.
The equipment in the picture above on right is the result of combined efforts of the technical trainer and the students of technical college of BKSSNT.
Smt. Ramamani Sundararaja Iyengar Hospital is another institution under the roof of BKSSNT that is doing priceless service to the people of Bellur and surrounding villages. There is hardly any hospital miles across Bellur village. The hospital is fully functional with 2 general wards and 3 special rooms with a total bed capacity of 30. It is providing medical services 24 X 7 with two doctors, 9 nurses and a supporting staff of additional 4 people. The hospital is now ready with a fully equipped Operating Theater which is due to start soon.
Another hallmark of this hospital is that it doesn't charge any consultation fee for visiting a doctor. It is completely free for all the patients. A concessional fee is collected for the diagnostic services done at the institute and medicines are supplied at the cost they purchase without any profit.
Ambulance service is also available with the institution for treating emergency cases within the village and sometimes they carry the patients to the capital city of Bangalore in case of serious condition. Ambulance service is doing a wonderful job in reaching patients and providing them necessary first aid treatment. In our previous visit to Bellur in mid February 2012, we witnessed an emergency case being admitted and treated in the hospital.
Creating individual and public health awareness is one of the major objectives of this trust. In order to promote health and education to rural people many health camps have been organized by the trust and Guruji personally attended and supervised some of the camps.
Yoga and sports:
Apart from academic education BKSSNT encourages learning Yoga, sports and different forms of arts and dance. Guruji's school and yoga taking a back seat? Impossible! On his 94th birthday Guruji said, education is provided only to those students who take up the practice of yoga. Yoga is part of their Syllabus in BKSSNT institutions. Guruji made sure that a proper yoga hall with proficient teacher and all the necessary props and amenities are installed at the institute.
Yoga is included in their curriculum and a class is allocated for the practice of Yoga. Iyengar yoga teachers from Bangalore visit twice a week to conduct the classes at school.
The students have excelled in the field of yoga and earned many awards and rewards at various inter-school and state level competitions. They demonstrated a glimpse of what they can do during the 94th birth day celebrations of Guruji. Have a look at that in the under-linked video.
Apart from students of the school, different groups of Iyengar yoga practitioners all over the World visit Bellur and conduct workshops. Regular among them are Patricia Walden and her group from USA and Rita Keller from Germany. They regularly visit Bellur around December, January every year to conduct workshops in Bellur. Other regular visitors are a group from Mumbai and Hyderabad to Bellur.
In order to facilitate these groups to come and practice here in Bellur, Guruji has planned to build a huge yoga hall which is now almost ready and is due for inauguration in December this year. You might have already come across the message shared by Rajvi mam making rounds on facebook about the inauguration of this beautiful hall and two free classes by Geetaji and Prashantji on 18th and 19th of December 2015. Sometimes visuals describe better than words. So find out how the hall looks like in the images below.
Projects under construction:
A prestigious project of providing accommodation to Iyengar Yogis who visit Bellur to practice yoga is under construction. Single rooms, double rooms and dormitories capable of providing accommodation for 36 people per floor is under construction.
Kitchen and a Massive dining hall:
When we visited first time in 2011, there was no kitchen and dining facility in the premises. They used to order meals from nearby Kamat Restaurant for the visitors. A huge dining hall and a kitchen is now ready to serve around 300 people at a go.
With a view to provide greenery and keep the place pollution free, some mango trees, coconut trees, banana trees etc have been planted at different places within the premises. Agriculture and cattle farming are other budding projects of the trust.
Water storage ponds have been built at different locations to preserve rain water during monsoon. The stored water is used for irrigation and sanitation purposes.
At the end I would like to thank Mr. Govindraju who is associated with BKSSNT for a long time. Without his help this article wouldn't have become possible. He never hesitated for any single moment to help me out in gathering the information and collecting images that you find here. Finally special thanks to Guruji, Geetaji and Prashantji without whom Bellur Project wouldn't have become possible.