Many of you know that we live in the most wonderful house in the most wonderful location in Tiruvannamalai, facing Arunachala mountain. It’s Gina and Vasu’s house, and we are so blessed and grateful to call this home for now.
We spend a lot of time up on the roof. It’s our second living room, meeting hall, and Temple. I wanted to share some of the scenes we see every day from our beautiful parlor in the sky.
All the photos below were shot, with various degrees of magnification, from our rooftop paradise.
The young Brindavanam orchard, and the neighbor’s house
The property was named Brindavanam by Vasu. “Brindavanam” means “Flourishing Orchard.” It is also said to be Krishna’s birthplace, and so a very auspicious place.
The first view is into the orchard/garden towards the southeast. So far, we’ve eaten mangoes, bananas, guava, and papaya. There are also young coconut, pomegranate, almond, citrus, and other fruit trees whose names we still don’t know. The larger trees in the raised circle are neem and bodhi.
The small yellow building on the left is the caretaker’s cottage. The pink house on the right, on the other side of the barbed-wire fence, is our neighbor’s. Next to his house are other structures: An older house, the pen that houses the herd of goats, and the thatch-covered cot where Grandpa sleeps every night so he can make sure the goats are OK.
Below is another view into the garden, more toward the east. The rock formation was created by Vasu, and we see it as a microcosm of Arunachala. We had the white-painted brick-edged path put around it to highlight it. Now we can do “pradakshina” around it–a clockwise walk around the symbolic holy mountain.
The view below is looking east, into the fabulous coconut grove that someone planted long ago. We know a man who lived among these coconuts for two years in a now-falling-down one-room mud brick hut in the middle of the grove.
We have found we can locate this grove using Google.earth, and then find and see our house and grounds from the satellite view.
Below are the young bougainvilleas that are planted all around the fence. Richard started training them and caring for them a while ago, and they are doing beautifully.
Living Off the Land: The Bean Field
One thing we see here is that the village people live off the land in various ways. For maybe 2,500 years, since the iron plow came to South India, they have been farming in the way it is still done today. The villagers also know all the plants that grow locally, and how to use them.
Below, the view towards the north east shows the adjoining lot that Gina and Vasu also snagged as part of their amazing “estate.” There are three different kinds of beans, or “pulses” growing on this land.
Harvesting the Beans
For several weeks a while back, Viria, the wife of our gardening/caretaking family, spent every waking hour harvesting the bean crop. It was really interesting to see the process as it has been played out for thousands of years.
After cutting the plants down, Viria brought them into our yard for “processing.” First she dried them. Then, in a room off the back porch, she pounded armfuls of drying plants into a table, causing the pods to fall off and partly open. Then she dried them some more. Next she brought everything into the driveway. To winnow them, she held up handfuls of partially thrashed pods and dropped them in the wind to let the wind separate the beans from the pods. Finally she dried the them some more.
Above, and below, you can see some piles of beans Viria has recovered. There is further processing involved for some of the pulses, where they get coated with a red-colored mud. This prevents them from sprouting. The mud is easily removed by washing before they’re cooked. (Better make sure you wash your beans!).
More Scenes from Rural India.
We also see the villagers carrying on the same kind of animal husbandry that has been done all over the world for the last five to ten thousand years.
The calf is grazing in our yard. Even today, if a family owns a cow they are thought to be pretty well off. The proceeds from milk that one cow gives can support a small family.
Farming the Old Way
The view below is the back of the house, facing west. There are several different farm plots that are planted multiple times a year. You see the farmer preparing the field with two bullocks pulling a metal plow.
Below are neighborhood women planting a rice field just behind the plot pictured above. They have leveled and flooded the field. In the background are clumps of rice sprouts. These are separated into individual seedlings and planted by the women. There’s one man out of the picture at the edge of the field, standing around supervising and ‘watching for snakes.’ (Anyway, that is what they say he is doing.)
The Ancient Job of Animal Herding
We’ve all heard about the “shepherds tending their flocks at night…”, yadda yadda, but I had never considered what their job actually entails.
Our neighbor, the one who sleeps in a thatch-covered cot near his goat pen, seems to be quite old. He takes the animals out in the morning, each day, seven days a week, every week of the year, moving his flock to graze from field to empty field. He knows he can’t graze for long in any one area, otherwise the goats will destroy the fields by overgrazing. His only tool is a stick. Sometimes he throws the stick at an animal that is not moving the way he wants. He doesn’t even have a dog to help. He is on his feet all day, keeping a constant vigil against the animals wandering away. He has about 30 goats and 4 cows.
Notice how he’s dressed, wearing only a loincloth and a cloth over his head and shoulders to shade himself from the ever-present sun.
The Modern Land Rush
The view above was taken shortly after we moved in. Notice all the nice trees in the background.
The photo above was taken a couple months later. It shows the “bean field” in the middle ground. On the other side, notice the bare dirt. That’s where those trees used to be. Since we’ve been here, this plot of land was sold and prepared for subdivision into smaller lots. Below is a shot after they created a road through the property. Not liking the direction this is going.
Our First Cyclone
The shot above shows the garden after the December cyclone hit. Rained for a couple of days. No electricity for well over a day. Everything got really, really wet and soggy. Thousands of frogs came out and croaked so loudly we had to go inside the house to talk.
And, of course, The Mountain, in all its moods and glory
Arunachala, a mountain considered holy in India for thousands of years, seems right in our front yard. This mountain, we have learned, as what is left of the oldest mountain range on the planet.
The photo above shows the section of the mountain known as Parvati, an extension of the “main” part of Arunachala, known as Siva. Parvati is Siva’s female half. In the foreground you can barely see two drummers who are marching up to a house where a wedding is being held.
Our Roof as Our Temple
We have created a small altar on the roof, with a lingam, which is a shrine to Siva. We also have a statue of Dakshinamoorty, the priordial guru who taught only in Silence. Richard recently ordered a special Ganesh statue from one of the local stone carvers, but we haven’t gotten it yet. The pictures below show only the rooftop lingam.
Richard and I continue to revel in our blessed lives. From this rooftop perch, it’s a half-hour walk to reach the base of Arunachala. We have been exploring it by foot, and Richard has posted some really interesting photos and stories about these forays on his blog at www.luthar.com.
Stay tuned, also, for my next blog about the many incredible bird sightings we have daily from this very roof.
I love sharing this continuing amazing journey with all of you. Please stay in touch! Write me at email@example.com.