Saturday, July 2, 2022



This Diwali, a trip to Lepa, near Indore in Madhya Pradesh was a totally unexpected affair. It was aimed at a very spiritual experience of taking advantage of Ramkatha being narrated by an authorized person in the field Shriman Ravindra Pathak. We all were eager to listen to his spiritual deliberations, as we were aware of his spiritual base and captivating mastery on mythological deliveries. 

We reached Lepa early in the morning and were greeted warmly by dedicated workers of N.A.R.M.A.D.A. (Nimar Abhyuday Rural Management And Development Association, a totally dedicated, spiritually oriented, service mission). Young enthusiastic children took our bags and led us to our rooms, where we were to stay for the next week.

This Diwali, post corona, when getting together was in jeopardy; a totally unknown destination that we chose, was a pleasant surprise. 

A warm welcome, delicious breakfast accompanied by hot tea was enough to forget the travel fatigue. We got ready for the first session of Ramkatha, followed by delicious lunch, a short nap, prawachan, tea, snack followed by evening Ramkatha and arati, dinner and a stroll in the night. It was late October, with light winter, pleasant and starry. We followed this routine for the whole of next week.

A delicious treat of listening to, experiencing, grasping the gist of various episodes of Ramayan; at the auspicious place, from an eminent personality, made our Diwali very special. The part of Tulsidas Ramayan related to the boat sailors or "kewats", as they are known as, took us into Dwapar yug, a heavenly spiritual experience. Without any tensions or stress of urban life, worries of achieving everyday routine, we were totally immersed in a divine environment, full of positive vibes. It was truly an out of the world anubhooti. 

What impressed me most was the fact that this whole project is an idea of a totally selfless and dedicated personality Bharati Thakur, who got this inspiration when she went for Narmada Parikrama. She had to stay one night in a tribal’s hut, where she was welcomed warmly and given a share of whatever they had for meals! When she realized their poverty and ignorance, she decided to resign from her very safe and secure bank job and took up the work of educating their children.

She selected a place called Mandaleshwar on the bank of Narmada River, where she set up her mission of educating children of boat sailors, for whom education was not at all a priority. Girls, school dropouts, young child labours were taught by her and slowly this expanded to a large area after establishment of N.A.R.M.A.D.A. Today it boasts of a few lovely buildings, used as school and residential complexes for teachers and students.

What impresses the visitors is that the resident students have worked to build a big auditorium, water storages, biogas plants; they manage cattle rearing, biofertilizer plants, organic farming, to name a few! This has developed a work culture in them! The two storeyed auditorium is an example of what a bunch of dedicated students can do, if they decide so! The masonry, building, painting, plumbing, electrification, all has been done by the students. This place in MP is one which has very hot summers and faces scarcity of water. They have even built underground water storage tanks, which take them through the summers. All toilets are built by students and even cleaned by them! When we visited the cow sheds, we were surprised to see the cleanliness, care taken and how it had satisfied the milk demand of the resident students. Moreover, the dung has been utilised in making fertilizers. I was surprised when I got a prompt answer to a question asked; about what species are used in biofertilizers? The students of sixth, seventh standards have cultivated Azolla and Spirulina in shadows and are updated about their advantages! Ms Bharati Thakur mam has slowly made her associates independent and responsible and they are working industriously towards being competent enough to stand proudly to face the world. Students from this institute have got prestigious jobs world over and they have been awarded best paper prizes for their innovative ideas and paper presentations.

Their regular syllabus is supplemented with skill developing courses; some have learnt plumbing, some masonry, some farming, some painting and so on, in order to help them stand on their own feet. Beautiful chants on River Narmada, considered as the mother of that region, have been composed and are sung by the children every day. A proper orchestra with musicians and instruments is set, with the help of dedicated teachers and students. Prayers mark the beginning and the end of the day. Students are well versed with all traditional Hindu practices like rangoli, diya making, garland making, handicrafts, stitching, embroidery which again helps them in their daily life and personality development. Articles made by them are kept for sale and we could play a small role in that!

It was like our maternal place, everyday different local vegetables for lunch, cooked with love, sweet dishes, soups, puris and parathas, variety of snacks; every day we would wonder how they could work up such lunches and dinners for 300 plus devotees and still maintain the sanctity of the event, that too at no cost? It was surprising how the dedicated workers maintained the cleanliness and discipline. The greenery around, clean air, fresh environment totally refreshed us! 

We immersed ourselves in River Narmada, bathing in which is considered very pious. We visited the ancient temple of Mandaleshwar, situated on a mound, other beautiful temples of Ganesha, Narmada, whenever we had time in between.

Maheshwari sarees are a trademark of this region; so how could we really miss them? Environmentally rich, great biodiversity, a motivating place; we came back chanting;

त्वदीय पाद पंकजम, नमामि देवी नर्मदे !


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Prof. Dr. Mrs. Jaya Vikas Kurhekar