August 15th was India’s Independence Day, and August 16th was Pondicherry’s Independence Day, so needless to say there was a lot of freedom and fried food everywhere this weekend. Thousands of people were out on the town, packing the beachside road of Pondi. There were lights strung up on the municipal buildings, the governor’s palace, and the city park. There were fireworks too! None set off in the streets like back home though; they leave it to the professionals.
The Governor’s palace, open to the public for two days only
The country of India was established at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947. The Constitution was written in 1950. Synthesized from Wiki: The flag colors are saffron, denoting renunciation or disinterestedness, as leaders must be indifferent to material gains. The white is light, in search of truth. The green shows the relation to the earth, the source of all life. The center wheel is the “Ashoka Chakra,” the wheel of the law of dharma. The wheel denotes the motion of life, as there is death in stagnation. “The wheel represents the dynamism of a peaceful change.“
(Book recommendation: Midnight’s Children, by Salman Rushdie is a classic, as the narrator is the first baby to be born in the new country. His fate is ever tied to the country’s. It is hilarious and very informative about family and Indian culture.)
August 15th is also Sri Aurobindo’s birthday. In fact Aurobindo commented on the coincidental date, saying it was a sign that the work of his yoga had been instrumental in achieving freedom for India. Venus and I spent the day relaxing, going to darshan in the morning. On Sri Aurobindo and Mother’s birthday they would sit and give blessings to the people. This was the only chance for followers to see Sri Aurobindo in person, as he was usually always in his quarters doing his yoga or keeping up on the thousands of letters from followers. Darshan is when a holy person gives blessings to the people. The Pope gives darshan too. Darshan also happens the 21st of February, for the Mother’s birthday.
The atmosphere of Darshan is like Disneyland, with hundreds of families and merchants, and the air is peaceful and festive, and everyone waits in line for their turn to go into the rooms of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. These spaces still hold their spiritual vibrations. when Sri Aurobindo and the other were still in their bodies, they would stand on the balcony and give radiant blessings to the ashramites below. The Mother would pass out a message with a quote from Sri Aurobindo on it. yesterday the blessing was very moving for me. After going through the perserved rooms, I read this passage and felt a strong feeling of love and serenity come into me.
Whatever the appearance we must bear,
Whatever our strong ills and present fate,
When nothing we can see but drift and bale,
A might Guidance leads us still through all.
Also for the francophones:
Quelles qui soient les apparences qu’il nous faut supporter,
Si durs que soient nos maux et le destin présent,
Quand nous ne voyons rien que dérive et que ruine,
Un Guide tout-puissant nous mène à travers tout.
Venus and I made lunch of dahl with paneer, mango chutney and salad. In the evening we went for a long walk among the crowd. We also decided to wear saris in celebration (and because I’ve been dying to wear mine). I got many stares, but in general positive feedback. I realized that people are going to stare at foreigners no matter what they wear, so what do you have to lose?