An eventful day at Suttur Mutt. It began with a flag-raising ceremony, a lot like what we do for new ritaus, except for the twenty nadaswara players, the five acrobats doing bicycle stunts, the five actors dressed up as warriors with play swords, the eight female drummers, the countless male drummers, the security officers mounted on horses, the ocean of people attending and, of course, the elephant. Other than those details, it was just like ours. From that we went to an intimate mass wedding with some 230 couples and their extended families.
Just before sunset, we were taken on a tour of the smaller temples near Suttur Mutt. (Photos are above) The big temple is the samadhi shrine for their Adi Guruji, whose 1052nd mahasamadhi anniversary this festival celebrates. But these other, charming little temples were built a long time ago, by the Chola kings, who were impressed by the spiritual stature of the founder of Suttur Mutt. We were told they were in a dilapidated state until the current leader of the Math renovated them, with the expertise of Ganapati Sthapati. The main mandapam, or hall, in these temples looks almost entirely new, contrasting with the ancient inner sanctums and the glorious Chola pillars eroded by time and weather, but still standing strong.
At the top of a hill, as the sun set, we visited a temple for a Deity called Giribhairav, a warrior son of Siva who likes his temples at hilltops (sounds familiar?). The main murti was sculpted in black sandstone, allowing for some details that granite cannot take, but also making us wonder if that was the original murti, since it is a more fragile material than granite. The other temples were quite similar, one to Siva and another to Vishnu, colorfully lit, clean, and always with a few locals and padasala students of even very young ages. The priests seemed content to be working in this area, under Suttur Mutt's umbrella.
While we had our adventures, Sri Shivarathri Desikendra Swamiji mostly stayed in front of the main temple, having waves people touching his feet for blessings, for hours and hours and hours on end. Quite a different way to serve humanity than ours, to be sure.
We met again today the young man who is the assigned successor to Swamiji. At age 16, Rajendra is still a student. It surprised us to learn this is a hereditary lineage. The swamis are celibate, but the successors are always chosen from among their close relatives. The current leader is the great-nephew of the previous guru. Rajendra, the heir apparent, is Swamiji's nephew.
One boon we are seeing here is that all the leading swamis invited to the event come to take their seat of honor at the specific function assigned to them and quickly leave. We are the only guests of honor staying for the whole event, which means a lot of interaction with our host Sri Shivarathri Desika Swami, who is all too happy to have his Hawaiian friends around.
Interesting and fruitful interactions with swamis and gurus from other lineages.
We have a full-time photographer and Choodie Shivaram is here working on her article for HT. It's priceless for us, as editors, to be at the site: we really get to know what this place is all about and can coordinate the article-making process in a whole new way. People share so much information with us that we would not otherwise acquire.
Yoginathaswami and SadhakaTejadevanatha flew over to the Big Island to take care of some business and to visit Kawamata Farms in Hilo.
The farm manager David Oshiro gave us a very informative tour of the farm.
Farm was started in the Mid 60s. Today they have 14 workers, 6 trainee's and 3 managers. They started growing field veggies and ran into challenges with controlling bugs that would eat the crops. Then the farm transitioned into flowers. The challenge with flowers is the high competition from other countries that have lower labor cost. Now they grow 3 Acres of hydroponic tomatoes and 3/4 of an acre of cucumbers. The tomatoes have a higher profit margin and the bugs can be controlled in a green hose
Stats of the Farm:
Tomato production: 1 million lbs a year. Cucumbers: 400,000 lbs a year
Tomatoes and Cucumbers are grown in : Coconut husk media that is imported from Sri Lanka. Liquid fertilizer is fed to the plants through drip irrigation. The system is closely monitored by the Farm Manager. Tomatoes are spaced 5 ft apart by 12 inches
Any bugs that do find the plants are controlled organically with Neem oil. The oil is purchased from India in 55 gallon drums.
After our Maha Ardra day festival Kulapati Satya Palani stayed on to help the monks. He is currently a top project manager for a construction firm but in his younger days he was a master tile craftsman. He kindly offered to help the Siddhidata Kulam tile their new office floor. Thanks to his amazing expertise and the team work they finished the whole job in two days. These photos are from day two and the floor is almost done.
Archives are now available through 2001. Light colored days have no posts. 1998-2001 coming later.