The Hindu Spiritual and Service Foundation and the Initiative for Moral and Cultural Training Foundation (IMCTF), have been holding annual service fair for the last ten years. It provides the Hindu spiritual and voluntary organisations serving the needy persons all across the country to showcase their activities and exchange experience in different spheres of life.
This year’s Fair was unique in many respects as it focussed on the matrishakti. According to managing trustee of IMCTF, J. Rajalakshmi and Bharath Natyam danseuse Dr Padma Subrmnanyam, this year the Fair was based on the theme ‘Revering Womanhood’. “No other country or civilisation has professed the concept of revering womanhood as much as our rich Indian civilisation. No other cultural system or practice has celebrated the woman force like the Indian heritage has. From times immemorial, feminine power was revered in India, not just in spiritual or philosophical terms, but in actual life too,” she added. The HSSF was started in 2009 and till now it reached 10 states joining hands with over 10,000 schools and colleges all over the country.
On January 19, 2020, Vivekananda Ratham (chariot), legendary Tamil chaste woman Kannagi (Silapathikaram heroine) Ratham were flagged off at Mylapore which went around Chennai, Kancheepuram, Chengleput, Tiruvallur districts and reached the venue of the fair on January 30. The school students and public accorded a traditional welcome to the 25 Rathams all along the route.
Blessings of Amma
The Fair was inaugurated by Mata Amritanandamayi Devi. She stressed on gender equality. “Some men mistakenly believe that they are superior and nobler than women and, hence, should be woman’s master. Neither God nor Nature has a hand in this belief. Society has branded woman as helpless and fickle and shackled her with this conditioning. There is nothing a woman cannot do if she sets her mind to it. All that is needed is the will to create the right circumstance to awaken her inherent strength,” she said.
She recalled that there was a golden period in India when people were able to see the connection between the individual and the society from a spiritual perspective. She said: “In Vedic and post-Vedic times, women were viewed with great respect and reverence. In those days, women had their rights, position, freedom and respect. In the following millennia, India was subjected to numerous external invasions and enslaved. These attacks on India’s sovereignty and its following subjugation, took their toll on her citizens - not just externally, but also intellectually, emotionally and socially. This changed our approach to our family and personal relationships as well as our ideas about women. Many of the deep wounds inflicted back, have never healed.”
Traditional Arts & Dance Forms
On second day of the Fair, over 150 students from different schools Chennai performed Bhoomi and Ganga Vandanam. During the event, they worshipped mud pots (earthen kalasam) filled with water. Students of Punjab association performed a themed dance promoting environmental conservation.
At Guru Nanak College premises in Velachery on fourth day of the event, about 40 students of classes 7, 8 and 9th from DAV School in Mogappair performed a homam in which they chanted various shlokas from scriptures. Rituals such as vruksha (tree) and naaga vandanam (snake worship) for the conservation of forest and protection of wildlife were also performed. Students of DAV School, Balasaravana High School, Jeyaranjani School (Adambakkam), Vivekananda School (Tiruvottriyur) and Sankara School (Tiruvanmiyur) gave a new set of clothes to parents and teachers. Students also performed ‘Paadha Puja’ to their parents. They chanted ‘Mathru Devo Bhava, Pitru Devo Bhava, Athiti Devo Bhava, Acharya Devo Bhava’.
Akhil Bharatiya Adhi Saiva Sivachariyargal Sangam (priests) performed Santhana Gopala homam. Students of Arya Samaj Educational Trust conducted a thematic homam. Members of Maravar community showcased their silambattam, a traditional martial self–defence sport while members of Irular tribe spoke on ancient lifestyle habits. A street play on Draupadi’s marriage was staged by Rajagopal Gounder and his team.
On January 24, over 300 people took part in Varuna Thematic Swimming event at Velachery. Participants ranged from age of 10 years to 40 years and were split into 10 categories. All competitions were conducted based on themes like patriotism, forest conservation, protection of ecology and sustaining the environment.
On January 25, students dressed in saffron weaved through Chennai streets, roads holding placards, playing musical instruments and chanting slogans in praise of Vivekananda. On the same day, Chatrapati Shivaji Marathon was held in which a large number of students took part. Ranji trophy cricket player Cavin Ravi was the special guest. Before the start of the marathon, participants took pledge of the HMCTF principles.
Around 2,000 dancers performed Bharathamuni Samskar Natanam at AM Jain College in Meenambakkam on January 26. The theme was ‘Revering Womanhood to Foster Woman’s honour’ and it was rendered under the presence of a renowned Indian classical dancer and Rajya Sabha MP, Padma Vibushan Dr Sonal Mansingh. The dance programme was choreographed by Padma Subrahmanyam, president of Nrithyodaya and Chairman of the Reception Committee of HSSF. The participants showcased the ideas of ‘feminine is divine’, ‘divine is feminine’ and ‘Glory Thy Name is Woman’. In the Bharatheeya Samskara Ganam event, around 10,000 girl students from Chennai gathered at AM Jain College at Meenambakkamo and rendered classical songs in Tamil, Sanskrit and Bengali.
On January 27, around 10,00 students from various schools studying from 6th to 9th standard did yogaasana at AM Jain College in Meenambakkam without break for 50 minutes. They performed Sri Krishna Samskara, a mass thematic programme, in the presence of ‘Yogakala Bharathi’ V. Balakrishnan, founder of Ozone Yoga in Coimbatore and son and disciple of Yogini Padma V. Nanammal. On the same day ‘Tiranga Cyclathon’, a cycle rally was conducted in Ennore to promote awareness of nature and saving animals in which young boys and girls aged between 10 and 17 took part. Carom National Champion Vinita flagged off the cyclathon.
At the fair venue, the statue of Kannagi, who demonstrated what shakthi is 2,500 years ago, welcomed the visitors. Besides statues of Goddesses Lakshmi, Saraswati, Parvati, were kept. Portraits of Anushya Devi, Sita who were the embodiment of chaste and empowerment of women and historical women showed their valour during wars to protect the country, Capt. Lakshmi, who was in the Netaji Bose’s INA, Carnatic vocalist MS Subbalakshmi were the cynosure of eyes.
HSSF through the Years
The Hindu Spiritual and Service Fair was first held in Chennai in 2009 with just 30 participants. This year, more than 300 Hindu spiritual organisations and communities participated. The six-day fair attracted over 18 lakh visitors.