This year at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan’s public school (Vidyashram) Jubilee hills, we decided to celebrate Sankranti more purposefully. We wanted our students to have fun but also to learn and experience something new. After a brainstorming session, we decided to get the students to showcase life in a village – the backbone of our country. We hoped that this way all our students and visitors to the event will come to know how organized our villages are with spaces and places for everything, how villagers earn their livelihood, how our culture and heritage is protected and conserved in our villages.
It took the collective effort of parents, teachers and students to bring an entire village to life within the boundaries of our school. The end result was a visual treat that everyone truly appreciated.
Students and staff dressed as villagers and student volunteers guided visitors (parents) around the village. Here is a visual sketch, which I hope will give you an idea or two as well.
The Bhavan’s village
A red bus stopped near the village bus stop for visitors to alight. The entrance to the village had a festive look with student villagers beating drums and performing aarthis to welcome the visitors. As soon as we entered the village, we could see the uricheruvu (village pond), where a few families were washing their clothes and cattle. We then came across women working in the fields. The village patashala (village school) had students learning poems from the Acharyaji. The student volunteers then guided us to the grandhalayam (library), where the village youth could be seen reading books and newspapers. There was an installation of the gramadevatha (village goddess) as well. Visitors were allowed to offer coconuts to the goddess, who the villagers believed protected their fields, crops and families from evil spirits. Opposite the temple was a health center in which student doctors were carrying out health check-ups. There was a post office and a postman too, indicating that this was how villages stayed connected with the rest of the world.
We spotted a man in colourful attire with a pot in hand. He was begging for alms. Another man was going around the village with a decorated bull, singing rhythmically with a nadaswaram.
The Rachabanda is an important place in every village, as it is here that village grievances are sorted out and village management is taken care of. The Bhavan’s village too had a sarpanch, who along with the ward members was resolving village issues brought to his notice by the villagers.
The Bhavan’s village also showed visitors how different festivals are celebrated in villages. During Diwali and Sankranti, villagers arrange bomallakoluvus and pray to goddess Lakshmi for the prosperity and wellbeing of the village. Our student villagers set up a bomallakoluvu with different types of dolls, wooden toys, flowers, artifacts and idols of gods and goddesses. There was a display of bhogimantalu (fire lit during sankranti) with the villagers dancing around it to the beats of drums. Bonalu festivities were being carried out near the Matha temple. There were women walking towards the temple with decorated pots on their heads, which contained offerings for the goddess. A few feet away was a 10 feet tall bathukamma (a floral arrangement made during the festival of Bathukamma in Telangana) surrounded by 150 small bathukammas.
Festive delicacies were placed like goli soda, kobbari bonda, sugarcane juice, sankranthi pachadi, sakinaalu, pindi vantalu, jangirilu, jantikalu, madatakaja, etc. The special mirchi bajji counter was handled by the women’s group of school assistants.
The volunteers then guided us to the Kalakendra, the creative corner of the village. Here, we had real artisans showcasing their creativity. There was a lakka bangle maker showing the art of making bangles with lac. We also had artists exhibiting their skills in kalamkaari, nirmal and ikat and students were taking tips from the experts. There was a potter engaged in making pots and training children in working with clay.
At the village market we saw some 30 stalls where farmers were selling their produce and artisans their products. Right outside the village market were the Erkala sodi girls (fortune tellers).
The students also got the presentation of village houses (huts) perfect. In front of the house was a welcoming rangoli design. There were two cots in the courtyard and inside we could see the well, where guests could wash their feet before entering the house. The women inside were singing even as they were doing household chores.
There was a display of the traditional martial arts (karra saamu) and games like pachhisi (traditional ludo), ashta chamma, vamanagunthalu (seven pits) that people played. The visitors got to play these games too.
There was also a rangasthalam, the main stage, in the village, where dances and dramas are played out for the villagers’ entertainment.
It was a visual feast with 4000 people participating in the program. This was the first time that the entire school (students, teachers, management and parents) worked on a project together and it has bound the entire school community as one. And while our aim was to expose the students to our culture and tradition, we ended up learning many things ourselves as well.
The author, until recently, was senior principal at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan’s Public School Jubilee Hills Hyderabad. She has 40 years of teaching experience. Progressive approach is her key word. Practical, dynamic, proactive and promoter of values, she transformed the school into a green school. She can be reached at email@example.com.