Most festivals and important days are celebrated with much enthusiasm in schools, particularly when women on the staff are in the majority. At our ZP School in Varvanti in Latur, we are seven women teachers, with Shravan Bhoir, our Principal, being the only man.
This year, like we do every year, we were discussing how we would celebrate the ‘Navratri’ festival, when teacher Neeta Kadam came up with a novel idea, ‘gyanachi ghatasthapana’, that all of us liked.
The Navratri is a nine day Hindu festival, that begins with ‘Ghatasthapana’, which literally means “mounting of a pot”. A copper or brass jar, filled with water, other agriculture symbols such as turmeric root, leaves of mango tree, coconut and major staple grains are kept upon a small heap of rice. A lamp is lit, symbolising knowledge and household prosperity, and kept alight through the nine nights of Navaratri. ‘Dnyanachi Ghatsthapana’ refers to a celebration of knowledge.
We decided to invite prominent and active people from the community, one on each day of this nine-day festival. The invitees would give lectures and demonstrations on a variety of social issues. The programme was held in September 2017, during Navratri.
On the first day, Jaywant Khurdale and Nanasaheb Nirphal spoke on disaster management. They explained to the audience that though natural calamities were beyond our control, we could take certain precautions to ensure that the losses were is minimal. Using examples, they also explained how most “man-made” disasters were almost always avoidable. For instance, gas cylinder accidents could be avoided if we took precautions like turning off the regulator after use, learning how to identify gas leaks, and knowing about the immediate steps to be taken in the event of a gas leak.
Some of these lectures and demonstrations had a tremendous response, like the one by Baba Halkude and Vidyasagar Kale of the Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti (Blind Faith Eradication Committee). They performed various experiments before the students to reveal the science behind “miracles” such as turning turmeric red; letters appearing on a blank piece of paper; a pot full of rice grains levitating. They urged the students to question everything they saw, and not to take such “miracles” at face value. The students were engrossed, watching and listening with great interest.
During these nine days, the students had a yoga session with one guest, and created and presented a skit on cleanliness with another. Poet Nayana Rajmane held a workshop on poetry, which helped the students realise the importance of reading good literature and expanding their vocabulary. Dr Anjali More spoke to them about the need for healthy living, and offered tips on a balanced diet and exercise. Dnyanoba Awtade provided information about various competitive exams, and advised the students on how to build a good career.
On the last day, Manisha Jadhav explained the importance of personal hygiene and social cleanliness, linking these ideas to the ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ (‘Clean India Mission’). She urged the students to demand toilets, and wash hands after using the toilet. Through a range of examples, she spoke of how keeping one’s home, its surroundings, the village, and ultimately the entire nation clean was the responsibility of each citizen.
In this way, we added a new pearl to the string of wisdom each day during our Navratri celebrations this year.
Writer: Rachana Puri and Neeta Kadam, Teachers, Varvanti ZP School, Latur district
Translation & editing: samata.shiksha team