Hope for the Spirit
In addition to the rehabilitation of the physical constructs of the villages affected by the tsunami, we also wanted to work for the restoration of the emotional wellbeing of the people. Their faith and hope have been shattered by this tragedy. In fact, we came to know that the temple was remaining closed as the people said they were “angry with God.”
Therefore, we felt that it was vitally important for the emotional and spiritual well-being of the community for their faith to be restored and for them to move forward with their lives. The tsunami took the lives of many, but then hopelessness and despair were taking the lives of those who escaped the waves.
Morning Puja and Re-Opening of the Temple
In order to help the community move forward and to bring a sense of completion to the tragedy, on the 6th January, in the morning, puja was re-started in the temples. Since the tsunami, the people had lost faith and hope and therefore had stopped performing puja and the temples had been closed. However, we inspired them and encouraged them to let their faith be restored. We began the morning with puja in the temple.
Uttar (Tarpan) Puja
We organized tarpan puja (final rites) on the 10th January, which was the 16th day after the tsunami. On this day, families of Devanampattnam gathered together on the beach and performed this very important tarpan puja for peace for the departed souls.
A special function was held in which all the village leaders, doctors, priests, etc. gathered together with Pujya Swamiji and Vivek Oberoi to offer prayers for the departed souls and to pledge to make Devanampattinam a model village.
Samudra (Ocean) Puja
Following the tarpan puja on the 10th January, we organized a special, sacred “Samudra puja.” The sea is like the mother of the fishermen, for she provides them with life and livelihood. However, since the tsunami, they have viewed the sea as the enemy. Therefore, we organized a special sea puja and aarti to re-instill faith in them.
Further, as a symbol of new life and new hope, as well as a practical prevention for future tidal waves, trees were planted on the coast line.
A huge, beautiful pongal puja was organized on the 14th January at the main temple of Devanampattnam, next to the Project Hope headquarters near Silver Beach. The entire village came together to worship, pray and rejoice. Pujya Swamiji and the rishikumars from the Parmarth Gurukul led the entire village in aarti and prayer. Every family brought their pongal pot from their homes and we provided a huge feast at the temple after the puja ceremony.
It was a beautiful time of renewal of faith and joy in the lives of those who have lost everything.
On the 15th January a special musical concert was organized, where Pujya Swamiji’s devotee, the world famous drummer Sivamani, came with his entire orchestra and gave a wonderful drumming concert for the entire village. Spirits soared and hope was renewed through the sound of music. Thousands and thousands of villagers came out to hear the uplifting sound of Sivamani’s drums.
We purchased cricket sets, basketball sets, badminton sets and full playground equipment (merry-go-round, swings, slide, etc.) for the children so that the villagers could start to enjoy themselves again and begin to move beyond the despair.
Special Functions & Guests
On the 15th January, His Excellency, the Honorable Shri Surjit Singh Barnalaji, the Governor of Tamil Nadu, came to Project Hope’s Relief Camp where the following activities took place.
- Pushing of the first repaired boats back into the ocean by the Honorable Governor
- Plantation of trees in memory of all those who lost their lives
- Speeches by the Honorable Governor, Pujya Swamiji, Vivek Oberoi and distinguished Central Government Ministers
- Presentation of the first new fishing nets purchased by Project Hope to the villagers
- A special musical concert by world famous drummer Sivamani along with his entire orchestra for the entire village