As a commemoration to Gandhi’s birthday,Navdanya in partnership with the India International Centreorganized Bhoomi, The Earth Festival, a day long celebration of the Seed and Land, Nature and Culture, Arts and Music. AfterNavdanya Director Maya Goburdhun’s opening remarks, the festival was inaugurated with the lighting of the auspicious diya by four eminent personalities: Kapila Vatsyayan, Indu Pillay, Mohini Giri and Mrinalini Sarabhai paid their respect to Mother Earth by symbolically lighting the diya. (see photo)
They were joined by Dr Mira Shiva to also release a compilation of the best of our literature relat ed to the Earth, with a preface by Kapila Vatsyayan, poems byRabindranath Tagore, Sarojini Naidu and comments by Keshav Malik, so that future generations can reconnect both to the Earth and to the ecological roots of our civilization.
Dr Vandana Shiva, Mrinalini Sarabhai, Kapila Vatsyayan, Mohini Giri, Indu Pillay, Dr Mira Shiva launch the Bhoomi compilation of poems.
The first performance was Bhoomi Vandana: an Invocation to Mother Earth by Sandeep Srivastavand his band Ibadat (see picture); the group played a selection of songs dedicated to Mother Earth and inspired by Prakriti – Nature, Bhoomi – Earth, Beej – Seed, Kisan – Farmers and more broadly climate change and environmental awareness.
Navdanya is also playing an active role in articulating Earth Rights, the Rights of the Planet, working with the Bolivian Government which has initiated a process to introduce the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth to complement the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in the UN.
To represent the Bolivarian Alliance, the Ambassadors of Ecuador and Cuba gave presentations that focused on different aspects of sustainable development in respect of the Earth.
His Excellency Mr Carlos Abad Ortiz, Ambassador of Ecuador to India (in the picture) member of the Bolivarian Alliance, gave a presentation on his country’s ITT project that envisions preserving a large share of oil reserve – situated under abiodiversity hot spot – underground while instituting a fund to act as compensation and investment into alternative renewable energy sources.
His Excellency Miguel Angel Ramirez Ramos, the Ambassador of Cuba to India, (in the picture) explored the relation between healthcare and environment by presenting the case of Cuba, where healthcare is universal and accessible to all citizens, and most importantly based on the principle of prevention as opposed to cure, making it a sustainable, resource and energy saving system that places Cuba healthcare level equivalent to that of say, the United States, but without bearing the same financial and environmental costs.
The Film Festival started with the screening of Nitin Nandan’s Jhing Chik Jhing, a Marathi film that revolves around farmers’ suicides in Vidharba. That of farmers’ suicides is one of the core issues Navdanya has been involved with: in response to the threats of GMOs, IPR and monocultures that led to huge indebtedness, driving farmers to suicide, Navdanya has been distributing seeds and creating Community Seed Banks to help the farmers in the suicide belt move away from hybrid, chemical and GM inputs towards ecologically sound, safe and organic agriculture. Since 1991, 54 seed banks have been created across India.
After the lunch break, Tom Alter introduced Do Bigha Zameen by Bimal Roy recipient of the International Prize, Cannes Film Festival 1954. Tom Alter read a message from the Director’s daughter Rinky Roy, who stressed the relevance of the movie even today, 58 years after its release, as the condition of the peasant hasn’t improved but rather deteriorated.
This point was reiterated by the Surya Dash’s documentary “Niyamgiri: the forest speaks”, that accounting for the struggle of the Dongria Kondh against corporate giant Vedanta’s plan of mining their home and sacred mountain Niyamgiri, reminded us how today more than ever our peasants and minority groups are displaced, the environment destroyed (by the State and corporations) in the name of development.
Bakt Charan Das, Kalahandi MP, expressed his gratitude to Navdanya for its efforts in ensuring that the rights of people and Nature be upheld and for campaigning against the mining of Niyamgiri, which resulted in a victory.
Sunit Tandon introduced the evening session that started with “Mahatma and the poetess”, a remarkable performance by two great artists of our times: Tom Alter andMrinalini Sarabhai read out a selection of letters between Mahatma Gandhi and the poetess Sarojini Naidu, taking the audience back to the years of India’s independence struggle – an experience that was definitely memorable for all spectators, moved by the performance to both laughter and tears.
Equally outstanding was the execution of Thumris by Vidya Rao (picture below), who delighted the audience with a selection from the Thumri tradition as well as from the folk and bhakti repertoire, highlighting the idea of “ghat” or “gagar”, earthern pot used across India to store water, grains or cook. The ghat symbolizes Mother Earth and the human body; it was also symbol of the five elements of life.
Finally, a performance by Folk Musicians from Bihar who sang melodious songs about the plight and life of farmers, their trials and tribulations concluded the Jiva Concerts.
In the picture: Sri Ramaiya Pandey (L) and Ms Madhubala Kumari (R)
Earth Spirit, an exhibition of paintings by Shakti Maira, was on display throughout the day in the Auditorium Foyer.Shakti Maira presents Earth
Spirit, selection of paintings from Pilgrim’s Path (2001) and Beej (2003)
The selection was from two series: paintings from Pilgrim’s Path (2001) rich in the
physicality of the path - roots, branches, fallen leaves and seeds, and paintings from Beej (2003), meditations on and a celebration of life within a seed, of the possibilities within us, of the starbust energy of growth, of new beginnings and new life, manifested and evoked the spirit of Bhoomi, main theme of the Festival.
Also on display through the day was Bija: the Art of the Seed, Navdanya’s own exhibit of the thousands of varieties of seed conserved in its 20 years of formal existence, including rices, pulses, masale, oilseeds and forgotten foods. Not only did the public express great curiosity and interest in discovering the huge pool of traditional, indigenous varieties found in Nature, they were also thrilled by a chance to interact with those who have been so strongly committed to preserving this invaluable legacy: Navdanya’s seedkeepers and farmers from India.
The Bhoomi Movement has also launched the Gardens of Hope campaign to create 1000 organic gardens in schools and communities over the next three years to reconnect to the Earth, to build food security and conserve biodiversity. Kapila Vatsyayan along with other guests planted a sapling each in IIC’s Gandhi Plaza, to symbolically inaugurate Navdanya/IIC’s own Garden of Hope.
(In the picture, Kapila Vatsyayan plants a Murunga tree)
The day’s celebrations ended with Roots and Shoots, Navdanya’s organic dinner that gave guests a taste of the delicious, healthy, chemical free foods Navdanya strives to conserve; the rich and varied menu included traditional Indian preparations of indigenous vegetables and a tempting selection of pickles from across the country.