22 May 2007

Lutheran Compound

Yesterday I visited 'Quo Vadis' an Inter Faith Dialogue Centre, which is being built by the Lutheran church in Tiruvannamalai, near Chengam Road and close to both Sri Ramana Maharshi and Sri Seshadri Swamigal Ashrams. The 'Quo Vadis' facility which was dedicated on January 25th, 2007 has already started its work. To find out more about the new Inter Faith Centre, I met with its co-ordinator Rev. Joshua Peter, who suggested we visit the Lutheran compound and administration centre in town so we could tape our conversation and also look at more of the work that the Lutheran Church is engaged in at Tiruvannamalai. It was a brilliant idea and I had an excellent and fascinating afternoon.

Currently visiting the Lutheran Compound was the Rt. Rev. Dr. Gideon Devanesan R.J. Who is Bishop of the the Arcot Lutheran Church. We were fortunate to meet and spend time with him, because he is most often resident at the Lutheran headquarters in Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu.

We had an interesting and illuminating conversation with the Bishop and I particularly resonated and agreed with a comment he made to the affect: It used to be when you met someone in Tiruvannamalai, they were here because they were interested in spiritual pursuits or to perform service thereby bettering others' lives. People came because they deeply cared. But now one meets many 'business people' who have no interest in anything other than profit, who come to Tiruvannamalai simply because of the financial opportunities it offers.

The below is a photograph of Rev. Joshua Peter, the co-ordinator of 'Quo Vadis' of which I will write about in later postings.

Below is a photograph of the visitors' cottage at the Lutheran Compound that Rt. Rev. Dr. Gideon Devanesan R.J., stays at when he visits Tiruvannamalai. I liked all the houses on the 10 acre compound, as they were built in traditional Tamil style with lots of old fashioned flourishes. The tiled roof on the visitors cottage is repeated on many of the buildings throughout the Compound.

This is the visitors' cottage and other compound housing from another aspect. So many beautiful tiled roofs and nice greenery!

The Lutheran Compound is a 10 acre oasis right in the middle of Tiruvannamalai. The Compound is known by the Biblical name of 'Lebanon'. Of the 10 acres, 3 are used for; housing 40 dalit families who live at 'Lebanon', a teachers' training facility, an accommodation block for teachers undergoing training, a handloom industry, a beautiful old-fashioned colonial style house, and also a 7 acre agricultural farm.

Below is the home of one of the Dalit families. Most of the families are Christian, however other faith based people can apply to live at 'Lebanon'; Lutheran Compound. In most cases the local pastor of surrounding villages recommend families in dire distress and try to arrange permanent help for what is usually deserted, widowed or abused wives with young children.

Accommodation for the families at 'Lebanon' is completely free, as is a fresh and continuous water supply and electricity. The women work either in the handloom section or as agriculturalists on the farm. They get paid a monthly salary for their work. I met and talked with most of the ladies in the handloom, and all seemed to have been there for 20 years plus. They were obviously pleased and grateful to have been given such a gracious and loving home. I took some great photographs of the ladies working on the looms, and look forward to posting them later on this Blog.

Below, is the back gate inside the compound which leads to 7 acres of fields that are used to grown maize, paddy (rice), and vegetables. Next time I visit 'Lebanon', the Lutheran Compound I will find out more about agricultural details and activities. As it was there was hardly enough time to hear details from Rev. Joshua Peter of the new facility, 'Quo Vadis' and something of the history of the Lutheran Church in the Arcot District, Tamil Nadu.

As you can imagine, the 10 acre compound which is situated in a busy part of town is surrounded by large buildings. The buildings in the below photograph, are nothing to do with the Lutheran Compound, and are just clustered around the outskirts of the 10 acre compound.

The below colonial style house is just beautiful. I was surprised that the Bishop, The Rt. Rev. Dr. Gideon Devanesan R.J. doesn't in stay at the lovely house during his regular Tiruvannamalai visits. Instead he prefers to stay in the small, unostentatious, guesthouse mentioned early in this posting.

The below photograph is another view of the grand old house. Quite lovely and also filled with some very nice antique furniture; impossible to purchase nowadays as much of the wood previously used in furniture in this country, is now 'off limits'.

This is the prayer hall which located inside the colonial style house. Much of the administration offices are also located in the building.

The Lutheran Church has many schools and hospital facilities throughout the State of Tamil Nadu. Below is a photograph of the inhouse teachers training college located inside the compound.

The pink buildings below are residential facilities for teachers being trained to work in one of the numerous schools maintained by the Lutheran Church in Tamil Nadu.

The demographics of Tiruvannamalai is approximately 70% Hindu and 30% comprised of Moselm and Christians. Definitely hope in upcoming postings to give alot of information about the great work being undertaken by members of all faiths and nationalities.

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