Root Recall

September 22, 2010
By Shailaja Tripathi
The Hindu

A festival celebrating earth as a living system will be held in Delhi on Gandhi Jayanti

“Bhoomi The Earth Festival” was conceived by Navdanya long before Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh refused stage II forest clearance to Vedanta's bauxite mining in Niyamgiri Hills in Orissa. The development has indeed added to the happiness and fervour of Navdanya's first ever “Bhoomi – The Earth Festival”, a day-long event on October 2 at India International Centre.

After all, the organisation committed to the issues of bio-diversity, conservation and organic farming was part of the process that finally led to this momentous decision by the government. Mobilising public opinion, getting Dongria Kondh tribals of Niyamgiri Hills to express their views openly, holding conferences, filing PILs on land issues, the outfit played its part. This national awakening, slowly becoming visible on the horizon of the nation is what the festival seeks to celebrate.

For quite sometime, the organisation put together a festival that focused on organic farming but actively fighting illegal mining in the Lanjhigarh area, it realised the need to shift the focus to earth. The Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth in the UN was another valid reason to have a festival revolving around the earth. “There is a gradual reawakening to the mother earth as a living system and now we want a national awakening. We plan to do this festival for next ten years and on a bigger scale,” says Vandana Shiva, noted environmentalist behind Navdanya.

The Bolivian government had initiated a process to introduce in the U.N. the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth and it even established a Ministry for the Rights of Mother Earth. The plenary session on the ‘Rights of the Earth' will have Shiva along with the other environmentalists and country ambassadors of the Bolivian Alliance speak on the subject.

Sacred earth

“Atharva Veda, the indigenous tribal culture and poetry…there is no dearth of reminders that earth is sacred. Sri Aurobindo wrote about it, so did Rabindranath Tagore, Sarojini Naidu and Mahatma Gandhi in their poems,” tells Shiva.

A book comprising poems that have earth at its core will be released during the festival. It will also have poems from the regions of Manipur and Punjab “to show that their reference point of mother earth is not pre-historic. It's live and contemporary,” she adds.

The festival will showcase three films — Jhing Chik Jhing, a recently made fiction film in Marathi about a boy who grows up amidst farmers' suicide and debt in Vidarbha by Nitin Nandan, the classic Do Bigha Zamin and Niyamgiri: The Forest Speaks by Surya Dash.

However, the day-long programme will kick off with an invocation to Mother Earth by rock group Ibadat. Be it the thumris of Vidya Rao, the folk music of a three-member team from Bihar or the paintings by Shakti Maira, everything, Vandana Shiva tells us, will be centred around the earth. An interesting part of the festival is the exhibition and interaction with the seed keepers.

Struggling against the crisis of agricultural biodiversity, Navdanya began saving seeds and established 54 seed banks in 16 states across the country. The visitors will get to see more than 1000 varieties of rice, pulses, millet, bajra, wheat to name a few. “There will be lot of forgotten food on display like ragi, jhangora, buckwheat, jowar, bajra and many of these ingredients will be used in the organic dinner that day,” informs Shiva.

Culling various known and unknown ingredients from the diverse Indian food basket, the organic dinner “Roots and Shoots” will have recipes like brahmi flavoured buttermilk, mixed tandoori platter of roots, and tubers, Nandigram “aloo” chaat, mili juli saag (cooked in clay handi), navrangi daal, mixed herbs parantha, raw papaya salad flavoured with aami adrak (a mango flavoured garlic).

(For details and table reservation please contact 26968077/26532561)