Tribal Woman in Coimbatore Who Is Standing Up to Isha Foundation

Excerpts from an article I read

Muthamma lived with her husband in the forested and hilly tribal areas surrounding Coimbatore. About 20 years ago, she and her husband started working for a yoga ashram in the area as a daily labourer. Subsequently, she had three children – two sons, now 24 and 19 years old, and a daughter who is 20. They have also been working in the ashram since their childhood and continue to do so today, as does her husband. Muthamma says that those that get work sporadically earn between Rs 250 and Rs 300 daily, while those doing regular work earn about Rs 130-150 a day. Muthamma herself stopped working at the ashram when she joined one of 18 self-help groups (SHGs) set up by a local NGO about ten years ago. She remembers that when she left, she was earning Rs 15 a day.

The SHG collapsed after a few years when its members were told that they would have to ask for tenders to have access to the forest produce and this was beyond their means.

The ashram stepped in and started using Muthamma and others like her to accompany its members into the forest to share their inherited knowledge of medicinal plants. Once this knowledge was transferred, they were abandoned and, since they were ‘illegal trespassers, it was the ashram members, armed with the traditional tribal knowledge that they had accessed in an underhand way, who were given access to the forest and its bounty.

Along with the nearly 200 tribal families, Muthamma and their newly-found allies put in an RTI application and gained copies of the documents connected with the 44 acres of land. They then approached the district administration to allot the land to them for house sites, which they needed desperately

The tribals are not alone in the struggle against the activities of the ashram. The Vellingiri Hill Tribal Protection Society filed a PIL in the Madras high court in March against the unauthorised structures that have been constructed on the wetlands at Ikkarai Poluvampatti by the ashram.

But the ashram has powerful friends. It is owned by the Isha Foundation headed by Jaggi Vasudev, who is now as much in the news as any of his fellow celebrity ‘holy men’. Just a few days before the March PIL was filed, the prime minister himself unveiled a 112-foot-high bust of the ‘Adi Yogi’ Shiva at the ashram – despite being requested by environmental activists not to be present at an occasion when a new violation of building norms was added to a long list of earlier violations.

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I am 3/4ths Sri Lankan (Jaffna) Tamil, 1/8th Sinhalese and 1/8th Irish; a proper mutt. Maternal: Grandfather a Govt Surveyor married my grandmother of Sinhalese/Irish descent from the deep south, in the early 1900’s. They lived in the deep South, are generally considered Sinhalese and look Eurasian (common among upper class Sinhalese). They were Anglicans (Church of England), became Evangelical Christians (AOG) in 1940's, and built the first Evangelical church in the South. Paternal: Sri Lanka (Jaffna Tamil). Paternal ancestors converted to Catholicism during Portuguese rule (1500's), went back to being Hindu and then became Methodists (and Anglicans) around 1850 (ggfather). They were Administrators and translators to the British, poets and writers in Tamil and English. Grandfathers sister was the first female Tamil novelist of modern times I was brought up as an Evangelical even attending Bible study till about the age of 13. Agnostic and later atheist. I studied in Sinhala, did a Bachelor in Chemistry and Physics in Sri Lanka. Then did Oceanography graduate stuff and research in the US. I am about 60 years old, no kids, widower. Sri Lankan citizen (no dual) and been back in SL since 2012. Live in small village near a National Park, run a very small budget guest house and try to do some agriculture that can survive the Elephants, monkeys and wild boar incursions. I am not really anonymous, a little digging and you can find my identity.

23 thoughts on “Tribal Woman in Coimbatore Who Is Standing Up to Isha Foundation”

  1. Word ”Tribal” originated from the tribe Tribals who lived in ancient time in central Serbia together with Moesians, Thracians, Panonians, Gaets, Pelasgians, Illyrians. Singes…All of them were Serbs and spoke Serbian language.

    1. That’s fascinating, but I have to admit it would be more believable if you didn’t claim everything on God’s green earth was originally Serbian 🙂

      1. What is fascinating? I only say things which are related to Serbs and which are not widely known. I believe that many in SA are interested considering that millions of you guys are descendants from Serbs Aryans and that our histories are interleaved and much closer then everyone think. Have you found any mistake in my comments? Please tell us. Or, maybe you need longer explanation and more supporting evidence? Please tell me if you are interested to know more about any thing I mentioned in the past.

        I can see that you are curious and interested to read (e.g. about Iranians). When you finish the book, you may tell us what is the previous name for Amu Darya which MMK told you about?

        But for now tell us (or please do a research) what is the previous name of the river IND!
        The first to tell us all will get another bottle of red from my cellar.

        Stay cool! …And curious!

        PS. If you think that Serbs’ history is fascinating I must agree with you. I am also surprised while discovering every day new things which are currently hidden or falsified.

        If you are enough curious to study maps, here we go – Tribals:…15370.23342..23835…0.0..0.225.3905.0j24j2……0….1..gws-wiz-img…….0j0i67j0i19j0i30i19j0i5i30i19j0i8i30i19j0i30j0i8i30j0i24.cv8v4FQZuqM#imgrc=hVbm9ipLdVE9uM:…15370.23342..23835…0.0..0.225.3905.0j24j2……0….1..gws-wiz-img…….0j0i67j0i19j0i30i19j0i5i30i19j0i8i30i19j0i30j0i8i30j0i24.cv8v4FQZuqM#imgrc=BbebB5N-nsySAM:…15370.23342..23835…0.0..0.225.3905.0j24j2……0….1..gws-wiz-img…….0j0i67j0i19j0i30i19j0i5i30i19j0i8i30i19j0i30j0i8i30j0i24.cv8v4FQZuqM#imgrc=_neiyo8-EMvCSM:…15370.23342..23835…0.0..0.225.3905.0j24j2……0….1..gws-wiz-img…….0j0i67j0i19j0i30i19j0i5i30i19j0i8i30i19j0i30j0i8i30j0i24.cv8v4FQZuqM#imgrc=ysqLqyL3L9RNQM:

        1. SA peoples are descendants of a lot of groups (Iranian farmers, Natives, Central asians, austro-asiatic peoples) and I feel like one cannot claim a particular ancestry! I do understand that there is “aryan ancestry”( central asian). These people mixed with europeans too but they didn’t develop a language like sanskrit or philosophy like upanishads which were developed in SA, I also acknowledge that proto-sanskrit might’ve been brought to SA by steppe peoples but proto-sanskrit is neither refined nor standardized like sanskrit, proto-sanskrit was yet another language used by nomads and it has no place in high culture. So, europeans who are eager to claim that they belong to aryan ancestry and thereby claiming sanskrit, upanishads need to think twice about it.

          1. It seems you are the guy who can tell us what is the previous name of the river Ind!?

            Anyway, “SA people are descendants of a lot of groups (…)” but NOT “europeans” who mixed only with “central Asia” (i.e. Jaggui) people!??? How come? What is “aryan ancestry”? Who are “Aryans”? …. And “nomads” brought “proto-sanskrit” (what’s happened with Indo-European?) but they have just left it at the SA border without entering SA and without mixing with SA people as CA people did? And SA locals took the PS at the border, refined and standardized it, developed Upanishads and high culture? I wander why they did this complication, why they did not simply used the language they already spoke instead of using this unrefined, low culture nomadic protolanguage? And, who are ‘europeans’? Are they the same as “steppe” people? And what is the relationship between ‘europeans’ and ‘aryans’? Which language ‘europeans’ spoke? Europe got its name much, much later of this PS border exchange.

            Well, I think you must go back to your drawing board and logically structure your assertions. Let me give you (and to anyone else interested) one mental exercise to stretch your brain curves.
            Pls give me the answer – what is the common (or link) between SA and Roman bacchanalias? (And, don’t forget – Ind).
            Take it easy and don’t get stressed. Cheers.

      2. Agreed. This constant claiming of everything for Serbia is getting beyond ridiculous. He’s free to keep doing it of course but I’m glad somebody else pointed out how evidence-free it is.

  2. PS: You also got Kabir’s heart? Wow, wow, wow! That’s THE reference. Bravo. You are now taqiyya men, too? Let me give you another heart. Cheers curious!

  3. Out of all the three “God-men” i feel Jaggi has by far the more “western” friendly image. The other two , Ram Dev is too “Indian” while Ravishankar is past his prime. But Jaggi has the potential to be the next Osho. These three combined today represent Indian–>Hindu push and how Hinduism itself is now Hindutva.

    One of the curious aspect which binds all 3 of them is that they come from ethnicity/community which are seen as not as “Hindutva” leaning (Ravishankar, Jaggi- S-Indian, Ramdev N-Indian Yadav OBC). There growth is their respective regions/communities shows the increase of “Hindu” consciousness in regions/communities which had till now stayed outside the envelope of Hindutva, but it is now changing

    1. by far the more “western” friendly image.
      The top of the pops was Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (Transcendental Meditation).

      Adherents Beatles, Santana (Devadip Carlos Santana at that time) and Mahavishnu John McLaughlin.

      To be honest loved the music of Santana and Mahavishnu John McLaughlin of that era.

      Carlos Santana & Mahavishnu John McLaughlin
      Love Devotion Surrender 1973 full vinyl 38 mins

      1. 70’s and 80’s … The heydays of the Yogis right,LOL
        Mahesh Yogi getting Beatles to India. Osho practically setting up a country in USA. While rumors of even Indira Gandhi getting a bit too cosy with her “personal” Yoga guru 😛

        But their stock had seriously dipped in the last decade. Many of them accused now of rapes and land grab. But now I see a sort of renaissance of these folks again

    2. “Out of all the three “God-men” i feel Jaggi has by far the more “western” friendly image. ”

      Saurav interesting that you say that, see excerpt below from wiki:

      Early years:

      “Born in Mysore, Karnataka, India, in a Telugu speaking family……His father was an ophthalmologist with the Indian Railways and as a result, the family moved frequently…After his schooling at Demonstration School and Mahajana Pre-University College, Mysore in 1973, he graduated from the University of Mysore with a bachelor’s degree in English literature.[19] During his college years, he developed an interest in travel and motorcycles.[20]”

      Born into a upper middle class family and moving around might of given him a more global worldview. Having a degree in english literature also didn’t hurt in helping to communicate his message and image in a more western accessible way.

      1. I know, i have a friend here in the states who’s father works for a Dubai sheikh. The Sheikh used to get Jaggi every fortnight or so to Dubai to teach, well … whatever he teaches and stuff. Jaggi seriously has some international “connections”

        Before i dismissed him as a Hindu Zakir Naik , but then i found he actually has more meat than Sri Sri who is still after that elusive Noble Prize which nobody is willing to give him 😛

        1. “Jaggi seriously has some international “connections” ”

          Right! I saw a youtube video the other day with Ed Begley and Jaggi Vasudev in some type of what looked like some (US) North eastern state older WASP upper class (but assumingly liberal/hippie lite) gathering to hear them both talk, and all I could thing was, seriously, Ed Begley! The 80’s are calling dude (he’s a former actor more well known in that era)! 😉

  4. Equating Hindutva with Hinduism is nonsense. The former is a particular political ideology with an ambition to capture of the state and I don’t think they will succeed i.e. impose Hindutva topdown fron New Delhi

    1. VijayVan,

      I guess Asharams become like gigantic corporations, riding rough shod of other while maybe doing some good work.

      Used to track the Auroville, Aurobindo Ashram Building with Earth Technology.

      Just after the Tsunami (2004), ordered two of their CINVA-RAM machines. One with my personal money and the other with money donated by co-worker. The goal was to encourage rebuilding housing using earth. One of the machines got “lost” in the customs. The other donated to a christian institution and they never used it all that much.

      I was hoping using earth as building material would catch on. SL has a serious problem with shortage of sand for use in cement/concrete construction. Did not happen.

      1. You can consider yourself lucky. What you bought is an “Auram Press” that is manual. Manual presses for compressed earth blocks are just a terrible idea, as the maximum pressure an average Indian is not sufficient to produce CEB of the required 2 MPa/300 psi. Cement stabilization is the only way to exceed 2 Mpa, and 9% cement gives about 3 MPa. The other issue is moisture sealing. As for sealing CEB walls against moisture, there is nothing except lime plasters, that have been working just fine. Do not get impressed by the houses you see on the Auroville photos they were are all mass produced at > 4 MPa strength by the press by Fernco metals.

        After the Tsunami, a number of CEB houses were built along the Chengalpattu/SArcot coast; the strength was very mediocre. Take-home, no power->no strength. Bangalore has about 10,000 houses built of CEB; they used both electrically powered machines from a Thai company called Starsomething, and added 3%, 6%, 9% OPC for strength, and developed good quality control procedures; i.e., each block was tested.

    2. Vijayvan, between auroville and the isha foundation, do you find one to be preferable? Does one movement seem to have a better model of community engagement than the other?

      1. I don’t get anywhere near these gurus mentally or emotionally. They are as newsworthy as state elections. Let million gurus bloom .

  5. You should also think about the local “missionaries” getting anxious about loosing their base. It happened with Ramana maharshi, Aurobindo in India and Osho in USA. Basically these people and their organizations were hounded as they were not “abrahamic” or “satanic” or because of ideological opposition to proselytization.

      1. I will also be “Dravidaryan”!! haha! I am hoping that my names will convey my intentions!

  6. Sadhguru is a beast, haters gonna hate.

    (I’m just going by his Youtube videos, I don’t pay much attention to the minutiae of India Culture Wars.)

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