The Isha Yoga Center celebrated World Environment Day on June 5. Here’s a recap of all the fun events that brought equal measures of enjoyment and awareness.

The Isha Yoga Center celebrated World Environment Day on June 5 with fun events that were festive, thought-provoking and exuberant. 10 teams of 20 people each, with names such as Banana Leaf, Papaya Leaf, Banyan Leaf, Mango, Lotus and so on. In keeping with the novelty of the situation, teams were given delightfully unique tags to identify themselves – a necklace of coir, and a pendant of the Leaf to which they belonged!

The outdoor competitions began at around 5 pm. The first was a cycle race. One person from each team had to go as fast as his or her legs would possibly allow, from near the New Biksha Hall to the Maatu Mane near the Poondi Checkpost (a distance of about two kilometers) and back.

So what happens to the rest of the team? The entire group of 200 (minus the cyclists, of course) was given a large plot of land, divided into horizontal strips by a series of ropes across its length. Each team was to take two such strips of land and transform them into a miniature nursery, ready for seeds.

…there was a slow cycling race, where, needless to say, the slowest person was the winner. People who lost balance and touched the ground with their feet were disqualified.

Armed with just shovels and a crowbar, the different ‘Leaves’ had to dig furrows for irrigation and level out the mud they unearthed, making two even strips of land ready for cultivation. The one with the neatest miniature farm was given the most points. And all of this was supposed to happen by the time the cyclists got back!

Once the cyclists assembled, there was a relay. Fifteen stations were fixed across the ashram. The cycle itself was the baton, passed from one person to another. After the relay, there was a slow cycling race, where, needless to say, the slowest person was the winner. People who lost balance and touched the ground with their feet were disqualified.

While all this was happening in the ashram, 20 children from Isha Home School went on a rally of their own. Decked in Project Green Hands t-shirts and caps and sporting Isha flags, they cycled down to the Semmedu Government School about 7 kilometers away, and handed out chocolates and saplings – 200 of them – to the students of the school.

The teams then went to Spanda Hall, where there were three events which tested their creative and aesthetic aptitude. For the first, the teams were asked to gather as much waste (discarded coconut fiber, plastic, CD covers, cloth and any other odds and ends) as they could, and make something artistic or utilitarian out of it. The result was unbridled, organic creativity. A Ganesha made out of old CDs, a raincoat made out of an abandoned flex, coconut shell dolls, corn husk flowers and a purse made out of an umbrella in disrepair were just some of the magnificent artifacts different teams dreamed up.

The second was a poetry writing competition of sorts, with a strict policy asking the writers not to exceed five lines. The topic was, predictably, Nature and the Environment. The third event, easily the highlight of the day, was a call for skits from the different teams. The topics were all pertinent to the environment, ranging from “Wastage to Conscious Usage” to “Bottled water to Potted Water.” The skits were not to exceed three minutes per team. There were a variety of other skits, all with tongue-in-cheek repartee and satirical conversation, eliciting laughter and making a point, all at once.

The prize for the best skit was unanimously given to Team Vilva Leaf, comprising Isha Samskriti students. The best Tamil poem was written by Team Banyan leaf, the best English poem by Team Banana Leaf. All the winners were given terrariums with saplings in them, a real tribute to the environment. The prizes were distributed by the paatis and thathas of the ashram, veterans who have been a part of the ashram for many a year.

Here’s the English poem that won the competition.

The Perfect Dawn

The velvet touch of early morning dew,
Glistening in the red dawn sun.

As the sky brightens, from black to blue,
Mother Nature’s day has once more begun.

I bow down, humbled by her infinite beauty.

Isha Samskriti student Rajashree, tells us about the celebrations from her perspective:

A bright sunny morning. Groups of children standing here and there seriously discussing and guessing the plans for the evening games. Young kids desperately searching and collecting discarded fabrics and materials etc., for craft work. Many were working their brains hard to improve the skit. Yes, this is how Samskriti was on the World Environment Day.

As the sun rose high, the excitement in every child did as well. About 124 children marched briskly under the supervision of the fiery sun towards the Shivapadam bridge. Soon, the most anticipated moment arrived and pulling up our sleeves we plunged into the forest of drumstick trees. (It was a competition to take out the leaves from the tree without much damage to the tree. The second was splashing in the cool waters and weeding the river banks. The final was the most exciting cycle rally). It was impossible to tell how we have finished all the tasks and the two hours had flown by. Every child had a beaming smile and faces brighter than the sun. We were dirty and sweating but our own enthusiasm never dropped as the organizers of the game kept it up.

The next most awaited thing was in the night. The craft display, the poem competition and the skits. Every craft item present on the pavilion, planted and promoted new ideas in each individuals mind. Every poem reflected the uniqueness of our role in the play of nature. Every drama kindled a fire in us to save the declining health of mother earth. Above all, the inspiring words and blessing from Sadhguru made this day complete and memorable.

We offer our gratitude to each and everyone who were part of making this grand event a fruitful one.

Editor’s Note: Project GreenHands, Isha’s environmental initiative has facilitated the planting of almost 20 million sapling so far, and is planning to plant 4 million saplings this year. If you would like to support this effort, visit http://giveisha.org/pgh