Welcome to Friends of Camphill India
Camphill India
Our Houses, Antaranga and Santvana

Impressions of the opening of the first House and Workshop near Bangalore - built by "Friends of Camphill India"

March 28th 1999 -This was the great moment; the culmination of six years of effort towards creating a centre for Social Therapy in Bangalore, India. The Friends of Camphill India were about to celebrate the opening of their first house and workshop, to finally provide a home for their community of people with special needs together with those who will provide the support they need and share life and work with them.

Many guests were there from far and wide, from Holland, the USA, Germany and France as well as from other parts of India, including Chennai, Pune and Shimoga and from all around Bangalore. Most important, however, were those who would come to live in this community, including Francis and Anantha Aradhya and their children, Aruna and Padma; Shirley Mary Abrahams, Adrian Britto, Shalu Kumar and co-workers Dinesh, Shekar, Saji and Ganesh, who were present. The Chief Guest was Venkatesh Srinivasan, who had been one of the pioneers of the Friends of Camphill Day Centre and who had come with Vasant Deshpande from Sadhana Village (another Camphill-inspired community near Pune). Penny Roberts and Roswitha Imegwu from Copake were also there to represent Camphill North America.

Spacious and airy

We arrived in the morning. Passing the small Ganesha temple we took the path which winds past the little houses of the senior citizens who live here and who will now be sharing this land with the Friends of Camphill. The path leads onto an open space facing the new, almost completed house <Antaranga> (meaning inner path, interior, the mind, the heart, the mind's thought, intention, secrecy, privacy), with its terra-cotta tiled roof and its steps leading up to the beautiful wooden entrance door, framed by an antique carved door-frame. <Antaranga> is a two-storied residential building with a capacity for about 20 people, including 12 with special needs. It is spacious and airy, a constant breeze blowing across from the neighbouring coconut palm groves. An inner courtyard also adds a sense of light and air. Not far from <Antaranga> stands the lovely workshop building <Panchanga>, its pentagonal entrance hallway ("panch" means "five") providing an airy central space leading to four wings, each of which will be able to serve as a future craft workshop. Its pagoda-like roof is also covered with terra-cotta tiles and its graceful arches add to the feeling of air and space. Both buildings are the creation of Swiss architect, Georg Leuzinger, who took on this project free of charge.

The Foundation Stone Ceremony

The ceremonies began in the morning for a smaller circle of friends with the laying of the foundation stone. The foundation stone, a beautiful pentagon-dodecahedron made of copper, a gift from the friends in Holland, was decorated with blossoms, crystals and oil lamps. Francis introduced the ceremony and its significance, drawing our attention to the fact that Indian tradition also involves the placing of precious stones or metals into the foundation of a new house. Most moving of the events that morning was to hear Adrian Britto speaking by heart the words of a Celtic House Prayer in a voice both tender and clear that conveyed more than anything the vision for <Antaranga> as a place of shelter, hope and peace. This was followed by a prayer in Kannada (the local language) which invoked the good will and help of the elemental beings. Penelope Roberts then introduced and spoke the words of the Foundation Stone Meditation of Rudolf Steiner, as a spiritual counterpart to the physical foundation stone which we were about to lay in the ground. Some of the prayers and verses, as well as the crystals were placed into the foundation stone which was then sealed and placed into the space prepared in the puja room. Before the afternoon program began, Anantha's brother with wife and children painted beautiful <rangolis> on the front steps - these are line drawings, traditionally painted by the women of the house each morning as auspicious signs. During the afternoon celebration Ursula Chowdhury, president of the <Friends of Camphill India> and prime mover of the Bangalore project, welcomed the guests and then, with Francis Aradhya presented a lovely history of the project leading up to this moment. Whenever a name was mentioned, that person (overseas Camphiller, Indian trustee, special friend, donor, supporter) was called to sit on the steps.

Then all joined in:

May this house be founded on the goodness of the earth.
May the walls of this house be blessed by the four winds of the heaven.
May the roof of the house be guarded by heights and the stars above.
So that all who live in this house, all who seek shelter in this house,
All who strive, protected by this house, find hope and strength to live,
Find love and joy to give, find faith and meaning in their destiny.

Finally Venkatesh with his inimitable flair unveiled the name of the house and cut the bright red ribbon stretched across the doorway. Another ribbon was cut to open <Panchanga>. The following morning an elderly man, one of the senior citizens living next to <Antaranga>, was invited to celebrate a "puja", a Hindu rite. With special chants and offerings performed in front of both Hindu images as well as the portrait of Christ he dedicated Antaranga to its future task. It felt as though, at this moment, the house gained its soul and spirit, that its cement and clay and stone began to stir and take on life. Into this mood it was appropriate to form a circle and recall together all those who, from the beginning of the work in Bangalore, had accompanied the vision in one way or the other and were now on the other side of the threshold. Most certainly they will continue their interest and support in the months and years to come.

Foundation Stone Ceremony – Opening of Santvana

During the last months of 2002 the building activities around and inside our second family house came more or less to a conclusion. The house is built on the lines of Antaranga, with a spacious sitting room, an open courtyard from where the rooms of our residents branch off, and a private area with rooms for our house parents and their children on the first floor. In the basement there are the co-workers’ rooms and a large hall that provides space for workshops, social gatherings and other activities. A covered veranda from where one can overlook the garden and the other buildings in the community surrounds the house. Just below the house is our “waste water treatment plant”, where the sewage from our two houses and the senior citizens’ home is being purified by natural means and we hope that this will help us fight the extreme water shortage in our area and our gardens can finally get sufficient water again. This is a unique project, as it also produces bio-gas for cooking in our kitchen, and we hope that it may inspire other people to copy it.

View from the Terrace of Antaranga: Our workshop on the left and Santvana on the right
View from the Terrace of Antaranga: Our workshop on the left and Santvana on the right

Francis and Ursula were busy shopping for the many things that are needed to make a house look cosy and soon the windows had colourful curtains, the beds were made and many pictures decorated the walls. Anantha planned the kitchen and meanwhile it is well equipped to cater to a large family. Our Dutch artist friend, Frans-Jozef van Nispen, spent time with us again and put much thought into the design of a beautiful copper vessel that would hold the “Foundation Stone” and also created a window grill in an intricate design above the altar in our little prayer corner which gives this space its very special atmosphere.

When Roswitha Imegwu und Kumar Mal from Camphill Copake, USA, paid us one of their regular visits, we took this opportunity to celebrate the “foundation stone ceremony” of Santvana, our new house, on 23rd October 2002. The sitting room was beautifully decorated, our residents and all the co-workers and volunteers were awaiting the guests and there was music, talks and reading out of the special messages that were placed inside the copper vessel which was then embedded into a prepared space on the altar by our dear visitors.

On Sunday, 1st December 2002, we celebrated the Opening of Santvana with a large gathering of friends, parents and trustees. It was a beautiful day. After a sumptuous spread of cakes and snacks and a brisk sale of products from our workshops, the ceremony began. Dr. Shekar Sheshadri, a renowned psychiatrist of Bangalore, was our chief guest and after he cut the ribbon across the entrance, all the many visitors walked through the house, upstairs and downstairs, holding on to a rope, to the accompaniment of lovely singing by all in the community. Later, Dr. Sheshadri gave us an inspiring talk and then the “stage”, the space in front of the house, was cleared and we could witness a beautiful play written by Francis specially for this occasion, in which all the residents and co-workers and volunteers of our community took part and even our gardener and one of the old ladies from the neighbourhood. It was a thought-provoking play that left a deep impression on everybody.

By the end of February 2003 the next big step was taken within the community. Francis and Anantha with their children and a few of our old residents and co-workers/volunteers moved to Santvana to make their permanent home there. The others remained in Antaranga, which is now cared for by our older, experienced Indian co-workers. Both houses have slowly taken in new residents; a new rhythm is evolving and though many activities are still shared, each house is also starting to create its own identity.