When we arrived at Mohanam Village Heritage Center, my inner child leapt for joy. The center is made up of large open spaces perfect for running around and several large bamboo hut like classrooms. There are tree houses, a seesaw, and tons of legos. We were greeted with jasmine flowers as we entered one of the huts. Bala, the creative director, introduced himself and shared with us a little bit about the purpose of the center.
The mission of Mohanam Village Heritage center is, “To act as a bridge between Auroville and its surrounding villages and to keep alive the local, rural Tamil cultural heritage.” Bala explained to us that the spread of technology like smart phones with internet access has also brought with it the spread of western culture. Young children are often more fascinated by what is different from what they know than with learning about the traditions of their ancestors. The center is working to preserve Tamil traditions lest they be forgotten.
During the week days the center functions as a kindergarten for over 85 children, some of whom were there during our visit, watching us with curious eyes. On the weekends, they teach stick fighting, Tamil language classes, classical dancing, and traditional cooking. At night they operate as a night school for teenagers who did not do well on their exams. They also run several different programs outside of the weekend classes. There is a Daksha youth life skills camp, for inner leadership skills. An Auroville jungle camp to reconnect the children with nature. An adventurer camp that includes horse riding, circus training, and surfing. A summer camp run in the months of April and May, to keep the children busy when children are not in school. With the center operating as the hub for so many different things, it was clear to me that this heritage center cares deeply about the local village children and making sure they have every opportunity to learn as they grow.
Bala was gracious enough to have some of the centers full time employees demonstrate some traditional dances for us while they fed us some snacks. The center operates with a barebones staff, and relies heavily on donations and volunteers who feel moved to help. A true pillar of the community, Mohanam Village Heritage Center partners with other places in the Auroville community such as the Bamboo Center, Auroville Village Action Group, and the Lively Boutique. In addition they partner with the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, and the Puducherry Department of Tourism. For those interested in volunteering with the Mohanam Cultural center, they have guest houses available on site. https://www.mohanam.org/