Chidambaram Temple

By: Popoai Tanuvasa-Lole

India has a number of massive & vibrant temples. As part of our Sustainable Development practicum, we visited Chidambaram Temple. According to our tour guide, Chidambaram Nataraja Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Nataraja, a form of Shiva. There are ancient roots behind this temple located in Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu, India. Further research revealed that the city’s name means “stage of consciousness”. 

Temples in south India were not just places of worship; they played a vital role in community life, discussing social, religious, and political issues of importance. These structures also served as training grounds for performing arts such as dance, music, and drama. In addition, temples were attached to educational institutions, where students learned about religion and spiritual life.

Experiencing Chidambaram

When you enter Chidambaram Temple, you are asked to remove your shoes and put your camera and phone away. That was the first indication to me that I was entering a sacred space. Nothing could have prepared me for the temple’s beautiful towers, artwork, and bodies of water. It was truly something that made you aware of how ancient and significant the location was.

There were many cows in the area, which is a sacred animal in Indian culture, as well as traditionally dressed priests. What I learned here is that priests are one of India’s highest castes, and tenants of the temple have been maintaining the space for centuries.I felt truly honored to be permitted into the space and to witness such an important part of Indian history.

Upasana: A Pioneer in Conscious Clothing

By: Popoai Tanuvasa-Lole

Auroville is home to a host of non-governmental associations. They span from art, sustainability, education, empowerment, and grassroots community work. Each specializes in assisting their specific cause. Upasana is one organization in Auroville that has done incredible work and has been recognized by the U.N. and UNESCO.

Upasana is not only a design studio, but a place where creativity, fashion, design, and social responsibility are woven together. Their rich stories and textiles culminate to create their conscious clothing brand. Founded in 1997, the studio runs many development projects around India. Such as their outreach program “Small Steps”, the Varanasi Weavers Project, and the Tsunamika doll project.

The Tsunamika Doll

One of Upasana’s most notable projects is the Tsunamika Doll. Tsunamika was created by Upasana as a symbol of hope for Tsunami victims, and now more than five million dolls have been made and distributed to over 80 countries. The project is entirely supported by the community. . People take the dolls and contribute according to their ability. The Tsunamika project has received an ‘Award of Excellence’ from the Government of India, as well as special recognition from UNESCO and inclusion in the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.

Experiencing Upasana

I was most impressed by Upsana’s approach to carrying out its various projects and crafting their products, and I appreciated how they honor each step and person involved in their process. Passion appears to run through the veins of the organization, and I learned so much in my brief tour of the campus. One of which is how influential India is in the fashion industry. India accounts for 4% of the global textile and apparel trade. India is also a global leader in the production of several textile products, including silk, cotton, and Multimode Fibre.

Another eye-opening fact I learned while at Upasana is how the organization is attempting to alleviate India’s farmer suicide problem through the creation of their products. Currently, 30 people in the farming sector commit suicide every day, typically as a result of the overwhelming debt that farmers must incur as a result of not producing enough products to sell and survive.

Learning this made me think about the clothes I own, the places I shop for clothes both online and in person, and how much work went into making the clothes and then getting them to me. It may have cost people their lives. And that conversation will live with me for the rest of my life, and it’s a message that needs to be spread as the topic of sustainable fashion becomes more popular.