Town: Kaggalipura (Dinnepalya village)
Religious importance / symbol: Secular earth spirituality centre
The Fireflies Ashram is an earth spirituality centre located off Kanakapura Road. The Ashram is 40 km away from Bengaluru city. It is basically an earth spirituality centre and therefore secular and open to all religious/spiritual traditions.
Fireflies Ashram – An overview
This ashram in Bangalore was established in 2001 by Siddhartha, an activist and a writer, with the aim of nurturing social engagement and environmental action coupled with personal growth that is inclusive of diverse spiritual traditions. The ashram can house up to 80 people and has three conference halls to hold corporate and other functions. There is also a meditation hall, an amphitheatre and a library. The buildings of the ashram are situated in a verdant grounds sloping towards a picturesque lake.
There is no spiritual guru, or a particular person, around whom the activities of the ashram are attuned to. The founder and the members of the ashram believe that human rights and climate justice are intrinsically woven with a variety of faith and secular traditions – Nature and civilization bound up with spirituality.
Fireflies Ashram in Bangalore take the best from the teachings of Basava, Buddha, Jesus Christ, Kabir, Krishnamurthi, Mahatma Gandhi, Ramana Maharishi, and Swami Vivekananda, among others. However, this has been done within an overarching spirit of secularity rather than the exclusionary ideology of militant religiosity. The sacred and the secular play an integral part in the discussions and activities that are geared towards resolving personal, social and environmental problems.
There is also the belief in tapping into the sacred energy from Mother Earth, and conserving and preserving that energy. This is also related to the interconnectedness of human beings to each other and to Mother earth.
Activities at Fireflies Ashram Bangalore
Art – There is an art village and a group of artists, who stay at the ashram, and work towards ecological and social issues. The founder is also the artistic director at the ashram. There are people who do metal work, sculpture (including granite), stained glass, and paintings.
Music Festival – The music festival at Fireflies ashram held under a banyan tree in the amphitheatre is a must-visit occasion, which offers the music lover a fusion of unusual genres. The international is interwoven with the indigenous – tribal with jazz and so on. The tickets to the festival are usually available at the venue, at online sites and other outlets much before the event takes place. In 2013, the music festival was held on February 10. Special note – use of recreational drugs, intoxicants and other illegal substances are banned within the ashram grounds.
Festivals – The Sita Devi festival and the Ganesha festival are re-interpreted and celebrated at the ashram. Though, the overarching tone is that of Hindu festivals, the ashram members manage to bring in elements of earth spirituality to the proceedings/celebrations.
- Sita Devi festival significance –Sita is venerated in connection to agriculture as Bhoomi Thai (Mother Earth) on April 22, World Earth Day. This is again an amalgamation of the indigenous and the international. The festival is a means to popularise sustainable agriculture, zero carbon emission, and non-commoditisation of agricultural land.
- Ganesha festival significance-Ganesha is revered as a god who is half-nature and half-human. The Ganesha festival is taken as an opportunity by the ashram members to initiate communal harmony among the Muslim and Hindu youth within and without the community. Kindness, compassion, removing social obstacles, preserving the environment and lakes, cutting down trees, etc. are serious issues that are discussed and publicized among the neighbouring villages during the festival that is held in the month of September. The Ganesha statue used at the ashram is unpainted and carted around the neighbouring villages to educate the villagers on the above mentioned issues. The artists at the ashram make Ganesha statues for the villagers and paint them with natural dyes (on request) as part of this movement/festival.
Peace committees – Together with Pipal Tree (the mother organization), the ashram members help organize ongoing communication channels between various warring groups in violence-prone areas. The ashram members help people bridge the religious gap and celebrate each other’s festivals as part of this ongoing effort.
Health Service – In conjugation with a practising Homeopath, the fireflies community help deliver health services to outlying villages in a mobile medical unit.
Getting to Fireflies Ashram Bangalore
Visitors to the ashram can board a bus from the Kempegowda Bus terminal to Harohalli. From Harohalli, they will have to take an autorickshaw to Pyramid Valley, which is around 4 km away. Alternatively the visitor could hire a taxi from the city. The charges could vary from Rs.900/- to Rs.1500/-, and the autorickshaw ride would cost around Rs.70/-.