Satsang introduction

We are so happy and honored to have Sri A. Vedaratnam with us this evening. He hails from an illustrious family. The great amil saint,Thayumanavar was Sri Vedaratnamís 10th great grandfather. Sri Gurudev often spoke of Thayumanavar and his sacred poetry. He is a very revered saint in India. As well, Sri Vedaratnamís family comes from a coastal village in the southern tip of India known as: Vedaranyam.

It is said that the ancient and holy Vedas worshiped Lord Vedaranyeshwar in that place thus it derived its name: Vedaraniam. In this holy region, surrounded by mangrove vegetation, and the flourishing of virtues. This coastal village produced a lot of salt. The British levied heavy taxes and salt and it was in 1930, that under the leadership of two of the great leaders of IndiaóRajaji (who later became Governor General of India) and Mahatma Gandhi, that a salt "satyagraha" took place in edaraniam. Satyagraha was Mahatma Gandhiís civil disobedienceóbased in principles of truth, nonviolence, and soul power. Sri Vedaratnamís grandfather, Sri A. Vedaratnam, deeply inspired by Mahatma Gandhiís principles, joined this resistance and became widely known as a freedom fighter and a true Gandhian. He was jailed, his properties confiscated, but he did not mind becoming a pauper for his principles.

Sri R. Venkataraman, former President of India, addressed this point in a letter to our guest: "During the days of freedom struggle Shri Vedaratnam was so dauntless against colonial oppression that he was called Sardar after renowned Sardar Patel. In fact, this persecution by the British, only fed Shri Vedaratnamís his determination to further embody Gandhijiís principles particularly those that addressed the downtroddenóthe poor and the downtrodden. He saw that in his own rural region, there was much need and he decided to work for the betterment of the region and particularly for women. At this time, there was very little importance place on educating women. In fact, it was seen as detrimental to a womanís future to educate her. The more education she had, the harder to find her a husband, because any future spouse would be expected to have more education. Sardar Vedaratnamís ideas and ideals were revolutionary at the time. And, on February 7th, 1946 he founded the Kasthurba Gandhi Kanya Gurukulam.

Assisted by his son, Sri V. Appakutti, they creatd a rural community womenís welfare organization and charitable trust. Named after Mahatma Gandhiís wife, Kasthurba Gandhi, they have have established a living and learning co-operative community for girls in grades 1-12. Currently, there are 1700 girls in high school, 600 of which are in the residential part of the school. About 15% of the girls are from cities and the rest from rural areas.They also have cottage industries that help the rural women to develop skills and to be self-reliant. They have 50 women in their printing school where they learn the skills needed in the printing press trade. There is electronics and computer training and an incense-making unit. Kasthurba Gandhi Kanya Gurukulam not only provides free education for the women, but also ensures that those in the esidential part of the orphanage are cared for and all the necessary provisions made for their marriage when they are ready to marry. As you may know, the prospects for a woman without a family to arrange a suitable marriage, would be very bleak. But, KGKG takes up that responsibility to find suitable partners and makes all the needed arrangements. With the help of the central and state governments, many of the women are afforded scholarships to colleges and universities in Tamil Nadu.

President Venkataraman said about Sri Appakutti: "Shri Appakutty was an emblem of service without expecting any return. He approximated to the ideal set out in Bhagavad Gita that one who performs duty without expecting reward or return becomes Great." In 1998, the government of India honored Sardar Vedaratnam by bringing out a postal commemorative stamp on the occasion of his 101st birth anniversary. His son, Sri V. Appakutti, was also honored for his humanitarian service to the nation, with Indiaís highest honor: the title of Padmasri. And, as the father, so the son, our dear Sri A. Vedaratnam has been honored, as the managing trusted of KGKG with several awards.

In 1998, the President of India presented the prestigious Dr. Ambadkar National award. And, the Vice-President of India presented Sri Vedaratnam with the 2000 G.D. Birla International Award for Rural Upliftment.

Great luminaries have associated themselves with Kasthurba Gandhi Kanya Gurukulam over the years including presidents of India and our own beloved Sri Gurudev. I had the honor of accompanying Sri Gurudev to KGKG and to see firsthand all the wonderful service they are doing. We were able to see the printing presses where KGKG printed the first copies of Sri Gurudevís books translated into Tamil which was funded by the great South Indian philanthropist, Dr. N. Mahalingam. Sri Gurudev held a very special place in His heart for Sri Vedaratnamjiís family and KGKG. And they showered Sri Gurudev with all love and devotion, often driving 12 hours in several buses with some of the students to offer garlands, bhajans, and dances for Sri Gurudev whenever He was in Chennai or Coimbatore. I still remember how they lovingly dyed the yarn to be just the right color orange, and wove the cloth to make beautiful dhotis and kurtas that Sri Gurudev wore for years and years. Swami Tyaganandaji, Kalyani Neuman and Parames Adie also have visited KGKG as Sri Gurudevís emissaries on a special occasion when Sri Gurudev was unable to attend.

So, we are so delighted to welcome Sri Vedaratnamji for his second visit to Yogaville and hope that he will now share with his special memories of Sri Gurudev and all his experiences with us.


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