Mr Palam Kalyanasundaram hails from Tirunelveli District in the state of Tamilnadu, India. He is a great humanitarian. He practices what he preaches.
I was impressed by the article titled “Practising what he preaches” published in “The Hindu” on August 22, 2004 about this great person. I have reproduced that article here:
Practising what he preaches
“We cannot sustain ourselves, unless we contribute to the society in someway or the other. I strongly feel if even one person does his bit towards social good, there will be some change.”
A will to serve combined with a sense of social justice has been the guiding principle of P. Kalyanasundaram, who has spent over 45 years in social service. A gold medallist in library science, he is also an MA in literature and history. During his 35-year-career as a librarian at the Kumarkurupara Arts College at Srivaikuntam in Tuticorin district, he gave away all his salary for charity and did odd jobs to meet his daily needs. He has also come forward to donate his body and eyes to the Tirunelveli Medical College.
The Union Government has acclaimed him as `The Best Librarian in India’. He has also been chosen as `one of the top ten librarians of the world’. The International Biographical Centre, Cambridge, has honoured him as `one of the noblest of the world’ while the United Nations Organisation adjudged him as one of the Outstanding People of the 20th Century’. An American organisation has also selected him as the `Man of the Millennium.’
Mr. Kalyanasundaram, who has founded a social welfare organisation, `Paalam’, shares his experiences in a chat with Prathiba Parameswaran.
SIMPLICITY IN life and exemplariness in practice has been the hallmark of Mr. Kalyanasundaram. Born in August 1953 at Melakarivelamkulam in Tirunelveli district, he lost his father at a very young age. It was his mother, who inspired him to serve the poor.
When he was at college, the Indo-China war broke out, and he contributed his gold chain to the then Chief Minister, Kamaraj, for the war fund. At this time around, he went to meet Balasubramanian, Editor, Ananda Vikatan. “He sent me away, saying he would write about me the day I donated something I had earned myself. I did not speak a word to anyone about what I had done. I took it as a challenge,” Mr. Kalyanasundaram recalls. Ever since he got a job as a librarian in Tuticorin, he has contributed all his salary, pension benefits and ancestral property to social welfare. It was not until 1990, when he received his pension arrears and contributed it to the Collector’s Fund, that the then Tirunelveli Collector felicitated him, despite his protests. The `Paalam’ serves as a bridge between donors and beneficiaries: it collects money and materials from those willing to donate and distribute them among the weaker sections. It has also contributed to the cyclone relief funds in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, and has helped the earthquake victims in Maharashtra and Gujarat. “We cannot sustain ourselves, unless we contribute towards the society in someway or the other. I strongly feel if even one person does his bit towards social good, there will be some change,” he asserts.
Mr. Kalyanasundaram feels that one must achieve something in his chosen field. His contribution to library science is immense. A thesis he submitted as part of his post-graduate course to the Madurai Kamaraj University fetched him distinction. He has also hit upon an easy way of tracing and accessing books in libraries.
His ability to strike a rapport even with youngsters is remarkable. He cites the instance when he started wearing khadi. At college, he was required to take classes on Gandhianism. “I had to speak about simplicity and everything Gandhi stood for, but I was clad in expensive clothes. That was when I decided to switch over to khadi,” he relates. Since then he had always practised what he stood for, making himself a role model for many youths.
He was popular among college and school students, and many of them have joined his organisation.
He has long-term plans for his organisation. One is the setting up of a nationalised digital library with modern equipment, which could be accessed by people from all walks of life.
He also wants to set up an international children’s university in Tamil Nadu, with foreign aid. However, he says, a mission has a meaning only when the right people are involved in it. The Directorate of Public Libraries should recruit people with a library science background to be librarians, he says. “And good librarians should have a broad knowledge of everything.”
A person bearing a pseudonym “CHAT O CHAT :)” has posted on Facebook an article in Tamil about Mr. Kalyanasunderam. I am reproducing below that article for my Tamil friends.
அன்பு பாலம் அமைப்பின் – பெருந் தமிழர் கலியாண சுந்தரம்.
கலியாண சுந்தரம் அவர்கள் கல்லூரியில் பேராசிரியராக 35 ஆண்டுகள் பணி புரிந்தார் .மாதா மாதம் தாம் பெற்ற சம்பள பணத்தையும் முழுமையாக ஏழை மக்களுக்கு செலவழித்தார். தனது தேவைகளுக்கு உணவகத்தில் பணியாளராக வேலை செய்தார்.
உலகில் இதுவரை யாரும் செய்ததில்லை என்பதால், அமெரிக்காவில் கடந்த 1000 ஆண்டுகளுகளில் சிறந்த மனிதர் –`Man of the Millennium’ என்ற விருதிற்கு ஒரு அமைப்பினால் தேர்ந்தெடுக்கப்பட்டார் .
தனது குடும்ப சொத்தின் மூலம் கிடைத்த பணத்தையும், 5 வது ஊதிய குழுவில் மூலம் கிடைத்த விடுபட்ட ஊதிய தொகையையும் ஏழை மக்களுக்கு எழுதி வைத்து விட்டார் .
தனது எளிமையான வாழ்கையை நடத்தி மக்கள் தொண்டாற்றி வருகிறார்.
நடிகர்கள் கோடி கோடியாக ஊதியம் பெரும் பணம் யாருடையது ? ஏழைத் நீங்கள் திரைப்படம் பார்க்கும் பணம் நடிகர்களுக்கு கோடியாக கைமாறுகியது.
கொடி, தோரணம், பாலபிசேகம், விளம்பர பதாகை என்று நீங்கள் உங்கள் உழைப்பையும், பணத்தையும் நடிகர்களுக்கு கொட்டி கொடுகிறீர்கள். பதிலுக்கு அவர்கள் உங்களுக்கு என்ன கொடுகிறார்கள் தெரியமா?
தமிழக மக்கள் போராட்டத்திற்கு எங்களை அழைக்காதீர்கள்.
புயலால் பாதிப்பா அரசாங்கம் பார்த்து கொள்ளும் .
எங்களிடம் எந்த விதமான உதவியையும் எதிர்பார்க்காதீர்கள்.
நாங்கள் கலை சேவை புரிபவர்கள்.
எங்களுக்கும் ஏழை மக்களுக்கும் எந்த தொடர்பும் இல்லை.
I believe Mr Palam Kalyanasundaram’s humanitarian efforts will impress you too.
However, while searching the media to know and write about Mr Palam Kalyanadunderam, I came across the following assertions parrotted by all the writers.
“The Union Government has acclaimed him as ‘The Best Librarian in India'”
“He has also been chosen as one of the top ten librarians of the world’.”
“The International Biographical Centre, Cambridge, has honoured him as ‘one of the noblest of the world'”
“The United Nations Organisation adjudged him as one of the Outstanding People of the 20th Century’.”
“An American organisation has also selected him as the ‘Man of the Millennium’ and presented him Rs. 30 crores.”
I don’t mean to bemoan this kind-hearted man, but I wish to know whether all these claims are indeed true. So, if true, can anyone please provide the original sources to substantiate these assertions?
In the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 1 is devoted to the story of Archangel Gabriel announcing the birth of John (the Baptist) to aged Zechariah and the birth of Jesus to virgin Mary.
In Abrahamic religions, Gabriel (Hebrew: גַּבְרִיאֵל, Arabic: جبريل, Jibrīl or جبرائيل Jibrāʾīl) meaning “God is my strength” is an Archangel who typically serves as a messenger to humans from God.
The first appearance of Gabriel is in chapter 9 in the Book of Daniel, delivering explanations of Daniel’s visions.
In the Gospel of Luke Gabriel foretells the births of both John the Baptist and of Jesus. Catholic traditions refer to him as Gabriel the Archangel.
Gabriel is referred to as “he” in the Bible, and in Daniel 9:21 he is explicitly called “the man Gabriel”:
I was still praying, when the man, Gabriel, whom I had seen in vision before, came to me in flight at the time of the evening offering. (Daniel 9:21)
Some moderns, especially New Age exponents, portray Gabriel as female or androgynous.
Androgyny is a term derived from Greek referring to the combination of masculine and feminine characteristics.
In Latter-day Saint theology, Gabriel is believed to have lived a mortal life as the prophet Noah. So, according to them, Archangel Gabriel and prophet Noah are regarded as the same person; Noah being his mortal name and Gabriel being his heavenly name.
Jibrāʾīl in Islam
In Islam there are four archangels: Jibrāʾīl (Gabriel), Mika’el (Michael), Israfil (Raphael) and Malak al-Maut (The Angel of Death).
Although some islamic texts claim the Angel of Death’s real name is Izrael (Azrael), this is not confirmed in the Qur’an or hadith.
Jibrāʾīl is called the chief of the four favoured angels and the spirit of truth. He is Allah’s messenger to the prophets. At times Jibrāʾīl takes the form of a man. In Islam, he is also called the created Holy Spirit, which is not to be confused with the Holy Spirit of God in Christianity who is revered as God Himself.
Jibrāʾīl is believed by Muslims to have been the angel who revealed the Holy Qur’an to prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.).
According to the Holy Qur’an, Archangel Jibrāʾīl appeared to prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) in a cave where he went to pray. Here is the story that I read long ago. If my retelling of this encounter is wrong I stand to be corrected by my Muslim brethren.
Muhammad (s.a.w.) was a young man around forty and a well to do merchant in the city of Mecca. It was his habit to leave the city and walk up to to a cave in Mount Hira, to be alone and ponder over the day’s events and about the world around him. He would spend time there fasting, praying, thinking, and trying to find answers to the meaning of life.
One day towards the end of the month of Ramadan the prophet came back home exasperated and in an agitated state.
His wife Khadija was initially startled when she heard the prophet telling her that he must have gone mad for he had been visited by an angel. The prophet told her that while he was in a trance-like state, the Archangel Jibrāʾīl appeared before him holding a cloth of green brocade with writing embroidered on it.
“Read,” said the angel.
The Prophet was stupefied. He said, “I cannot read!”
The angel squeezed him, and then released him. “Read” the angel said.
“I cannot read,” Muhammad said, a little louder this time.
The angel squeezed him again, harder than before, and commanded, “Read.”
“I cannot read?” Muhammad said, even louder.
The angel persisted, and the prophet repeatedly resisted, until the angel finally overwhelmed Muhammad and commanded him:
Read with the name of your Lord Who created, Created man from a clot. Read, and your Lord only is the Most Beneficent, The One Who taught to write with the pen. The One Who taught man all what he did not know. (Qur’an 96:1-5)
The Prophet recited the verses after the angel, until he knew it perfectly, word for word.
Then the frightened prophet felt he was alone. The angel and the writing had gone. But the words stayed in his memory, and there was a strange sensation of having been squeezed very hard. Trembling, he stood up, left the cave, and began to walk, shakily, down the mountain path. He was very confused. Then a voice, the same voice, called to him: “Oh Muhammad! Truly you are the messenger of God. And I am his angel, Jibrāʾīl.”
Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) looked up, and saw the angel, who looked like a human, but so enormous that his two feet straddled the horizon. For a moment, the prophet was awe-struck. Then he tried to escape, but no matter which way he turned, the angel was there, filling the sky. The prophet could go neither forwards nor back until Jibrāʾīl had disappeared from the sky as suddenly as he had appeared. As it dawned the prophet made his way back to his home in Mecca.
Muslims also have a high esteem for Jibrāʾīl for a number of historical events predating his first appearance to prophet Mohamed (s.a.w.).
Muslims believe that Jibrāʾīl was the angel who informed two parents – Zakariya (Zachariah) and Maryam (Mary) of the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus. Also, Jibrāʾīl was one of three angels who had earlier informed Ibrāhīm (Abraham) of the birth of Isḥāq (Isaac). These events of Zakariya and Maryam can be found in Chapter 19 – surah Maryam in the Holy Qur’an.
HOLY QURAN – THE TREASURE OF FAITH
Chapter 19 – Surah Maryam (Mary)
(Revealed at Mecca – This Chapter has 98 verses in 6 sections)
Allah – beginning with the name of – the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
[These letters are one of the miracles of the Qur’an, and none but Allah and to whomever He reveals know their precise meanings.]
2. This is the remembrance of the mercy of your Lord upon His bondman Zakaria.
3. When he softly prayed to his Lord.
4. He submitted, “O my Lord – my bones have become weak and old age shines forth from my head, and O my Lord, I have never been disappointed in my prayer to you.”
5. “And I fear my relatives after me and my wife is barren therefore bestow upon me from Yourself one who will take up my work.”
6. “He being my successor and the heir of the Descendants of Yaqub (Jacob); and my Lord, make him a cherished * one.” (* Make him a Prophet among the Descendants of Israel.)
7. “O Zakaria! We give you the glad tidings of a son whose name is Yahya (John) before him, We have not created anyone of this name.”
8. He submitted, “My Lord – how can I have a son since my wife is barren and I have reached infirmity due to old age?”
9. He (the angel) said, “So it is; your Lord says, ‘This is easy for Me – in fact I created you before this, at a time when you did not exist.’ “
10. He said, “My Lord, give me a sign”; He said, “Your token is that you will not speak to people for three nights, although in proper health.”
11. He, therefore, emerged upon his people from the mosque, and told them through gestures, “Keep proclaiming the Purity (of your Lord) morning and evening.”
12. “O Yahya – hold the Book firmly”; and We gave him Prophethood in his infancy. (Prophet Yahya was only 2 years old at that time.)
13. And compassion from Ourselves, and chastity; and he was extremely pious.
14. And was good to his parents and not forceful, nor disobedient.
15. And peace is upon him the day he was born, and the day he will taste death, and the day he will be raised alive.
16. And remember Maryam in the Book; when she went away from her family to a place towards east.
17. So there she screened herself from them; We, therefore, sent Our Spirit towards her – he appeared before her in the form of a healthy man. (Angel Jibreel – peace be upon him.)
18. She said, “I seek the refuge of the Most Gracious from you – if you fear God.”
19. He said, “I am indeed one sent by your Lord; so that I may give you a chaste son.”
20. She said, “How can I bear a son? No man has ever touched me, nor am I of poor conduct!”
21. He said, “So it is; your Lord has said, ‘This is easy for Me’; and in order that We make him a sign for mankind and a Mercy from Us; and this matter has been decreed.”
22. So she conceived him, and she went away with him to a far place.
23. Then the pangs of childbirth brought her to the base of the palm-tree; she said, “Oh, if only had I died before this and had become forgotten, unremembered.”
24. (The angel) Therefore called her from below her, “Do not grieve – your Lord has made a river flow below you.”
25. “And shake the trunk of the palm-tree towards you – ripe fresh dates will fall upon you.” (This was a miracle – the date palm was dry and it was winter season.)
26. “Therefore eat and drink and appease your eyes; so if you meet any person then say, ‘I have pledged a fast (of silence) to the Most Gracious – I will therefore not speak to any person today.’ “
27. So carrying him in her arms, she brought him to her people; they said, “O Maryam, you have indeed committed a great evil!”
28. “O sister of Haroon, neither was your father an evil man nor was your mother of poor conduct!”
29. Thereupon she pointed towards the child; they said, “How can we speak to an infant who is in the cradle?”
30. The child proclaimed, “I am Allah’s bondman; He has given me the Book and made me a Herald of the Hidden (a Prophet).”
31. “And He has made me blessed wherever I be; and ordained upon me prayer and charity, as long as I live.”
32. “And has made me good to my mother and not made me forceful, ill-fated.”
33. “And peace is upon me the day I was born, and on the day I shall taste death, and on the day I will be raised alive.”
34. This is Eisa (Jesus), the son of Maryam; a true statement, in which they doubt.
35. It does not befit Allah to appoint someone as His son – Purity is to Him! When He ordains a matter, He just commands it, “Be” – and it thereupon happens.
36. And said Eisa, “Indeed Allah is my Lord and your Lord – therefore worship Him; this is the Straight Path.”
37. Then groups among them differed; so ruin is for the disbelievers from the witnessing of a Great Day.
38. Much will they listen and much will they see, on the Day when they come to Us, but today the unjust are in open error.
39. And warn them of the Day of Regret when the matter will have been decided; and they are in neglect, and they do not accept faith.
40. Indeed We shall inherit the earth and all that is on it, and only towards Us will they return.
41. And remember Ibrahim in the Book; he was very truthful, a Herald of the Hidden (a Prophet).
42. When he said to his father, * “O my father – why do you worship one which neither hears nor sees, and cannot benefit you in any way?” (* His uncle Azar.)
43. “O my father, indeed a knowledge has come to me which did not come to you – therefore follow me, I will show you the Straight Path.”
44. “O my father, do not be a bondman of the devil; indeed the devil is disobedient towards the Most Gracious.”
45. “O my father, I fear that a punishment from the Most Gracious may reach you, so you would become a companion of the devil.”
46. He said, “What! You turn away from my Gods, O Ibrahim? If you do not desist, I will certainly stone you, and keep no relation with me for a long while.”
47. So when he had separated from them and what they worshipped other than Allah, We bestowed him Ishaq and Yaqub; and We made each of them a Herald of the Hidden.
50. And We gave them Our mercy and assigned to them a true and high repute.
51. And remember Moosa in the Book; he was indeed a chosen one, and he was a Noble Messenger, a Herald of the Hidden.
52. We called him from the right side of the mountain Tur and brought him close to reveal Our secret.
53. And with Our mercy, We bestowed upon him his brother Haroon, a Prophet.
54. And remember Ismail in the Book; he was indeed true to his promise and was a Noble Messenger, a Prophet.
55. He used to command his people to offer prayer and give charity and was liked by his Lord.
56. And remember Idrees in the Book; he was indeed very truthful, a Prophet.
57. And We lifted him to a high position. (Living with soul & body in heaven, after his death.)
58. It is these upon whom Allah has bestowed favour among the Prophets, from the descendants of Adam; and from those whom We boarded along with Nooh; and from the descendants of Ibrahim and Israel; and from those whom We guided and chose; when the verses of the Most Gracious were recited to them, they fell down, prostrating and weeping. (* Command of Prostration # 5.)
59. And after them came the unworthy successors who squandered prayer and pursued their own desires, so they will soon encounter the forest of Gai in hell.
60. Except those who repented and accepted faith and did good deeds – so these will enter heaven, and they will not be deprived * in the least. (* of their due reward.)
61. Everlasting Gardens of Eden, which the Most Gracious has proomised to His bondmen in the unseen; indeed His promise will come.
62. They will not hear any lewd talk in it, but only Peace; and in it for them is sustenance, every morning and evening.
63. It is the Paradise that We will bequeath to those among Our bondmen who remain pious.
64. (Said Angel Jibreel to Prophet Mohammed – peace and blessings be upon them) “And we angels do not come down except by the command of your Lord; to Him only belongs all that is ahead of us and all that is behind us and all that is between them; and your Lord is not forgetful.”
65. Lord of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them – therefore worship Him and be firm in His worship; do you know any other of the same name as His?
66. And says man, “When I am dead, will I soon be brought forth alive?”
67. Does not man remember that We created him before this, and he was non-existent?
68. So by your Lord, We shall assemble them and the devils – all of them – and bring them around hell, fallen on their knees.
69. We shall then pick out from every group the one who was most arrogant towards the Most Gracious.
70. Moreover, We well know those who most deserve to be burned in hell.
71. And there is none among you who shall not pass over hell; this is an obligatory affair, binding upon your Lord. (Allah will make everyone pass over the back of hell – on a thin bridge.)
72. We shall then rescue the pious – and leave the unjust in it, fallen on their knees.
73. And when Our clear verses are recited to them, the disbelievers say to the Muslims, “Which group has a better home, and a better alliance?”
74. And many a generation We did destroy before them, who exceeded them in wealth and pomp!
75. Proclaim, “For one in error – so the Most Gracious may give him respite; to the extent that when they see the thing which they are promised – either the punishment or the Last Day; so then they will come to know for whom is the evil rank and whose army is weak.”
76. And Allah will increase the guidance for those who have received guidance; and good deeds that remain have the best reward before your Lord, and the best outcome.
77. So have you seen him who denied Our signs and says, “I shall certainly be given wealth and children?”
78. Has he seen the Hidden, or has he made a pact with the Most Gracious?
79. Never; We shall now record what he says and give him a prolonged punishment.
80. And it is We only Who shall inherit what he says (belongs to him), and he will come to Us, alone.
81. And they have chosen Gods besides Allah, so that they may provide them strength!
82. Never; soon they will deny ever worshipping them, and will turn into their opponents.
83. Did you not see that We sent devils upon the disbelievers, so they excite them abundantly?
84. So do not be impatient for them (O dear Prophet Mohammed – peace and blessings be upon him); We are only completing their number. * (* The number of days left for them or their evil deeds.)
85. On the day when We shall assemble the righteous towards the Most Gracious, as guests.
86. And drive the guilty towards hell, thirsty.
87. People do not own the right to intercede, except those * who have made a covenant with the Most Gracious. (* The Holy Prophets and virtuous people will be given the permission to intercede. Prophet Mohammed – peace and blessings be upon him – will be the first to intercede.)
88. And the disbelievers said, “The Most Gracious has chosen an offspring.”
89. You have indeed brought an extremely grave speech!
90. The heavens are close to being torn apart by it, and the earth being split asunder, and the mountains succumbing and falling down.
91. Due to their ascribing of an offspring to the Most Gracious.
92. And it does not befit the Most Gracious to choose an offspring!
93. All those who are in the heavens and the earth will come to the Most Gracious as His bondmen.
94. He knows their number and has counted each one of them.
95. And each one of them will come before Him on the Day of Resurrection, alone.
96. Indeed those who believed and did good deeds – the Most Gracious will appoint love for them. (In the hearts of other believers.)
97. We have therefore made this Qur’an easy upon your tongue, (O dear Prophet Mohammed – peace and blessings be upon him) for you to announce glad tidings with it to those who fear, and warn those who are quarrelsome.
98. And many a generation We did destroy before them; do you see any one of them or hear their faintest sound?
From October 2011 onwards, thousands of protesters and villagers living around the Russian-built Kudankulam nuclear power plant in the southern Tamil Nadu state, are blocking highways, staging anti-nuclear demonstrations and hunger strikes, preventing further construction work of the nuclear power plant, and demanding its closure.
Because they distrust the assurances given by the Central Government regarding safety, and fear the disasters that could arise from
environmental impact of nuclear power generation
The phrase “nuclear accident“, immediately brings to our minds the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant also known as Fukushima Dai-ichi (in Japanese dai-ichi means “number one”), after the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011. This disaster culminated in a series of equipment failures, nuclear meltdowns, and release of radioactive materials into the environment.
The devastation at Fukushima Dai-ichi is the largest nuclear disaster since the catastrophic nuclear accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine on April 26, 1986.
The agitation in Kudankulam
The Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP), which was initiated in 1988 by an Inter-Governmental Agreement signed on November 20, 1988 by former Prime Minister of India Rajiv Gandhi and former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, for the construction of two nuclear reactors.
The agitation against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project started as low-key protests by anti-nuclear protesters. About 20,000 residents of Kudankulam and surrounding villages marched out to show their support for the activists. More than a thousand local fishermen joined them and announced a strike in support of the protests.
The anti-nuclear protesters have stated specific reasons for opposing the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP). They say, “More than 1 million people live within the 30 km radius of the KKNPP which far exceeds the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board’s (AERB) stipulations. It is quite impossible to evacuate this many people quickly and efficiently in case of a nuclear disaster at Koodankulam“, etc.
“Fukushima has greatly helped our agitation,” said S.P. Udayakumar, activist and leader of the voluntary People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE). For 20 years, Udayakumar has led PMANE on a campaign against the Koodankulam project.
“The nuclear plant is unsafe” and “the safety analysis report and the site evaluation study have not been made public. No public hearing was held. It’s an authoritarian project that has been imposed on the people,” he said.
The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), the top government agency to ensure safety standards, conducted a safety audit of India’s NPPs a few months back. Despite all clear certificates, anti-nuclear activists and experts have called for an audit by an independent body. They say that given the non-transparent nature of India’s state-controlled nuclear energy sector, there is no way to estimate whether safety issues will be carefully followed.
Anti-Nuclear protests and Hunger Strike
An indefinite hunger strike was started by the anti-nuclear protesters on September 11, 2012. With the hunger strike becoming a serious threat to the health of 127 participants, negotiations between the protesters and the state government of Tamilnadu began on September 15, 2012, but it soon reached a stalemate. The protests and the hunger strike ended twelve days later with J. Jayalalitha, Chief Minister of Tamilnadu, announcing that the state government would adopt a resolution against launching the nearly completed nuclear power plant. She fulfilled her promise the following day.
On Thursday, September 22, 2012, the Tamil Nadu Cabinet passed a resolution urging the Center to halt the work on the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project until the fears of the local population over the safety of the plants are allayed. The 12-day fast by the anti-nuclear protesters came to an end following assurances by Ms. Jayalalitha.
Rt. Rev. Yvon Ambroise, Bishop of Tuticorin Roman Catholic Diocese, came to the protest venue at Idinthakarai on Thursday and offered fruit juice to those who were on hunger strike. He addressed the gathering and explained in detail the demands put forth during their meeting with Ms. Jayalalithaa in Chennai on the previous day. The Bishopsaid:
“We urged the Chief Minister that the State Cabinet pass a resolution demanding the permanent closure of the KKNPP and appealed to her to withdraw cases against some of the protesters during the agitation. We also appealed to her to draw a comprehensive alternative energy policy, which should make sure tapping of non-conventional energy sources at the optimum level so that the environment and people living near such power generation units do not get affected. Since the Chief Minister’s replies satisfied us to the maximum possible extent, we agreed to withdraw the ongoing indefinite fast.”
S.P. Udhayakumar, leader of PMANE gave the details of various meetings to be held in Madurai and at Samithoppu in Kanyakumari district to decide on the future course of action against nuclear programmes in the country. “We’ll even lay siege to the KKNPP in the near future to ensure its permanent closure,” he said.
Before the protesters left the venue they vowed that even though the fast had come to an end nevertheless they would intensify their struggle against the Union government in the days to come.
However, the sprawling pandal erected for the protest is yet to be dismantled. “It will be there till the Union government gives a satisfying reply to our demands. If not, the pandal will come in handy for us again,” said S.V. Antony, president, Uvari panchayat.
This agitation by the anti-nuclear protesters forced Ms. Jayalalitha to make a u-turn on her plans to add six reactors to the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant which already has two reactors constructed, though not yet operating.
Ms. Jayalalitha wrote a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urging the government to put the expansion on hold until local concerns were addressed. People have been “agonized, disturbed and gripped by a fear psychosis due to the scope and magnitude of the issue in the wake of the Fukushima mishap,” she wrote.
Dr. A.E. Muthunayagam, convener of Government of India’s Experts Group (EG), which did a survey of the safety features in the plant, expressed his willingness to hold discussions with the anti-nuclear protesters.
On December 2, 2011 PMANE released a press statement welcoming Dr. Muthunayagam’s willingness to hold discussions with them.
The People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) welcomes the statement of the Central Government’s Experts Group (EG) convener, Dr. A.E. Muthunayagam, that expresses the group’s willingness to hold discussions with the scientific team of the PMANE.
We request Dr. Muthunayagam to suggest a few possible dates and venue for such a meeting as soon as possible. We would also request him to arrange a visit of the KKNPP site for all the 28 members of our scientific team.
It is also pertinent to remind him of our request for some of the basic documents on the KKNPP project such as the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), Site Evaluation Study, Safety Analysis Report, VVER Performance Report, Detailed Project Report (DPR) and all other relevant documents for reactors 1 and 2 in order to facilitate our scientific team’s meaningful dialogue with the Central and State teams.
We would also take this opportunity to insist that the work on the two reactors be halted as demanded by the Tamil Nadu Government’s Cabinet Resolution even as we are engaged in a dialogue process.
S. P. Udayakumar, Ph.D. Coordinator People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy
A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has also been filed against the government’s civil nuclear program at the Apex Supreme Court. The PIL specifically prays for the “staying of all proposed nuclear power plants till satisfactory safety measures and cost-benefit analyses are completed by independent agencies“.
In February 2012, Mr. Udayakumar sent a legal notice to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for insinuating that the anti-Kudankulam protests were funded by United States and Scandinavian non-government organisations.
The pro-government scientific community
The anti-nuclear protestors themselves have enough detractors who rally and protest in favor of commissioning this nuclear power plant. Here are some views by the scientific community on this issue.
Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, former President of India, after visiting the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant on November 6, 2011, asserted that there is no need for any panic. “The third generation nuclear reactor is totally safe and is a boon to the people,” he said.
He emphasized, “I am a scientist, I am a technologist, I support nuclear energy along with solar and wind power as it is a clean and green energy which is very much required for the country’s rapid growth now”.
He further added that the reactors located at 13.5 m height would not be effected even by a Tsunami nor would an earthquake threaten them, as Kudankulam is not within any seismic zone. The scientists have taken into account all these natural calamities before designing and fabricating the plant. While 99% of the spent fuel would be processed for reuse in the reactors, the remaining one percent would be converted and protected within a thickly walled underground concrete containment and no waste from the reactor will be dumped in the sea.
Former chairman of Atomic Energy Commission of India Dr. M.R. Srinivasan said that one should never compare the Fukushima plant with Kudankulam and added “The Fukushima plant was built on a beachfront, but the Kudankulam was constructed on a solid terrain and that too keeping all the safety aspects in mind. Also, we are not in a tsunami prone area. The plants in Kudankulam have a double containment system which can withstand high pressure. At least, Rs 14,000 crore has been spent. If we don’t operate the plant immediately, it will affect the economic stability of our country.”
In mid-November 2011, Mr. Srinivasan speaking on the ‘Current scenario of nuclear power‘ at a meeting organized by the Press Information Bureau said that since options like gas, solar and wind energies are expensive, one should never say ‘no’ to nuclear energy, “If we don’t go ahead with nuclear plans, we wont be able to supply electricity to an aspiring population of India. So it’s necessary that the 15-member committee, appointed by the Centre, discuss every point of it with the people,” he said.
A center panel constituted by the Government of India, which did a survey of the safety features in the plant, said the Kudankulam reactors are the safest and fears of the people are not based on scientific principles. The panel’s convener Dr. A.E. Muthunayagam, also added that the protesters have asked for some documents which are not related to the safety of the reactor hence he suspects the very nature of their questions.
Nuclear scientist and principal scientific adviser to the federal Government of India Rajagopala Chidambaram has said “We have learnt lessons from the Fukushima nuclear accident, particularly on the post-shutdown cooling system,” and added Fukushima nuclear accident should not deter or inhibit India from pursuing a safe civil nuclear program.
In early January 2012, the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) for the first time admitted that the deaths of some employees and their dependents at the Kalpakkam nuclear site situated about 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Chennai, were caused by multiple myeloma, a rare form of bone marrow cancer linked to nuclear radiation. The DAE acknowledged that nine people, including three employees working at the Madras Atomic Power Station at Kalpakkam died of multiple myeloma and bone cancer between 1995 and 2011. The DAE did not willingly divulge the details. This information came to light in response to a Right to Information inquiry from October 2011. The DAE had previously stonewalled all previous requests for information.
“While the prime minister (PM) accuses NGOs funded from abroad of trying to sabotage the ‘state-of-the-art’ Kudankulam nuclear power plant (KKNPP), various studies carried out by government agencies as well as experts suggest that the site is unsafe for a nuclear project.
“The studies reveal potential threats to the nuclear reactor campus from near-shore tsunami, volcanic eruptions, and Karst (vulnerable landscape). DNA has a copy of the reports submitted by the agencies and experts,“
An expert committee appointed by the Tamil Nadu government on Tuesday submitted its report on the safety aspects of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNNP) to Chief Minister Jayalalitha, marking a crucial stage in the debate over the project. Ms. Jayalalitha in the wake of the acute power shortages in the state, which certain quarters say has been artificially created (see Press meet – Artificial Power cuts in Tamilnadu), has made a u-turn once again by favouring the commissioning of the plant. “In accordance with (today’s) cabinet decision, immediate steps will be taken (to facilitate commissioning) of the plant,” she said in a statement, breaking her silence over the issue.
S.P. Udayakumar reacted:
“Of course, we feel cheated by the chief minister J. Jayalalithaa. She has been using us. She encouraged us all these days and allowed us to carry on with the protest. I visited the chief minister’s office twice and met her and also visited the collector’s office. Even then, there were cases against me. Why didn’t the police arrest me then? She has let us down… But yes, I felt we were deceived. We were tricked. But I could a sense a pattern, a build-up in the direction of the state government’s reversal of its decision to support the protesters. When I met the chief minister for the first time she was very cordial. I had a one-on-one talk for 45 minutes. But the second time she did not even talk to me. So the state government’s decision was not entirely unexpected. It was only delayed by seven months.”
There is a general opinion in Tamilnadu that to win the Sankarankoil by-poll Ms. Jayalalitha acted as a sympathizer of the anti-nuclear protesters and now that her party (AIADMK) had won the by-poll she doesn’t need them anymore.
India has 19 online nuclear power plants generating 4,560 megawatts of electricity. Electricity generated by thermal, hydro and wind power exceeds more than what nuclear power generated. Even so, to meet the soaring demand for electricity, the government of India seeks the development of the nuclear-power industry.
On March 11, 2011, the tsunami developed after a tremendous earthquake of magnitude 9.0 on the Richter scale, devastated Japan’s Daichi nuclear power plant complex. It took all six Tokyo Electric Power Company’s reactors offline.
“THE LIGHTS ARE not going off all over Japan, but the nuclear power plants are. Of the 54 reactors in those plants, with a combined capacity of 47.5 gigawatts (GW, a thousand megawatts), only two are operating today. A good dozen are unlikely ever to reopen: six at Fukushima Dai-ichi, which suffered a calamitous triple meltdown after an earthquake and tsunami on March 11th 2011, and others either too close to those reactors or now considered to be at risk of similar disaster. The rest, bar two, have shut down for maintenance or “stress tests” since the Fukushima accident and not yet been cleared to start up again. It is quite possible that none of them will get that permission before the two still running shut for scheduled maintenance by the end of April.” – Oliver Morton (in “The dream that failed” – www.economist.com)
Since the coastal areas in India are prone to both earthquake and tsunami, certain sectors of the public in India have now raised objections to the proposed nuclear-power generation programs.
The antinuclear protests staged by the local villagers spearheaded by the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) has prompted the government to put on hold the commissioning of the nuclear power plant in Kudankulam, in the Tirunelveli district of Tamilnadu.
PMANE, an antinuclear group in Tamil Nadu led by Mr. S. P. Udayakumar, a teacher, which urges the government to shut down the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant to preserve the ecology of the largely untouched coastal landscape also educates the locals about the harm nuclear power could cause.
Mr. Udayakumar and his PMANE group beleive that nuclear power benefits “industrial India” only and not the average person. “Our end game is to close down this nuclear power plant. We think that this (the nuclear power plant) will have a disastrous impact on our livelihood, on our future generations. Because the Indian government never talks about waste, never talks about decommissioning. It does not tell us the full story,” he said.
In early March 2012, Udayakumar said: “We have been carrying out hunger strikes, rallies, public meetings, seminars, conferences, and other demonstrations such as shaving our heads, cooking on the street, burning the models of the nuclear plants. This struggle has been going on for the past 197 days and the morale of the people is still very very high”.
In Early February this year, Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Srikumar Banerjee told a gathering in Indore, “All atomic energy plants in the country are totally secured as per international standards and are also capable of dealing with natural calamities like tsunamis or earthquakes.”
But amidst the bland assurances lurks a darker reality.
The Madras Atomic Power Station is located at Kalpakkam, situated about 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of Chennai, India. In 2012, the Department of Atomic Energy for the first time admitted that the deaths of some employees and their dependents at the Kalpakkam nuclear site were caused by multiple myeloma, a rare form of bone marrow cancer linked to nuclear radiation. The DAE acknowledged that nine people, including three employees working at the Madras Atomic Power Station at Kalpakkam died of multiple myeloma and bone cancer between 1995 and 2011. The DAE did not willingly divulge the details. This information came to light in response to a Right to Information inquiry from October 2011. The DAE had previously stonewalled all previous requests for information.
“The report paints a troubling picture of the policies at the DAE, which sends out high-ranking officials with bland assurances for the public about the nation’s NPPs while privately compiling reports about their health effects, concerns that can only grow as New Delhi presses forward with its nuclear program. Furthermore, the statements that Indian NPPs can withstand earthquakes and tsunamis, made in a country vulnerable to both, smacks of more than a little hubris, as Tokyo Electric and Power Co. made similar pronouncements before the 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami destroyed its Fukushima Daichi nuclear power complex.” – John Daly, Sun, 26 February 2012, (in “The Darker Reality of India’s Nuclear Power Goals” oilprice.com)
The following documentary video produced by the Tamil news paper Nakkeeran of Chennai affirms the concern of the people living in and around Kalpakkam. Though all reporting and conversations are in Tamil, the images tell the story vividly.
1:12 – 1:33 Shows the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project
1: 34 – 1:58 Atomic Energy Township, Kalpakkam in Kancheepuram District,Tamilnadu. There are many vilages surrounding Kalpakkam.
1:59 – 2:58 shows 13-year-old mentally retarded Arjun from birth and born with 6 fingers on his right hand. His father was a contract labourer at the nuclear power plant. Arjun speaks like a 5-year-old.
2:59 – 3:20 3-year-old infant Bhuvaneswari born with a stump for a right hand.
3:21 – 3:46 Gokhul, the son of a temporary supervisor, born with a stump for a left hand.
3:47 – 4:04 Jothika studying in standard 3, mentally retarded. Her father Venkatesan worked at the nuclear power plants.
4:05 – 4:50 Suriyaprakash with a deformed left leg.
4:51 – 5:12 A woman king coconut vendor with a gout like swelling.
5:13 – 8:15 A woman complains about breathing, throat infection and swelling of limbs. She further tells about children being born with stumps for limbs, deaf, dumb and other abnormalities. She also says can’t do any agricultural work because the crops are attacked by radiation. The air that she and others breath makes them ill.
8:16 – 8:58 Another woman complains about radiation affecting their health.
8:59 – 7:16 A man says that the birth of deformed and retarded children can be due to the radiation.
7:17 – 7:31 Another man says that plants don’t grow well. Trees don’t bear fruit.
7:32 – 7:56 A young man says that the Kalpakkam plant has been shut down for repairs very often. He says that he has worked there for the past 18 years. He says that there is a rumour that many have died due to radiation but he is not sure whether its rumor or fact. But he affirms that the people of the villages around Kalpakkam are being affected due to radiation.
7:57 – 8:14 – Another young man affirms that children are born deformed, deaf and dumb.
8:15 – till end people living in Kalpakkam talk about the hardships they face and talk vehemently against the Kalpakkam Nuclear plant.
Yesterday, Friday March 16, 2012, playing in the 4th One Day International match of the Asia Cup 2012 against the hosts Bangladesh, Sachin Tendulkar scored a century thus becoming the only man in the history of the sport to score 100 centuries in international cricket. He took the single off Shakib Al Hasan of Bangladesh and finally achieved the elusive milestone.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh congratulated the Master Blaster saying, “I join the nation in congratulating Sachin Tendulkar on his making history – a hundred centuries… He has made India proud. Tendulkar’s long career has been a triumph of class, character and courage. Wish him many more innings and feats to continue inspiring the youth.”
ICC Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat also congratulated the iconic batsman achieving the feat.
“On behalf of every cricket fan around the globe, I congratulate Sachin on becoming the first person to score 100 centuries for his country. This is indeed a magnificent feat and not likely to be easily emulated,” said Lorgat.
“Fans have admired Sachin for more than 20 years and have recently waited with great expectation for his 100th international century. The number 100 is special for a batsman and to record 100 centuries for your country is a massive statement.”
Lorgat also said that Tendulkar was a marvel to cricket lovers around the world and a true role model.
“Like millions of others, I have personally followed his career ever since he first played for India as a gifted 16-year-old and now, more than two decades later, his passion and personal records, which include more than 33,000 runs at international level, is a modern-day wonder.
“He is a marvel to cricket lovers around the world and with an array of batting records, Sachin is a true role model who will undoubtedly hold a special place in cricket’s history,” he said. (PTI)
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) President N Srinivasan heaped praises on Sachin Tendulkar for becoming the first cricketer in the world to score 100 international centuries and said that 16th March 2012 would never be forgotten.
“Ever since he made his international début in November 1989, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar has strode cricketing arenas the world over, like a colossus. He has broken old records and set new benchmarks. He has been an inspiration to billions, and an ornament to the sport,” said Srinivasan.
“16 March 2012 will never be forgotten by cricket-lovers. On behalf of the BCCI, I would like to congratulate Sachin Tendulkar for completing a century of international centuries,” he added. (PTI)
And bollywood? Of course it went crazy and started twitting.
“God’s special creation …Sachin Tendulkar!! India breathes normally..!! Sachin completes an incredible feat!! A hundered 100’s…Never done before, perhaps never after!!!” said Amithab Bachchan. “A lion does not concern himself with the opinions of the sheep,” the megastar tweeted hinting at Sachin’s critics.
And his son Abhishek Bachan tweeted, “How good is Sachin? he’s the best. period! stop analyzing him. stop being cynical. just celebrated him!”
The 82-year old Queen of Melody, Lata Mangeshkar, twitted: “A big congratulations to Sachin. He has once again created history with his superb innings.”
Actress Bipasha Basu tweeted: “Saluting The Great Tendulkar for his 100th 100! We stropped our shoot to see it happen! Jubilant and Ecstatic.”
Action hero Akshay Kumar tweeted, “Salute to the man who never gave up in spite of all the criticisms. Finally he did it, Sachin creates history in world cricket! Congrats to Sachin Hundredkar.”
“Truly Superman!! Sachin Tendulkar India salutes you for your 100th 100,” tweeted Tollywood actor Rana Daggubati.
38-year-old cricket star, Sachin Tendulkar has scored 49 centuries in One Day International matches and 51 in international Tests.
Tendulkar scored his 99th international hundred more than a year ago on home soil. It took him more than one year to reach the milestone of scoring 100 centuries in international cricket.
His 49th ODI hundred in Dhaka brought up a unique century of centuries that no other player is close to achieving. Former Australian captain Ricky Ponting is next best with 71 international centuries, and South Africa’s Jacques Kallis trails behind him with 59.
In the 1990s, Adidas signed world’s iconic batsman Sachin Tendulkar of India and made shoes for him. Tendulkar still wears Adidas shoes while playing matches. Since 2008, Adidas has sponsored the cricket bat used by Sachin Tendulkar. It created a new bat, ‘Adidas MasterBlaster Elite’, personalized for him.
The pair of bean-shaped kidneys, each about the size of a fist, are vital organs in our body located, one on each side of the spine, near the middle of our back, just below the rib cage. The kidneys perform many functions to keep our blood clean and chemically balanced.
Our body uses food for energy and maintenance. Wastes in the blood come from food that we consume and from the normal breakdown of active tissues, such as muscles. Every day, a person’s kidneys process about 200 quarts of blood and filter out about 2 quarts of waste products and remove excess water. The wastes and excess water flow to the bladder through two tubes called ureters as urine. The bladder stores urine until releasing it through urination.
Coriander (Coriandrum sativum), also called cilantro, koththamalli(in Tamil), or dhania (in Hindi) is an annual herb in the family Apiaceae. In the English-speaking world (except for the U.S.) the leaves and seeds are known as coriander. In American culinary usage, the leaves are generally referred to by the Spanish word cilantro.
Coriander is an excellent source of minerals like calcium, potassium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. It is also rich in many vital vitamins essential for optimum health including vitamin-A, beta carotene, vitamin-C and folic acid. By the way, vitamin-C is a powerful natural antioxidant.
A study found both the coriander leaves and seed act as antioxidants, however, the leaves were found to have a stronger effect. Hence, Coriander like many other spices can delay or prevent spoilage of food seasoned with this spice. Chemicals derived from coriander leaves were found to have antibacterial activity against Salmonella choleraesuis, caused in part by these chemicals acting as nonionic surfactants.
Coriander seeds are used in traditional Indian medicine as a diuretic (a substance or drug that tends to increase the discharge of urine) by boiling equal amounts of coriander seeds and cumin seeds, then cooling and consuming the resulting liquid.
The powerful anti-inflammatory capacities of coriander can help one deal with symptoms of arthritis. Coriander also increases HDL cholesterol (the good) and reduces LDL cholesterol (the bad).
Cholesterol – the good and the bad
Cholesterol is not all bad. It is an essential fat. In fact, it provides stability in every cell of our body. The liver makes some cholesterol and some come from diet. Cholesterol cannot dissolve in blood, so transport proteins called lipoproteins carry it to locations where it needs to go.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol
The low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol particles are less dense than other kinds of cholesterol particles. Each microscopic blob of LDL cholesterol consists of an outer rim of lipoprotein surrounding a cholesterol centre.
What Makes LDL Cholesterol Bad? It is just its chemical makeup. Here’s how high amounts of LDL cholesterol leads to plaque growth and atherosclerosis.
Some LDL cholesterol circulating through the bloodstream tends to deposit in the walls of arteries. This process starts as early as childhood or adolescence.
White blood cells swallow and try to digest the LDL, possibly in an attempt to protect the blood vessels. In the process, the white blood cells convert the LDL to a toxic (oxidized) form.
More white blood cells and other cells migrate to the area, creating steady low-grade inflammation in the artery wall.
Over time, more LDL cholesterol and cells collect in the area. The ongoing process creates a bump in the artery wall called a plaque – made of cholesterol, cells, and debris.
The process tends to continue, growing the plaque and slowly blocking the artery.
An even greater danger than slow blockage is a sudden rupture of the surface of the plaque. A blood clot can form on the ruptured area, causing a heart attack.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol
The High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol particle is dense compared to other types of cholesterol particles. Each microscopic blob of HDL cholesterol consists of a rim of lipoprotein surrounding a cholesterol centre.
The well-behaved HDL cholesterol is a friendly scavenger that cruises the bloodstream. It removes harmful bad cholesterol from where it doesn’t belong. High HDL levels reduce the risk for heart disease — but low LDL levels increase the risk.
Experts believe HDL cholesterol may act in a variety of helpful ways that tend to reduce the risk for heart disease:
HDL cholesterol scavengers and removes LDL cholesterol.
HDL reduces, reuses, and recycles LDL cholesterol by transporting it to the liver where it is reprocessed.
HDL cholesterol acts as a maintenance crew for the inner walls of blood vessels (endothelium). Damage to the endothelium is the first step in the process of atherosclerosis, which causes heart attacks and strokes. HDL chemically scrubs the endothelium clean and keeps it healthy.
Coriander leaves offer great relief from stomach indigestion problems and the like. It also helps reduce feelings of nausea. Since it has strong antioxidant properties, it helps promote healthy liver function.
A friend suggested that consuming an infusion of Coriander leaves is a good remedy for kidney pain. This is the instruction my friend gave me to prepare a decoction using coriander leaves:
“Wash and clean a bunch of fresh coriander leaves thoroughly in water to remove the dirt and any residual harmful pesticides that might be sticking on them. Chop the leaves as small as possible. Put the chopped leaves in a vessel, pour filtered water and boil for 10 minutes. Filter after cooling using a sieve. Pour the filtered liquid into a sterilized glass bottle and store it in a refrigerator.”
She said: “Drink one glass of the liquid daily and you will notice all salt and other accumulated poison coming out of your system while passing urine. Also, you will notice that you feel healthier than before.“
By the way, coriander can produce an allergic reaction in some people. So, please consult your physician before consuming the coriander decoction.
Above the lovely valley of Emmitsburg, Frederick County, Maryland, just 12 miles south of Gettysburg, situated high on the mountainside, where nature displays itself in all its picturesque and wild glory sits the wondrous National Shrine Grotto of Lourdes – a shrine which traces its lineage to the very beginnings of the spread of Catholicism in America.
Incredibly linked with Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first native-born American to be canonized by the Catholic Church, the Shrine is one of the oldest known American replica of the revered French shrine, dating to about 1875, two decades after the apparitions at Lourdes (1858), although the site had already been in use since 1805, when Father John Dubois founded it as a place of prayer and devotion.
This holy mountain sanctuary of historic importance to the Catholics of America has been devoutly tended throughout the years and attracts thousands of pilgrims from all parts of the world for prayer and meditation.
My wife Assuntha and I along with my son Subas, daughter-in-law Maria Ligia, grandson Rohan and my grandson’s godfather Joe Napoleon visited this holy shrine on Saturday 11 February 2012. It was snowing that day, nevertheless, we thank the Almighty for leading us to Emmitsburg, where Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American saint had trod a long time ago on the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes.
The Story of Our Lady’s Grotto
In the year 1728, a group of Catholics left St. Mary’s City on the St. Mary’s River, in Maryland, and travelled westward seeking peace and religious freedom. These Catholics were children and grandchildren of the early colonists of Maryland.
Among the refugees of 1728, were the members of the William Elder family, forebears of Archbishop Elder of Cincinnati. They travelled to the west almost one hundred miles to the Blue Ridge Mountains, located in the eastern United States, starting at its southern-most portion in Georgia, then ending northward in Pennsylvania. They stopped at the first range of the Blue Ridge Mountains, giving the loved name, “St. Mary’s Mount” to its eastern prominence.
Finding rest in a peaceful valley of “surpassing beauty,” which they called “St. Joseph’s Valley,” they took the land and built their homes. Here they were cared for spiritually through the years by missionary priests forced to travel in disguise because of the penal laws against Catholics prevailing during that time.
The Elder farmhouse became known as “Elder’s Station.” Here Mass was celebrated and the dead were buried in the adjoining cemetery.
Father John Dubois and the Grotto
In 1805, after the Revolution and the constitutional grant of religious freedom, Father John Dubois, a refugee priest from France, came to this area and settled. This priest, who later became Bishop of New York, was, in the year 1794, appointed pastor of Frederick by Bishop Carroll. His pastorate included all of western Maryland and western Virginia. Of all the lovely places he visited in this wild and mountainous country, he came to love most the Mountain of Mary and the Valley of St. Joseph.
In 1805, on St. Mary’s Mount, Father John Dubois built St. Mary’s Church at the site of the present Grotto parking lot.
For over a century, this church was a beacon calling the faithful to Mass from the Valley and a reminder to them to keep the Faith. Numerous paths, traceable up to this day and all converging on the church, show with what fidelity the Catholics practised their faith.
To this very day the people of the Valley, now members of St. Anthony’s parish, exhibit a strong, living and very simple faith. Families have lived here for many generations. Very few move away. They are a happy people with a proud awareness of their ancient Catholic heritage. After all, very few parishes in these United States can claim that they have had uninterrupted priestly service for 235 years. Very few Americans can say that their forebears were taught by holy people. They are the spiritual children of Saint Mother Seton.
On the lower terraces, Father Dubois began the first building of Mount Saint Mary’s College and Seminary in 1808.
Father Simon Gabriel Bruté
One of the holy founders of the Grotto, Father Simon Gabriel Bruté came to the Mountain in 1812. This remarkable priest, later first Bishop of Vincennes, Indiana, combined in his person the talents and attainments of a scholar, theologian, master of the spiritual life, teacher, and pastor of souls.
This spiritual enthusiast reveled in the beauty of the Mountain of Mary and the Valley of St. Joseph. Father Bruté brought to the Mountain and the Valley a program of holy activity.
Remembering the orderly, cultivated hills of his native France, Father Bruté strove to “smooth the frown from nature’s erring face.” Springs were cleaned out, covered and named for saints; terraces and paths found their way up the rugged Mountainside to the. church and Grotto. They were constructed so well that we walk along them today and the stone walls remain. He attached crosses to the trees on the path between the church and the Grotto so that one might make the Stations of the Cross along this beautiful woodland avenue.
On the left side of the Grotto parking lot. several hundred yards back in the mountains, behind the site of Father John Dubois’ church, is the famous Grotto, the most ancient shrine consecrated to Mary, the mother of God, in continuous existence in the original thirteen colonies, on which was begun in 1875 the first Lourdes Grotto in America.
“Aisle of the Corpus Christi Procession.”
A memorable devotion centered about the old Grotto was the annual Corpus Christi procession.
It was during Father John Baptist Purcell’s (later Archbishop of Cincinnati, Ohio) term as president of the college (1829-1833) that these annual processions at the Grotto over Father Bruté’s paths began, or at least began to be chronicled, and another charm was added to the Mountain.
The lovely road lying between the site of the old church and the Grotto is still called the “Aisle of the Corpus Christi Procession.”
Corpus Christi Chapel
This stone chapel was built in 1906 on the site of the original Grotto discovered by Father John DuBois in 1805.
There is a legend that Father John Dubois, on one of his pastoral journeys, was attracted by a light on the mountain and found this spot, one of the loveliest in the world.
Those of a more practical mind may surmise that Father John Dubois was seeking the source of the stream which flowed out of the ravine into the valley below. Just what did the priest find on his day of discovery?
He climbed a steep ascent through a rocky ravine along a tumbling torrent, which was much broader and more unruly than at present, for its volume has lessened since the trees were cut down on the mountain. He came upon a lovely clearing, a masterpiece of natural beauty. Sharply sloping hills from almost every side formed a natural amphitheater where nature “displayed itself in all its wild and picturesque beauty.” In the center of this clearing, where now the stone chapel stands, he saw a mound, shaded by the branches of an ancient oak. Such huge oak trees are seen even to this day on the mountain, survivors of the woodsmen’s devastation.
In any event, Father John Dubois found the Grotto-site, a dell of breath-taking beauty, and there erected a rude cross.
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton and the Grotto
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first Superior of the Sisters of Charity, dedicated to serving the poor, was the next holy person to love the Grotto. She came in the year 1809 to the Mountain where, before moving to the Valley, she and her little band of pioneer sisters lived for six weeks near the Church and the Grotto. Here her sister-in-law Harriet received the gift of Faith. And, after Mother Seton moved to the Valley, the Grotto was to her the most loved spot on the mountain. It is possible that Mother Seton first called it the Grotto, for we find this reference in one of her letters, dated May 27, 1810:
“If you could breathe our mountain air and taste the repose of the deep woods and streams. Yesterday we all, about twenty children and sisters, dined in our grotto on the mountain, where we go Sundays for the divine office.”
Rosetta Landry White, called Mother Rose, who succeeded Mother Seton gives further details of this holy association with the Grotto:
“About this time we walked to the Mountain Church every Sunday to sing at High Mass and assist at the sermon; there was no bridge over the creek in our way, therefore, when the water was high, we had to cross one by one on horseback; and when low, we passed over on the stones; as there was no clear road to the Mountain we often lost our way in the woods. We carried our dinner in a basket and frequently cooked our meat at the mountain; taking it from the frying-pan to place it on a piece of bread without a knife or fork, and ate it standing, as the Israelites of old ate the Pascal Lamb. We would then quench our thirst at a neighboring spring and ramble for a time around the Grotto, a wild and picturesque spot some distance from the Church, furnished with seats, covered with vines, wild flowers in luxuriance around it and a gentle rivulet flowing from the rock above. We thus amused ourselves until time for Vespers and Benediction after which we returned to our Home in the Valley. This was all pleasant enough in summer, although we had no umbrellas to protect us from the heat of the sun or the showers that sometimes surprised us. On coming to the creek in the rain, we would find there a horse sent from the Mountain by Father Du Bois, to take us across; the eldest Sister would remain standing in the rain by the old oak tree until we all has safely passed over; then taking her turn, she would sometimes continue her ride to the farm-house door. Our shoes would be heavy with mud and our clothes so wet that we would be obliged to change. We continue this Sunday journey to the Mountain.” – Mother Rose White’s Journal 1809.
The eldest Sister, mentioned by Mother Rose must definitely be Mother Seton.
The first statue of Our Lady was placed in the Grotto in Mother Seton’s time. Truly Mother Seton loved this Grotto. It entered into her daily thoughts, conversations, and writings. In a letter to Father Brute, she prayed for “one only heart, clear for my thoughts as the stream of your Grotto.”