January 2020 Newsletter

January 2020 Newsletter

A photo essay

Most wonderful wishes and best regards to all, for the start of a new year and a new decade!

Through photos and text we are here reaching out to you, with a few picks from the year past, and some news of our endeavors…

Enjoy the ride and keep in touch!

Forest Way Day | Aug 2019

On the last day of August, just before Ganesh puja, we gathered, over 100 of us; friends and relations of The Forest Way, to celebrate 16 years of its conception. We visited all the different venues and sub projects (Park and Nursery, Thamarai Kulam, the Weaving center, farm and school…) and learned from each other about everything that is going on. We then shared an elaborate meal together, and block printed our own design on a ‘Forest Way’ bag. A lovely day and a tradition to be continued!

Thamarai Kulam

Thamarai Kulam keeps gaining in green and stone cover, and we are attempting a completion of the first section to be opened to the public before summer.

Crafts Week

… & Mela

November saw the Marudam School host the 7th year of the much celebrated Crafts Week, with over 15 schools participating and over 30 skilled and talented crafts people holding sessions across 7 days. The week culminated in the Mela that was full of fun and festivity, with students performing their circus skills, the amazing silambam troupe from Pondy bowling us over with their raw vitality and gymnastics, and a parents and teachers food stalls extravaganza.

Planting on the hill

17,000 saplings were planted by the forest Way this year, along 4 different locations on the hill: Neranamalai (close to Katu Shiva); near Owl rock; along the Eastern slope; and by Kosaalai lake (near Aadayur). Around 100 people in all participated in the operation, which lasted from July till October.

…and fire line work

The arduous work of creating 25 kilometers of fire lines on the hill is now officially over! Hurray to the diligent labour force. Let us pray for a fire-free summer to come.

A Trip to Central India

The students from the Younger and Older groups went to an eventful, intense and perspective-opening trip this year. The trip started at Gram Seva Mandal, Magar sangrahalai and Anand Niketan near Wardha, Maharashtra, where they saw the entire process of hand-made cloth from seed to cloth. From there they continued to Bidawani (via Adhar Shila Learning Center in in Madhya Pradesh), where the Narmada Bachao Andholan office is located. After meeting Medha Patkar, the champion of the continued struggle against the devastating effects of the Sardar Sarovar dam, the group went on to see in their own eyes the crushing reality of the submerged villages and the Nisarpur rehabilitation center. Everyone was touched and overwhelmed both by what they saw and by the resilience and generosity of the affected locals. As an extension of the trip the students are working on a depictive drama to be performed to parents.

Weaving and Crafts Center

The weaving center was inaugurated towards the end of April by a small gathering and has since been fitted with three looms and five sewing machines. We then got busy figuring out the intricate vocation of growing cotton; ginning it (seperating the seeds); turning it into thread; and weaving it. Together with Sandhya, who is in charge of the complex operation, there are three women permanently employed at the center.


We were blessed to have good rains this year, 15-20% more than our long term average rainfall, over-all more than 100 cm . The rain was also nicely spread throughout July to October, with September receiving the highest rainfall this year. 
As has been the case for a while now, the North-East monsoon has failed to deliver much rain, so that most of our rain comes from the South-West monsoon. 
The stream ran for a really long time this year, filling many of the water bodies along the Forest and Children park.

Rice Planting… and harvesting

The generosity of the rains this year helped us with our rice crop. The farm had 6 fields planted with rice and January saw the harvest of the golden grass around the time of Pongal.

…. in combination with modern devices, the rice is being painstakingly sifted.

Apprenticeship in Ecological Nurturance : A course

This August we had good and enriching time hosting the first leg of a new course, dreamed by and conceived by us together with friends from Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary and Upstream Ecology. The ten month course came about from the need for more dialogue, experience and work around reviving the health of eco-systems around us. A small but diverse group of adult participants from all over the country have come forth to learn, share and live with nature. They are now at the sanctuary in Kerala, and will proceed to Ooty next month.

Clowns without Borders

A smashing performance by the magnificent clowns, acrobats, musicians and jugglers from ‘Clowns without borders’. The group visited the school in December and brought great joy and abundant laughter.

Wild encounters

As part of our work with the forest, we continue to keep a keen eye and document all new forms of life that we see re-entering the young and growing ecosystem. Here are a few highlights…

Red avadavat (seen near Aadayur Eri)
A winking Crested hawk eagle (sighted near the Park)
Lunar moth that graced us during the Crafts Week
(first recording in Tiruvannamalai)

Pongal celebrations 2020

Only chemical-free kolam powder was used this year, with stunning and affecting results!

Garden Bounty

Space changes

a. Construction commenced for a new classroom complex!

The block will include a sump for harvested rain-water; a granary; and a small office space.

Making compressed mud blocks

Sump excavation by JCB

b. New Oven built near dining hall

The new oven has a cylindrical metal drum that is fired from below, which means it uses less wood for firing.

Thank you and Good bye old oven!
You always served us generously with so many good things to eat…
And now with a pot on your head you give ground for a whole tree to come into being!

c. Altering well entrance

In July, while the well water was at its lowest, some work to enlarge it and strengthen the path leading into it has been taking place.

10 years of Marudam

This year we are honoring 10 years to Marudam. With so much going on we haven’t stopped to make a proper fuss over it, but thought we would mention it here…

Construction of the courtyard and school building (then)

Same place, flowering and at full capacity assembly (now)