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Durga Puja – India’s women’s festivity

Thousands of pilgrims, curious and tourists crowd the Grandroad in front of the Jaganath temple in Puri at the coast of Orissa. It is the last of ten eventful days during which the Hindus from the North of the country celebrate the victory of Durga, the eight-armed Goddess of perfection, over the buffalo demon Mahisura. Before sunrise the worshippers will form an impressive procession to the seaside and hand over the pompous deity statues, results of weeks of meticulous work, to the Bengal Sea. This ritual symbolizes the transience of all life and the beginning of a new phase. Today, the significance of Durga Puja exceeds the religious aspect and has become a social event in the Indian year. The story of the demons, the subsequent arrival of the Gods, and finally the transcendental fight of Durga, during which she touched the earth with her feet and the sky with head and permeates the universe with her 1000 arms according to the myth, is danced and acted everywhere on the streets, in the shopping malls and neighbourhoods of the cities in villages. Brahmins (Hindu priests) recite mantras and holy formulas every evening. It is mainly women in newly bought sarees who visit the dedicated altars and stages of fabric, bamboo sticks and cloths.
It is their time! Durga – also known as Mahadevi, Great Goddess, or Mother – is the only Hindu Goddess without a male counterpart. Hence, for many Indian women, she embodies the wish for freedom, self-confidence, and determination. Chracteristics that are rarely found in the male dominated Indian society. The role of women – like everything in this giant country – varies considerably between regions. In the metropolises, there are visible signs of equal rights of both genders due to the western influence and higher education. Young women dress with self-confidence and enjoy being in the centre of attention. Love marriages are no exceptions any more and young couples can be spotted walking arm in arm on Connaught Place in Delhi. However, a train ride from Delhi to Orissa suffices to create the impression of moving around in a society without women – if there were not the numerous lank, gracefully moving bodies dressed in colourful sarees carrying stones and sand at countless construction sites. The same image prevails on markets and streets. Men fulfil the functions of tailors, barbers, salespeople, attorneys, doctors, and teachers. They are responsible for feeding their families, earn all the money and determine Indian social life.
Still today, girls are considered inferior. As long as they are not married, they are perceived as a burden and have to contribute hard work to the household. The marital duties of a girl are considered fulfilled when she has born at least one inheritor to the family. While boys are spoilt by everyone girls find themselves at the outskirts of society. They leave their families’ households the day they get married and move in with the relatives of their husbands where they start from the lowest rank of the internal hierarchy. Local newspapers are full of death notices of young women who died in mysterious ways. This also happens in our immediate social surroundings. One month ago, we heard the news that the wife of Anu’s brother (Anu lives in our community) who had got married in May only had committed suicide. She was pregnant and was out to have a baby by the end of this year. Her husband is in jail ever since then. Probably, nobody will ever get to know the real reason of her death.
In our Gaiatreeschool, the children are on holiday even two days after Durga Puja. It is a tradition of Orissa that wives take their children on visits to their families at the occasion of the festivity. This is a welcome variation of everyday life. They are blessed for the following years through their prayers, daily rituals, mantras and different puja services. On the tenth and last day, which is also called Vijaya, victory day, they swing the butter lamp in front of Durga’s face. A Brahmin marks their foreheads with Sindur, a read powder, and invites them to come back next year. This procedure is accompanied by wishing them “Happy Vijaya”.
achtarmige_goettin_szdruck.pdf
(ca. 421.7 kByte)

Internship Report deals with German-Indian cooperation

Our former intern Sabine has submitted her internship report for grading. Under the title “Intercultural Cooperation in Non Profit-Organizations in India exemplified by the Gaiatree Foundation”, she has elaborated the specifics of intercultural cooperation based on the people involved and the frame conditions. First of all, she used dimensional models to describe the cultural backgrounds of the involved people. On this basis, she identified problems that have their roots in cultural differences and presented their consequences with the help of real Gaiatree sample cases. Besides, the solutions that have been developed so far were introduced. The report pursues the aim to find and explain new possible solutions that might be implemented in the future to further facilitate the intercultural cooperation at Gaiatree Foundation.
Sabine’s observations reveal some partly significant cultural differences. These were grouped in the categories communication, organization, gender roles, hierarchies and bureaucracy, prejudices and expectations, dealing with conflicts, independence and proactivity, and self evaluation.
A major problem is the lack of a common language. English may be spoken by most involved people but is nobody’s mother tongue. This results in frequent misunderstandings. Consequently, further language education for all members of the organization is absolutely recommended.
When it comes to organization and hierarchies, Indian and German approaches differ considerably. The Indian society shows strong hierarchies and authorities. Consequently, it is sometimes to difficult for Anke and Mike to confine their activities to the desired consulting roles because they appear too controlling, which creates tensions in the private relationships with the organization’s members and employees.
In her report, Sabine gives many concrete examples that will now be discussed with the local partners. This is a promising basis for the further organizational development, especially for honest and transparent relationships among members. Considering the different to approaches to conflicts – research has identified a tendency to avoid them with Indians while Germans tend to be assertive and even provoke conflicts at times – this appears somewhat challenging. The reason for this could be the so-called relationship orientation, which international research has repeatedly identified to be very strong in the Indian society and significantly weaker in Germany. In India, problems are kept for oneself and discussions are avoided so as to prevent unnecessary tensions in one’s personal relations. For us Germany, there is much to learn, especially tolerance and empathy. The process of mutual approaching is still in the beginning phase.
The comprehensive report provides all externals with profound insight in the way of working, project work and the interpersonal relationships, the daily problems and challenges on the spot in India. In her report, Sabine does not only focus on the bright sides of our cooperation and its successes. She also reveals the challenges that are part of such a vision and highlights the good will and determination with which all Gaiatree Foundation members struggle to find and implement solutions in practice. For those who plan on coming to India or even supporting the Gaiatree Foundation, this basic work constitutes a recommendable document for preparation and insight. For us, the people working on the spot, it functions as a mirror and provides some valuable solutions for our future work.
Thank you, Sabine, for your interesting views and insights in our work.
PS: Exept of the report work will be here. The complete work we have only in german version!!

exzerpt_report_english.pdf
(ca. 139.8 kByte)

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