The Story of the Bellur Trust and what has been achieved
As many of you will know by now, Bellur is a small village in a remote rural area 60 kms from Bangalore in Karnataka, Southern India where the people lead very poor simple lives but is now famous as the birthplace of BKS Iyengar (Guruji).
In 2003, BKS Iyengar initiated the setting up of the Bellur Krishnamachar & Seshamma Smaraka Nidhi Trust® (BKSSNT), a charitable body named in memory of his parents known by us as the Bellur Trust. The aim was to achieve educational, health, social, and economic reform for the people of Bellur, especially for the children, and to further the practice of yoga in schools.
Ten years ago Bellur had come to an appalling state of social, economic and cultural ruin. BKS Iyengar’s heart went out to the children of his home village whose lives would never change without education. He embarked upon a mission to raise and enhance the general quality of life and improve future prospects for the young through the provision of educational, medical, social and cultural facilities and opportunities – and also of course to teach the children yoga!
“When the children do yoga at this tender age transformations take place. This is the time to build up courage, clarity and confidence in them” – BKS Iyengar.
In 2004 there was not even a clean, fresh water supply until the Trust erected a water tank and the only amenity was the Primary School, built and financed by Guruji in 1967. Even though his father was a headmaster there had been no school in Bellur itself until this time. In 2002 the school was found to be in a very rundown state and children did not continue with any kind of education beyond 7 years old. In fact parents didn’t see the value of education and often only sent their younger children to school for the free meal! The Trust has built educational facilities at Bellur which serve a wide community bringing hope to young people from 30 – 40 surrounding villages. There is a refurbished Primary School and a High School, providing free education, books, uniforms and meals. The only entry provision is that the children undertake yoga! The children have done well, many being successful instate exams. They also practice art, music and dance as well as yoga and have put on many displays and performances.
In 2012 a Further Education College was opened for adolescents. There is now talk of a university! This means that rural children will be given the same educational opportunities as urban children. Education will improve the prospects of the new generation.
”The children who were hungry for food are now hungry for knowledge” – BKS Iyengar
To look after the health needs of the whole area a small but fully equipped modern Hospital, even with an operating theatre, has been built and mobile clinics have also provided free treatment for common problems like eye disorders, diabetes, arthritis, and more.
Cultural and Social
In school the children practice art, music and dance as well as yoga and have put on many displays and performances. Guruji has financed the building of the first Patanjali temple in India. It is an impressive colourful structure which can be used socially for events such as weddings and celebration meals. It also houses a beautiful Hanuman relief which is 1000 years old and which was in the village when Guruji lived there.
The cultural heritage of the people has also not been forgotten. Bellur has an important place in Indian mythology and the 1000 year old Rama temple ruins with ancient carvings indicate its status in the past. Yet over the centuries Bellur fell into ruin. Recently the ruins of the ancient temple have been restored by Guruji using as many of the original stones that could be found, and rebuilt, appearing now just as it was 1000 years ago.
The temples are helping to reinstate Bellur to its old glory. The villagers, who previously had few visitors, especially Westerners, are getting used to visiting dignitaries and yoga students curious to see Guruji’s birthplace, the achievements of the Trust and the Temples. This all gives the community something to be proud of and as a result the village is being kept much tidier!
The building projects have provided jobs where new skills can also be learnt and various new means of future employment developed. Education will improve the prospects of the new generation.
BKS Iyengar’s vision for Bellur has become a reality in an incredibly short time due to his personal generosity and inspiratiion. The villagers now have something to be proud of and the young people have hope for a better future. Guruji says the character of the villagers is changing.
However the work of the Trust is not over!
We have been asked that anyone who wishes to donate funds to the Bellur Trust does so through IY (UK). This simplifies administration in India as all donations are then transferred directly into the bank account of the Trust in one go.
Some recent fundraising activity has included:
– A ‘yoga on the beach’ day
– Sponsored Utthita Trikonasana event
– T-shirt sale
– An evening of music and dance
– Asking for donations instead of birthday presents