Gaia - Aquarious revisited
by Suma Varughese
At Nimbin in Australia, a hippie past is transformed as India meets aborigine culture Australia
At Nimbin in Australia, a hippie past is transformed as India meets aborigine
The Outback. Strong silent M&B heroes, beaches,
bikinis, beer bellies and cricket. Great images, right? Well, how about these?
Women lying on the grass in a circle with linked arms, worshippers of Gaia.
A hugely pregnant woman experiencing waterbirthing.
Cancers called guruji cured by urine therapy. Schools that take eight-year-olds
into soul journeys to acquaint them with Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Folks protesting
fiercely against environment degradation. Australia? Yes. Nimbin, New South Wales,
to be precise.
Nimbin is where India meets aboriginal culture and Native
American practices. It is a spiritual commune, the relic of an Aquarius festival
held in 1973. It is the hippie culture turned New Age. And it came to India recently
through a photo exhibition titled Some Children of the Dream.
The man behind this dream is a true-blue Indian, Harsh Prabhu. Says he: "In the
midst of consumerism, capitalism and modernization, it's interesting to show people
a bit of the counter-influence of the East on the West." For Prabhu, the exhibition
is an opportunity to show people that "there are things in our own culture that
are vital to our survival. And we've forgotten them".
pays homage to India time and again-be it through the Bauls
of Bengal singing at the original Aquarius festival, or through Nimbin's environmental
Rainforest Information Center undertaking to green Mount Arunachala in Tamil Nadu,
India, where Ramana Maharshi's ashram
There are some striking images at the exhibition: a scarecrow
whose dreadlocks part to reveal one glaring eye, the original Aquarius signpost
with a special path for cynics, a huge circle of T'ai Chi practitioners. Nimbin
isn't spared the frivolity and excesses of hippie faddism. There are signs asking
for the legitimization of marijuana,
and the espousal of other trendy causes. There are also indications of serious
work done in offering alternative economic and community systems to a world torn
apart by crass materialism.
The Nimbin currency is LETS (Local Energy Transfer System) for which members trade their
skills and services. The idea is to move into a semi-barter system. Their economic
prescription? View the economy as a broad social, ethical, and ecological system
in which wealth includes well being. Other criteria: self-reliant economies, the
satisfaction of needs, and small-scale appropriate technology.
end of the day, it may not be entirely clear whether Nimbin is a serious attempt
at providing an alternative model for the world or just an escape hatch for ageing
hippies. Perhaps it contains a bit of both. Perhaps the better bits.