Apr 2015 - Temple of Fine Arts - Brickfields
The Explorers’ April outing took the group to the Temple of Fine Arts (TFA), Brickfields, on the day of Tamilian (Southern Indian) New Year.  Our morning commenced with festively dressed TFA Volunteers welcoming the group by adorning each member with fragrant jasmine garlands and placing vermillion and sandalwood paste Tika dots on our foreheads – considered the “Third Eye” of spiritual sight (or the sixth chakra, Ajna, the seat of “concealed wisdom”).  Such a lovely welcome and a treat for all our senses!
The Tamilian New Year is celebrated at many levels: new festive clothing and jewellery, special menus with lots of sweets, decorations around the house, and most importantly, special prayers for the occasion.  TFA volunteer, Ms Jayshree, explained the special childhood rituals of her family, such has waking up to see many plates of pulses, grains, fruits and vegetables set out, which the children had to then memorise and name as many as they could!
Our introduction to the Tamilian New Year was then followed by Odissi Temple dance explanations by TFA dance teachers, Gawri and Sumathi.  The teachers gave a power point presentation and physical demonstrations of the torso movements and the softer, yet precise, hand and feet movements. Two beautiful and accomplished Odissi Dance students, and their 
teachers encouraged all of us to try some very basic hand, feet and torso movements. The results of our efforts only served to show us just how challenging the basic poses were!   After this, we were treated to a wonderful Odissi dance display which was enthralling.
Explorers tried their hands at Rangoli, the art of decorating entrances of homes, with either stained rice grains or a wet rice flour paste.   The purpose of Rangoli is decoration, and is thought to bring good luck.  Design depictions may vary as they reflect traditions, folklore and practises that are unique to each area.  Traditionally done by women, designs can be simple geometric shapes, deity impressions, flower or petal shapes, or can be very elaborate designs undertaken by several people.  

TFA volunteer, Viji, showed us how easy it was to make geometric shapes from a runny water and rice powder paste, which some of us tried and found it to be an achievable, enjoyable experience.  We also found it easier to fill in a design drawn for us with coloured rice grains than it was to make one up from the start!
Our next stop was the TFA fully funded medical clinic, Sivasanta, which is located just opposite the main entrance of the Maha Vihara Buddhist temple on Jalan Berhala.  The clinic provides basic medical care to the community.  At present, the clinic’s main users are working class migrant workers who don’t have access to regular medical services here.  The clinic also provides a regular outreach medical service to remote areas outside of KL, such as rubber plantations.  All the clinic’s services are basically free of charge (payment is through donation only), and all doctors and staff are volunteers.  The TFA have big plans to expand their medical practice to a 4-storey clinic, and are working hard to raise the necessary funds. 
Our tour finished with a delicious buffet vegetarian meal and cooling mango lassies in the Annalakshmi restaurant.
We want to give a heart-felt thanks to Ms Usha Rajoo who organized the whole tour for us, and to the many volunteers who helped us on the day – Vishaka, Viji, Devi, Jayshree, Gawri, Sumathi, and Mr Shiva at the Sivasanta clinic.
The dedication of the TFA team touched and inspired Explorers to think about committing time to help the TFA.  The Sivasanta clinic is always looking for office/customer assistance.  If you think you may have some time to help in the clinic, please contact: Mr Mutiah, coordinator of volunteers, on 010 779 3905.
Please support the building of the new clinic through patronage of the TFA’s wonderful music and dance programmes. Classes can also be arranged for groups of 5 or more people who want to learn Odissi, Bharatnatyam or even Bollywood dancing.
Submitted by Michelle Speed and Rupa Shah
Photographs contributed by Suparna Kundu.