It is the journey to a Kurishumala hermitage in Vagamon, which has shown to the world the richness of simplicity and the depth of silence.. where the wind was blowing heavily. It has covered fifty years in selfless service. The hills of Vagamon tell a tale of the soil soaked in sweat.
When we give the ears to listen what the grasses of Kurishumala are murmuring, we can hear a greenery song. Simplicity is the hallmark of this hermitage. No chairs to sit, but a wooden bench. In that wooden bench we can see The Abbot, who is the spiritual leader of the hermitage. Now this institution is an autonomous community of the Cistercian Church, a global saint society. The founder of the hermitage Francis Acharya was the first Abbot.
Fifty years ago, when the hermitage started, Vagamon hills had nothing but an abandoned dry area. The dry hills are now green and is the place is a ‘Land of Canaan’ producing milk and honey aplenty.
John Mahiyu, who was born in Belgium and came to India in 1955 started a Trappist saint life in the name of Francis Acharya. On the invitation from Malankara Catholic Bishop Sakhariah Mar Athanesius of Tiruvalla archdiocese, Francis Acharya, reached the top of these hills for the first time. He travelled on foot for eighteen kilometers with Fr. Beed Grihitis and other two saints, about fifty years ago. They made temporary huts by using materials availed from nature like bamboo, grass etc.. In 1958, March 21, a hermitage society has formed.
Vegetable cultivation was started and trees planted in the 200 acres land. A circular building built with stones. Buildings were made of simple stone and wood. Constructed guest houses, a church and up from there. When the hermitage initiated cow and poultry farming, it became a livelihood for the nearby people who were in poverty. The milk is now known as ‘Kurishumala milk’. There were cows yielding as much as 70 litres of milk a day.
The production is 5,000 liters of milk per day. Grass grow on the Kurisumala for all the cows. The green grass of the hermitage depicts its purity. The simplicity of life, poverty, and fear of God, austerity, consensus, the willingness to serve, sincerity, a deep peace etc are the messages of this atmosphere.
Francis Acharya died on January 31, 2002. After that Fr. Yesudas Telliyil was elected as Abbot. Last year, he gave up his post as he was aging. Fr. Ishanand Machiyanickal is the present Abbot.
They all are pure vegetarian and barefoot. Now the bi-roads to the buildings are paved with metals. The life of the Cistercian is very simple. They consider their guests and poor men as own people of Christ.
Gandhiji once wrote, “Their heritage is a garden in true sense. A beautiful silence that spread in the atmosphere. Now also my mind is in that. The establishment of such a hermitage is my aim.. ” A dozen guests at the same time are allowed to meditate in the hermitage.
The day of the hermitage inmates start early in the morning at 3.45 and they go to sleep at night by 8.30. In this schedule all will take four and a half hours to prepare the food together. The visitors willing to assist in the works of hermitage are welcome. Inside the church, with the specialty of the construction, we can feel coolness. In short, silence is the hallmark of the ashram and of course the simplicity too..
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