Elsa Primary School is near Bodhgaya, a small town which is known worldwide as the epicentre of Buddhism. It is the site of the historical Bodhi Tree (ficus religiosa) under which Buddha is said to have realized Awakening 2,588 years ago. The complex around the tree has a very peaceful ambience. Any time one visits there are pilgrims practising devotion and meditation. In and around the township of Bodhgaya, there are many contemporary Buddhist monasteries and meditation centres.
Purnima is a Sanskrit word meaning full moon. Each full moon day in India has a spiritual significance. The full moon day in May is Buddha Purnima, the commemoration of Buddha's Birth, Awakening & Parinirvana. In other countries, it is known as Vesak or Visakha Puja. Buddhists from all over India come to Bodhgaya each year for this auspicious event. This year, Purnima was celebrated at Elsa Primary School with offerings of flowers, candles, incense and reverential chanting. The students were given a meal of milk rice - the food Buddha reportedly ate just before his Awakening.
The growth of Elsa Primary School has always been an organic process. With increased support for the school over the years, we've gradually been able to provide more for the students.
For example, classes were originally held in a private house. Later, they were moved to a designated school building with one classroom. Our current school building has three classrooms, an assembly space, a kitchen, an office and a bathroom. We started classes with thirty students and one teacher and this subsequently increased to forty students and two teachers. In the early years, students sat on the floor for classes. Now we have bench seats and desks. Initially, we weren't able to provide food for the students. Later, there was one meal a week and now nutrition is provided on a daily basis. For some years, the students came to school in their civvies. Now we provide full school uniforms, including footwear and sweaters for the cold winters.
The most recent upgrade in student provisioning was backpacks bearing the school name. As you can see in the photos, the students were very happy to receive these.
During the pandemic, India's border was closed for a long time and it was difficult to visit Elsa Primary School from abroad.
However, in recent months, there has been opportunities for supporters such as Karen, Gary, Jane & Chittapala from Australia to visit the school. They brought sweets for the students which were very much appreciated and interacted in various ways. This included giving lessons, correcting workbooks and playing games. The students love visits like this. In turn, it is an uplifting experience for visitors to spend time with the students.
If you are in Bodhgaya, please make time to visit the students of Elsa Primary School!
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