THE VEGANS HAVE LANDED! - THE INTERNATIONAL VEGAN FESTIVAL, INDIA Bill Palethorpe
t was late September 2007 and dozens of vegans were landing in India, like migrating birds, they came in peace from all over the world. They were all converging on the coastal town of Murdeshwar in the state of Karnataka for the 11th International Vegan Festival (IVF).
Murdeshwar is a place of pilgrimage and for me this visit was a pilgrimage, predominantly to attend the IVF but also it had long been my dream to visit the south west of India. As I left Mangalore airport I could already sense the colours and the vibrancy, the sounds and the smells that make up this amazing sub-continent. It took over four hours to cover the 162km of pot-holed monsoon battered road. All of the way the lorries, cars, taxis, rickshaws, bicycles, pedestrians and cows seemed to play a game of Russian roulette with each other. Frequent road signs announced ‘Accident zone phone ambulance 105707’; ‘Save us Mother Mary’; ‘Respect traffic rules for your safety’; ‘Go slow dangerous curve’; ‘Drive carefully no overtaking’ the last two being seen as an incentive to suicidally overtake. To my considerable relief I finally arrived at the RNS Residency hotel stirred and a little shaken but all in one piece! Then began an inspiring action packed week of informal lectures; singing and dancing; sight-seeing trips; yoga classes; marvellous vegan food and diverse company all advancing the name of veganism. The whole festival was a triumph of organisation by Shankar Narayan, the President of the Indian Vegan Society, supported by his local volunteers with international assistance from Kirsten Jungsberg and others.
The Vegan l Spring 2008
The opening ceremony performed by the holy Hindu HH Swamiji gave a taste of the uniqueness and ahimsa (non-harming and active helping of all beings) of the days to come. More than twenty interesting and thought provoking lectures were given including: Save Planet Earth; Battery Cage Hens; Cruelty Free Footwear; Animal Rights; Veganising Latin America; Hindu View of the Vegan Way; Uncaged UK; The Dangers of Cow’s Milk; 21st Century Vegan; Being Vegan; Sattvic Diet; Ethical Vegetarian Alternatives; Vegetarianism & World Peace. Shankar even found an unscheduled slot for me to present a talk on my article in the current Gandhi Foundation magazine on veganism entitled ‘21st Century pharming!’. Interspersed with these talks were visits far and wide such as to the scenic Jog Falls, to the Sai Vishram beach resort and to the yoga teacher’s house at Konar. The festival had been planned to coincide with the anniversary of Gandhi’s birthday (also the UN International Day of Peace) and St Francis of Assisi day.
Therefore on the 2nd October we, along with a large crowd of local people (mostly school children and women in their colourful saris), took part in the annual Peace March from the hotel complex to the town boundary. Shankar had thoughtfully provided us with Gandhi caps and vegan t-shirts. This along with our other activities generated a good deal of interest with both the local and national media outlets. It should be remembered that although India boasts the largest percentage (approx 30%) of vegetarians of any country there is surprisingly only minor support and knowledge concerning veganism. The intention of the organisers and the participants at the IVF was to change this attitude. The RNS Residency hotel in Murdeshwar adapted their normal vegetarian only fare to vegan menus magnificently, as many Indian vegetarian curries and other spicy dishes were available for breakfast, lunch and dinner. However, thanks to Shankar & Kirsten items such as pasta; cornflakes; soya milk; fresh fruit; herbal teas; vegan desserts and toast were also produced.
The magazine of The Vegan Society. Vegan Society Awards 2007, Gary Francione