October 8, 2015 was a day of immense happiness and satisfaction for the residents of Badamba tehsil of Odisha – the day when people from different backgrounds and fields of work experienced the pure joy of giving at the Badamba Seva Mahotsav.
It was the result of a group of villagers coming together to celebrate DaanUtsav – India’s festival of giving.
DaanUtsav is celebrated for a week starting from Gandhi Jayanti on October 2, till October 8 every year. In 2015, the festival volunteers in Odisha decided to take it to the rural parts of the state. They began campaigning for the same in August and worked hard for two months – spreading awareness about the joy of giving in different villages to bring the donors and receivers at one place.
At the end of these two months they organized one full day of celebrations in the form of a Seva Mahotsav (festival of giving).
Initially, the volunteers conducted meetings in temples, mosques, churches, schools, colleges, etc. They also put up hoardings and distributed pamphlets across the district. A group of about 130 youngsters rode to 20 villages on their motorbikes, singing slogans in their local language that basically translated to – “let us come together to spread happiness.”
It was important to help people understand the real meaning of daan, because many thought it to was only about donation of money. But this day was about a lot more – it was about spreading happiness with the donation of things ranging from clothes, blankets and shoes, to blood, organs, and health advice.
Eye specialists, paediatricians, dentists and many others from the medical field agreed to join in. Nearly 3,800 villagers participated on the final day.
The donations included blankets with torch light for the elderly, mosquito nets for ashram children, cakes, food, notebooks, pens, pencils, etc. One villager told the volunteers that he does not have any children, so he would like to arrange food for all the people who had gathered that day – like he would have done in the wedding of his children. A tea seller who had set his stall near the venue was so inspired by the cause that he offered to distribute free tea to everyone. Inspired by him, a paan seller offered to distribute free pens among children.
The spirit of giving started spreading from one person to another.
The volunteers had recognized old and underprivileged people from the villages and invited them to come for the festival. Some people with vehicles in the district offered to bring them to the venue and drop them back. Even auto drivers were willing to offer free rides to help. A private organization donated shoes to everyone. Apollo hospital set up a health camp for free check-ups and AIIMS Bhubaneshwar had a stall where people could register for organ donation. Children from a nearby orphanage were also a part of the festival.
In the end, there was a donation box set up for the receivers to enjoy the giving process, and they could donate whatever they wanted to.
The donation box alone resulted in a collection of Rs. 9,000 that was given to people responsible for setting up the tent, stalls, etc.
Cheers for the donors, the receivers and the unadulterated spirit of giving celebrated by people in the region.