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Nalanda students collaborate with students from Eckerd College, St. Petersburg, Florida for a field study on Marigold at the Mahabodhi temple, Bodhgaya

January 25, 2017

On January 24, 2017 students of Nalanda University's School of Ecology and Environment Studies conducted a collaborative field study with the students from Eckerd College, St. Petersburg, Florida, at the Mahabodhi temple, Bodhgaya. The title of the fieldwork was ‘Marigold: cradle to grave study’. The objective of the study was to understand how marigold usage has been happening from the farming through its usage till the disposal at the Mahabodhi temple. Prior to the fieldwork, students were given some preliminary reading based on which the questions to be investigated during the field work were narrowed down. The students engaged thoroughly in discussions held prior to the fieldwork and tried to assimilate all the previous understandings in the area of study. The method of study was to carry out semi-structured interviews with different target groups such as the farmers, merchants, suppliers, temple management, tourists, monks, and the labourers. Students were divided into different teams and given different areas to work on and report. After the completion of the fieldwork, students from both institutions worked for another day to consolidate all the findings.

Here's an account of their experience by Deekshith Nevil Pinto, a student from the Class of 2017 at Nalanda University's  School of Ecology and Environment Studies.

Who grows the Marigold supplied to the Mahabodhi Temple and how

The study started from the cradle which is the farms that grow the flowers. Interviews with the local farmers revealed that a very small portion of the supply is actually met by the local farmers while most of the remaining supply comes from Kolkata and many other parts of the country. The local farmers growing the Marigold near Gaya are few in number and are usually small-scale farmers who fail to compete with the large-scale farming in other parts of the country. The students learned about the farming techniques, difficulties of farmers, the fertilisers and pesticides used, marketing methods etc., from the interactions with farmers.

Field Study with Eckerd Students

Students from Nalanda University and Eckerd College in the Classroom and during
the Field Study- Pic Credit:Deekshith Nevil Pinto 

The dealers of marigold supplied to the Mahabodhi Temple 

In order to trace the footprint of Marigold from fields to garbage, a market survey was also done by the students. It was verified that the major source of Marigold in the market was mainly Kolkata and nearby states. There are two major dealers in Bodh Gaya who arrange for the Marigold for events at the temple and sell it on a regular basis. These two dealers further sell these to small vendors and shopkeepers. Temple Management Committee (TMC) takes the quotation and the contract is being allotted to the dealer as a regular exercise. There is a kind of oligopoly in the market with a few dealers dominating the Marigold trade and the smaller vendors struggling to compete.

The religious and cultural significance of marigolds

Further, the students tried to understand the religious and cultural significance of marigolds. Most of the vendors, tourists and even monks being interviewed were clueless about the significance of the marigolds specifically to the Buddhist rituals. There was little enthusiasm among the people to understand such significance. The simple idea that came out was that the marigolds are produced in a huge quantity in India and hence they were being used. Some also commented that maybe the marigolds resemble the golden flower from the heaven and hence they are being used. One of the monks from Bhutan commented that the choice of the flowers except for lotus (which has a high significance in the Buddhist culture) depends on what is available locally. There exists a huge scope for further study in this area.

The disposal of marigolds

The final step in assessing the farm to trash management of marigold was to understand the waste management practices for Marigold waste at the Mahabodhi temple in Bodhgaya. The students interviewed the Mahabodhi temple management committee, tourists, cleaning staff, vendors, waste handling labourers, municipality staff, etc., for a comprehensive understanding. The group was surprised to find that, despite being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mahabodhi temple did not have a well-structured scientific way of waste management. All the waste generated at the temple including the marigold is collected together and disposed at the city landfill area. The temple premises were very clean and dustbins were available at the required locations. However, there was no segregation of any kind and all the wastes were collected at a corner of the temple. The students strongly recommended improvements in the waste management practices of the temple.

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