IVC Kolkata (the full name is The Institute of Vedic Culture for Public Welfare Conference) and its affiliated school Krishnamurti Institute of Astrology (KIA) have been conducting astrology conferences for a full Saturn cycle.
In 2014, IVC Kolkata welcomed the first Western astrologers to their conference. By 2015, they had increased the number of Western astrologers to 7 and in 2016 the number had again increased to 15. In 2018, there were about 70 international speakers.
And for their next conference in 2020, they will be welcoming 134 International speakers and 48 student speakers.
This is the IVC publicity video!
I love everything about this conference. But there’s nothing like wearing a saree! And the fellas looked lovely in their sherwanis too! This conference receives my special prize for “Best Dressed Astrologers”. On top of being in a luxury venue, it is a unique event everyone should endeavour to get to!
As we sped very noisily through the Kolkata night (I’ve never heard so many horns blaring in my life!), I was still expecting to be staying in very basic accommodation. I had been told not to expect too much. I had been warned that I would be sick and that malaria was a real threat. How wrong these presumptions turned out to be. I hadn’t a clue about the hospitality of India.
We were taken on a tour of the city once settled in the beautiful accommodation. Living in London, I thought I would know what to expect from a busy city. Once again, nothing could have prepared me for Kolkata: the differences in culture could be seen wherever I looked. I saw men being shaved with straight razors in the open, I saw millions of people just getting on with their daily lives (washing, cooking, shopping, arguing) and of course I saw poverty like I’ve never seen before–and it bothered me.
Back at the hotel, the front window faced the street. If you were seated, frosted glass prevented you from seeing the street. So I stood sipping a cup of chai so I could watch what was happening. I saw a boy of about 7 or 8 years old on a bicycle that was too big for him, pulling a small, open trailer on which a toddler sat. There were no safety precautions–and to my western eyes, it was just so dangerous with so much traffic whizzing by in what seemed like from all directions. At that moment, the boy caught my eye, gave me the biggest grin and waved. “This is my life,” he seemed to say, “And isn’t it great?” It made me realise who the real pauper was.
I was completely spellbound by the beauty of the dancers, the music and the atmosphere. Oh yes, I thought to myself, I am in beautiful, mysterious India.
The biggest surprise was being crowned “KIA’s International Astrologer of the Year, 2015.” Yes, I got a tiara and beautiful jewellery. Even better, the award was presented by Kapoor Ji and Minister for Women and Children Dr Shashi Panja. That’s right: a top judge and politician at an astrology conference!
I really had no idea there was any sort of judging going on. I just wanted to show the good people of India how astrology could be an aid to education. For me, the greatest honour came from the opportunity to meet Shashi, whose interests in women’s and children’s rights were so close to my own heart. I didn’t have too much of a chance to speak to her at the time but we have kept in contact via social media. Both she and Kapoor Ji are very busy people
but they each made time for me in their own ways. How fortunate is that?
I landed in Kolkata at the beginning of December 2017 to help organise IVC Kolkata in 2018. As was customary, I was collected at the airport and received beautiful gifts from Gopal. I was delighted to see Shyamal and Arpa again and I finally got to meet Amitava (we must have emailed each other a million times!).
They helped me settle in and said good night. It was the first night of a 4 month stay in India. I was excited and brimming over with ideas.
It was the start of a hectic but exhilarating week. I felt like I really belonged and that I was doing something I had always wanted to do. No doubt this was because my Sun was conjunct my MC in Kolkata: for the first time in my life, I had my own office, executive desk and a driver (!). It was all been pretty intense with the conference in just under two months away.
But that didn’t mean there wasn’t time for fun!
Gopal Bhattacharjee and his lovely wife Churni (who I haven’t seen in nearly two years) and I had a fabulous dinner and got caught up with all our news. It’s amazing how Gopal and I have very similar views about bringing the two zodiacs together. Both of us passionately believe that the only way to address “the big question” in astrology is by talking about it. And the best way to talk about it is at an astrology conference!
As we were musing about this (at 3am!), we drove over a bridge and I suddenly got a bright idea.
“Stop!” I shouted. One of the many things Gopal and I agree about is that we are building bridges, not walls. We needed a photo of us on that bridge.
One of my tasks in India was to design a Western Astrology course for Jyotish students and boy, did Gopal ever do well with getting a professional teacher to do this task. I developed a curriculum, designed the prospectus, did the lesson plans, assembled the resources and delivered my very first class all in the first week.
When I had gotten on the plane (during Mercury retrograde AND a super full Moon) to come to India in early December, I had pretty much accepted there would be no “Hark the Herald Angles Sing” for me. The Christmas season in the UK had just about started in earnest when I left. And to be honest, I really wasn’t all that fussed about not seeing any reindeer. To me it just seemed like a small price to pay for the adventure of a lifetime! I could sing along with the Christmas carols on youtube.
But as Christmas loomed closer, I started to get little pangs of missing the ho ho hos, the excitement of the children and that two week break. It didn’t last too long–we had been working very hard and I just got into the swing of things to the point I kept forgetting the Western world was starting to shut down for the holiday. And then one evening, I noticed there WERE Christmas lights starting to appear. And Christmas trees!
On reflection, my surprise is pretty silly. We celebrate Diwali, Chinese New Year, Eid and Hanukkah in London so why would I think Christmas wouldn’t be celebrated or at the very least acknowledged in India? I mean globalisation, right?
In my own defence, it was abundantly clear that East and West view the world in completely different ways. The biggest difference? The West looked at the India as its poorest relation I think. Westerners look at every day life here in India and feel a sense of pity because of the poverty. This gets rather annoying.
My experiences in India have taught me that there are two kinds of poverty: a material one and a poverty of the spirit. It’s like the West is trained to look at the outside and the East is trained to look past outward appearances.
I see the Western perception of “poverty” here but I also see tremendous joy and gratitude. I love the way nothing is really broken and thrown away: anything can be fixed here. The West appears wealthy because they throw so much away.
Life in India is seen as inter-connected. And this extends to astrology: palmistry, gemology and yoga are just branches of the same discipline. I was learning a lot from my pupils. Life is “modern” in Kolkata and I couldn’t think of a single thing that I missed (other than people which something different altogether).
IVC has been holding student lecture competitions from the first time they started holding conferences in the 1990s.
In 2017/18, I had the immense pleasure of teaching the top KIA pupils Western astrology. I also coached them for the student lecture competition. The problem with sharing knowledge from 2 very different cultures was always going to boil down to language.
We did some pronunciation work but mainly worked on simplifying complex terms so it was palatable to Western ears. I knew from experience that Western astrologers immediately tune out once the Vedic terminology becomes out of reach.
Being a schoolteacher definitely came in handy. If I could teach Shakespeare to 11 year olds who couldn’t give a damn about 17th century Elizabethan language, then I could teach my pupils to hook Western astrologers into becoming interested in Vedic concepts.
“Slow down,” I said an awful lot. “Write down that key word on your slide. Say the key word often. Come back to it at the end so they remember it.”
The competition was so popular that it was decided to open up the event to an international standard in IVC Kolkata 2020 (click the link to see the rules). With FABULOUS cash prizes on offer ($1500 for first place!), any astrology school would be wise to enter their top pupils to compete! For more information, contact Dr Lea Imsiragic (firstname.lastname@example.org) who is the chairperson of this prestigious event.
Lea is a healer, medical doctor and astrologer who is also a coordinator of the International Balkan Conference in Belgrade, Serbia.
Things were very hectic in the office in the run up to the conference. I had my hands very full teaching and coaching but I was also working on Constellation News. The conference magazine had over 50 academic astrology articles to proofread! I nagged for poor Anirban to death about layout too. But it was beautiful!
I also did a lot to prepare the school to welcome other Western lecturers for extended lengths of time. There’s still some work to do which I hope to finish in late 2018/early 2019 when I return to Kolkata.
The weekend before the conference, I had bridesmaid duties in Cape Town. It was a beautiful wedding but I worried about the conference which would start the day after I landed back in Kolkata. Needless to say, I hit the ground running!
With so many people involved in the organising of the conference and with language being a barrier at times, not everything went as smoothly as we would have liked. It was my first time helping to organise a conference and I knew it was a steep learning curve. But we got a much better sense of what needs to happen for 2020. I deeply appreciated the support of other astrology conference organisers who assured me that people will complain about anything.
I was immeasurably proud of my students at IVC Kolkata 2018. And I felt they were popular amongst the Western speakers and that they taught them something. I know some of their research has been snapped up by Western astrology magazines. It was a great start for the cross fertilisation of ideas.
I was also glad Constellation News was so appreciated. The articles really are top notch and it was a pleasure to read them.
That was the clue that it was going to be spectacular!
I think I’ve seen so much of the Imsiragics that I’ve come to expect seeing them at the local pub! There must be a reason shy we keep bumping into each other! Stay tuned to find out!