Living in Bangalore gives us so many interesting options, it is for us to discover the unexplored. This time I decided to visit a place called Navadarshanam situated nearly 50km from Bangalore in Thally block, Tamil Nadu. I had heard quite a lot about this place and was very much interested in learning about their practices.
One fine day, I decided to write to the team of Navadarshanam about my interest and requested them to fix a day for my visit. This is one of the first procedure if you wish to visit them. I received a very warm welcome from the team. They helped me with directions straight from my location along with the transport options. It is important to let them know the number of people traveling as they arrange food accordingly. They follow the rule of no wastage of food so it becomes important for them to know the exact number of people visiting.
I was accompanied by a friend and we decided to use public transport. There is easy availability of buses from Bangalore city and market bus stands to the town of Anekal. From Anekal, you can either hire a taxi, auto rickshaw, tempos or take a bus. A taxi would cost between Rs.800-1000, the auto rickshaw will come up to Rs.250 and buses and tempos will be even cheaper. The route will take you via Gumalapuram village after crossing the border of Tamil Nadu directly to Navadarshanam. If you choose to take a bus then Navadarshanam is a 2 km walk through the hamlet of Ganganahally. We had got a confirmation to visit this place on a Sunday. It’s only later that we realized on Sundays, the frequency of buses are fewer for which we had to switch two buses to reach Anekal and then took an auto to Navadarshanam. You can get detailed directions from Bangalore to Navadarshanam depending on the mode of transport you choose on the direction page of Navadarshanam.
As we arrived, we were greeted by Mr. Nagarajan. He is a very learned man and he was patiently showing us the entire area talking about how they started, about farming and little bit about all the techniques they have adopted so far.
Concept of Navadarshanam
It all started back in the year 1990 when a barren land of 115 acres was utilized by a community of people to grow vegetables, fruits, cereals using organic farming techniques without disturbing the adjoining areas which are a reserve forest. We all are aware of how the urban lifestyle is taking over our lives isolating us from nature also resulting in environmental devastation. Their concept was simple and practical. The people involved had formed a study circle in which they lived in different regions and came back together to only start Navadarshanam. They were from leading firms of science and technology. They followed Gandhian approach of minimalism and believed that science and the progress of technology had to go hand in hand with nature and human values for a comprehensive progress. This is what gave way to the formation of Navadarshanam.
Alternatives to modern way of living
The team of Navadarshanam primarily focuses on eco-restoration, eco-housing, organic farming, alternative energy, renewable energy, wildlife preservation, rainwater harvesting, food initiative and inner happiness. The campus has houses made of mud bricks as they wanted to utilize minimal materials to avoid mechanized tools and processes. The advantages are many, first being the availability of mud locally which is cheaper and avoids any transportation cost. The mud blocks look beautiful and there is no need for additional paint. There are no fans in any of the rooms as the natural breeze is enough to keep the houses cool even in summers. They utilize solar energy and biogas for production of energy which means keeping off the public power grid. When it comes to farming practices, the community incorporates natural farming, traditional knowledge, and permaculture principles. Some of these practices involve minimal use of water, machines, absolutely no chemical used for growing fruits and vegetables and growing local and seasonal crops. Even the spices are stone ground here without the use of any electronic gadgets. The community kitchen of Navadarshanam is brilliant wherein silence is followed by the principle of zero wastage of food. This in itself is a foundation for a more conscious life. We were served with some unpolished rice, sambar, greens and homemade pickles with no oil. The meal was simple, delicious and healthy. We found a stark difference between the freshly cooked vegetables with no additional chemicals than what we eat on a daily basis in Bangalore. I served myself ragi mudde to taste and that turned to be very filling. Ragi is very popular among the rural societies of Karnataka. It has a lot of health benefits from keeping the bones healthy to lowering blood sugar levels by stimulating insulin. Lately, due to acidity issues, I have discovered this quite well that the secret to keeping healthy is consuming food that is easily digestible and is least acidic in nature. The choice of food definitely matters.
They have set up a self-help group that constitutes of people from surrounding villages who help in producing healthy organic food products. The ingredients are mostly obtained from neighboring farms and some percentage of crops are also utilized that is grown at Navadarshanam. However, the income generated from the products sold in Bangalore goes directly to these self-help groups. They have a very transparent system wherein a clear understanding is established between the consumers and the challenges associated with the farming process. One can find products from Navadarshanam at Namdhari Fresh. Some products can also be found online on Amazon.in. Besides this, they are working on sustainable water management practices. They have utilized different arrangements to store rainwater for domestic purpose. They have worked to reduce the dependence on groundwater and they also strive to minimize the use of water for daily use to an average of 40 liters per person.
It was very inspirational to hear how a huge stretch of barren land was transformed into a forest. Listening about wildlife preservation was most interesting. I was told earlier the land had trees planted by natural methods through wind, birds, and animals from the nearby Thally Reserve Forest. These trees had a tough resistance to natural calamities and this is how it became clear to the people of the community that regenerating degenerated land is the best way forward. It was an encouragement for them to what is now a passing home to a wide range of living creatures from different species of birds to deer, rabbits, wild boar to elephants and sometimes there is a chance of spotting leopard.
Apart from all these alternatives, there is something that Navadarshanam focuses and that is inner work. Happiness is within us and the awareness of our true state of being is important. This is basically about keeping oneself at their natural state while focusing on the transformation and growth. They have maintained an environment of constant learning and sharing not only with the people around but also from the nature surrounding them. If you are someone who can’t do without electronic gadgets or eating junk then this is not really a place you want to visit. This place is not for tourists either or for people to come just to have a gala time. People who are interested in learning about the alternative ways of modern living and the other eco friendly ways are encouraged. I hope my article helps you decide if you want to visit this place. Navadarshanam provides an option to the eco-conscious people to stay over for at least a day to understand how they function. They don’t have any fixed tariff, it is for the people to decide for themselves as to how much they want to contribute to the Trust.
I was overwhelmed by the initiatives taken by this community. There was a sense of calmness as we were returning back home followed by several questions that were popping in my head. With all the social networking apps, it almost seems impossible to keep the phone away for long. Televisions and laptops have taken over our lives and with all the unhealthy food that most of us consume on a daily basis and with the kind of lifestyle that we lead, is it really possible to abstain from such a lifestyle and live such a simple life was one big question bothering me. Well, I believe we are so hooked on this artificial shell of advancement that such questions are instantly pushed away. I guess, it might not seem possible all at once but if each one of us works towards adopting such habits while maintaining a balance then we might save something for our coming generation and live a much healthy life. We are definitely heading towards a future where people are more aware, taking appropriate steps and Navadarshanam sets as a very good example.
Do share your initiatives and experiences and let’s work together towards a more sustainable living.