Eco-travel

Nature lovers’ haven in the outskirts of Mumbai

Ant hill in the premises                            Young visitor at the river

 

 

Nature lovers’ haven in the outskirts of Mumbai

 

-S.Ananthanarayanan

 

S.Ananthanarayanan introduces us to Prakash and Jyotsana, lovers of things natural and traditional and the piece of paradise on earth, which they have created at Murbad, near Mumbai

 

A short two hours drive from Mumbai takes one to Dattatreya Ashram, a 5 acre wonderland of simplicity and innovation, peace, communion with nature and a chance to unwind with yoga and meditation.

The centre-piece of the ashram is a low cost meditation hall, built as a Geodesic Dome. The dome is surrounded by a circle of simple rooms, there is a kitchen, ample water and electricity. All around the ashram are selected plants and trees, each painstakingly transplanted from far and near and carefully tended to flourish for most of the time. . And then there is the river, with water throughout the year, a 10 minute walk away, just along the border of the property.

 

The Ashram is the dream come true of Prakash Tendulkar, mountaineer, swimmer, yoga exponent, Sanskrit scholar, nature and medicinal plant enthusiast and civil servant; and of his wife, Jyotsna, mountaineer, trecker, storehouse of Maharashtrian cuisine and folklore  and professor of Statistics in a leading Mumbai College.

Prakash had carried the dream of an ashram where one could experience peace, silence and solitude, practice yoga and be near nature, yet be within easy reach from the city and also be built with the minimum cost, for many years. In the late 1990, with discussions with his many gifted friends and acquaintances, the dream began to take shape.  A plot of land, suitably away from the main highway, covered with greenery, in reach of a river and yet approachable within a few hours, came Prakash’s way.  Prakash had long dreamt of creating a facility making use of local materials. keeping the cost as low as possible and also making use of interesting devices and structures, the Geodesic Dome and a glass pyramid being examples.

 

With the help of an architect from Kalyan, Mumbai, Prakash was able to finalise the design of the ashram - the Geodesic dome, surrounded by 10 comfortable dwelling rooms, laid out in the form of a “lotus opening out”. The layout of the greenery, the nurseries, the positioning of pathways were also designed with care – the watchwords being simplicity and retaining the natural look.

 

At the entrance to the Ashram are a massive Mahua tree and 3 teak trees, originals of the plot before Prakash came there. Almost no tree was cut in the layout of the Ashram, but ever so many were planted!

Over 150 types of medicinal plans thrive in the plant beds. A start had been made with 33 varieties that were already in the farm – which were identified and labeled.  Soon more were added, some being brought from Assam, from Kerala, Rajasthan or even the Himalayas.

 

There are varieties of trees, there is a solar cooker,  the farm has its own cows, with calf; and Nandi the bull, till Prakash gave it away to a farmer who had lost his own*. The farm also has Bambi the dog, ever ready to welcome visitors, and sundry birds, cobras, monitor lizards, rodents, insects, wild boars, rabbits, nature’s bounty!

 

* CNN-IBN carried a report on 5th September of a gift of a bullock, by Prakash Tendulkar, a Railway employee in Mumbai, to a farmer in Buldhana, Maharashtra, who had lost one of his bullocks and was reduced to taking its place under the yoke.  The video clip is also on line, at www.ibnlive.com, under the link : http://www.ibnlive.com/videos/20616/impact-bullock-farmer-gets-help.html

 

There is a pebble walk, paved with pebbles collected from different rivers in India and even from the banks of Manasarovar, in Tibet. “The idea is that a walk down the pebble path can bring to the walker the benefit of visiting all the rivers and Manasarover too”, quips Prakash.

 

 

The interior of the meditation hall is a space where 30 persons can practice yoga, meditate or meet in harmony. There is also, within the hall, an artificial 'climbing wall' – a facility to practice rock climbing. The wall is built with sand and cement, reinforced with iron mesh, and is provided with hand-holds made of ceramic, imported from France!

 

The inspiration for the climbing wall is Prakash and Jyotsana's old passion for mountaineering. Prakash is a veteran of 5 expeditions to Himalayan peaks with 3 successful ascents, the highest being Mriguthani, at 22,500 ft, opposite Nanda Devi. Jyotsana is an avid trekker, with more than 10 trips, each over 100 km long, deep within the Himalayas.

 

Prakash, in his work as an officer in the Railways, has founded the Central Railway and Western Railway Adventure Sports Clubs, which sponsor several expeditions, recognised by the Indian Mountaineering Federation, each year. Jyotsna, for her part, gets expeditions similarly recognised  and sponsored and leads youth and students, all over the Western Ghats or the Himalayas!

 

They live in Mumbai and spend most weekends at the Ashram, in Murbad, near Kalyan. They would love to have you over. Just drop them a line, at pstendulkar@yahoo.com. 

 


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