On the beautiful banks of Bharatpuzha river, a self-built tree house lies shrouded by a canopy of lush green trees. Inside, Mohan Chavara and his family prepare a meal with the fresh produce from their sprawling organic garden.
Mohan Chavara and his family are the first residents of the emerging organic village in Kerala’s (South India) Palakkad district. Conceptualised and founded by Chavara, this village is nestled amidst two-and-a-half acres of scenic countryside and is just a short walk away from the Mannannur railway station.
Chavara and his wife, Rukmini (former principal of a nursing college) had long cherished a dream of creating a community of people committed to green living. In 2013, they talked to 14 like-minded families about building a self-sustainable organic village for themselves. All of them wanted to leave behind the pollution, the processed foods and the chaos of the city to begin a new, healthier life in the lap of nature.
When they came across a beautiful, two-and-a-half acre patch of land on the banks of the Bharathpuzha river, they knew it was the perfect place to build their organic village. Pooling their funds, they bought the land that was previously a rubber plantation.
The group began by chopping and removing the rubber trees on the land as they were unhealthy for the soil. Next, they built their tree house with their own hands before planting fruit tress and vegetable gardens. In 2015, Mohan, Rukmini and their two daughters—18 year old Surya and 11 year old Sreya shifted into the upcoming organic village—the first to do so.
The layout of the organic village has been planned keeping the principle of sharing and togetherness in mind. Since its very inception, the organic village has had many appreciative visitors. Seeing a good response, the Chavaras and the other families plan to build a guest house and a large community kitchen where everybody can cook and eat together. The families are also planning to invite artists, activists and people from neighbouring villages for weekly art meets that will be held at the village.
Recently, the Chavaras have started building a simple mud house for themselves, with a little outside help for the roofing. Other than growing fruits, vegetables and pulses, the Chavaras also rear poultry, goats and cows. Every guest to the village is welcome with a delicious meal prepared by Rukmini who uses fresh produce from their organic garden. The evening meals at the village are often accompanied by melodious local songs and enthusiastic art discussions.
The Chavaras also believe that one can learn much more love, humanity and compassion while living amidst nature in comparison to regular schools. This is why Sreya and Surya have dropped out of school to lead the natural way of life. Sreya, on the other hand, is dyslexic. Her teachers were often unable to understand and work with her abilities; however, she has improved considerably now, with the organic village opening up a world of opportunities for her. Both the sisters love observing the beautiful vagaries of nature, hearing the birds serenade them as they work, and savouring the refreshingly cool breeze as they lounge around in their tree house.
Surya and Sreya also travel frequently to learn more about the cultural and social diversity of their state. In 2013, they led a children’s brigade to Aranmula and symbolically planted paddy saplings to raise awareness about a proposed project that would damage the rich biodiversity of the region.
Taught by their father, Surya and Sreya have also become quite proficient at sculpting and other art forms. A quiet place away from the chaos of the city, their efforts have transformed the village into a fetching fusion of traditional jungle living and artistic design.
Having seen the positive effect of sustainable living on their kids, the Chavaras and the other families now plan to design their own education system (including art and craft workshops, gardening classes etc.) that encourages children to live together, rather than to compete with each other. With their beautiful story of adventure, sustainability and lots of love, the Chavaras have set a unique example of organic living that is sure to inspire many people across India to return to their roots.