When philosophy meets practicality



July 2017

By Shoba Naidu

Shoba Naidu visits Navadarshanam, an ongoing experiment near Bengaluru on sustainable and holistic way of living

Gandhiji’s experiment with the Phoenix Settlement in South Africa came to my mind as I stepped into Navadarshanam about 40 km from Bengaluru.  Spread over 110 acres of land, of which 90 per cent is dedicated to animals and birds, Navadarshanam borders the Thally Reserve Forest. Originally barren when acquired, the land has been transformed into a lush forest with hundreds of varieties of trees just by preventing grazing and now is home to many species of birds and few animals. The commune explores an alternative way - an ecological and spiritual way - of living sustainably in tune with nature. 

The group of highly-educated individuals who founded this organisation were inspired by Gandhiji. They were part of a study circle that met at the Gandhi Peace Foundation in Delhi and tried to put their theory into practice. The disparate group included Om P Bagaria (an engineer from IIT) and his wife Pushpa Bagaria; Ananthu (an electrical engineer) and his wife Jyothi, a sociology professor; Dr Partap Aggarwal, an anthropology professor and his wife Sudesh Aggarwal; Atmaram Saraogi, a Gandhian; and Rama Pai, a botanist. They questioned the established notions of 'development and success' and wanted to test it for themselves. They came together to set up Navadarshanam Trust in April 1990. Nearly 30 years down the line and after many trials and errors, the Navadarshanam experiment is still on, spreading the message of living harmoniously with nature through its educational activities, and supplying healthy organic wholesome food to the city dwellers.

It is a well-known fact that some of Gandhiji’s deepest convictions were reflected in the book Unto This Last by John Ruskin which outlines the fact that "the good of the individual is contained in the good of all; and that everybody from the smallest labourer has the right to earn their livelihood from their work and that the life of the tiller of the soil and the handicrafts man is the life worth living".

This group of idealists felt that the world today is caught up in 'dangerous swirling currents of the materialistic, urban industrial way of life' and the 'alienation of the individual from self, nature and Creative powers is going hand in hand with societal di
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