Tuesday 21 October 2008

Van Vadi: An Eco-friendly Forest Farm

Hotels, resorts and residential colonies are coming thick and fast in Karjat. In such a scenario when I read about a group of people trying to protect the local eco-system and encourage sustainable living, it was encouraging news.

Van Vadi, a 64-acre forest farm (as the owners like to call it), on the foothills of Sahyadri, offers a complete rustic experience. That's why it attracts lot of urban dwellers who come to be one with nature, away from their daily chaotic life. Van Vadi Karjat It has no electricity, piped water, mobile network, or fancy cottages, simply bamboo huts and mats to sleep on. The land, which was bought 14 years ago with contribution from around two dozen people, is covered by 80% of dense forest and has organically grown vegetables.

Van Utsav or Forest Festival

For the last three years the owners of Van Vadi have been organising 'Van Utsav' or 'Forest Festival,' for six days, and it actually is quite a unique concept. Many families come with their kids and grandparents to participate in this festival to celebrate the harmony with nature. Various activities are included like gardening, planting and working on building a house.

The owners also encourage voluntary workshops conducted by guests themselves, it could be on anything, carpentry, yoga, natural healing etc. Cooking is done on a rotating team basis, using organic food, cereals, vegetables etc, and drinking water can be filled directly from the stream.

There are seasonal streams flowing through the undulating land. There are over 30 uncultivated species growing in the wild and over 35 recognized medicinal plants. Living for a week in such environment will definitely be very refreshing.

New development woes

This is a common concern these days. A new construction coming up on the neighbouring land of Van Vadi is threatening to harm the ecology of the forest land and affect its flora and fauna. The owners are taking up the matter seriously with various authorities and hoping that the damage is minimized.

We are looking forward to visiting this place the next time we are in Karjat and meeting with one of the owners, Bharat Mansata, to know more about this wonderful concept.

How to Reach Van Vadi?

Drive via the old Bombay-Poona highway, turning left at Karjat Chowk, and proceed towards Kashele village, 18 kms from Karjat. At Kashele, ask for the road which leads to Vaara, which is about 8 km from Kashele. The Vaara-Chinchwadi road leads to Van Vadi that comes on the left, beside a roadside hand-pump, just before Vaara village.

Thursday 16 October 2008

Ayurvedic Plant Nursery in Kashele

The last time we visited Karjat we decided to trek to Peth fort, we got directions but decided to just take a drive beyond Kashele towards Murbad, as we thought that's the road leading to Ambivali village, from where the trek begins to Peth Fort.

On the way we came across a huge abandoned land with a strange signboard that said something in Marathi, more like 'Ayurvedic Healthcare Garden'.
Entrance to the Ayurvedic Center in Karjat
There was a statue placed right in the center of the entrance and the feel of the place was very different. There was a path that had leaves on it as though they were placed there for people not to proceed. This was very inviting a garden that was not maintained, we decided to take a peek.

The statue in the middle of the entrance was of an Ayurvedic Rishi making a mixture of herbs, of course we did not know what it was, will get to that part later. Statue of the Ayurvedic Rishi
At that moment the statue fascinated us, we were wondering what was awaiting us as we walked down the path.
An Abandoned house

Ant hills under the shade of a tree

We started to get an eerie feeling as we passed by abandoned houses, a water pump that supplied water to this place that looked like an abandoned town. We were beginning to wonder what happened to the people who were living here. A hand pump is camouflaged with the greenery A big red flower We came across different plants and flowers, that did not seem to be a wild variety, of course there were a lot of plants that had flourished due to the monsoons as well, but these seemed different. The path ended gets more dense and leads into the forest. A flower with a beetle As we walked back, the question pondering in our heads, what was this place. On reaching back we found a bike parked at the entrance. A man was talking on his cell phone and he looked a bit sceptical about us. A broad smile always changes things as we approached him and asked him about this place. A leaf with an infection He asked us who we were first and then he told us that this land belonged to the Academy of Development Sciences. He said that he worked here for over 15 years, and the 64-acre land produced 500 different species of medicinal plants, which were used in Ayurveda. It use to be a research centre and a nursery, which was abandoned due to lack of funding. Purple flowers People from Mumbai use to come here for a workshop on medicinal plants, that could cure common diseases and even help prevent them. They could also purchase plants, and over 200 people from neighbouring villages were employed here. The place is due to open once again, in a few months time but it could take longer than expected. Rwirled flower
A white flower with pollen The reason why he came here is he saw the car parked and the statue in the middle of the entrance. Originally there were two statues each on the pillar of the entrance gate, someone had broken one and he thought that the car was there to rob the other one. It was an informative half an hour in Karjat, I do hope to get myself some Ayurvedic plants soon.

Tuesday 14 October 2008

No More Cooking Vada Pavs at Karjat Station

Karjat Vada pavs The sight of vadas being fried at platform stalls as the train reaches Karjat station is too tempting to miss. But that will soon change, as Indian Railways plan to ban cooking at food stalls on platforms.

Due to fire hazards and accidents at crowded station, Central and Western railways will open a centralised kitchen for the stall owners to cook vadas, samosas etc., or even make tea.

From CST to Karjat and Kasara on the central line, and from Churchgate to Dahanu road on the western side, no stall owner will be allowed to cook on the platform. They can install microwave ovens and other power-based heating equipment to heat eatables.

According to a daily, cooking on sigris and stoves at stations was prohibited since August 2005, but as there were no written orders, it still continued. Once the base kitchens are set up, stall owners will cook in the centralised kitchen.

As long as its not prohibited to sell vada pavs or any other food at the station, its a fair deal.

Wednesday 1 October 2008

Visit to a Dog Farm

Karjat has a lot to offer if you look around closely, and if you are a dog lover, then you should read on.

Situated around 1 km away from Kadav in Chote Takve village is the dog breeding farm. Its been around for 10-15 years and has a wide range of pedigree dogs; Caravan Hounds, German Shepherds, Doberman, a couple of Pugs, Cocker Spaniel and a few more. You can imagine the chaos in there, some were aggressive, playful, silent, one had just given birth to puppies.

Here you are the litter of Caravan Hound or Mudhol Hound. They were being sold for Rs 8000.Litter of Caravan Hound at Karjat dog farm
Caravan Hound again feeding the newborn. They still had their eyes closed and they usually open in a fortnight. Caravan Hound and litter
The not so agile German Shepherd, who had given birth the previous night.
German Shepherd dog farmNot all hounds are friendly, and they don't like to be touched by strangers. So these were kept in a cage and started barking ferociously as soon as Clyde went close to them. Mudhol Hound and Doberman in dog farmDoberman, known to be intelligent and alert, are the most common pet breeds. A doberman cost Rs 9000. DobermanDO you find something unusual about this Hound? The caretaker said he has a coat just like the tiger. Tiger coated skin Mudhol HoundThe playful English Cocker Spaniel called 'Candy'. Cocker Spaniels' are also known as 'Merry Cockers' because their tails are always wagging and they have a happy character. English Cocker Spaniel or Merry CockerThe caretaker said that this Hound won the dog show in Hyderabad some time ago. Winning dog Karjat dog farm
Saving the best for the last. The cute and wrinkly-faced pugs, enjoying the sun. More people are buying Pugs these days due to highly popular Hutch/Vodafone ad. Who wouldn't like such playful and charming dogs. Wrinkly faced Pugs at breeding farm This Pug was getting his injured foot checked, and look at his face, really cute! Injured Pug