April 10, 2021

How To Create A Roof Garden


There are an increasing number of excellent videos online which show how to create a garden on an urban roof.  One such video is of a man with a forest on his roof in the middle of Bangalore, Karnataka.

Further afield is information of a man with extraordinary green thumbs growing amazing fruit and vegetables on his roof top in Vietnam. To watch some of his "green thumb" videos go to his channel  here.

Below I am posting a video of his success in growing melons on his roof.

April 1, 2021

Millet cultivation in Tiruvannamalai District


Paddy farmers are being encouraged to increase the area of millet cultivation by switching to growing millet throughout the District. As well as being more sustainable in this hot climate (millet cultivation requires one third of the water used for paddy), it is also becoming an increasingly sought after cereal in a growing health conscious market. There are many different kinds of millet, which all have similar health benefits.

In particular farmers have been asked to cultivate:—

  • Finger Millet (Ragi or Kezhvaragu)
  • Little Millet (Saamai)
  • Kodo Millet (Varagu)
  • Foxtail Millet (Thinai)
  • Barnyard Millet (Kudhiraivaali)
  • Proso Millet (Pani Varagu)

Millet is an easier crop to cultivate with a narrow chance of pest attacks and plant disease. The Pest Management Centre advises farmers to restrict the use of pesticides when growing millet. In Tiruvannamalai, "little Millet," (Saamai) is currently the most favoured Millet to be under cultivation.


Millet is gaining popularity worldwide because of how easy it is to grow and how adaptable it is as a food. It has been under cultivation across Asia and Africa for thousands of years; used to make bread and cereal and is widely used as an alternative to wheat or other grains.


Health Benefits

The vitamins, minerals, and fibre found in millet can provide important health benefits. Potassium found in millet helps kidneys and heart functions and helps the nerves transmit signals, which allows the brain and muscles to work together smoothly. Millet is also a great source of B vitamins which plays a role in brain function and healthy cell division and the reduction of tiredness.


In addition, millet is connected to a lower risk of heart disease as its dietary fibre helps to control cholesterol. It also has a low glycemic index which means it has lower levels of simple sugars and higher levels of complex carbohydrates, which take a longer time to digest. As a result, eating millet—instead of high glycemic index foods like white wheat flour—can help people living with diabetes manage blood sugar levels. 


The fibre in millet also helps support digestive health as insoluble dietary fibre is “prebiotic,” meaning it helps support the good bacteria in the gut. Eating enough fibre has also been linked to a decreased risk of colon cancer.

To learn more about Millet in India go to this link here.


February 20, 2020

Constructing an Earthbag House in Tiruvannamalai

Thannal Hand Sculpted Homes is a natural building awareness group which started up at Tiruvannamalai some years ago to experiment in and teach awareness of natural building methods and materials. As well as creating unusual, organic homes in this area, Thannal Hand Sculpted Homes also offers regular workshop to inculcate their building methods to interested parties.

One of their recent projects was in creating a 550 sq ft (52 sq metre) superadobe home in Tiruvannamalai. It took one and a half months and was made using some 1000 earth bags of soil from the site. To produce the 1000 bags it took around 15 days by 2 men and 2 women and was more economical than baked bricks. Thannal used different plaster, mortar paste mixes made out of Prickly pear juice, aloe vera, tamarind seed, Haritaki, sticky rice juice and tapioca starch.

Creating an Earthbag House

To view their Earthbag Home video at Tiruvannamalai, check out their link here. For a large selection of different natural building videos at Tiruvannamalai, visit their You Tube channel at this link. Their website can be found here.

May 5, 2018

Fears over Chennai-Salem highway project

Below I have posted an abridged narrative recently appearing in The Hindu newspaper at this link here about the contentious proposed Chennai-Salem highway project. 

"The project to develop a six/eight-lane greenfield highway connecting Chennai and Salem has drawn flak from farmers and environment activists in Tiruvannamalai. They say a major portion of the corridor that runs through the district will end up destroying both agricultural land and forest areas. 

As per a pre-feasibility report, the proposed alignment for the access-controlled Chennai-Salem greenfield highway will start near the Chennai Outer Ring Road junction and pass through Kancheepuram, Tiruvannamalai, Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri and Salem districts. This was part of the Central government’s scheme to develop economic corridors, inter corridors, feeder corridors and national corridors to improve the efficiency of freight movements in India under ‘Bharatmala Pariyojana’. 

The highway is for a total distance of 277.3 km. It runs through Tiruvannamalai for an approximate length of 123.90 km, starting from Cheyyar to Neepathurai. 

Federation formed 
This project to be carried out by National Highways Authority of India is facing stiff opposition from farmers and environment activists in Tiruvannamalai district. Nearly 13 organisations, including farmers associations, a few political parties, advocates and environment-based NGOs, have joined hands to form a federation against the project. They have started reaching out to villagers and farmers who will be affected. 

“Nearly 92 villages will be affected if this highway project is implemented. Several thousand acres of agricultural lands and hundreds of farm wells will be affected. A major portion of this highway that is coming up at an estimated of Rs.11,000 crore will run through reserve forest areas,” said a representative of the Communist Party of India, Tiruvannamalai. 

No use for farmers 
Several lands in Cheyyar and Vandavasi will bear the maximum damage. “We have visited and surveyed 129 villages and have found that at least 600 to 750 agricultural wells that are being used now will be affected. We depend more on water in agricultural wells for irrigation here. Some farmers will lose at least eight to 10 acres of land each. This highway is going to be of no use for farmers or residents. It is to only facilitate mining and transportation of iron ore from Kavuthi and Vediyappan Hills in Tiruvannamalai and Kanjamalai in Salem.” A spokesman said. 

The project has revived the opposition that was registered against iron ore mining in Kavuthi and Vediyappan Hills during 2003, 2009 and 2014. “We do not want a road that will destroy forests, hills and agricultural lands. This project does not have many link roads for the benefit of public,” said an advocate and chief co-ordinator of the federation. 

The federation has approached villagers and have asked them to pass resolutions opposing the project during the ‘grama sabha’ and special ‘grama sabha’ meetings. According to a pre-feasibility report, part of the project stretch passes through five Reserve Forests in Tiruvannamalai. It has noted that the exact length of affected forest area will be calculated after a joint inspection with the Forest department. In fact, an official source said that one of the Reserve Forests—Ravandavadi Reserve Forest in Chengam Forest Range; has thick forest area. 

Clearance needed 
An official of the Forest Department said the proposed highway that passes through the five Reserrve Forests should get clearance under the Forest Conservation Act. 

“The project implementing agency should upload the details on the forest clearance website. Following this, the District Forest Officer will conduct an inspection and give remarks. It will go through several committees,” the official said. 

The largest stretch of the proposed highway is in Tiruvannamalai District.A special unit for land acquisition will be set up following which there will be public hearings where people can air their views."

April 15, 2018

New Express Highway puts Local Forests in Danger

As recently reported in State Newspapers at the end of March, 2018, the development of a proposed new Express Highway will put local forests in Danger.

About 100 hectares of reserve forest land in Tiruvannamalai, Dharmapuri and Salem districts will be destroyed to make way for the proposed Rs 10,000-crore Chennai-Salem Green Corridor Express Highway project. The sprawling 100 hectares of forest land identified for the project include thick forest cover in 16 reserve forest areas along Arani, Polur, Chengam, Sathanur, Tiruvannamalai, Therthamalai, Harur and North Shevaroy ranges in northern district of Tamil Nadu.

The reserve forest areas are Siruvanjur in Chengalpattu forest range, A Pinjur in Sathanur, Sorakolathur in Tiruvannamalai, Nambedu in Arani, Alialamangalam in Polur, and Munnarmangalam, Anandavadi and Ravandavadi in Chengam range, Puvampatti and Puvampatti Extension in Theerthamalai forest range, Nonanganur and Pallipatti Extension in Harur ranges in Dhamapuri district; Manjavadi Ghat and Jarugumalai in Shervaroy North range in Salem district.

The National Highways Authority of India assessed that about 100 hectares of forest land in reserve forest area would have to be destroyed for the green corridor express project. “In addition to this, out of 274.3 km road, a total of 23 km road has to be laid in reserve forest land that pass through 16 forest villages,” said the communication.

The National Highways Authority of India also urged the State government to identify alternative land for the forest department in the neighbhouring vicinity and also sought the government to accord early clearance from the forest department.

The reserve forest area is home to hundreds of animals and several bird species, besides functioning as lungs for villages in Northern Tamil Nadu. Environmentalists in Tiruvannamalai district had already opposed the move and sought details on the number of trees to be destroyed and other possible environmental damage the project could cause.

• About 100 hectares of reserve forest land in Tiruvannamalai, Dharmapuri and Salem districts to make way for the highway project

• To reduce 57 km travel distance between Chennai and Salem, MORTH proposed Rs 10k crore project

• Total of 2343 hectares of land to be acquired
To read the full narrative of this article please go to this link here.

To read a fuller narrative go to this link here.

April 5, 2018

Green corridor to connect Chennai and Salem

I am reproducing an article below which appeared in State newspapers at the end of February. Sadly it seems that even more development is proposed for this area, but until we are informed as to the exact location of the proposed “corridor” can’t make any predictions as to the ramifications of the development.

“In a major infrastructure boost to the high traffic Chennai–Salem sector, the Centre and the Tamil Nadu government have proposed a new Rs.10,000 crore Green Express Corridor to connect the two cities. The new corridor, planned via Harur and Tiruvannamalai, will reduce both the distance and travel time, as against the existing two routes - one via Ulundurpet and Athur and another via Vellore and Krishnagiri.

The proposed new route will be an Access Controlled Green Express Corridor and will connect the important temple town of Tiruvannamalai. It is believed that the “Corridor” will reduce the distance by about 60 km, from the present 360 km, and the the travel time from the present 6 hours to 3 hours. 

This will be the first such project to be undertaken in Tamil Nadu, on the lines of the Mumbai–Pune Expressway”. 

July 26, 2017

House for Sale near Rangammal Hospital

Information below about a modest one-bedroom house located off NH-66 and adjacent to Rangammal Hospital. The house has just been completed and is up for sale. 

Information about the house is as follows: 

15’ x 12’ Hall 180 sq.ft 
9.5’ x 13’ Bedroom 123.5 sq.ft 
7’ x 6’ Kitchen 42 sq.ft 
7’ x 7’ Verandah 49 sq.ft 
4.5’ x 13’ Bathroom 58.5 sq.ft 

Plot Size 1200 Sq. Ft. 60’ x 20’ 

The house has excellent darshan of Arunachala and is equipped with a very good water filtration system and bathroom with BATHTUB. For information about pricing and to be connected with the person dealing with this property, please send me a message via the Contact Form on the left side of this Blog. 


1 Bedroom House for Sale

Excellent Water Filtration System

House owner showing House, work just completed

Metal Staircase to Roof

Inside the House

Looking through house from Bedroom

Kitchen with quality Water System

Bathroom with Sink


Roof. Large Overhead Water Storage Tank

Arunachala Darshan from House Roof

Map of Arunachala. The 'X' marks area of House Location

July 7, 2017

Tree Jasmine: Millingtonia Hortensis


The name Millingtonia (Hortensis) honours Thomas Millington, an English botanist of the 18th Century and hortensis means "grown in gardens". Common names for this tree are Tree Jasmine, Cork Tree and in Tami—Mara Malli. Although this tree is indigenous to Burma and the Malay Archipelago, it now grows wild in most parts of India as well as being extensively cultivated both in gardens and avenues. 

Tall and straight, with comparatively few branches its claim to popularity lies in its ornamental value rather than any shade-giving properties. It is fast growing tree, with brittle wood, liable to be damaged by storms. In favourable positions it can reach 80 feet in height, but can be grown as a small compact tree if trimmed or as a nice container specimen. The ashy bark is cracked and furrowed and numerous fissures make removal of the cork an easy matter. 

From April until the rains and again in November and December, a profusion of silvery-white, fragrant flowers crown the foliage. The tree flowers at night and sheds flowers early in the morning; fragrant blooms falling and carpeting the ground around. The waxy characteristic of the flowers ensure their freshness for a long time. 

Between January and March the leaves are shed and renewed during April and May, although the tree is never quite naked. The fruit is very long and narrow, pointed at both ends and contains thin, flat seeds. Trees do not seed very easily in India. 

The tree grows to height of between 18 and 25 metres and has a spread of 7 to 11 metres. It reaches maturity between 6 and 8 years of age and lives for up to 40 years. It is a versatile tree which can grow in various soil types and climates with a preference for moist climates 

The tree is evergreen and has an elongated pyramidal stem. The soft, yellowish-white wood is brittle and can break under strong gusts of wind. 

The fruit is a smooth flat capsule and is partitioned into two. It contains broad-winged seeds. The fruits are fed on by birds which aid in seed dispersal. In cultivation, the viability of seeds is low unless they are sown immediately after the fruit ripens, so the plant is generally propagated through cuttings. 

The tree is considered ornamental and the pleasant fragrance of the flowers renders it ideal as a garden tree. The wood is also used as timber and the bark is used as an substitute for cork. The leaves are also used as a substitute for tobacco in cigarettes. Extract of the leaves of Millingtonia hortensis have good antimicrobial activity and the dried flower is effective as a bronchodilator—root-lung tonic. 

Flowers of the beautiful Tree Jasmine

Flowers before blooming on the Tree Jasmine 

The waxy flowers of the Tree Jasmine

Brittle bark of the Tree Jasmine

Fruit of the Tree Jasmine


According to mythology, this is a heavenly tree brought to earth by the god Krishna. A quarrel over it ensued between Satyabhama and Rukmini, Krishna's wives. But Krishna planted the tree in Satyabhama's courtyard in a way that when the tree flowered, the flowers fell in Rukmini's courtyard. 

Another romantic story woven around the tree is about Parijataka, a princess. She fell in love with the sun but when he deserted her she committed suicide and a tree sprung from the ashes. Unable to stand the sight of the lover who left her, the tree flowers only at night and sheds them like tear-drops before the sun rises. 

Jasmine Tree Sapling on my Roof Garden

My Sapling
This tree is a particular favourite of mine because of the enchanting, intoxicating, heady aroma of its flowers late in the evening. For this reason I have a potted Tree Jasmine sapling on my root garden, which will be transferred and planted into the ground by the end of the year. 

April 11, 2017

Tank Maintenance Scheme at Tiruvannamalai District

Bund at irrigation tank, Kozhunthampattu Village

A system of maintenance of irrigation tanks has been introduced at Tiruvannamalai. This system is known as ‘Kudimaramathu’ in which a community takes responsibility for the maintenance of a water tank. 

100 crores has been allocated to this project in Tamil Nadu. Tiruvannamalai will receive 1.33 crore to carry out the maintenance of 18 tanks at: Mel Karippur, Kozhunthampattu, Radhapuram, Keel Vanakkambadi, Sorppanandhal, Mel Pennathur, Mel Chengam Pudur, Mel Vanakkambadi, Beemanandhal, Allappanur, Edathanur, Sadhakuppam, Mazhuvambattu, Serppapattu, Kungilinatham, Then Karumbalur, Kottaiyur and Vanapuram villages. 

The work entails clearing acacia bushes, repairing bunds, implementing outlining works in outlet canals and replacing disturbed boundary stones. It is anticipated that 10% of project cost will be taken care of by those connected with the specific tanks and the cost of labour and construction materials, will be funded by the Government. 

In connection with such irrigation tank works, a 550 metre long bund was recently strengthened at Kozhunthampattu under the scheme. The 18 tanks taken under the scheme irrigate 2050 acres of land. 

Construction of 1,000 Gabion Check Dams

Gabion Structure created at Thumbakkadu Village, Javadi Hills

A new watershed mission has been launched at Tiruvannamalai District to facilitate the ground water table during rainy seasons. 

For this purpose 10,000 Gabion Check Dams with recharge pits are to be constructed across water courses at Tiruvannamalai District. At present, sanction for 1,000 such structures has been given at an estimated cost of 9.25 crore. 

At each structure, small rough boulders will be stacked without mortar into a retaining check dam across the currently dry water stream courses. To prevent the stacked boulders being washed away in upcoming rainy seasons, they will be held by mesh. Near each wall a recharge pit is to be dug and contain a 50 foot deep borewell. 

When it rains the Gabion walls temporarily retain water and slow its course thereby helping the water to percolate and improve the water table. The borewells in the recharge pits directly take water to the depth of 50 feet in order to recharge the water table. Construction of 32 Gabion Structures has already been completed and further constructions are expected to be expedited. 

August 17, 2016

Project Green Hands Nursery, Tiruvannamalai

Project GreenHands is an environmental initiative of Isha Foundation that aims to increase the green cover of the state of Tamil Nadu to 33% green cover by planting 114 million trees. 

Launched on World Environment Day, June 5th 2004, as a grass roots ecological initiative, the project has till date planted more than 28 million saplings in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry by involving more than 2 million volunteers. 

Some 4 years ago a nursery on leased land of around 8 acres was started on Golipannai Road (near Sparsa Resort Hotel) here in Tiruvannamalai. As well as developing saplings for distribution amongst farmers and reforestation organisations, Project GreenHands also sells saplings and herbs at an inexpensive rate to members of the public who visit the nursery. 

August 3, 2016

Samudram Eri -- Sand Quarrying Devastation

The Samudram Eri is approximately 700 acres of poramboke land located south of Arunachala. It is indispensable to Tiruvanamalai in its function as a massive water catchment area during the monsoon season. From the Eri, a pumping system sends its water to other catchment areas such as Thamari Nagar Tank, which are essential parts of the Tiruvannamalai's water supply. 

The Samudram Eri has been a valued part of the ecological system of Tiruvannamalai for hundreds of years but sadly we are not treating it with the respect it deserves. Already Tamil Nadu has a severe water shortage, and it is truly madness to destroy the existing system we currently have in order to provide lucrative gains for the very few. 

About 10 years ago industrial level sand quarrying started in the Tiruvannamalai area. Previously the Eri was undisturbed except approximately every 15 years encroaching thorny bush cover was felled. This occurred again about 3 years ago, which unfortunately gave even greater unfettered access to heavy sand quarrying machinery on the Samudram Eri. 

About a month ago sand quarrying on the Eri was halted, as to whether or not it starts again, only time will tell. But for the well being and future of our children and grandchildren, it is hoped that we begin to treat our ever diminishing resources with greater respect. 

Just a small part of the Samudram Eri devastation

Sand quarrying has created massive holes throughout the Eri

Numerous quarries throughout are now interferring with the water table

Some of these unnatural lakes are 20-30 feet deep and many acres in size
Deforestated Eri will be turned into massive quarries if work recommences

View of private farms and forestated land at the edges of the Samudram Eri

View of trees on top of the Samudram Eri bund

Magnificent Banyan Tree on Bund -- wonder how long it will be standing?

Part of the Samudram Eri trying to recover from the massive deforestation which occured several years ago

March 27, 2016

The Wonderful Palmyra and Nungu Fruit

Borassus Flabellifer also known as the Asian Palmyra Palm, Toddy Palm, or Sugar Palm, is native to India and the official tree of Tamil Nadu. It is also known as the “Karpaha Veruksham” (Celestial Tree) because all its parts have a use. 

At Samudram Eri bund. Cluster of Palmyra Trees back right

Borassus Flabellifer is a robust tree which reaches to a height of up to 100 feet and lives more than 100 years. In the initial stage, the young Palmyra grows slowly, but grows faster with age. It has fan shaped leaves. Ringed with leaf scars, the large trunk of the tree bears a resemblance to that of the coconut tree. The fruit of the tree, in Tamil “Nungu” is also commonly known by the name “Ice Apple” which was originally coined by the British in India. The tender fruit resembles ice. Scoop out the contents and drop it in a glass of tender coconut water. Keep it in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes and have a delicious drink. 

Palmyra Trees back left of Horse

The fruit of this tree is borne in clusters and is about 4 to 7 inches in diameter with a black shell. Inside the black shell are three sweet jelly seed sockets covered by a thin, yellowish-brown skin. The fleshy white body contains watery fluid; however the fibrous and ripened outer layer of the palm can also be eaten raw, boiled or roasted. 

Cluster of older, taller Palmyra Trees

The Nungu fruit is valued for its nutritional benefits. It is known to; prevent chicken pox, improve digestion, cool the body, good for acidity, acts as an anti-inflamatory, helps eliminate body toxins, useful as an expectorant and laxative, good for ulcers, liver and spleen disorders and prevents constipation in pregnant women. However when using palm fruit its important to use tender fruit, as over ripe fruits will be hard to digest and may cause stomach problems. 

Large number of unripe fruit in Female Tree

Once the Nungu fruit has been opened it does not last well, so should be used immediately. The fruit’s rapid fermentation over the course of a mere three hours is the main reason why villagers use Nungu as a fast, inexpensive and easy source of alcohol. The sap of the tree involves tapping the top shoots and collecting the dripping juice in hanging earthen pots. The freshly collected juice is very refreshing and not intoxicating but will quickly ferment into an alcoholic drink i.e. “toddy”. 

Male Palmyra Tree

The leaves of the Borassus Flabellifer are used for thatching, mats, baskets, umbrellas and writing material. Literature in ancient Tamil Nad was written in preserved Palm leaves known as Olai Chuvadi. The writing utensil was in the form of a sharpened iron piece called an Eluthani. 

The stem of the leaves of this Tree has thorny edges which can be used to construct fences by nailing the thorny edge leaves together. The skin of the stem can be peeled off and used as rope. All parts of the tree and fruit are utilised. 

Fully ripened Nungus

The Nungu season generally runs from May through August. Nungus turn a brilliant shade of deep, blackish purple when fully ripened. Full-sized fruits share the same size and shape of large eggplant, although their tough texture resembles a coconut. 

Cluster of ripe Nungus

If not intended for immediate consumption, choose to scoop out each section intact, with the tan, fibrous skin still encasing the pod. This preserves the life of Nungu (placed in a fridge) by a day or so. 

Each section has been scooped out intact. Water sac surrounded by fibrous covering

Video showing Opening Nungu Fruit