April 16, 2022

Story of Dhun


This dry and dusty piece of 500-acres of land on the outskirts of Jaipur once hardly had 30 trees on it. But today, the same land has over 120 species of birds, 70 species of native trees and thousands of animals. This land in the Phagi district once had plenty of life in it. But a devastating flood ruined the topsoil and left the land to die and be part of the desert.

The fate of the land changed when Manavendra Singh Shekhawat, a hotelier from Jaipur saw the land back in 2013. Instead of selling the land in parts, Manavendra aspired to do something different with the land, to create an alternative ecosystem to live in, to build a unique business model while keeping the land away from the unscientific and destructive practices. And the first step for his dream project was to bring water to this dry land and using traditional water harvesting practices the land today has more than 8 water bodies in it. The water also has completely transformed the life and economy of the neighbouring villages as well.



Watch below the inspirational video of the story of Dhun 

August 21, 2021

Hymn from Atharva Veda: Consecration of House

Below is a hymn from the Atharva Veda IX, 3 which is about the consecration of a new house:-

O Pillars of this House of countless treasures, O buttresses and crossbeams, we loosen your bonds!

What is bound in you who contain all riches, those fetters and knots, with a powerful word I unloose, like Brhaspati breaking open the cavern.

We unite the bonds of your beams and clasps, of your thatch and your sides, O House of all riches.

We loosen the bonds of the clamps and bundles, of all that encircles and binds the Lady of the House.

These hanging loops,which are tied for enjoyment within you, we loosen. May the Lady of the House, when established within her, be gracious toward us!

Receptacle of oblation and hall of Agni, abode and domain of the wives are you. You, Goddess House, are the seat of the Gods.

By Holy Word we unfasten the extended thousand-eyed net which rests upon the central beam, well-placed and well-fastened.

May the one who receives you as a gift, O House, queen among dwellings, and the one who built you both enjoy long life and reach ripe old age!

Here let her come to meet her owner. Firmly fastened and adorned are you, whose limbs and joints we proceed to loosen!

The one who collected the trees, O House, and built your walls, the Highest Lord of creatures, has made you for the increase of children.

To him be homage! Homage to the donor and to the master of the House! Homage to Agni and homage to the one who performs his rites!

In your innermost heart, with both creatures and men, you cherish God Agni. O future scene of births and young life, we loosen your bonds!

The expanse that lies between heaven and earth I accept together with this your House. The air it encloses I make a container for wealth.

Abounding in food, abounding in milk, with firm foundation set on the earth, receptacle of every nourishing thing, do no harm, O House, to those who receive you.

Covered with thatch and clothed in straw, the House, like night, gives rest for her inmates, she stands firm-fixed, her broad feet planted on the earth like an elephant cow's.

This House is founded on Worship, designed and built by the wise. May Indra and Agni, the immortals, protect this House, the abode of Soma.

One nest is placed upon a second, one container laid upon another. Within is born a mortal. From here all things originate.

This House is constructed with two sides, with four, with six, eight, or ten. In this Mistress dwelling lies Agni like an unborn babe in the womb.

Facing you, O House, who are facing me, I approach you peacefully: sacred Fire and Water are within, the main doors to Cosmic Order.

I bring here these waters, free from disease, destroyers of disease. In this House, together with Fire immortal, I take up my abode!

From the eastern direction I summon a blessing to the glory of this House. Praise to the Gods, the praiseworthy, forever and ever!

From the southern direction, the western direction, from the northern direction, from the depths below, the heights above, I summon a blessings to the glory of this House. Praise to the Gods, the praiseworthy, forever and ever!

June 22, 2021

Secrets of Indian Herbs for Good Health


A copy of the book "Secrets of Indian Herbs for Good Health" By Acharya Balkrishna came into my life a couple of years ago. Its truly the best of its kind. It goes into great description of trees and plants, their parts and their ayurvedic medicinal uses. its a book that has attained popularity, appreciated by millions and has benefitted many to achieve good health.

A preface to the book reads:

"Lack of physical labour, mental stress, negative thinking, imbalanced lifestyle, unnatural diets and dilution of life-sustaining natural processes has led to the rise of cancer, heart problems, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity all over the world. Nature sustains life. It has a cure for all kinds of diseases—afflictions mankind is grappling with. In the absence of integrated knowledge available about these natural remedies, people are unable to make good use of the herbal treasure India is endowed with.

Book of Indian Herbs for Good Health

Honourable Acharya Balkrishnaji has worked hard over the years travelling into the deep jungles, mountain ranges and tribal areas of India and abroad, collecting and collating information about many herbs, including their photographs and knowledge of their medicinal uses."


Honourable Acharya Balkrishnaji

This book is available through the reliable online resource: Exotic India Art, at this link here

Royal Poinciana: Flamboyant Tree

The common names for this tree are: Royal Poinciana, Mayflower, Flamboyant (because of its exuberant colours) and similarly to other tree species such as the Butea Monosperma Tree, Flame of the Forest and Flame Tree. This tree is known as Mayaram in Tamil and Gulmohar in Hindi.


The Royal Poinciana: Flamboyant Tree (Delonix Regia) is a flowering tree of the Fabaceae family. It has long fern-like leaves and exhibits a magnificent display of orange-red flowers over summer. This tree prefers an open, free-draining sandy or loamy soil enriched with organic matter and does not flourish in heavy or clay soils. Because of the dry, tropical conditions of South India, it grows well in the bright sunlight of summer and has a flowering season of April through July. The tree does not require heavy water and prefers being kept slightly dry. In areas with a marked dry season, it sheds its leaves during the drought, but in other areas it is virtually evergreen.

Bonnet Macaque Monkey eating the flowers

Almost all parts of the Tree are used in Ayurveda (for medicinal purposes) with its leaves having the most beneficial properties. According to Ayurveda, the flowers and buds of the Flamboyant are sweet and nutritious and are helpful treating such problems as anaemia and diabetes. Its main medicinal application is in the case of sugar control, and its believed the tree has strong anti-diabetic properties. The Royal Poinciana is also considered helpful treating jaundice and liver problems.

Beautiful blooms of the Tree

The Flamboyant, famous for its beauty, and one of the most popular trees in India and Tamil Nadu—comes in two species; one with red flowers and less commonly another species with orange blooms. This tree originates from the region of Madagascar and has been grown in India for more than 200 years. It is said that at the time of British rule in India, Britishers had tea gardens planted with Royal Poinciana for use as shady trees. Its use as a shade tree is enhanced by proper pruning which encourages the tree canopy to form into an umbrella-like shape, thus providing even more shade. The tree is not tall and generally grows to a modest height of 15 feet, but can reach a maximum height of 40 feet.


Properly pruned tree will develop an umbrella shape canopy

Seed Pods soaked and ready for planting

This tree is most commonly propagated by seeds. Seeds are collected, soaked in warm water for at least 24 hours, and planted in warm, moist soil in a semi-shaded, sheltered position. Less common, but just as effective, is propagation by semi-hardwood cuttings.

Flame of the Forest—Butea Monosperma Tree


Popularly known as "Flame of the Forest", the Butea Monosperma often heralds the start of the Spring season. These distinct trees in season are profuse with flowers and although they may be cultivated in gardens and compounds, the tree is generally found in the wilderness.

Blossoms great source of food for birds

Butea Monosperma is a species native in India and has the common names of Flame of the Forest, Palash and Bastard Teak. It is a small dry season deciduous tree which grows to around 15m (49ft) in height. It is a slow growing tree and saplings have a growth rate of only a few feet per year.

The flowers of this tree, which usually start appearing in February and lasts till the end of April, are a food source for birds. The colour extracted from the flowers of the Flame of the Forest can be used as dye for fabrics. The preparation of this colour entails drying the flowers for two days, and thereafter crushing the flowers and making them into powder which is later mixed with water to bring out the bright red colour. The extract is used during such celebrations as Holi.

Wood of this tree is regarded as suitable for: timber, resin, fodder and medicine. Spoons and ladles made from the wood of this tree are used in various Hindu rituals. Although the leaves are leathery and not suitable as cattle fodder, they are used as stitch leaf plates in rural areas.

Blossoms compared to the red nails of Cupid (Kamadeva)

In Andhra Pradesh, the flowers of this tree are used in the worship of Lord Siva during Shivaratri. The mythology behind this tree states that it is a form of Agni, the God of Fire. In the Gita Govinda the blossoms of this tree are compared to the red nails of Kamadeva (Cupid), with which the latter wounds the hearts of lovers; and refers to the blossoms of the nearly leafless tree as a net of flowers which entraps the hearts of lovers.

In Rudyard Kipling's story Beyond the Pale, the author writes that the blossom of this tree symbolise "desire" and "danger". The tree is also featured in Kipling's famed "The Jungle Book" in the story "Tiger! Tiger!" as the tree Mowgli instructs his wolf-brother Grey Brother to wait under for a signal that Khan has returned.

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.