A few years ago, we, a small group of like minded friends, decided to migrate from a crore plus megapolis to a small village named Vankal, with a population of 4-5 thousand people. These friends wanted to live a simple meaningful healthy life, away from the chaotic life of Mumbai which they had left behind. The lifestyle here was to be entirely different from the urban life characterized by mechanical rat race, incessant noise, pollution and over crowding. That city life was centered around money, power and self-aggrandizement, resulting into alienation from the fellow human beings. We said good bye to that lifestyle and started anew. A team was formed under the able leadership of the poet and highly spiritual person Shri Makarandbhai Dave and the well- known writer Kundanika Kapadia.
Before settling down in Vankal situated 20 kms. away from Valsad, Gujarat, we had searched for a suitable piece of land where we can set up a commune, right from Umargam in South Gujarat to the far off places in Saurashtra. After a good deal of effort, we found in this village a piece of land, which was obtained from the Government of Gujarat at concessional rate. It was definitely not an inviting place. The land was absolutely barren, with big crevices and thorny bushes. There was no water, no road, no electricity. Moreover, the local people viewed the newcomers with suspicion and distrust. They were not friendly and some resented even openly. They created quite a few hurdles. However, we passed through all these trials and tribulations with patience, love and faith in our ideals. Their main contention was that from the land given to us by the Government, they wanted some portion for cattle grazing. We had no objection, hence we returned to Government some 8 acres of land from the 33 acres allotted to us. Thus the issue was resolved amicably. The commune was then formed in the name of Nandigram Trust, a public charitable trust registered under Bombay Public Trust Act.
The commune was named as Nandigram with reason. As one may be well aware, after Ram was asked to abandon the kingdom and go to forest, his younger brother Bharat nominated to rule the kingdom did not stay in the capital of Ayodhya and went instead outside Ayodhya to a village called Nandigram. He placed the footwear of Ram on the royal throne and ruled on Ram’s behalf, awaiting the return of Ram. Similarly, we a few friends, left the megacity of Mumbai and settled in a small village. Without any egotism of doership, the inmates of Nandigram are expected to pursue their duties in the form of social service. Further, like Bharat, they would await the arrival of Ram in due course. That is, they strive for purification of their inner self and ultimate enlightenment.
We started working on the land and with the passage of time, the soil which was once totally barren, turned into a green oasis. Nandigram has now emerged as peaceful and enchanting place, with fragrant shrubs, big trees with lovely foliage and musical sounds of the birds all around. It is a place to relax, to be silent, to meditate, to be with oneself in the midst of nature.
We have now here adequate facility for water and electricity, some living quarters, buildings for various activities, a few guest houses, common kitchen and some serene places for spiritual practices. Local people, who were against us in the beginning, are now very friendly and cooperative.
Nandigram is located amidst the tribal region of Valsad district, Gujarat State and is surrounded by villages inhabited by about 80% socially and economically deprived tribals. They are mostly poor and illiterate. The planned programmes of the Government for the poor have yet to reach them fully. Much remains to be done for upliiftment of this region in terms of medical care, personal hygiene, water management for irrigation as well as for drinking water, agricultural upgradation and educational facilities.
Our Principle Is
We started working accordingly in a small way right from the beginning dulY. inspired by Gandhiji’s philosophy of simple life and genuine concern for the people who belong by and large to the less privileged lot of the socio economic strata. Each of our activities was considered by us as an opportunity for spiritual unfoldment. These activities have now gathered substantial momentum. They are in six broad categories.