Ten years ago, when Shankar Narayan, an accountant started out, it was an ordinary piece of land. Today, the three-acre area located in Byndoor, Mangaluru, sports a mini forest housing wild animals and birds. Borrowing from the Bhagavad Gita, Shankar named it ‘Sthitaprajna’, which translates to stable-minded.
Shankar recalls, “I bought the land in 2008. Then I purchased 2,000 saplings. Some I planted but many wild plants grew on their own. The birds did their bit as well.”
He then inaugurated ‘Sthitaprajna’ on November 1 in 2009, which is also World Vegan Day. Since then he has been a committed vegan (he was appointed as Regional Coordinator for South and West Asia and India for World Vegan Day) and has been celebrating the vegan festivals here annually.
During the inauguration, 25 vegans from Bengaluru turned up. And with the addition of another 150 non-vegans, the event turned into a festival, recalls Shankar. “I thought that instead of organising in a hotel or a non-vegan place, it would be a good idea to organise World Vegan Day here,” he says. The fare during the event is mostly traditional south Indian food, all veganised. In 2019, the festival will be celebrated between August 9 and 11.
Initially, Sthitaprajna had no electricity or pucca road and the nearest public transport was 4 kms away. Staying in a simple cottage, Shankar’s lifestyle might as well have resembled that of a hermit. The cool, calm and beautiful ambience could be a dream location for any homestay but with the place sporting two cottages, it best doubles as an ashram.
“People can come and stay here but with an advance appointment. There are no servants and no fixed facilities. It’s a compromise between a forest and a civilised life. There are no fixed charges, though a voluntary contribution is accepted,” says the 53-year-old.
The nearby stream, which is seasonal in nature, adds a beautiful touch to this man-made forest.
“During one of the vegan festivals, many participants swam in the river,” says the nature enthusiast adding that monsoons are the best time to visit the place, which also coincides with the annual vegan festival.
Deers, nilgais, pigs, wild boars, monkeys, porcupines, peacocks and rabbits are often spotted. Shankar also claims to have encountered a tiger on his way back home late at the night. A recent addition to Sthitaprajna is the sky observation tower. “There is no pollution to mar the beauty of the night sky and one might as well time-travel,” smiles Shankar.
The place is also a litter-free and silent zone with zero-tolerance towards plastic.