HYDERABAD: How far would a person go to prove one’s love for nature? Planting saplings and cultivating gardens may seem routine, when compared to the life of Dusharla Satyanarayana who has dedicated his life to raising a forest that is home to some of the most exotic plants and animal species one can find.
Born in a family of landlords at Raghavapuram village in Mothe mandal of Suryapet district, Satyanarayana says he felt spiritually connected to nature from an early age. When he turned 27, Satyanarayana bid adieu to his bank job (he was a field officer) and focused on his true calling. He had been regenerating his 70-acre ancestral land into a nature’s paradise since he was a child. He wanted to do it full-time. Satyanarayana, 67, believes that the plant and animal species that thrive on his Raghavapuram land are the “real owners” while he is their “servant”.
The house with ‘360 doors and 660 windows,’ as he likes to call his farm, took five decades of dedicated efforts to build. Satyanarayana travelled extensively, collecting seeds and saplings of rare forest species from across the country and planted them on his land. He single-handedly dug a canal system to harvest rainwater coming down a hillock to water his plants. He got seven ponds dug at various locations with check dams which form a chain similar to the irrigation tanks built by the Kakatiyas. Then, he installed a borewell to ensure water in these ponds never dried up. The ponds are flanked by different species of lotus, where fishes, tortoises, native frogs and other beings thrive in abundance.
Indian birthwort, devil’s horsewhip, Indian screw tree, Spanish jasmine, screw-bean, Indian tamarind, Manila tamarind, common guava, several varieties of mango, woman’s tongue tree, jamun, bael, cluster fig, neem, palm, ail, Indian date palm, Babul, jana, sacred tree, east Indian ebony, carandas plum, Indian jujube, Assyrian plum, bamboo, Prosopis juliflora (Thumma), soft fig and Indian elm are just a few among hundreds of species in his forest enriched by many medicinal plants as well.
Fruits are left on the trees exclusively to feed birds and animals here. Millets and other grains are grown on a few acres just to make food available in plenty for the several bird species which have made this forest their home. Rabbits, monkeys, peacocks, squirrels, snakes, wild boars, wild cats, mongoose, dogs and bovine animals lead an undisturbed life here.
None of the fruits are harvested. Whatever grows here decomposes here, enriching the soil and forming part of the forest. Living in a hut inside the forest, Satyanarayana expects nothing more than the healing environment inside the forest, which he says, recharges him. The hillock inside the forest has some of the rare stone formations which have religious significance and are worshipped by the villagers on every full moon night, especially on Shivaratri. These include nine Swayambhu shivalingas present at different parts of the forest, which Satyanarayana claims, can rarely be seen elsewhere.
When asked what would happen to the forest in the event of his passing away, “Panchabhutas (elements of nature) will take care,” he replies. Satyanarayana is famous across the erstwhile Nalgonda district, as he had founded the Jala Sadhana Samithi in the 80s, waging movements to bring irrigation and drinking water to Nalgonda. He has also relentlessly struggled to bring to the fore the issue of fluorosis which had a devastating effect on the people of Nalgonda. In the 1996 Lok Sabha elections, he convinced 480 contestants to file nominations, just to highlight the water woes of the fluoride-hit villages in Nalgonda. He continues to educate children in schools on electoral reforms, environmental conservation, ethics and other topics through his ‘All-in-one programme’.
AS HE SOWED...
The house with ‘360 doors and 660 windows,’ as he likes to call his farm, took five decades of dedicated efforts to build. Satyanarayana collected seeds and saplings of rare forest species from across the country and planted them on his land. Fruits are left on the trees exclusively to feed birds and animals here