It is only in the last year or two that we have had the time, energy and money to turn this area of Buddha Garden into a very beautiful place. A place of healing both for the land and for the people who come to enjoy it. Because we have three water retention ponds here we call the area ‘jalabhoomi’ or ‘land of water’, but this area also includes patches of forest and a stone circle.
Ever since the beginning of Buddha Garden we have had problems keeping the outer fence secure. People and cows would break down the fence so that the natural fence that we originally planted didn’t have a chance to grow. On the first secure fence we made of granite pillars and barbed wire was stolen. It has only been in the last year that we have finally secured all the outer fence around Buddha Garden.
- THE WATER RETENTION PONDS
These are in an area of about one acre and a half that we used to call ‘the end field’ which used to flood every monsoon. We thought this made it an ideal place to grow rice and in 2004 we tried to do so. It soon became clear that rice growing required a level of infrastructure and labour which we did not have. At the same time it was decided that rice growing in Aurovillewould be focused on two or three larger farms which would invest in the necessary machinery to do this efficiently.
In the light of this we looked for other ways to use the land productively. We tried growing casuarina and amla but each were devastated by the monsoon flooding which, despite our best efforts we were unable to control. We built one pond but this was insufficient for the amount of water that came during the monsoon and the field continued to flood. Three years ago we asked Kireet (a Dutch national with an interest in water conservation) to come and help us.
He dug one pond and once it filled with water it became a magnet for birds and other wildlife, especially during the hot season.
One problem in doing this work is that it costs quite a lot of money, but any monetary returns come a long time afterwards. While we were able to provide some money for this purpose Kireet was able to find extra funds for us. This meant that we could dig another pond and carry out work on the original pond so that it held more water. After the second highest monsoon in 100 years and even although there was some flooding along the edges, the banks held fast and a lot of water was kept on the land.
As the trees grow and the wildlife increases the area becomes more and more beautiful.
- THE FOREST
In the beginning the forest was planned to be a buffer around the vegetable garden as there are many paths just beyond the fence where people walk up and down with their cows and goats. On the area with the worst land – which was stoney and looked a bit like a moonscape – we made earth bunds to hold back the water and planted forest trees. Unfortunately someone came in during the night and pulled up most of the tree seedlings and although we replanted them, many died and those that remained did not grow well. We have not had the time, energy or money to repeat this exercise. Every year we try to plant at least 100 trees, many of which we grow in our own tree nursery. Slowly the land is starting to regenerate as the trees hold more water and better soil builds up.
- THE STONE CIRCLE
We consider that all our land is sacred, but this is a special sacred place on the land where we have had meditations and rituals. Next to it is a fire circle where volunteers often light fires in the evenings for special occasions.