The Delhi Archdiocese has set up an eco-spirituality center
for meditation on the edge of the capital powered by renewable energy that features quake-proof cottages, an organic diet and farm animals. It is called Ish Vatika (the Garden of God) and is managed by Father Stanley Kozhichira, national president of the Catholic media organization Signis India
. Located on two-and-half acres of lush farmland, it is far from the madding city crowd and is populated with cows, goats, dogs, chickens and ducks. Nature takes a rest here in all its pristine beauty. There are flowers and trees as well as an artificially created pond. The project was started in 2014 and began functioning in 2018. When fully completed, it will have 10 cottages where people can spend days rejuvenating their spiritual life.
Thank you. You are now
signed up to our Daily Full
This quiet place is designed "to speak a thousand words" to inspire visitors, the priest said. Those interested in a short stay can "recharge their batteries and rediscover themselves," he added. Jason Joseph, a mechanical engineer by profession, went to spend an evening in the garden. "In today's fast-paced life, it is essential to apply the brakes sometimes and turn to the Lord," he said. "Everyday we are immersed in our jobs. And then we return to our mobile phones, WhatsApp and the virtual world. Human interaction and nature seem to be far from our agenda. Then we find things start to go topsy-turvy. "That is why I find Ish Vatika such a boon. It is place to reflect, breathe fresh air and be one with the creator. Even kids enjoy coming here." Despite her young age, kindergarten student Sarah Varghese also takes solace in the garden's comforting natural environment. "I love to watch the ducks and play with the goats and rabbits," she said. "I pray to God that my goat doesn't get cold." Her mother Susan Joseph, a student counselor, said it feels like a green paradise compared to India's choked and polluted cities and towns. "We come here to unwind and pray," she told ucanews.com. "I come here to rediscover myself, and I encourage others to do the same." In addition to the solar panels and biogas register, plans are afoot to install more windmills to further tap renewable energy. (ucanews.com photo)
Albert Stephen, another city slicker, said he appreciates the village ambiance and the time spent in closer connection with nature. "It's like my village home — a home away from home," he said. "For me it is like combining fun and faith. It is so soothing to breathe some fresh air and not be disturbed by traffic. Out here in the open, I can escape my problems at home and open up to the Lord. I can reflect on who I am and what I should be doing." He and his friends are members of a Catholic group called Jesus Youth
. Father Kozhichira is the unit chaplain of the group's Delhi branch. "We continue to seek spiritual guidance from him," Stephen said. Some seminarians who visited in December from their base in old Delhi for a weekend recollection were full of praise for what the venue has to offer. Brother Saroj Kumar Nayak from the eastern state of Odisha and Brother Kurma Bhagya Raju from Andhra Pradesh
in southern India said they felt blessed to be there. "In this beautiful green expanse we can feel God's presence in every single plant and every creature as they radiate the love God has for us," Nayak said. "We can pray anywhere but here we can also relax, which makes it easier to reflect. The cottages also have comfortable beds and the facilities are great," he said. Father Kozhichira said there was no fixed price for those wishing to stay in one of the cozy lodgings. "Visitors make a donation of their choosing, so price isn't a deterrent," he said. "You can also enjoy our organic food and fruits."
Solar panels are plastered around to provide electricity. Soon windmills will be installed. There is also a biogas digester system to turn human waste into gas and water, said the priest, who hails from the southern state of Kerala. Describing the center's origin, he said he was responsible for handling local church properties when he found this piece of land that was not being utilized. "And so the onus fell on me to turn it into a socially useful project. I wanted to make it a place for silent prayer," he recalled His fondness for St. Francis of Assisi, the Italian friar associated with the patronage of animals and the natural environment, inspired him convert it into an eco-spirituality center — and Ish Vatika was born. On the challenges he faced, the priest said there was not enough clean water available for plants and other flora to flourish. The water has to be brought in from outside, raising costs. There is also an issue with white ants, he said. "Nonetheless, I'm optimistic we will overcome these challenges soon and turn Ish Vatika into a vibrant 'Garden of Eden' in the environs of Delhi," he mused.