Shanta Nand Vaatika is a fascinating place with settings closest to the nature situated at village Karyara of tehsil Hiranagar at about 1 km distance from Hiranagar town on Hiranagar-Dyalachak road. The calmness and scenic views, scented and mystic air surrounding the vaatika dispense happiness, joy and peacefulness among the people visiting the place. The vast natural settings surrounding the vaatika add to its divinity and tranquility. As regards origin of the place; it has been developed and named “Shanta Nand Vaatika” after the name of its founder “Brahamleen 1008 Swami Shanta Nand Saraswati Ji Maharaj” of Hiranagar who mooted an idea for the establishment of this serene place for meditation during early nineties. Many religious congregations are held are at this place which includes holding of important religious celebrations like Janamasthmi, Guru Purnima, Mahashivratri and organization of Bhagwad Kathas, sapthaas and other spiritual teachings for propagation of peace and brotherhood among humanity. During these occasions, big langars/bhandaras are also held for the devotees and all those who participate.
During the year 1993-94, swami ji purchased this piece of land in village Karyaya measuring 36 kanal from a resident of the village. At that time the land was nearly barren, had flush of wild vegetation, uneven and undulating land topography. It seemed that this barren piece of land could hardly be put to any use especially for making a natural vibrant place as it is today. That piece of land with unmanaged landscape and wild vegetation was converted into a paradise with the initiative, efforts and blessings of Swami Ji. The prime objective of the developing this place was to evolve an unparallel, unmatched and attractive place filled with plenty of easeful atmosphere having great degree of proximity to the nature where one can meditate intensely. Another idea was to make a reservoir of the valuable plant species by introducing and growing important species of medicinal plants and herbs of frequent use in the ayurvedic medicines.
Vaatika has entrance through a big main gate on Hiranagar-Dyalachack link road which takes one to a pacca lane inside which leads to the Vaatika premises. In the beginning of the vaatika there is an exceptional unmatched multistoried temple which is the unique and prime attraction, and is of its own type in the area. The ground floor of the temple has the Shiv Darbar. The first floor has Ram Darbar, second floor has Krishna Darbar and the fourth and top floor has the Darbar of Maha Kali. The temple has been beautifully designed and decorated. Devotees throng the temple to have the darshan of gods and goddesses housed in it. There is another small temple devoted to Maa Vaishno Devi near the entrance of multi-storied temple.
Herbal garden laid down, set up and maintained by Swami Ji is yet another great attraction in the vaatika. It contains many valuable medicinal plants and herbs which have been introduced from all over the country and grown in the garden under the guidance of Swami Ji. Many species of valuable medicinal plants and herbs which includes rudraksh, aonla, kaalmeg, karongda, jasmine, taj patta, pepper, turmeric, tamarinds etc have been grown and maintained in this garden. As Swami ji himself had a great interest in the ayurveda system of medicine and practiced it throughout his life to cure the sufferings of humans and heal the people, collection of different species depicts his visionary approach. This garden is still maintained after swami ji in the vaatika by his disciples. “Vaatika is the dream child of Swamiji and will always remind us of the vision of swami ji and his spirituality and affiliation with ayurveda and nature as well” says Padmavati ji Maharaj, the disciple of swami ji and present caretaker of the vaatika.
Sanyas ashram, a holy accommodation place at vaatika is yet another fascinating entity in the vaatika premises which is used as a residence for the visiting saints and religious preachers during their stay in the vaatika who mostly come to attend the religious gatherings and congregations. It is designed in a way that it stimulates and induces one’s feelings towards meditation and gives peace of mind to inmates. In the proximity of sanyas ashram, there lies a big hall having a capacity to accommodate more than 1000 persons which has also been got constructed by swami ji. It is commonly used for holding Bhagwad Kathas, sapthaas, saint sammelans, yoga camps, meditation sessions, spiritual events and other activities frequently carried out by the disciples of Swami Ji. Besides, local social organizations also utilize it for carrying out their welfare activities.
The milk requirement of the ashram is met within the vaatika through a herd of cows of improved breeds reared at gowshalla. The cattle are traditionally being maintained which not only provide milk for the ashram but also manure being used to undertake organic farming in the vaatika thereby making the best use of available resources. It is another factor which ensures sustainability to the vaatika. A big kitchen used for cooking langers, yagyashalla which is used for performing havan yagyas and other religious rituals and a big cemented ground in the backyard of sansyas ashram which is used for mass feasting are the other components that gives entirety to the vaatika.Open fields where crops are cultivated is an important component of vaatika. Paddy, wheat, and other major crops besides vegetables are also grown in the open fields which cater to the need of the ashram and meets out the daily vegetable requirement.
(The Author is from SKUAST Jammu)
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