Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Jahnava Nitai Das

History of Sri Varaha Vana Ashram

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

Yesterday I came across the following article, which I liked a lot. Years ago I used to live near to this ashram and some of our devotees would visit it. This area is certainly one of the more mystical areas in India, and should be visited if there is ever a chance. By the way, since this article was published the ashram was sold to another devotee. I am not sure what is happening with it now, or who purchased it.



History of Sri Varaha Vana Ashram


India (VNN) - To Gauridas Pandit, from Narasimha das


I moved to South India with my family in 1991. Since then, I’ve spent a few hundred thousand dollars there. I’ve been struggling to start some preaching, particularly a large project in the Sahya Mountains near the most sacred Varaha Tirtha. The project is also near Sri Udupi Kshetra, Sri Kshetra Dharmastala, and Mangalore. I was also working on another smaller project near Sri Subrahmanya Tirtha, the kshetra of Sri Narasimha Deva and His great devotee Sri Kumara Guru (Kartikeya’s boyhood aspect). Both places are in lovely secluded valleys surrounded by lush tropical forests of incredible biodiversity.


At Varaha Vana, the larger place, we built at least 8,000 sq. ft. of accommodations, and we’ve done a number of preaching programs and hosted hundreds of devotees. We’ve received thousands of visitors and laid the foundations for the main temple on a hilltop. Public response in the area has been excellent. Several devotees have assisted at various times. Radhanatha Swami and some of his devotees have also assisted. They conducted a couple of big pandal programs there, did local hari-namas, and did programs in the Udupi temple. Once when devotees from Bombay visitied, they brought 25 gurukula boys and spent 6 weeks. They all loved it. We all felt there could be no better environment for a gurukula or ashram anywhere in the world.


The locality may be the best place for Vaishnava culture in the world today, W. Bengal included. Dakshina Kannada, particularly our area, is the stronghold of the Gaura-sarasvata Vaishnavas and Madhva Vaishnava Brahmins. In the mountains nearby, at Sringeri, near the place of the ancient sage Rishi-shringha, is perhaps the best of the mathas established by Sripad Shankar Acharya. They run the best gurukula I’ve ever seen--at least externally. In the months and years ahead, Dakshina Kannada will likely remain the most safe and stable region in India. In my opinion the Pejwar Matha, the Pudige Matha, and other Madhva Mathas, such as the one in Subrahmanya, are the only genuine allies ISKCON has in India. The preaching potential in the area is untapped. A good preacher could do wonders in the region in no time. The air, water, and fruits there would improve ones health.


One of the bhaktas who joined at Varaha Vana was a Madhva sannyasis initiated by Vishvesvatirtha Swamiji of the Pejwar Matha. He wanted some sort ofdiksha from me, but I declined. He is a Sanskrit scholar and lives by begging and conducting simple preaching programs. He’s a scholar of Srimad-Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-gita, and other Puranas and Vaishnava shastras and has been trained by the Pejwar Mutt in puja. Yet he still insisted I train him in Srila Prabhupada’s way of preaching and conducting programs and the ISKCON standard of puja. Several other interesting devotees joined, almost joined, or were trying to participate or join when I left. I wish I had had more time to spend cultivating people, but it was all I could do to manage the construction, the landscaping, and the agriculture, which includes harvesting and maintaining produce of coconuts, betel nuts, bananas, cocoa, rice, dahl, cashew, and vegetables. I tried doing programs alone, and I repeatedly hosted and invited many ISKCON sannyasis, but although many showed great interest, so far no one has come to organize or participate in preaching programs on a regular basis. Almost any sort of consistent preaching approach would yield wonderful results in Dakshina Kannada.


Dakshina Kannada has been blessed by the preaching mission of Srila Madhvacharya and many other great devotees. It has also been specifically blessed by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Krishnadas Kaviraja Gosvami mentions that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu exhibited the full ecstasy of his preaching mission only in South India. Thus the significance of South India is unimaginable. More than anything else, this is what has drawn me there so strongly. Unfortunately much of South India has become eroded by industrial materialism and imported Western lust and commercialism. Until very recently Dakshina Kannada was spared of this, so I feel that at least in DK there’s a chance of wide scale enlightenment through Krishna consciousness. Krishna consciousness is still very much part of the local culture and environment. The people in general and the Vaishnavas and brahmins in particular are mostly still pious and gentle and devoted to Narayana, Vishnu, and especially Krishna. There is harmony in the region between the various factions of brahmins and Vaishnavas. No group we have encountered has discouraged us in any way but rather has offered all types of assistance and even proposals for affiliation.


Over and above the favorable physical character of the land and buildings and orchards at Sri Varaha Vana, I would like to say a few words about the spiritual character of the land and location. Apparently Varaha Vana used to be an ashram or residence of sages long ago. We’ve discovered evidence that makes us believe Lord Chaitanya may have camped nearby. We’ve made some effort to investigate the lineage of Srila Rupa and Srila Sanatana Goswamis, whose family hails from this area very nearby. The locals have their legends about the place and the area, and experts of vastu-shastra and other Vedic writings have praised the spiritual ambience of Varaha Vana. For instance, we’re on a high western bank of the Swarna River (tears of Lord Varaha) as she turns to flow north (briefly) after descending from the high slopes in the east. Another sacred stream bisects our property and flows east to join the Swarna at a waterfall on the northeast side of the ashram. The valley of Varaha Vana opens wide in the northeast, with panoramic views of the most sacred Varaha Tirtha in the northeast and the renowned Shringha-Giri (Sringeri) due north. (Several sadhus have commented with astonishment about the vastu configurations of the location.) Our valley is closed by hills in the south and southwest. These are natural auspicious characteristics that we have tried to appreciate and amplify by sticking to vastu considerations while building and landscaping. By luck, mostly, we ended up doing almost everything right, in spite of our somewhat hurried development phase.


Apart from what I’ve heard about our location from others, I’ve had my own experiences. For instances, I saw it raining one cloudless evening at dusk in our betel nut orchard in an area of approximately 40 feet in diameter. This went on for several minutes while I watched. When it got dark I had to leave. It was still raining. There was no trace of clouds anywhere in the sky. Myself and others have seen strange lights in that part of the orchard on other occasions, and we’ve heard Krishna bhajanas being sung in the dark forest late at night. A few visiting devotees saw a 35-foot King Cobra swallow a 25-foot python at Subrahmanya Tirtha. The event took 3 hours and was witnessed by 100 people, who applauded by stomping the ground with their feet. The serpent raised its hood and nodded before disappearing into the forest. After completing our noon baths and gayatris one day, Jagat Guru Swami and I found a huge Hari Hara shalagrama in the river bordering the ashram. (The local priests were astonished when we showed it to them. There’s a similar but smaller one installed in the Subrahmanya Temple.) I’ve both seen and heard about wonderful creatures that still live in The Sahyadri forests. I know a man who saw a dead 230-foot 5-headed Naga that was killed 15 years ago in the high mountains by the Indian military. It filled up an entire lorry. (Local devotees said a small report had come in the local paper saying a big snake had been killed and sent to Switzerland for study.) Near Varaha Vana on the mountainside is a cave that locals say goes all the way to Nagaloka. A few brave men have entered there but none have found the end. They say some explorers never returned from that cave.


Of course, such tales don’t prove the spiritual potency of the area or our ashram. The best proof are the numerous shastric references to the area. Regarding are specific location, the best proof are the many comments from devotees who have had the good fortune to live at or visit Sri Varaha Vana. We’ve hosted large entourages on many occasions. Tripurari Swami said it was the most beautiful place he’d ever seen. Jagat Guru Swami liked it so much he moved his whole ashram (devotees, Deities, furnishings, ect.) there for nearly a year. Radhanath Swami, before getting drafted back into ISKCON, was considering making Varaha Vana one of his bases and a gurukula project. Bhaktivikas Swami, Bhaktiraghava Swami, and several other sannyasis have visited, done programs, and made plans to preach there.


I feel incapable of developing the ashrams further on my own. I now reside with my wife and daughter at Prabhupada Village in North Carolina, and I’ve decided to sell one or both our projects in India. I’d be willing to sell for less than half of what I’ve invested so far to an inspired preacher who could make the projects a great success. Real estate and construction prices have gone up steeply in the past 4 years. If comparable properties could be found in the area, which is unlikely, it would cost at least 60 percent more to create the same facilities now.


I and two other devotees spent one year and covered 30,000 kilometers in a focused, well-planned search for land in The Sahyadri. We saw dozens of properties and eliminated (by hearing about them) at least a hundred others. We ended up buying three properties. Among these three, Varaha Vana is, in almost every way, the best place. Regarding the development we’ve done thus far and the advantages of the area and local community, Varaha Vana is superior in every way. We are in the heart of the best area of Vaishnava culture in South India--60 km. from Mangalore and Udupi, 40 km. from Dharmastala, 50 km. from Sringeri, 3 km. from Naravi, where there’s a famous ancient temple of Surya Narayana (one of only three in all of India), 108 km. from Sri Kshetra Kollur (due north), and 108 km. from Sri Subrahmanya Tirtha (due south). There are innumerable Vaishnava temples and shrines in the area, many of which were personally established by Sripad Madhvacharya or ancient sages like Agastya and Rishishringa.


In the forests 5 km. from the Subrahmanya Temple, I have built a small ashram on 9 acres. The land is surrounded by National Forest. There are no neighbors nearby. The land is fully developed agriculturally with orchards and paddy fields. It rarely needs irrigation, but if it does, it has gravity-flow canals from mountain streams. The ashram sits on the banks of the Marigundi River, and we drink water straight from the river without filtration. The water is not only safe to drink but quite medicinal. Sambha, Krishna’s son, and Aditi are among some of the famous people cured of terrible diseases at Subrahmanya. Often at night we hear wild elephants trumpeting in the forest. The sound echos through the valleys and invokes auspicious emotions. The elephants also visit the ashram sometimes. The forests of Subrahmanya hosts unbelievable biodiversity. Beautiful tropical birds, butterflies, and fragrant flowers everywhere.


Srila Madvacharya would often walk to Subrahmanya Tirtha from Udupi. He established a separate matha here for his brother, Sri Vishnutirtha, who still lives in the forests doing constant hari-nama bhajana. Apart from the Sri Subrahmanya Narasimha Swamy Matha, Madhvacharya also established the temple of Narasimha Deva, where some of the shalagramas given to him by Srila Vyasadeva are still worshipped daily at 5 a.m. by Vidyabhushanatirtha Swami. Among these shalagramas is a big Narasimha shalagrama. He’s the main one and sits in the middle of the altar on a separate throne.


A Madhva sannyasi joined us at Varaha Vana to preach Krishna consciousness according to Srila Prabhupada’s mission. Many Gaura-sarasvata devotees in the area are chanting japa now and taking an active interest in Srila Prabhupada’s books and mission.


I feel it is important for devotees to cultivate relations with the Madhva Mathas, particularly the Pejwar Matha, Puthige Matha, and others such as the Subrahmanya Matha. These mathas have always been friendly and helpful. They have supported us, defended us, and offered practical assistance many times over the years. They are a powerful institution in South India, and they should never be slighted or ignored. They are proud of the fact that we are part of the Madhva-sampradaya. I believe it was Sugendra Tirtha Swami of the Pudige Matha who told devotees, Remember, after Mayapur, Udupi is your home.


I could write a book about the auspicious characteristics of Dakshina Kannada, The Sahyadri, and our ashrams at Varaha Vana and Subrahmanya. One determined sannyasi and a few brahmacaris traveling on foot between the two ashrams could start a spiritual revival in the area unlike anything seen since the days Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself preached there. It would cost nothing to maintain and expand this program unlimitedly. Hundreds of thousands of pious Vaishnavas in DK and The Sahyadri have become disgusted with the modern social scene and are eager and ready to join the Krishna consciousness movement. I’d be happy to answer any questions or elaborate on any of the topics in this letter.


I know Srila Prabhupada would be pleased with the ashrams and the area.



Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You are posting as a guest. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

  • Create New...