Even as the fiend called urbanisation encroaches with its fences upon what’s left of terra firma and impales the fleeing hind of the sky, we, the prodigal sons of Nature, continually realize that it’s time to return. That no number of open-air gyms, parks, stationary cycles, spa facilities and what have you shuttered within the bounds of the city can provide the free movement and space to stretch one’s limbs that the unrestricted ‘great outdoors’ of an organic farm promise.
The raw, rustic joy of witnessing and engaging with animal life and venturing into the country, past the golden fields, trumps the instant stimulation of screens for adults and children alike. The palate regains memory of food’s original flavors, borne a second time, right here—food fortified with the goodness of farm-fresh ghee-makkhan of Sahiwal cows. The music to land being tilled and grain being milled is supported splendidly by the birdsong of the fowl and egrets, and there's no better way to experience it all than in Rajasthan.
These farm-stays, fashionably dubbed agriturismi in Italy, go beyond mere TLC for sleep-deprived, out-of-breath bodies. These are happy pastures that test muscles that have long sat in cryo-sleep. The sore limbs return to the rustic comfort of one’s humble mud dwelling at the hour of dusk—the much-celebrated rural godhuli-vela—to the chatter of night critters and food crackling over primeval fire.
An assertive return to the original ways of farming—minus the pesticides and fertilisers—is at the core of how food is grown at Banyan Roots farms in Udaipur. Started as a store selling organic produce in Panchwati, the organisation has grown since its inception at the start of the decade, under founder Rohit Jain.
Farm-stay experiences include explorations of farms and traditional techniques of agriculture, including sustainable farming practices. Savour food rolled off traditional hearths and revel in rural customs as you spend a couple of nights in a traditional mud dwelling. The experiences can be customized depending on the desired duration of your stay—one could immerse themselves in the headiness of the experience or opt for a quick half-day village outback excursion. The latter, a tour across the rural settlements on Udaipur's outskirts, acquaints one with indigenous techniques of organic farming here and offers up the opportunity to pick the brains of the growers. You can also stop by at the tribal shrines that fall on the way.
Banyan Roots also does dedicated tribal-focused stays where the sights and sounds of the great outdoors mingle with the rituals and culture of the native people. There could be few better ways than learning to speak their language and sharing meals with them, to get close to the community that is responsible for the nutritive, fulfilling produce these fields yield. The tribal dwellings — blissfully bereft of hollow modern conveniences in favour of the simple satisfaction of austerity—are a grounding yet uplifting experience.
As far as getting in touch with one’s rustic side goes, the Saharia Model Organic Farm, tucked away in Maheshpura village on Jaipur’s northern periphery, is a masterclass in leaving pastoral rusticity to its own devices. The 18-hectare property, with its leafy lanes, thatched gazebos, mud hutments and clusters of shahtoot, sheesham, ber, khejdi and amla, is one of the oldest in the state.
The compost tank is a cucurbit of sorts, alchemizing cow urine, eggshells and other plant matter with the help of jaggery, into the organic pesticide and nourishing gruel known as jivamrit in these parts. What seems waste, dead and given to decay in that other life is life-giving force on an organic farm, and the vermiculture patch constantly churning out manure for the flourishing flora, is proof. The irrigation tank, carved into the side of a hillock, doubles up as a swimming pool made for aquatic limbering, neem leaves strung on the sides instead of chlorine.
For the non-water babies, there is the terrestrial sweat and toil of the farm itself — walking the furrowed fields and day trips to Chomu and Kaladera’s Saharia havelis offers a raw, non-touristy exposure to the local community. The allure of the impending bajra rotis and occasional mutton curry (you need to inform the kitchen in advance) is such that one doesn’t mind cramped haunches.
The three huts at the property have traditional khatiyas — whose simplicity and functionality impressed Ibn Batutta — for beds and open-rooftop baths. Another unit with four single and two double rooms, has to make do with common bathroom, but has its own kitchen with supplies from the farm. Sanganer is the nearest airport (22km) and Jaipur the closest railhead. For those travelling from Pink City, the farm even organizes camelback rides for the final couple of kilometres.
An hour-and-a-half drive southward takes one to Ikaki Bagh, one of the best organic farm-stays near Jaipur. The literal meaning of Ikaki Bagh translates to ‘one-of-a-kind-orchard’, and the farm-stay holds to its name. Offering a fantastic rural experience, this traditional farm lets you support locals by being a part of their daily lifestyle.
From interesting community and agricultural walks to camel rides and birding, there is a range of activities to keep you energized and entertained. Take one of their customised tours and get acquainted with rural life and India’s socio-cultural fabric. You can either visit the government-run primary school and join the kids for their class or meet the villagers in Jhinjha village and be a part of their daily life. If farming interests you, take a guided walk through the village and learn about the integral role of the cow-buffalo-goat economy in rural India.
There’s also a botanical tour on offer, which educates you on the medicinal use of plants. Interact with Marwari horses and milking cows, take local food cooking classes, learn how to collect honey, go for a cycle tour, marvel at star-studded night skies or just soak in the serenity. One even has the chance to volunteer and paint the local school, plant trees, or assist locals in upgrading the farm watering system. The delicious farm-fresh meals that you’ll be treated with at the organic farm aren’t to be missed. It’s best if you could time your visit around Ramdev Jayanti or Janamashtmi, when the village comes alive with devotees from all parts of the state. The farm is easily accessible by car and can be located using Google Maps.
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Located close to leopard country Jawai, The Country Retreat is spread over 10 acres of farmland, in a particularly rustic nook of Pali. Spend a weekend in stark countryside laze or don your bush shirt and follow them out for a leopard safari or a village walk. The spectacular Ranakpur Jain temple is an hour's drive away; the more active will find it rewarding to take the Elephant Rock Hike. There are 4 rooms on offer, so social distancing is easy. To book or for other details, check out their website.
Just off Sikar-Hardyalpura Road, 18km away from Nawalgarh in Rajasthan's fresco hub of Shekhawati, is Jor Ki Dhani Godham. This bucolic farm-stay beautifully replicates the Rajasthani country way, from huts made from mud bricks and plastered with cow dung wash, to authentic food (think wholesome dairy, rotis made of bajra, jau and gehun, and regional sabzi preparations with jaggery cubes for sides). Owner and host Kan Singh Nirvan is a man fully invested in the power of organic farming, and the role of the desi gaai (country cow; hence godhaam, or, the place of the cows) at this farm. No wonder that in the little garden, papaya, rose bushes, and sweet lime are said to flourish without being watered! Jor Ki Dhani has 15 cows, three dogs and three horses on the premises. Reach Kan Singh at +91-9875039977.
The brainchild of Jaipur-based businessman Arvind Modi and located 45km from Jaipur towards Chomu, Nirvana is a large farm-stay green with trees and awash in the chatter of innumerable birds. The farm, managed by caretaker Maliram, who lives here with his wife and son and their brood of buffaloes, goats and cows, offers the simple joys of rustic living with its traditional cottages and a wide array of rural activities.
With its verdant surroundings, freshly bloomed flowers, chirping birds, and amazing hosts, it’s a green relief from the barren landscapes of Rajasthan. Even though Nirvana is a place where you’d be absolutely fine doing nothing, the excited ones can immerse themselves in farming activities, yoga lessons, rural games, or countryside village walks.
There are cooking classes where you can learn a thing or two about preparing traditional Rajasthani cuisine from home-grown farm veggies and milk products. Which reminds one of the delicious chulha food prepared with fresh stock and abundant love. Staying in the little mud-walled huts with thatched roofs and windows that open into fields of bright mustard, you’ll immediately fall for the cozy Rajasthani decor and the quintessential rural vibe that’s rare to find in our mundane city life.
As the day dies, just lie down on a cot and let the hosts regale you with folk tales and popular Rajasthani legends, and in return, satiate their curiosity regarding the life you come from. The easiest way to get here is by taking a train to Jaipur, followed by an auto or taxi ride to the farm. The farmstay also arranges pickups and drops to the Jaipur railway station.