Untravel weekends: Swarga

Started by Chirag Shambu, who built cottages in the midst of the western ghats and infused it with designs of the 5 elements of nature.


Started by Chirag Shambu, who built cottages in the midst of the western ghats and infused it with  designs of the 5 elements of nature.

In Hinduism, Swarga is a set of heavenly worlds located on and above Mt. Meru. Swarga, a responsible resort located 250 kms from Bangalore in Karnataka, well simulates the concept of heaven on earth.

Started by Chirag Shambu, who built cottages in the midst of the western ghats to offer serenity and privacy to the weary city traveller but also infused it with design touches hinting to the 5 elements of nature, Chandra, Surya, Prithvi, Jala and Vayu. In this interview with The Alternative, he shares about customizing an eco friendly experience that visitors enjoy.

Can you share your story of setting up the resort? What was your motivation for starting this venture? 

The setting up of our resort was a fun and thrilling experience. Unlike most resorts, we started off with a big dream, not a big budget. We did not hire an architect and everything you see at Swarga has been self-created. Our intent was to create a small 4-5 room resort for young travellers who had a penchant for nature. Travellers who wanted a break from the hum-drum and fast pace of their city lives, where their phones did not work, where they could put their feet up and watch the sunset and hold hands and take walks in our 600 acre coffee estates. Our ‘non-background’ of hospitality, but our hospitable nature turned out to be a BIG advantage as it is as much fun for us to meet new people from different walks of life each week as it is fun for them to stay with us. This was the true and pure intent from which Swarga was born.

What are the 5 aspects of responsible travel you have worked on and what it took to implement?

As farmers we believe in being responsible to the environment as it gives us our daily bread. All that we have implemented at Swarga comes from our daily ways of living which have been forgotten today. We just brought them back. We use Bio Gas for all our cooking, we collect twigs, leaves and branches that drop from the trees every day allow them to dry and use it to heat the water for bathing. Besides this, we use solar energy for lighting in the rooms. We do not allow for plastic bottles to be used at Swarga. We use earthen pots for water and other simple initiatives to promote Eco-Tourism.

Photos of Swarga Home Stay, Hassan
This photo of Swarga Home Stay is courtesy of TripAdvisor

What has been the impact of your venture – on the local people, environment, the place itself, traveller sensitization and anything else they’d like to stress on?

To be honest, the reactions can be mixed. Some people love what we do and some are uncomfortable about it as they may not have read all that we do on our website. So now we make it a point to inform the guests while making a booking itself. However, for the people who do like it, they are fascinated at seeing the bio gas pit and its functioning, the large drum that is heated with firewood etc. I’m not really sure of how much impact we are making on people, but we lead by example.

Photos of Swarga Home Stay, Hassan
This photo of Swarga Home Stay is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Experiences/anecdotes from travellers who’ve visited

We frequent this place a lot, particularly because they are pet friendly. On our current visit, we were pleasantly surprised by the changes to the place. A new sports bar has been added and looks like it will get better in the months to come. The place has several animals and that list has grown now. The place now has ducks, geese, a deer, a horse and 7 dogs – most of them rescued animals. We are animal lovers and this was really heart-warming. The host, as always, was very warm and enterprising and a great conversationalist. He has tons of trivia on a wide variety of topics and can keep us engaged for hours. In true Swarga-style, the place still lacks a TV, forcing one to let go of the bustle of the city and connect with nature. I believe the larger river-side cottages are due to get solar fans soon. The food remains delicious as ever and a rare opportunity to enjoy the local cuisine at its best. They have also introduced fishing in a pond nearby. Though we did not fish, we did take our dogs swimming. The next time we are there, we might go for a half a day picnic by the pond, taking a dip or fishing. What I really appreciate about the place is that the owner is very involved and is constantly improving the place while sticking to his core principles of being environmentally friendly and close to nature.

Sindhoor Pangal, Bangalore, Karnataka.

This is a special place in the heart of the Indian countryside, right in the middle of a functioning coffee plantation. It is comprised of 5 small but comfortable cottages, plus a restaurant, all surrounded by greenery, overlooking a river/lake. The host/owner was the highlight for us. Chirag was accommodating, to all our needs, from alcohol to making a huge fire under the stars, even to my inability to eat spicy food. He was a great conversationalist too, but also knew when we wanted time alone, which was perfect. There are 4 dogs and a horse who all roam free around the property. We found this charming, though perhaps not everyone would. He does have control over the animals though. We walked through his family’s coffee plantation and had a tour of the processing facilities, and even the old family home, which was all very interesting. The beds are quite hard, which is great if you like hard beds. It’s very quiet there, peaceful and very much a nature lover’s paradise.

Heathand Polina, Gothenburg, Sweden.

Photo courtesy: Dhole’s Den.

Untravel Weekends is a feature series on resorts, homestays and guesthouses that are built and run on the foundations of responsible travel by means of nature conservation, using alternative energy, reducing waste, recycling, rain water harvesting, organic farming, sourcing and feeding into the local economy or promoting indigenous cultures.


  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The future is not a result of choices among alternative paths offered by the present, but a place that is created–created first in the mind and will, created next in activity. The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. more

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  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The future is not a result of choices among alternative paths offered by the present, but a place that is created–created first in the mind and will, created next in activity. The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. more

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