Keeping it Real in Kodaikanal

Keeping it Real in Kodaikanal

When was the last time you were stuck in traffic, bored and looked up at the passing clouds…. wishing they were magic carpets that would just whizz you away to a faraway land that was quieter, less rushed and greener?

Now visualise this; you're in a beautiful home-stay that is made with earthy mud walls. The roof is made of clay tiles and this lovingly made home is located on the side of a lush green mountain. Your day is spent sipping on Vattakanal's home-brewed hot chocolate and reading books on philosophy and religion when a giant columbus (a dense, towering vertical cloud) decides to visit you. In a matter of seconds, your room turns blurry, and you can see the cloud gracefully pass in front of your eyes. Your room is now, a home for the clouds. This is how Kodaikanal welcomes you!

But not all of Kodaikanal is this bliss-filled oasis. Some of it is touristy and crowded, and I always steer away from it. Fifteen kilometres from Kodaikanal town is the hamlet of Pallanghi and I had chosen it to be my home for a month as I was running a yoga teacher training course.

Fifteen aspiring yogis from different cities across India came together to not only immerse themselves in yoga but in a yogic way of life. They learned to adapt to life in the mountains. What did that mean? Nights were quiet and you didn’t hear honks or drunken people. Mornings were filled with the chirping of at least fifteen different birds versus just crows. The food was not packaged and was instead grown on the property. The milk we drank was from a cow that was lovingly cared for and the fruit we ate was straight from the trees. Quiet. Peaceful and very real – what more could we ask for?

But, yoga teacher training is so much more than just a relaxing weekend in nature. It is intense and requires a deep commitment and dedication. It is an intense four-week module that has classes from 6:00 am till 7:00 pm every single day. No Saturdays or Sundays. Every hour of their week was filled with classes on Philosophy, Anatomy, Alignment and Meditation, Yoga nidra, Ayurveda, Chakra balancing and so much more.

For most of our students learning so much in a day felt new and strange. Time stretched a lot longer than it actually seemed. In fact, week 1 of our training often felt like a year to most of our students because of the large amount of learning that happened. It was only in the second week that people learned to adapt to this sattvic lifestyle of satsang (good company), svadhyaya (self-study) and abhyasa (practice)… and then appreciate it in the third week.

In between these intense classes of study and asana practice, we encouraged people to sit in nature. The calm yet beautiful environment of Kodaikanal with its lush green mountains and big waterfalls, helped people decompress and just digest all they learned. We even organised for our students to do simple things like go on walks with the locals who taught them about indigenous medicinal herbs, plants and fruits that most of us had never seen or heard of in our life. They taught us to cook in healthy and yummy ways and even took us on treks to discover hidden waterfalls.

This felt like home, and I can honestly say for all my students who came – Kodaikanal played the role of a nurturing mother, curious brother and also the strict father with its abundance, its natural diversity and the powerful landscape.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.

Marcel Proust

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Chinmaya Udghosh