I was supposed to visit Chiguru Farm in March and March is when I did visit … but the first March was 2020 and the next was 2021, a whole year later. It was eerie, as if time had had not moved at all and I had merely stepped across the dark chasm that was the year 2020!!!
Covid disrupted our world in unimaginable ways and reduced me to a to lifestyle that was so alien to me. A whole year of staying still at home and also some unexpected medical issues/surgery that were equally bizarre, drove me insane and my brain felt like it would explode in confinement.
So finally when my stars and the farm owner Raghavendra Bhat, eventually aligned to transport me to the farm, I felt like a prisoner who was granted an unexpected release.
And Chiguru Farm with its gentle aura and refreshing environment, was truly an apt debut for my first travel blog after one whole year.
Located in the Ramnagaram district of Karnataka, India and barely 65 km from the heart of my city, Bangalore, the journey too was not arduous for me in my current situation and the entire experience was exactly what my body and soul needed for revitalization.
So join me as we enter rural India, far from the stress and unrest of urban life and enjoy the place for a few moments or longer if you decide to actually pay them a visit … and I highly recommend that you do 😀
A 3 part series on my experience at Chiguru Farm, covering The Overview, The Cuisine and The Activities.
Read on for Part 1 of 3 – Chiguru Farm, The Overview
About Raghavendra Bhat (Raghu) –
Known as Raghu, a convenient short form for Raghavendra Bhat :-D, the owner of Chiguru farm is a mild mannered person whose gentle and unassuming exterior belies his inner passion and strength in his beliefs in sustaining the environment through leading by example and actually walking the talk.
A native of Honnavar, a coastal town in the district of Uttara Kannada, he hails from an agrarian family. His parents till date are still into farming but Raghu initially decided to choose the path of a software engineer, where he was very successful.
Having travelled extensively the world over and having ‘done and seen it all’, he began feeling that he was stagnating and decided to switch to something more exciting. But naturally, the inherent desire for his land that lurked within him, eventually surfaced and he decided to give up his profession and return to his farming roots (quite literally) and hence began his quest for a suitable space where he could create and live his dreams.
An extensive search across Karnataka that lasted nearly 5 years, eventually culminated in buying this farm in 2012, which was conveniently located close to Bangalore where he is based.
And today that very farm is accessible to hundreds of Bangalore residents who are looking for a meaningful escape from the big bad city.
About Chiguru Farm –
Chiguru in Kannada, translates to shoots or new leaves and basically signifies new life and new beginnings, much like Raghu’s foray into agriculture.
Starting afresh is also what we wish for our earth today and in my case, I hope that this trip will be an auspicious precursor to a renewed start to my travel life into a world free from afflictions of any kind.
Raghu defines his project as an organic farm and an agri-tourism venture and this envelops a host of features, making it a very multifaceted space that fulfils several nature based experiences.
Basically growing horticultural crops, it has also become an educational space where city dwellers can come and learn various facets of farm life.
The initial idea was to create an organic farm and grow their own healthy crops, while also initiating rural tourism by bringing the customer to the farm instead of sending the produce out to them, which would also help to form a strong customer base.
This eventually turned into a successful educative venture where people of all ages right from children to adults, made the trip to the farm for various learning and experiencing purposes apart from being mere buyers.
Beginning with Mango picking sessions, the farm then became a venue for several more events related to farming and outdoor activities.
The events became so popular that people started flocking to the farm even though there was initially no infrastructure. The demand then extended to stayovers, following which the farm house and other facilities were constructed in 2016.
Today, this is the favorite getaway for hundreds of visitors not just from Bangalore but even some from other parts of the world.
An overview of the farm –
The 15 acre farm was converted to an organic space in 2014 after 2 years of dedicated labor. Initially a thriving banana, mango and arecanut farm, Raghu has now enhanced it into what he calls a Food forest, with over 40 varieties of fruit trees, teak trees, seasonal crops and field crops like millets, lentils, vegetables etc that are intercropped with the trees, effectively raising the productive space to 18 acres.
Some of the produce is sold commercially and the rest is retained for in-house consumption.
Raghu follows what he calls Cow based natural farming where all the manure and organic pesticides are derived from their cows.
Features of the farm –
The farm house and other structures occupy 3 acres, leaving 12 acres for cultivation.
The latter area has Banana, teak, areca, mango and banana as the main crops and a host of other fruit trees and seasonal plants. Some of the other notable ones are the noni, eggfruit, water apples, rose apples, Barbados cherries, ambarella, litchees, pomelo, loquat, strawberry guava, bread nut, Thai pea brinjal (sundakkai), blue pea flower, vitamin plant, Mexican spinach etc.
An outstanding feature of the farm is an ancient Banyan tree that is said to be 150 years old. Its majestic form stands not too far away from a charming water body which is outside the farm boundary but close enough to enhance the view.
Children and adults literally have a swinging time on the thick vine like prop roots of the banyan and the peaceful little lake is home to several species of birds.
There is also large amphitheatre which looks like a step well of sorts near the fruit orchards.
The Farm House –
The farm house is built along the lines of a Thotti Maney which is a traditional home with an open courtyard at the center, which is surrounded by the rest of the rooms in the home, namely the guest rooms, dining hall, recreation room and an external common wash room facility.
With a theme that revolves around eco friendly and sustainable living, the architect designed structure of the house also follows the same principles and is built using environment friendly and reused building material.
The structure is made from Adobe bricks which were made locally from local soil and dry grass from the surrounding water bodies. Locally sourced coconut wood and stones have also been extensively used. The roof tiles were bought second hand and a lot of the woodwork like doors, window bars etc have been bought from suppliers who recycle material.
Water conservation is achieved by rainwater harvesting and the ground has not been cemented anywhere, so as to facilitate the absorption of the rain water. Even the flooring of the open courtyard has been designed with careful thought, with the usage of stone slabs with spaces in between to allow seepage of water into the ground.
Commendably, the entire place runs on solar power and the grid power is used very rarely.
In the interests of not overcrowding the place, there are only 3 rooms at the farm. The rooms are large and are split across a ground floor and a mezzanine floor. Two of the rooms have an en-suite washroom and the other has one that is attached but accessed externally. The rooms can comfortably accommodate 4 – 8 people at a time.
Due to the firm resolve to maintain a rustic and traditional environment, modern materials have been avoided and the flooring is of grey oxide, the walls are of exposed adobe bricks, the ceiling is 20 ft high akin to a barn.
Even the washroom is in typical village style with grey oxide walls and floor, a stone floored bathing area, a copper drum and ‘chembu’ instead of a bucket and mug and a wooden ladder-like clothes rack.
The only exception is the modern sink and Western toilet, keeping in mind that city people have evolved in these matters to a point of no return and not providing these facilities could result in trauma 😀
The idea is to experience natural and homely village style environment, so do not expect the so called luxury of a star hotel. The beds are sufficiently comfortable and the bed linen and bath towels are simple and functional. The room is equipped with a fan, a desk, chairs, side tables, night lamp, a mirror, glass water bottles with filtered water, an electric kettle and tea and coffee sachets.
The washroom provides liquid soap and shampoo and home made bath scrubs and moisturizer made from their own virgin coconut oil.
The usual toilet kits, toilet tissue, mineral bottled water etc are consciously not provided in the interests of maintaining sustainability. Likewise, there is no television, air conditioning or newspaper supply. Internet is provided but not encouraged, unless of course one is blogging about the place 😀
The high ceiling and local bricks ensure a natural cooling and air circulation and the glass interspersed tiled roof, take care of natural lighting in the day time.
Dormitory accommodation –
A couple of lofts in the dining hall, serve the purpose of dormitories where larger groups or farm volunteers can stay.
Tents are pitched during camping sessions that are conducted when school children have excursions or when the star gazing and astrophotography sessions are conducted. Groups as large as 25 pax have been accommodated.
Common washrooms –
There is a row of common washrooms behind the farmhouse for the use of dormitory residents. These are also used by day trip visitors and campers.
Staff quarters –
In front of the farm house is a row of neat houses which ironically have been built along modern lines due to the request of the staff who hail from the surrounding villages, while the farm house for the urban guests is along traditional lines. Role reversal indeed 😀
Chiguru is a cow based farm, which means that almost all their pesticides, insecticides, fertilizers, manure etc are prepared from cowdung and cow urine. So the cow is an integral part of the farm and they have 12 heads of cattle that cater to almost all the above needs. Hardly anything is purchased from outside and even the fodder for the cows is grown in-house.
There are a couple of friendly dogs and a hilarious cat who tries its best to behave like a dog and most of the times competes with them for people’s attention. With quite an identity crisis, this chap provides entertainment to children and adults alike 😀
A bunch of hens, chicks and roosters complete the livestock scenario and just like the cat who seeks attention, some of the roosters are trigger happy with their crowing and make sure one remembers their existence during day or night with no regard for time, roaming around and letting loose their Cock a doodle doos even at the ungodly hour of 3 am. These chaps do a great job of not letting you forget that you are on a farm 😀
Vermicompost pits –
The farm has the huge quantities of dry leaves that shed from the various trees, a lot of waste from the banana plants including the stems etc, vegetable waste from the kitchen, areca leaf plates and other bio degradable left overs. All these are deposited into the composting pits and mingled with cow urine. Earthworms are released into this and they create the wonderful home grown compost that the farm thrives on.
Work from Farm Cabin –
Covid has resulted in a ‘Work from home’ situation and the farm provides you with a Jio internet connection of sufficient strength to enable you to ‘Work from farm’. The charming little first floor cabin can house 2 people and has the added advantage of being a vantage point with expansive views of the plantation as well as several birds, to make the work experience more delightful than it probably is 😀
Farm Office –
The ground floor of the cabin is the farm office and also doubles as a storage area.
View point –
While there are several external trekking trails that lead to panoramic view points, there is also one spot within the farm which offers you a scenic view that stretches all the way to the horizon. Make sure you do not miss going there on a leisurely evening walk.
The dining area is a part of the main farm house and is again fashioned in traditional style with long wooden benches and tables for community dining.
The theme of the cuisine is hyper local, grown onsite and super fresh. These are the main mantras of the delectable and rustically traditional fare that you will have the privilege of tasting here.
Read all about in detail on this post Chiguru Farm – Cuisine
Amenities and facilities –
The website of Chiguru Farm categorically states that this is not a resort. This seemingly abrupt declaration is fuelled by the sincere intent to differentiate the place from a commercial resort which provides a standard set of amenities. Since the motive itself is so distinct and entails a desire to educate people on farm living and practices, Raghu is very particular that his visitors clearly understand why his place is different and what it is that people should be prepared for.
Hence instead of the usual swimming pool, gym and other run of the mill amenities, one has trees to climb or swing from, books to read from the in-house collection, animals to chase 😀 and traditional games like chowkabara, pagade etc to try their hands on in the dedicated room meant for these activities.
More details in the post on Chiguru Farm – Experiences
The farm gives you a wide range of opportunities to pass time as well as educate yourself. From doing nothing and rejuvenating yourself, to learning a host of nature based skills, the opportunities are many.
One has the option of a Day trip or a short stayover or even a long term stay.
More details in the post on Chiguru Farm – Experiences
Sale of organic produce –
Some of the organic fruits, vegetables, pulses, flours etc, are available on sale. Raghu usually sells them via a Whatsapp group.
Social and environmental commitment –
Raghu’s dedication to the purpose of creating a sustainable and natural space generating healthy produce, has had far reaching effects.
Apart from creating his own farm, his objective has been to be an inspiration and guide to others who seek to emulate this process.
Some of the significant impacts that he has made are as follows –
Environmental impact –
Several local farmers have converted to organic farming by following Raghu’s example and guidance. His success has been a great impetus.
Likewise many city dwellers from Bangalore have visited the farm and been inspired to buy farm lands where they are now practicing organic farming. In fact Raghu recounts that one particular guest was so impressed that he actually made up his mind in the very first visit and immediately bought land thereafter.
The organic practices and variety of crops and trees have brought about a remarkable change in the biodiversity of the farm, since the initial condition of the place. Over the last 5 years they have seen a significant increase in bird life, insects and other creatures. Raghu says that there are more honey bees, wasps, fireflies etc and over 100 species of birds and the numbers are only increasing, which is a very laudable achievement.
Rain water harvesting – the flooring of the yard is not cemented but is designed such that rain water gets naturally filtered and fed back to the ground.
All the grey water from the kitchen and wash areas is filtered and used for watering the farm.
All the power is solar unless there is an emergency.
Generating local employment – The farm has around 20 permanent employees and many more day workers, all of whom are from the local population.
Women folk form over 50% of the workforce.
Reverse migration – The increase in the number of productive and organic farms has given scope for economically beneficial employment and there have even been instances of villagers who had gone to the city to earn, actually returning to settle down and work in the farms.
Reducing Alcoholism – Alcohol use was rampant in these villages a few years ago. After a lot of counselling on the ill effects, Raghu has eventually managed to make a difference among the villagers.
Also leading by example, he does not permit the guests to bring or drink alcohol on the premises.
Visitor profile –
Raghu has been very particular that the place should not be viewed as a resort in the commercial sense and has consciously strived not to beautify it artificially but let it remain as raw and natural as possible.
The farm welcomes visitors of all ages right from little children to really really big children😎
Visitors are personally filtered by Raghu and the basic requirement is that the guest should appreciate and respect nature and understand the ideals behind the farm and also be prepared for simple living, sans the trappings of a commercial resort or hotel. It is a great place for school children on an educational trip, families and groups of people looking for a meaningful holiday, outdoor enthusiasts, photographers, trekkers, cyclists, bird watchers etc
The list is quite extensive and includes those who want to learn more about farming and related processes and experience farm life and cuisine, those who want to take part in star gazing sessions, those who want to indulge in various outdoor activities and those who simply want to get away from the city and breathe in the fresh air of the countryside.
Some visitors also opt for long term stays for work, health reasons or farm volunteering.
This is not a place for those who are seeking a venue for a party with alcohol or the facilities of a commercial kind of resort.
Raghu refers to the farm as a Temple of trees and expects it to be revered accordingly.
Best time to visit –
When you visit the farm mainly depends on what your objective is. Chiguru farm is a year round destination. There is always something fascinating to do or explore at any point in time. Of course much of the produce is seasonal, so if someone in interested in something in particular, then the general schedule given below should work as a rough guide. Remember that the vagaries of the weather could affect the crops, so it is always a good idea to check with Raghu before making the booking.
As per Raghu, during the summer from April to June, one can enjoy fruits like mangoes, litchis, water apple, rose apple, cashew and many more. There are also litchis and mango picking events organized at the farm, the details of which are usually announced on their Facebook page.
The downside of summer is of course the searing daytime heat but the intoxicating sight of golden mangoes, usually makes people forget all inconveniences 😀
Fortunately the nights are more pleasant than the days.
The weather is far more delightful in the rainy season, which occurs from June to September. At this time though, there are fewer number of harvestable fruits and being sowing season, the vegetables also will not be making an appearance. However, one can take part in the activities of preparing the soil and sowing. It is also a great time to enjoy the rains with the rustic backdrop of lush greenery.
In the autumn and winter period from October to January, the fields flourish with crops like millets and pulses. Guests can view and participate in the harvesting and processing and also enjoy tasting the exceptional flavors of meals created from fresh produce.
The weather is the best at this time of the year and the clear skies are conducive for conducting their star gazing and astrophotography sessions.
Springtime during February and March, is the most colorful, being the flowering season and the landscape is a total treat to the eyes.
What you should carry –
Clean filtered water is provided in a charming earthen pot that keeps it naturally cool. The use of plastic mineral water bottles is discouraged. If for any reason one is very particular about their drinking water, then it is advisable to carry it from home in reusable bottles and if you do bring disposable bottles then carry them back with you.
The toiletries and towels and bed linen are simple and functional and for those who are comfortable with their own, should carry what they are used to.
A good pair of walking shoes is a must because it will make it easier to go around the farm and the trekking trails.
It is quite hot and sunny in the day time especially in summer, so a cap and sunglasses are necessary.
The rooms are protected from insects like mosquitoes etc by netted windows. So one does not really need any repellant.
Carry shopping bags if you plan on buying any of the produce.
Covid and other safety precautions –
Covid protocols –
A sanitizer stands sentinel at the entrance, while a staff member stands alongside and checks temperatures as guests enter.
At the farm they follow all the government guidelines which includes rooms and other surfaces being duly sanitized and having only a restricted number of guests per daytrip or stayover.
The great thing about open spaces is that it is easy to ensure social distancing naturally, since there are a limited number of people around.
General safety –
The farm lies along the periphery of Bannerghatta National Park and next to the elephant corridor. The farm is surrounded by solar electric fence because there are possibilities of encountering elephants. Hence it is advised to be cautious when staying overnight.
One may also occasionally encounter honeybees, snakes, lizards, mongoose etc and leaving them undisturbed is the safest method to adopt.
Well maintained fire extinguishers are fitted in strategic locations.
CCTV camera is fitted around the farm house.
Phone and internet connectivity –
For those who are there on non work purposes, it is a good idea to disconnect from the internet. However, Jio wifi is provided and this is the most stable since neither my Airtel or Vodafone signals were strong enough. The wifi is provided especially for those who choose the place to ‘Work From Farm’.
Getting there –
Bangalore is the nearest major city which is well connected to the rest of the country and the world.
One can get to Bangalore by air, rail or road.
From Bangalore, one can get to the farm in various ways as listed below –
By private car, which is the most convenient way.
By cab – Ola outstation and other private cabs. The approximate one way fare is Rs 1500/-
By bus –
Local BMTC bus number 213-W plies from KR Market (Kalasipalyam) to Maralavadi, 4 times a day. Remember though, that it makes nearly 60 stops en route and hence takes over 3 hours.
Maralavadi is 10 km from the farm and there are infrequent local buses that go past the farm gate. The easiest way is by autorickshaw which charges around Rs 200/- (currently)
State transport express KSRTC buses heading towards Kanakapura are also an option. They stop at Harohalli which is 10 km from Maralavadi and 20 km from the farm. There are local buses from Harohalli to Maralavadi and also autorickshaws which charge around Rs 200/- to Maralavadi and Rs 400/- to the farm.
Likewise on the return journey, autos can be organized to pick up the guest from the farm and deposit them in Maralavadi or Harohalli from where they can get a bus or private cab back to Bangalore.
One can also access the farm from the next nearest major city Mysore, which is 120 km away.
My journey –
With Google maps as my navigation, I made the 72 km journey from my house in around 2.5 hours by car. One useful tip is to pay the toll and choose the NICE road (if it is on your route) which avoids the usual heavy traffic.
The route has no worthy pee stops as such but at 30 km from the farm there is a reasonably decent place called Nasa Food Court which has good food and more importantly a clean and functional washroom. There is also a Mangalore Stores shop that sells a wide range of snacks and savories.
Around 13 km from the farm and just before Maralavadi village, one gets to view and driver through a series of ‘tree tunnels’ that are naturally formed by banyan and peepal trees that have come together in a seeming gesture of welcome.
The return journey took a mere 2 hours because the traffic gods seem to feel kinder on a Sunday.
We also picked up many fresh vegetables and fruits from the vendors that intermittently line the highway.
Booking and contact –
Visits and stay are only through prior booking and there are no walk-ins possible. You can contact Raghu or via the Linger portal which he has tied up with. More details below.
Chiguru Farm, Therubeedi Village, Maralawadi Hobli,
Kanakapura Taluk, Ramanagara District, Karnataka, India
+91 95900 50001 (Linger customer care)
+91 98452 58575 (Raghu)
and Copy to – firstname.lastname@example.org
Please Note – This trip was made in collaboration with Chiguru Farm. The narrative is based on the inputs that I received from various sources as well as my own experiences.
This itinerary was specially curated hence some of the features might have been personalized accordingly. Before booking, please check the facilities offered in your package.
March 26th-28th, 2021