Jungle Mein Mangal – Village Dewari Gowada in the Aravali Hills

October 20, 2008 By:

I had never heard about Dewari Gowada, until Venkat Sunderam, the Chairman of the Lodge Elysium Masonic Charitable Trust, of which I am a member, discussed a proposal to electrify this village. Devari Gowada is located in a remote area of the Aravali Hills in Rajasthan and forms a part of the famous Siriska Tiger Sanctuary.


The Siriska Tiger

Some of you must have read about an age-old institution called Freemasonry in
Dan Brown’s best seller “ Da Vinci Code” . The Elysium Trust is a part of that organization and hence it would be appropriate to say a few words about the Freemasons in India.

Freemasonry is one of the world’s oldest secular fraternal societies. It is a world-wide organization based on the principle of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. It is a society of men committed to upholding moral and spiritual values. Its members are taught its precepts in a series of ancient rituals which involve the customs and tools and allegorical guides of the stone masons. It seeks to make good men better and there by make the world a better place to live in. Freemasonry has been in existence in the present form for nearly 280 yeas and for over 250 years in India. Some of the famous freemasons include, Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Sir Winston Churchill, Leonardo Da Vinci, Swami Vivekananda and C Rajagopalachari to name just a few.


Village Dewari Gowada

The Project

Dewari Gowada is one of those remotely located villages which do not have the basic facilities of water, electricity, sanitation and health-care. Hence we decided to help these villagers to move from darkness to light. As a first step, the trust whose sole objective is to undertake and support charity work, organized a golf tournament at Qutab Golf Course to raise funds. A few corporate houses showed keen interest in the project and with the kind kick off of Kapil Dev, the great Indian ex-cricketer, the tournament was held on November 1, 2007. It was sponsored by a German MNC, Conergy, one of the leaders in the solar energy industry. This event coincided with the centenary celebrations of the parent Masonic organization, the Lodge Elysium.

The cluster of three villages has around 500 villagers who live in huts and “ Kutcha” houses. The details of the project were discussed with the suppliers of the solar energy equipment. The planning of the project implementation took some time and in the first week of July, 2008 we were all set to move the equipment to the village. However, it was far more easier to plan than to implement it.


Movement of equipment

Dewari Gowada, is located in a hilly terrain. The route for the 237 kms journey is Delhi- Mannesar-Bhiwadi-Rajgarh. The roads are excellent in this stretch. From Rajgarh to Talha, the roads are tolerable, but after that a stretch of fourteen kms has no roads at all. Moving the equipment to the destination was no easy task because of the swampy and muddy tracks on which sometimes even the heavy jeeps get struck.


Villagers carrying the equipments to huts

With great difficulty, we were able to transport the heavy equipment to its destination. After the excellent work executed by some of the technicians, the villagers cheered loudly when the village kitchens and rooms were lit brightly for the first time in their lives.


The happy villagers

After three months, as a follow up to the implementation of the project, Venkat and I planned a visit to the village on October 11, 2008. We met Mahadev, the head of a local NGO – “Vikalp” at Rajgarh . He was waiting for us with half a quintal of sweets to be taken to the village.

The journey from Rajgarh to Talaab, a small town on the way was uneventful except for the circuitous roads lined up with greenery leading to a small village called Nandu. Since our Hyundai Verna car was not capable of handling the hilly terrain, we hired a Commando 4 wheel drive Jeep.


His royal highness

The journey was a riot of colours with dozens of peacocks all around. Though I had seen an occasional dancing peacock in the country side, seeing them in such large numbers here was a great joy. Partridges, a rarity in Delhi, were all around the area.The fauna and flora of the region was simply amazing. Cows, buffaloes, deer and monitor lizards were a common sight too.


The Temple

Our first halt on the way to Devari Gowada was a small old temple, which had also benefited from the electrification of the area. The priest an old man with typically priestly appearance , long beard and “jatta” type of hair, welcomed us and showed us around the temple. We took Hanuman ji’s blessings before continuing our journey.

The scenic beauty on the way was awesome. Tall green trees covering the hills created an excellent landscape. On the way we saw a make shift worship place, where we were told that a Mahatma ji had been doing his Yoga Sadhna for ages, his only companions being peacocks and langoors. I wondered how on earth in this secluded place, a part of the Siriska sanctuary, where at times leopards, cheetals and wild boars have been sighted, this Baba ji could continue to pursue his solitary goal.


Solar panels on the hut tops

The population of Dewari Gowada comprises mainly of Gurjars and Meenas. Since it is a rocky area, the cultivation of crops is scarce. Their main occupation is animal husbandry. Most of the villagers are involved in rearing of cattle on the forest fodder. In some patches they are able to grow grains like Jawaar and Baajra to meet their domestic needs. Some vegetables are also grown on periphery of the farms. Other than this, there is hardly any cultivation

Unfortunately, the social scene in the village was abysmal. Women and children act as beasts of burden, while the men while away their time idling, puffing the “hookahs” or consuming hooch! Atrocities on the women are wide spread. I saw at least two dozen women carrying the heavy load of dry wood collected from the nearby forests for the kitchen. This is a daily routine for them. Things like LPG gas are unheard there.

Moreover, it was disturbing to see many pale faced children, most of whom appeared to be underweight and malnourished. It was shocking to know that some of the families found it difficult to provide evening meals to their children. In this context, I read somewhere that out of the 88 countries judged on the hunger index, India ranks 66, way behind China (15), Sri Lanka (39) and Pakistan (61).


The village children

The situation is bleak in the field of education too. There is only one primary school in the area, which also has no teaching staff at times. The children wishing to pursue middle school education have to cover the distance of several miles to Nandu or Talha on foot. Even the so called bright students, at times have no choice but to turn to their ancestral occupation – animal rearing.

I recalled a poem by Sahir Ludhianavi, which read:

Jaraa mulk ke rehbaron ko bulao,
Yeh kuche, yeh galiyaan yeh manzar dikhao,
Jinhe naaz hai Hind par unko lao,
Jinhe naaz hai Hind par wo kahan hain,
Kahaan hai, Kahaan hai, Kahaan hain.


The Sarpanch

We finally reached the village Dewari Gowada- at around 12.30 p.m. The villagers, perhaps dressed -up for the occasion, had gathered at the primary school awaiting our arrival. The sarpanch (nominated head of the village) welcomed us warmly and the oldest member of the community tied coloured threads around our wrists and put a “tilak’” on our foreheads. A thanks giving ceremony followed and the statement of one of the elderly villagers moved us deeply when he said “ I had never imagined that during my life- time I would be able to see the electric light in our houses.” Another old villager said “though India got independence in 1947, for us this auspicious occasion came on the day our huts were lit.” For them it was like a dream come true.


The joy of playing cricket

The village folks relished the 50 Kgs of sweets we had taken with us and the children were happy when we distributed footballs, volley balls, badminton sets and cricket bats amongst them. I was surprised to know that some of the children had never seen a football in their lives. It was a joy to see them hitting , a tennis ball with a cricket bat. We had also carried some clothes for the villagers, which were handed over to the sarpanch.

The village head, Ram Dayal requested us to help with the health-care, which was non-existent in the village. The nearest place to get even the basic medicines was Talha, which was twenty five kms away. The villagers have to carry all the patients to Talha for treatment too. The sad reality is that many patients pass away even before reaching Talha. Immediately we requested Mahadev to arrange for a doctor from Talha to visit at least once a fortnight for medical check-ups and provide whatever basic medical assistance could be given. We plan to get in touch with some pharmaceutical companies, who could provide OTC (over the counter) and other commonly used medicines for these villagers.

The efforts put in by the Lodge Elysium Masonic Charitable Trust are a small step. Government agencies are probably doing their best to combat these problems. But more still needs to be done for the welfare of the down-trodden villagers. I reckon all of us need to do whatever we can do for these villagers. One of the other ways in which the help could be given is to ease their water problems.

We reached Rajgarh at around 5.00 p.m. and before calling it a day passed by the Rajgarh Fort, Alwar City and reached Delhi around nine.

Later that night it gave me a great sense of satisfaction to know that the children of Dewari Gowada would be sitting comfortably in their huts turning over the pages of the books under their new electric light.

Thank you for being with me on this journey to the Aravali Hills.

p.s. This post was originally written for circulation to the Freemasons of North India, but considering my attachment to this blog, I couldn’t help publishing it here.

About Ram Dhall

Ram Dhall has written 22 posts at Ghumakkar.

(vo) Puchhte Hain Kii Ghalib Kaun Hai, Koi Batalaye, Ke Hum Batalaayen Kya. An avid book lover, a passionate traveller (always looking for the next destination) and a lover of Indian and Western classical music - that's what Ram Dhall is all about.

29 Responses to “Jungle Mein Mangal – Village Dewari Gowada in the Aravali Hills”


  1. nandanjha says:

    Ram – First of all a big thanks for deciding to publish this story here and sharing with all of us the great work this trust is doing.

    Its getting pretty routine but you have a great knack of making things comprehensive and your works are very ‘complete’ :) with all the background information, context, current reality, etc etc.

    And finally with this post, you have now 10 stories here and ‘Authors’ page welcomes you.

    Thanks again.

  2. Patrick Jones says:

    Skeletons tumbling out of a cupboard. But what tumbles out of Ram’s cupboard are gems – increasing in weight and purity each time he opens it. This one is so far the best, I would say.

    ‘Overwhelmed’ is the only word I could find in my limited vocabulary to describe the emotions that came over me while going thru this post. The enchanting landscape, the off-road travel, the simple villagers and their plight – especially that of the women and children – and above all the humanitarian effort of some good folks.

    Never imagined one Freemason is right in the midst of us. Would like to know more about your activities.

    Superb!

  3. Ram Dhall says:

    Nandan,

    Thanks for your very sweet words. I am feeling honoured.

    I would also like to express my gratitude for welcoming me to the Authors’ page. I have no hesitation in admitting that but for your initial guidance and continued support, I wouldn’t have made to this elated section.

    Thanks and God’s blessings.

  4. Ram Dhall says:

    Patrick,

    I am indeed very grateful to you for your kind remarks, which have added a lot of value to my humble submission.

    You have always been a storehouse of energy and encouragement for many of us and the best thing is that your generosity is immensely graceful.

    Thank you very much. May God bless you.

  5. Vikas says:

    Excellent use of photographs…..

  6. renjith kumar says:

    Sir,

    after gng through it…i feel a lot more to be explored in north.

    We can have such events very frequently…….i can also be a part of the same too.

    with love
    jith

  7. Sudhir says:

    Ram,

    Am reminded about a movie “Swades”. The difference, though, is that folks like you are heroes in real life. Hats off to you. Patrick is right in saying that gems tumble out of your cupboard. Stupendous effort !!!

    For the other part, the pics are excellent and so is the write up.

  8. Ram Dhall says:

    Sudhir,

    I am deeply touched by your very kind words. Getting such remarks from a person like you is a big honour for anyone.

    Thank you very much for the encouragement. This will give me addional strength to do something more creative for such down-trodden village folks.

    God bless you.

  9. Venkat says:

    Dear Ram,
    The old Chinese saying- a journey of a thousand miles starts with a small step-always comes to my mind when I reflect on the LEMCT village electrification project!
    A million thanks to the golfers, and sponsors, who gave us the courage to venture to help the poor and deprived. They enabled us to collect the funds.
    As for your inputs, support and encouragement, let me just say a big Thank You.
    I feel by publishing this article , on this site,we can reach out to the larger world who believe in caring and sharing with those who are less priveleged.
    Keep the flag flying…
    Venkat

  10. Terence D'Souza says:

    Dear Ram,
    I see the hand of God in all this.
    The people who came together to raise funds, the FreeMasoners, the Villagers and their children and families, people like Venkat and you who put into action what many of us only dream and fall woefully short of when it comes to the execution!

    God bless you all and among other things, I want to assure you all that my prayers are offered daily to God to bless all of you and the work you are doing. We came into this world empty handed, & any good we do here on earth, is our THANK YOU to God for sending us here and giving us all the beauty and goodness of life and friends.

    Lots of love to you and the family.

    Affly.,
    Terry.

  11. Ram Dhall says:

    Terence,

    I am deeply touched by your very kind words. Despite my best efforts, I don’t think I will be able to compose a suitable response to your remarks.

    As you said, we all do see the hand of God in the electrification of Village Dewari Gowada. As a matter of fact, we were scheduled to do this work at a village called “Garh”, also in the Aravali Hills. Due to certain technical reasons, there were some delays in fund raising and the Village Garh was taken over by some other agency and we were suggested the name of Dewari Gowada. We started planning, which took some time and finally with God’s kind grace, the village was electrified in the last week of July, 2008.

    We are indeed very grateful to you for remembering us in your prayers. Sinners like me do need lots of prayers.

    May God be with you, always.

  12. JUSTICE DEVINDERF GUPTA says:

    WELL DONE VENKAT SUNDERAM. MAY THE GAOTU BLESS YOU WITH ENOUGH STRENGTH TO ENABLE YOU TO FULFIL THE OBJECTIVES.

    JUSTICE DEVINDER GUPTA

  13. Celine says:

    Excellent Ram.
    The topic, the write up, the information in it, the photographs, the social service and above all, your kindness..indeed excellent.

  14. Ram says:

    Celine,

    I am deeply touched by your kind remarks.

    As Terence has said, we all see the hand of God in this. So, God be praised and thanked for the small step that has been taken. God willing we would endeavour to do a few things in the coming months, which might provide some relief to these villagers.

    Thanks once again.

    Vikas,

    Thanks for your remarks. Please do keep on visiting us more often.

  15. Subash Kapor says:

    Bringing light in the lives of few unfortunates (literally) is no small task. Trusts/NGOs are made up of, may be, ordinary people but what they DO is EXTRAORDINARY. You are definitely an extraordinary person doing extraordinary deeds. Detailed and enchanting desciption of a non- descriptive village proves your acumen for noticing details and putting it in black and white. Please continue the good work of lighting up lives. My wishes and kudos to you.

  16. Ram Dhall says:

    Subash ji,

    Many thanks for your very kind and touching remarks. Your encouraging words have not only added value to the post, but would also act as an energiser,urging the Trust to do still better.

    God willing we would come up to your expectations.

    Warm regards and Season’s greetings.

  17. The work you are doing with help from your Lodge Brethren under the Elysium Trust is truly laudable. It is a true reflection of the tenets of Masonry and the conciousness that each lodge should have towards the lesser-privileged sections of the society. May T.G.A.O.T.U grant all of you strength and prudence to carry on your wonderful work.

    S & F
    W.Bro. Ambarish Singh Roy
    Lodge Good Fellowship No.71 GLI

  18. Ram Dhall says:

    Dear W.Bro. Ambrish Singh Roy,

    I am indeed very grateful to you for your warm words of encouragement.

    This was the first project undertaken by the Lodge Elysium. It was a herculean task to conduct a Golf tournament, raise money through sponsorships, identify a suitable village for the project, and finally implement the project in a remote area. Now, we are adding value by providing medical assistance to the villagers, mosquito nets and purit water purification systems at the village. We have also opened a webiste http://www.elysiumtrust.com. Kindly take a look. Finally, a nursery school is also envisaged at the village.

    You are welcome to join us in Lodge Elysium. We meet on 3rd Thursdays at Freemasons Hall, Janpath, New Delhi.

    Fraternal greetings and warm regards,

    Ram Dhall

  19. manish khamesra says:

    Ram Uncle,

    Its such a pleasant feeling to start the day with this write-up.

    I was wondering that does anyone slept the night the village was electrified!

    I think that ghumakkar is blessed to have article of this sort, posted on it.

    Thanks for keep sharing such things, as I am sure that you might be part of many such other events. I remember reading similar things, though to a lesser extent in Philip Mathai’s post.

    There are miles to go before we sleep …

  20. Ram Dhall says:

    Manish,

    Thanks for your warm words.

    Yes, the villagers were indeed very happy. They expressed their happiness by doing “Bhajan Kirtan” under the street lights provided by the trust.

    We are now trying to provide some medical assistance, mosquito nets and water purification systems and also plan to open a nursery school.

    Best regards

  21. mani says:

    Dear Ram,
    A heart touching article with explicit but comprehensive details. Fantastic Photograps speak the depth of your work. That is a great work your are doing, please keep it up.
    I have two suggestions, if I may, firstly, need to chase the govt agencies to provide at least basic health (PHSC) & education facilities (Primary school) in this impoverished village; secondly, may be youhave already done it, the need to establish a village committee/SHG to take care and maintain such an important infrastructure you have built for them so that it lasts forever. Thanks for sharing this Godly piece of work. Have a Great Christmas and Glorious 2009, may all of us light up more lives in the 2009.
    Regards and best wishes,
    mani

  22. Ram says:

    Mani,

    I am indeed very grateful to you for your kind and overwhelming words.

    Yes, the village committee with a sarpanch and four members is there. As a matter of fact, considering the maintenance expenses after the expiry of warranty period, they have already started collecting funds and during our last visit we were told that a sum of Rs. 26K is already there in that account. As an incentive, we have promised to add an equal amount (to the funds contributed by the villagers) whenever the need arises.

    I fully agree with your suggestion of basic health services. Till such time the Government agencies do something, we are arranging to send a doctor from Talha to visit the village twice a month.

    We have purchased “Pureit” water filters, which are battery operated to take care of the drinking water. We would endeavour to install thes filters in their houses by the first week of January.

    We are trying to move slowly and steadly and would request you to keep on guiding us in our small endeavour.

    Warm regards and best wishes.

  23. Ravi says:

    dear ram dhall,
    it was wonderful to hear about your social service.hope god will send few more people like you for our great country.may god bless you.
    ravi

  24. arvindpadmanabhan says:

    Good to learn of your volunteering efforts. This should inspire more people to do the same. Follow-ups are important and I am glad you went back to check. Lots of projects, even in big cities like Bangalore, are done with good intentions but left unmaintained till they go into disuse.

  25. Uday says:

    Ram,

    I followed your comment on my post to reach your ‘author page’, and was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon this post. I happen to work for SunTechnics, the arm of Conergy that was responsible for planning and executing this project along with Lodge elysium Masonic Trust. And I happened to be part of the two-men team (along with Venkat) that made the the first ceconnaissance trip to Dewri Guwada before the actual installations took place. Loads of fond memories came rushing back as I finished reading your post!

    My compliments for an excellent piece of journalism (this is more than a post), and it was great to note that you made a follow-up visit. Our team did one earlier this year, and the systems were running fine.

  26. Ram says:

    Uday,

    What a small world !!!

    What a joy knowing that you are the same Uday, who travelled all the way along with Venkat to do the feasibility study. I must say that you guys have done a wonderful job and helped the villagers in coming out of darkness.

    I am sure that you will be happy to know that we have already provided Pureit water filters at each and every hut in the village and are now actively working on providing them some clean sanitary facilities and also some medical help.

    Thanks for your kind words about the post.

  27. Kristopher Stevens says:

    Greetings Bro. Ram

    My name is Kris Stevens and I head up the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association (www.ontario-sea.org) in Canada that represents the Community Power sector. We have a conference coming up in November (www.cpconference.ca) that will have an international component. It would be great to showcase the work done by Conergy and the Masonic Trust with the local community. I would also like to connect the great work you are doing to the Grand Lodge here and the Lodges across the province that now are able to put solar on their roofs and sell their power back to the grid contributing to the phase out of dirty coal in Ontario, job creation and the green re-industrialization of the province.

    I look forward to being in touch.

    Regards, Kris

  28. Ram says:

    Dear Bro. Kris,

    I am feeling elated seeing a brother from Canada commenting on my humble post. Thank you so much.

    It gives me a deep sense of satisfaction in sharing with you that now Grand Lodge of India (GLI) has adopted this model and is evaluating the possibility of similarly providing solar PV module to arrange home lighting in another village in the same area (Aravali Hills). Around 115 huts will be provided with the home lighting solutions and this would benefit over 600 people. Also the GLI is celebrating its Golden Jubilee 2011/12 and has decided to provide Solar PV solutions to fifty villages across India. Lodge Elysium Trust has now wider ramifications. As a part of the initiative to help the residents of Village Dewari Gowda, we have also endeavored to provide clean drinking water by giving water filters to each family and also constructed six toilets as a part of the sanitation drive. Still a lot needs to be done for these villagers and we are slowly moving forward to meet their other basic needs.

    I would like to send you a small booklet giving the profile of the trust. Kindly notify your address.

    It is heartening to note about your conference in November. The brethren of Lodge Elysium wish your conference a great success and thank you for your thought of connecting us to the Grand Lodge and the provincial lodges.

    Please do stay in touch.

    With fraternal greetings,

    Ram

  29. H. Yama says:

    Dear Mr. Dhall,

    I would be more than grateful if you could tell me whether the very first picture on this page, the “indian_tiger.jpg”, is a photo or a painting.

    Thank You,

    H. Yama



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