The 52 odd houses at the Moozhikkulamshala organic campus in Ernakulam district aren’t separated by compound walls or concrete fencing; instead, they are connected by a unique bond of camaraderie, inspired by pure love for nature. You won’t see a giant gate at the entrance of the campus to separate the residents from the rest of the world. Anyone could walk into this calm and serene atmosphere and enjoy the ravishing beauty of unadulterated nature. The extremely organic lifestyle that the residents follow here has kept even the dreaded COVID-19 away from the campus. Moozhikulamshala, a unique housing project in the quaint countryside in Kerala has shown the international community that an alternative lifestyle is possible even in modern times when the world is ravaged by the pandemic and ill effects of climate change.
TR Premkumar, noted environmental activist and the man behind the Moozhikulamshala organic campus in Parakadavu panchayath says that the project promises a significant step towards an organic and natural lifestyle that is completely carbon neutral in nature. It is quite impressive that only one family had tested positive for coronavirus here, ever since the first case was reported in Kerala in 2020 January. Currently, around 70 people live in 30 houses inside the shala campus.
An alternate lifestyle is possible
Premkumar was inspired by the great legacy of the ancient learning center of Moozhikulamshala, from the stories and legends that he had heard as a kid. Later, he learned more about the incredible seat of learning that had existed in the village. Premkumar, a native of Moozhikulamshala, was impressed by the unique ways in which the residents of the center had lived, thousands of years ago. He started the organic campus with the aim to promote an alternate way of life and to spread knowledge about the significance of revering and preserving the natural environment. The environmental organization based in Moozhikulamshala was inaugurated on 19 March 2003. It had started as part of an eco shop that was dedicated to promote local and traditional knowledge about conservation and eco-friendly ways of life. Soon, nature lovers began swarming in to share their knowledge and experience and to work alongside Premkumar to promote the lofty message of environmental conservation.
Their first project was an exhibition called Njattuvela where the display and sale of unique village products had attracted hundreds of people. Besides, they promoted literature, art and music that expressed the soul of nature and environment in the most authentic way. The incredible success of these projects inspired the organizers to conduct two more exhibitions called Samkranti and Kalam. The organization regularly conducted various awareness campaigns and interventions. Meanwhile, the organic campus with 52 houses was inaugurated on 14 April 2011. The houses have been designed in the Larry Baker style which uses minimal building materials. These houses truly represent the organization’s motto that every living being has an equal right over natural resources.
History states that there had been four universities in Kerala, modeled after the grand universities of Nalanda and Takshashila, around 1200 years ago, during the reign of Kulasekhara Perumal who had ruled the princely state with Kodungallur as his capital. Thiruvananthapuram Kalanthurshala, Thiruvallashala, Thiruvananthapuram Parthivapuramshala and Moozhikulamshala were the four ancient universities. Kalanthurshala, the biggest among them, was often touted as the Nalanda of South. It is believed that more than one thousand students had lived and studied at Moozhikulamshala which offered primary education.
Sama Veda, Sanskrit, Grammar and Kalaripayattu or the traditional martial arts form were taught at Moozhikulamshala. Historians believe that the Chalakudy River may have changed its course and sunk Moozhikulamshala. Moozhikulam thus is an incredibly special village that has great significance in the history of the state. Premkumar had conceived the Moozhikulamshala organic campus on the banks of the river as a tribute to the thousands of people who had lived here eons ago.
52 houses have been built on the campus that sprawls in 2 acres and 40 cents. There are 23 houses that are designed in the traditional naalukettu style while 29 houses are small ones with just one bedroom. The fact that there are no compound walls or fences to separate these houses are what make Moozhikulamshala stand out. Besides, no house in the campus features an additional upper storey. The houses have been designed like this as Premkumar was adamant that the soothing breeze from the Chalakkudy River should blow through every house in the campus. It is a giant banyan tree that is more than a decade old what welcomes visitors into the campus.
A platform has been built around the banyan tree where you can sit and enjoy the fresh air. Moreover, an earthen pot full of drinking water would always be kept at the platform. Interestingly, there are more than one hundred and fifty species of flora, including this grand banyan tree, in the campus. Birds find their homes in these trees and animals too roam around enjoying the cool shade. No one is allowed to sweep away the dried leaves that fall off the trees or burn them alongside waste. The dry leaves decay and become one with the soil, enriching it with nutrients. Chemical fertilizers and other harmful pesticides aren’t allowed inside the campus. Proper arrangements have been made to scientifically treat kitchen and plastic waste. As the rainwater is allowed to completely seep into the ground, the residents hardly complain of water shortage.
Huge wells ensure that clean drinking water is available at all times. Moreover, there is a public tank that holds up to 25,000 liters of water. Pipe connections have been arranged from here to all the 52 houses in the campus. There aren’t separate tanks or wells for individual houses. Birds, animals, butterflies, bees, frogs, squirrels and earthworms exist in pure harmony with human beings here. Interestingly, whatever grows inside the campus belongs to everyone, including birds, animals, humans and every other living being. There are public places and recreation areas where kids play, perform arts or practice yoga. Movie exhibitions and other events too are held in these open spaces.
The beautiful naalukettu or houses that have inner courtyards exude the elegant charm of traditional architecture. The house that has an area of 1089 sqft has 3 bath-attached bedrooms, kitchen and an adjacent storeroom. Besides, there are annexations that are at least 400 sqft each, around the central courtyard. During the monsoon, you could enjoy the cool rain showers inside your house. The naalukettu homes are built in 5 cents each. Meanwhile, the smaller houses with just one bedroom are built in a cent of the land. A quaint sit-out, a bedroom, bathroom and kitchen are arranged in 230 sqft. Two people can comfortably live in these small yet elegant homes.
Carbon neutral kitchen
The organic campus has come up with the idea of a carbon-neutral kitchen to effectively prevent the natural calamities that happen due to global warming and climate changes. Though the kitchen has been closed due to the pandemic restrictions, Premkumar says that it would be opened as soon as restrictions are lifted. Organic farming is done in the 50 cents land, close to the campus. The dry leaves that are collected from the campus are used as organic manure here. The carbon neutral kitchen is a unique concept that stands out for its politics of environmental protection and good health. Moreover, local dishes that represent the culinary history and tradition of the area are cooked in this kitchen.
Veggies that could be eaten raw, sprout grains, fruits and fresh juice and dried fruits are some of the main items in the menu here. Before the pandemic, people had to book their seats to enjoy the delicious food that is cooked traditionally using organically grown ingredients at the eatery. The carbon-neutral kitchen at Moozhikulamshala and the various awareness campaigns that are conducted in the panchayat aim to educate society about their duty to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide.
The menu at the carbon-neutral kitchen attracts attention for its variety of dishes that have amazing nutritional value. Pineapple juice, fruit salad made by mixing seasonal fruits with fresh honey, rice flakes mixed with jaggery and veggie salad made with sprouts are served as snacks at 11 am. Meanwhile, the lunch service boasts of an elaborate spread comprising of avail (made with carrot, snake gourd, cucumber and papaya), olan (made with ash gourd, pumpkin, cucumber and papaya), varieties of chutney made with gooseberries, raw mango, ginger and bilimbi and steamed balls made of millet, sesame seeds, peanuts and corn. The payasam or the dessert made with millet, tender coconut, dates, bananas and gooseberry water is to die for. Besides, fresh fruit juices and bowls full of freshly cut fruits are served as evening snacks.
University of nature
The lists of programs and events that are organized by the Moozhikulamshala never end. The cultural fests and exhibitions Najttuvela, Samkranti, Kalam, Athira, Rantalvettam and Kazhcha were loved by the people. Exhibition of world cinema, display of ancient texts unearthed from Moozhikulamshala, wall magazine called Sradha, documentation of the paintings by child artist Clint, eco shop, musical nights, Pournami community, keeping the Malayalam calendar, the Njattuvela or farming calendar, Njattuvela clock, Carnatic music concerts that lasts for a month and Koothu performance by Margi Madhu, are some of the cultural activities that are organized by the Moozhikkulamshala. Besides, the musical expression of MT Vasudevan Nair’s Vanprastham by Sreevalsan J Menon, music nights called Rithu Samkranti and Rithu Vandanam that celebrated the mellifluous ragas, sarnag performances, summer camps for kids, drama workshops, monthly community kitchen, cultural performances, awareness campaigns for the protection of Chalakudy River, preservation of the Western Ghats, carbon-neutral panchayat, promoting public transportation, wearing khadi clothes, earth strike, green swaraj, shadow cabinet, budget school, green parliament, water awareness programs, promoting traditional games like kuttim kolum, Malayalam school, heritage walk, visit to the fields, boat journeys, corona help desk, Moozhikulamshala talkies, Dandi March, celebrating the special days dedicated by the UN, carbon neutral kitchen, protection of heritage trees, Parakadavu model panchayat, organic weddings and local markets were some of the major programs and events that had attracted people to the organic campus and the wonderful message they spread.
How to reach
The Moozhikulamshala campus is 7.5 kilometers away from the Athani junction in the Mala route.
You can write to: Moozhikulamshala, Kurumaserry PO, Ernakulam, Pin – 683579. Ph – 9447021246. Email – email@example.com