India the spiritual engine of the world: India has been the spiritual engine of the world. Thousands of sincere spiritual aspirants across the world throng India based ashrams and seek the guidance of masters. Unfortunately many seekers are disappointed, as their basic expectations are unmet. Most ashrams lack basic infrastructure like clean toilets, hygienic kitchen, and comfortable accommodation. More importantly, spiritual centers have been leaning on cultish attitude, where teacher becomes far more important than the purity of teaching. This has lead to flourishing Gurudoms ruled by control freak spiritual leaders and centers managed by their sycophants. This has watered down the extent of exploration possible where progressive awareness takes a back seat. Seekers are disillusioned as they often encounter saffron-clad fake yogis who fleece large amounts of money and mislead people by promising them rare wisdom and transmissions of energy.
How did the idea of Kevala surface? Kevala Cosmic Celebration Center is an expression of a mission of ‘Ascended Masters’ to create a unique hub for ‘celebration’ and ‘ascension of awareness’. Dr. Pradeep Ullal, a powerful Himalayan yogi was chosen for this mission. All events came into alignment by divine timing. Meanwhile, ardent students of the yogi across the world were urging him to set up an ashram in a sacred space in India to express his unique teachings on the path of spiritual ascension.
Identifying the sacred space: Parthibhan Chettiar, a long time friend of the Yogi informed of an exquisitely beautiful site in the valley surrounded by the Chandra Drona hills famed for 3 of the highest peaks in Karnataka- Mullayana Giri, Baba Budan Giri, and Devi Giri. Giri means hills in kannada, the locally spoken language. In the year 2010, this shiva-shaktistal (energy center) in the sacred valley of Chikmagalur was identified as the sacred space for carrying out the mission of Kevala. It was instant connection at first sight as it revealed that a powerful Rishi (enlightened master) had meditated in this space over 2500 years ago. A large rock peeked out in the site. It was later revealed in a vision that there is an underground cave where the Rishi had meditated.
Identifying the site for Cosmic forest: Yogi Pradeep Ullal observed that several ascended masters have been transmitting rare energies in a specific spot on the site. This was the time, the yogi met Sachidananda Nayak a powerful vedic master and expert agriculturist. There was an instant connection and a site visit that followed; the idea of growing a cosmic forest was born.
Designing the cosmic forest: Sachidananda Nayak came up with a unique concept of growing 11 cosmic forests on the chosen kevala site. He was inspired by a book –Pracheena Vana Nirmana Paddhathi (ancient forest growing tradition) written by a powerful nature scientist – Mr. Nagendra Bhatt hailing from Hittalahalli near Sirsi district. While sitting across the drawing board, a powerful insight came through to the yogi, which resulted in design of spiraling pathway of the proposed Kevala cosmic forest. Sachidananda was convinced that he could design the cosmic forest in a unique cluster formation. The forest site was identified at the center of the kevala site. Shyam Prasad, a brilliant engineer from Bangalore showed keen interest to serve kevala project and be a part of the core family. His skills, insights, and ability to strike best deals with vendors made a significant impact on Kevala project. The first of his contributions was engineering CAD drawings of the 3 ½ spiraling cosmic forest pathways and intersection medians.
Creating the Cosmic Forest Pathway: After several attempts to scout for a talented landscape artist for kevala, we found Vadhan, a post-graduate artist from Chitra Kala Parishad. Armed with an in-house dedicated team, vadhan carved the spiraling stone pathway in about 40 days time. The outcome was truly striking and lived up to the powerful concept that we had envisaged. Most of the stones for the pathway came from granite quarries in nearby towns of Hassan and kadur. Most of the stones were discarded as waste. The quarry owners were more than happy to dispose the waste granite stones. At Kevala site, it turned out just apt for building the pathway. Shantaram Shetty, from Chikmagalur a student of the yogi offered his truck to transport the stones from the quarries to kevala site.
Planting the trees at cosmic forest: Huge collection of rare saplings were collected by Vadhan and Sachidananda. Most of the saplings were carefully grown at the nursery run by Vadhan. The planting began on 04th August 2014.
Constructing Kevala Cosmic Celebration Center: After a lot of deliberations on the design, approach, style that would express the uniqueness of kevala, we finally laid the foundation stone for construction on 1st October 2012. As expected, rains came pouring down on site, signaling nature’s approval for the project.
Getting off-the blocks: There were a few obstacles that made construction a challenge. Finding a consistent, skilled, dedicated local contractor and work force was hard to find at chikmagalur. We signed Center for Vernacular Architecture a Bangalore based trust as the civil works contractor. They hired the services of Basu, a highly skilled mason and his team from Raichur in Karnataka to complete the structure. We decided to adopt vernacular style of architecture. This meant we would use locally available laterite, rocks, granite, wire cut bricks as the basic building blocks. We soon realized that there was no material available close to site. Being located in a remote village made transporting material on site, expensive and cumbersome. We had only INR 36 lakhs dedicated to the start of the project. This was drawn from savings of Dr. Pradeep Ullal and his wife Vinaya Varma Ullal. They committed to arrange for funds in due course. The funds came in a trickle while the project sucked more than envisaged owing to a few unprofessional decisions, supervision errors and short-sightedness of the contractor and the architect-Sundeep Nagaraj.
Prakash, the saviour: Despite being a blessed project, nothing stopped hawkish contractor, vendors, masons, workers and sub-contractors from trying every trick in the trade to fleece us. However divine help came in the form of Prakash, a simple and honest mason from chikmagalur. He took on the onus of being our man friday and chief-coordinator on site, representing kevala’s interests. He cushioned our cost escalation, kept vigil on site works, negotiated with vendors and brought down pilferages considerably.
Raising funds for kevala: By January 2011, funds had dried up. Parthibhan raised an alarm. This prompted Dr. Pradeep Ullal to find a way to bridge the huge gap of funds. He took a hard decision to sell the property inherited from his mother (Nalini Ullal) and father (Rammohan Rao Ullal). It was the family house that he grew up in a beautiful residential township called Vidyaranyapura. The sale of the property fetched a sum, which seemed good enough to meet the project completion of kevala project.
CVA’s Debacle: By December of 2013, the project was nowhere near completion and funds were used up. The contractor at Center for Vernacular Architecture (CVA) had terribly underestimated the funds required and quoted, and also was guilty of over charging kevala for services that they offered. It became apparent that CVA’s site engineer seemed clueless about the trajectory of the project. Sundeep our Architect too had made a colossal error in executing the huge water sump under the meditation hall. The 125,000-liter capacity tank, which was built using standard bricks, instead of stones, began leaking terribly. Many ill-advised suggestions to arrest the leak with waterproofing techniques only cost us dearly without any success. CVA didn’t want to own up for any of their failures. Their incompetence and attitude was affecting our project severely. It was a piquant situation for us. We had to take a hard decision. Our core team brainstormed on how do we go ahead given the current situations. CVA claimed to finish off the project by bringing down costs. However as expected they abandoned the project. This decision in a way came to us a blessing.
Taking control of Project: By January 2014, the fate of Kevala stood on 2 key factors. The most important of it being the availability of funds, and the second being our ability to handle the project without the services of a civil works contractor. Prakash our mason gave us immense confidence that he can get it done. We had estimated that we could manage rest of the construction if we could raise about INR 50 lakhs. Yogi Pradeep was blessed enough with friends and connections who helped to raise the required money through crowd funding and individual contributions. The Kevala site came abuzz again after 2 months of inactivity. A bunch of workers were brought on site. We awarded sub-contracts to plumbers, carpenters, electricians, floor tile layers, landscapers, water proofing agencies and so on.
Support from Ashray, our new Architect: We soon realized that our project did require the services of an architect who could give timely advice on materials, design, and help us maintain a grip on quality of work. Ashray from Jyaamiti Architecture came to our rescue. His willingness to help kevala at the crucial juncture, gave us the confidence to step up the project momentum.
Funds Crunch: Despite all checks and supervision, it became apparent to us that the project was requiring much more than we had estimated. By August of 2014, we had again used up all the funds. The second phase of fund raising began earnestly in September 2014. The funds poured in and the works resumed on site as expected.