From the majestic peaks of Malana to the sky high views from Mawlynnong India’s villages have long now been admired for their aesthetic beauty. Creating a quaint and charming setting, they represent that part of our realm which has been untouched by time. But could you imagine that these villages are now setting standards for the rest of the country? From discouraging open defecation with a simple smile to being completely WiFi enabled, some of them have truly set a benchmark for urban dwellers to take a step back and confront the realities of their communal disharmony.
A few notable leaders have put their foot down and created a class action movement in their own areas, inspiring the educated mass to follow in their stride. With more than 6 Lakh villages in the country, the following list outlines those who are on the forefront of the movement in India and setting the bar high for the rest of the country.
I. Mawlynnong, Meghalaya
The cleanest village in India.
As you walk into this village, the revelation of an alternate paradise amidst the urban cities dawns upon you. Mostly built on bamboo stilts, the village creates a sky walk like setting that affords a beautiful view of neighbouring Bangladesh. Located about 90 kilometres from Shillong, Mawlynnong’s beauty lies in ‘The Living Root Bridges’, naturally made bridges knotted by the roots of a gigantic rubber tree. According to visitors, the village is kept clean by the bamboo baskets kept outside every house to dispose of waste and its dedicated public who actually use them.
II. Malana, Himachal Pradesh
One of the oldest democracies in the world.
Malana is an ancient village, to the North-East of the Kullu Valley. Being isolated from the rest of the country by the majestic peaks that shadow it, this village exists with its own culture and social structure. Historically known to have been guided by the village deity Jamlu Rishi - believed to have been worshipped since pre-Aryan times - the republic runs solely on the faith of the villagers. The local administration is conducted by eleven elders representing a parliamentary system, under the control of the deity himself.
III. Hiware Bazaar, Maharashtra
The richest village in India with 60 millionaires among its residents.
Inspired by the Anna Hazare led movement in Ralegan Siddhi, the only postgraduate in the village Popatrao Pawar, decided to contest in the local panchayat elections and became the Sarpanch. Transforming Hiware Bazaar from a drought stricken village into the prosperous one that it is now, boasting of 52 earthen bunds, 32 stone bunds, and 9 check dams, the village has the highest per capita income in the country. The secret of their success are the rainwater harvesting and water conservation programmes initiated by the Sarpanch.
IV. Pothanikkad, Kerala
The village with a 100% literacy rate.
Creating an example for the rest of the country, Kerala is known for its great efforts towards literacy and education. And where better to start than with Pothanikkad, this village sings its own praises as it is the first ever 100% literate village, where all the residents, young or old know how to read and write. It is also considered to be one of the earliest advanced villages in the nation, both culturally and socially. Not only does it house a city-standard high school system, but also private and primary set-ups as well.
V. Chappar, Haryana
Feminism is the chant of this village in Haryana.
Neelam decided to stand for Sarpanch elections in a state where aggressive patriarchy exists, and wrote a new story for the village by feminising the thoughts of its residents. Making an active effort to include women, she set in motion their studies and involved them in matters of the village. From practising female infanticide to distributing sweets on the birth of a baby girl, this Haryanvi village progressed to liberating the women from their ghunghats (the traditional headscarf).
VI. Ralegaon Siddhi, Maharashtra
The birthplace of Anna Hazare creates a sustainable village model.
Being the birthplace of social activist Anna Hazare, it comes no surprise that this village became a beacon of shining light for many urban and rural dwellers to create a watershed management system in their own hometowns. By implementing scientific farming practices, the dedicated residents spent thousands of hours to create a self sustainable ecosystem of grains and necessary agricultural produce. As Anna always says, “The dream of India as a strong nation will not be realized without self-reliant, self-sufficient villages, this can be achieved only through social commitment & involvement of the common man.”
VII. Shani Shingnapur, Maharashtra
The village without doors.
The temple of Shani Shinganapur strengthens the tradition of the locals to not instill locks and doors to their house doors. The villagers believe that a curse ‘Sade Saati’ (a belief of seven and a half years of bad luck) befalls those who enter spitefully through the empty frame that substitute the front doors of houses. Apart from houses, even the police station and branch of the UCO bank are doorless.
VIII. Kathewadi, Maharashtra
From alcoholism to a model village, this village is an inspiration.
Starting out just like any other village in India, Kathewadi was drowning in gambling, alcoholism and poverty. This was until The Art of Living organization transformed it into a model village within a year and a half. All the families in the village are connected to self help groups and initiated a daan peti (donation boxed), with a communal sense of faith and fellowship, led to a feasible set up of a shop with no keeper. By saving money from alcoholism and the shops, the residents were able to build toilets for each of the households.
IX. Dharnai, Bihar
This is India’s first solar powered village.
While we urban dwellers make do with power cuts and shifts, the citizens of this small village in Bihar declared itself energy independent with the help of Greenpeace and two other NGOs that work in the area. The residents along with the volunteers collaborated to build a solar powered micro-grid to serve the village. After a few months of testing the system went online, serving 450 homes, housing 2,400 residents and around 50 businesses. Addressing common property, even street lights, water pumps, schools and health care center, it the grid has a battery to contain surplus electricity for hours of despair.
X. Bekkinakeri, Karnataka
This village got rid of open defecation by simply wishing each other ‘good morning’.
Open defecation still remains one of the biggest challenges that India is facing today, however this village in north Karnataka is changing the game by simply wishing villagers ‘good morning’ whenever they would catch each other with a lota or tumbler heading towards the open fields, a sign that they were going to relieve themselves. An initiative that is amusing but has created a drastic change in the regressive practices of the country.
XI. Punsari, Gujarat
This village is WiFi enabled and installed with CCTV cameras.
As the rural population is moving to the metropolis, Punsari a ‘model village’ is offering the ‘amenities of a city but the spirit of a village”, as stated by Himanshu Patel the local headman. The village not only has the basic infrastructure of toilets, two primary schools, a primary health care centre, street lights and a drainage system, but also runs on a WiFi enabled system, with CCTV camera fixed at landmarks of the village. It is also installed with 140 loudspeakers that operates as a public address system.
XII. Khonoma, Nagaland
This village refuses to cut down any of its trees.
Considered India’s first green village, this hidden gem in Nagaland boasts of its 700 years of precious forests and unique form of agriculture. This revelation took place in the 1990’s when the villagers took a bold step to ban all logging and hunting activity in the forests of their homeland. The switch to the green movement has been acknowledged by many especially because the culture and roots of Nagaland depend heavily on hunting and on nature.
XIII. Mattur, Tamil Nadu
The village where everyone speaks Sanskrit.
Mattur is a tiny hamlet in the Shivamogga district of Karnataka which is home to a devout Brahmin community that is keeping the art of Sanskrit alive. It began 500 years ago when scholarly Brahmins migrated from Pudukottai in Tamil Nadu and decided to settle there, along the banks of the river Tunga. The community is mainly agrarian but they are also skilled in the dying art of Gamaka, a form of storytelling. They are a deeply religious community and all the facets of old Hindu traditions are practised here in day to day life.