In the north of India, the Aravali Mountains rise from the parched desert plains of Rajasthan. Chief among them is Mount Abu. In ancient texts and folklore, Abu is praised as a holy place, and is associated with the names of sages and seers. Even today, numerous temples and hermitages are to be found in the area. Many former Rajput kings built their palaces and summer homes — several of them have stood the test of time — in the surrounding hills.
Nestled in the cool heights of the mountains is the hill station of Mount Abu, where the international headquarters of the Brahma Kumaris, called ‘Madhuban’ (meaning forest of honey) is located.
A living social laboratory and a largely self-sufficient community, it is the place to which a large international family of practicing yogis comes every year. When one steps inside the holy precincts of Madhuban, one can feel a spiritual energy that gives an experience of peace and inner joy not to be found anywhere else.
In Madhuban, the principal attractions are Baba’s Hut, Baba’s Room and the Tower of Peace. Baba’s Hut is the place where the founder, Prajapita Brahma, did intense meditation, spreading subtle rays of peace to all souls of the world. The Tower of Peace is the place where the mortal remains of the founder father were laid to rest.
The Universal Peace Hall, also known as Om Shanti Bhawan, is the main auditorium in Madhuban. An attractive, free-spanning structure, the Hall seats 3,000 people, and has facilities for simultaneous translation in 16 languages. Opened in 1983, the Hall has been the venue of major international conferences and is visited by more than 8,000 tourists daily.
Madhuban hosts a minimum of 35,000 residential guests annually and is home to about 500 permanent residents who work in the 42 departments that cater to the physical and spiritual needs of visitors from around the world. The departments look after accommodation, laundry, transport, gardens, the audio-visual systems, power supply, sanitation etc. The kitchen can prepare meals for up to 4,000 people at a time; additional kitchens produce toli (much-favoured sweets and savouries) and tea. Pandav Bhawan.
Gyan Sarovar (Lake Of Knowledge)
The Brahma Kumaris started building the campus for the Academy for a Better World, an institution of higher learning established by the Brahma Kumaris along with its sister institution, the World Renewal Spiritual Trust, and Rajyoga Education and Research Foundation, in 1991. The aim was to provide a training facility for the institution’s outreach to all sections of society. Within a few years, 28 acres of land near the institution’s headquarters in Mount Abu was transformed into a modern village complex in a quiet, rural setting.
The Academy, known in Hindi as Gyan Sarovar Vidyapeeth, offers residential programmes and courses on development and practical implementation of human, moral and spiritual values and principles.
The campus includes Universal Harmony Hall, an auditorium that can seat 1,600 people and has facilities for simultaneous translation in 16 languages; the International Spiritual Art Gallery housing sculptures, murals, audio-visual and laser displays and other works of art from around the world; the International Centre for Higher Learning comprising 13 seminar and training rooms; accommodation for up to 1,500 people; kitchen and dining facilities that can cater to 1,200 people at a time; three man-made lakes that irrigate the 15,000 trees planted to provide fruits and vegetables and a rural retreat atmosphere; and a solar water heater for cooking. The telephone exchange, computers and emergency lighting systems are powered by solar and wind energy, and a unique waste treatment plant is capable of treating 200,000 litres of washing, kitchen and bathroom waste water daily, of which nearly 80 percent is available for re-use.
In 1996, the Academy was presented to Habitat II, the second UN Conference on Human Settlements held in Istanbul, Turkey. It was recognised as part of the Best Practice Initiative for Human Settlements more..
Shantivan (Forest of Peace)
Six kilometres from Abu Road on the road to Mount Abu, on your left you can see a magnificent complex known as Shantivan. Built to accommodate the ever-growing Brahma Kumaris community and its spiritual activities, the complex provides a spacious venue for conferences, spiritual congregations and educational and other retreats.
The main attraction of Shantivan is the massive Diamond Hall, built in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the institution in 1996. The simple yet elegant structure, which notably has no pillars inside, can accommodate about 20,000 people.
Shantivan has another large hall, the Conference Hall, which can seat 1,200 people and has facilities for simultaneous translation in six languages. Besides, there are six smaller halls, each of which can accommodate 350 people for lectures, seminars and workshops. There are also two halls for mediation, and a spiritual museum. The residential buildings in the complex can house about 15,000 people.
The Gyanamrit Bhawan (House of Nectar of Knowledge) houses the printing press where most of the institution’s literature is printed. It is here that two of the periodicals of the institution — Gyanamrit and The World Renewal — are published.
Shantivan has modern means of communication, transport facilities, well laid-out roads, power back-up and solar energy systems for cooking. more..
The Brahma Kumaris Peace Park is both lovely and serene; a natural environment where silence and recreation co-exist. The park is nestled between two peaks of the Aravali hills — Guru Shikhar and Achal Garh – that are popular places of pilgrimage.
The park is an oasis of natural beauty about eight kilometres from the Brahma Kumaris headquarters in Mount Abu. Part of the charm of the place is that it is lovingly cared for by dedicated Brahma Kumars and Kumaris who delight in welcoming thousands of tourists every day.
On entering the park grounds, visitors are greeted by a rock garden that hosts a wide variety of succulents. The landscaping accommodates an orchard and a citrus corner as well as floral displays that include ornamental shrubs, coleus, geraniums, hibiscus, climbers and creepers and an exquisite rose garden.
In addition to taking a guided tour around the park, visitors can watch a short video film that highlights the innate beauty of the human soul and interesting concepts related to Rajyoga meditation. If anyone wants to get an experience of meditation, there is a choice of suitable places to do so: a grass hut, a stone cave, a bamboo meditation hut and several quiet spots in the peaceful environs of the park.
Playgrounds, picnic areas, swings and walking trails offer ample spaces for recreation, too. more