‘Aranyaka Upanishad’ is ‘Ithaca’ and ‘Home’ in the forest hills of Mussoorie

rainforest in bloom
Pari Tibba

Aranyaka Upanishad and its Vision:

‘Aranyaka Upanishad’ is a forest retreat center set in the himalayan foothills outside of Mussoorie in Uttarkhand, India. The defining vision of this unique wilderness  is of an ‘Ithaca’  or a place where one could have the possibility of coming home  – home to  soul, to the beauty of purest nature, and to body, spirit, and mind. By  venturing into a pristine forest setting such as ‘Aranyaka Upanishad’, we believe,  a person can feel deeply restored, relaxed,  replenished, and emerge centered in a ‘self’ that is part of a greater web of life.

Yoga and Forests:

Like the traditional goals of ‘yoga’ and meditation, we believe that a personal reconnection – however brief and intermittent-  with nature and wilderness  forests, offers a chance to reunite with ones’ own deeper being without much deliberation or effort. It is a reconnection that can often occur spontaneously, silently, and unexpectedly, just from being in a forest setting.  This can bring a quiet kind of healing and relaxation to body, mind, and soul on both conscious and subconscious levels. Such openings and expansions – when they occur – can also affect the deeper nervous and subtle systems and restore our natural capacity for deep living and joyfulness. It seems that the ‘rishis’ of the Vedas were well aware of such effects on the human psyche.

Decolonization from cities:

For most of us, growing up in densely populated and crowded cities around the world, access to pristine forests and wide-open mountain spaces may seem more of a dream or fantasy than a present reality. Pressed by the demands and urgencies of modern life, we have gradually, without even knowing, become alienated from our own deeper roots in the beauty of nature and the magnificent web of life that truly sustains us at the core.

Painful as such fragmentation may be – with all its familiar symptoms of depression, anxiety, disease, aimlessness, ennui, and sadness – it cannot, however,  be absolute for one could no more separate  from the profoundly woven web of life and nature than from ones’ own essential being. It is a question of recognizing  inner longings and genuine needs and of responding to them . Healing then can occur naturally and easily- like water finding its own level.

It is such a reconnection and recognition of the deeper significance of forests and wilderness for our urban post-modern world and now corona-virus ridden world that has inspired ‘Aranyaka Upanishad’ as a forest retreat center. We have created this special place in the lower Himalayas as a way of inviting guests to visit here and enjoy the open space, privacy, peace and beauty of  untouched forests. The forest center – also a place of ‘deep ecology’- is set in fifty acres of prime forest outside of Mussoorie in Uttarkhand.

Residential Spaces and Retreat Cottages, Rooms:

Set in quiet niches of the emerald forest, we have serene living spaces for rent and overnight stay. Each suite and cottage is designed for optimal comfort and enjoyment.

Peony Room
pink room

Prices: Cottages are double occupancy with kitchen and bath and small living area – 4000 Rs. a night, including breakfast. Monthly Rental is 25,000 Rs. with gas and electricity and laundry included.

Rooms are double occupancy and priced at 2,000 Rs. a night including breakfast.

‘Aranyaka Upanishad’ as home:

Living here for over two years now, I have made this my home and am opening up to the wider world. After some repairs and renovations, there is now a retreat center for friends. It is set in a gentle valley surrounded by dense forests on all sides. This encirclement,  a deep emerald-green waterfall of trees, as it were, creates a  distinct atmosphere so the visitor is always and everywhere looking directly at the dramatic presence of the forest in the hills. Watching the sunlight reflecting on this forest-wall while relaxing in an armchair on a wide-angle balcony can be a profound experience in itself. For many of our friends and visitors, meditation happens spontaneously and by itself.

At ‘Aranyaka Upanishad’, we believe that Its far easier to offer critiques of our post-modern urban environments than to offer a genuine alternative. 

At the core, we believe that each being is an energetic living force who is part of a complex and beautiful web of interrelationships. One can choose to be grounded in this truth, to connect with forests, and let the health of our communities guide our actions.

The facilities at ‘Aranyaka Upanishad’ reflect our philosophy for personal connexion to the forests. Each space is set as a private domain for quiet and reflection. It is open to the forest and yet comfortable in every way. Cottages are self-sufficient and ‘warm zones’ for cozy occupation. There is a flow between inside and outside without artificial settings.

Trails:

Surrounding the valley and guest-houses, are a network of mountain trails that lead up and into the forests. One can climb to the top of the hills – an average hike is about an hour and a half each way- and look upon the stunning mountain ranges from the ‘Pari Tibba’ peaks. Camping facilities are available for those who might wish to camp overnight or for longer intervals. Guides are also available for trekking purposes. One takes time to feel the presence of the forest and to observe the flora and fauna all around – the forest-floor, for example, or the bark of an older tree… The forest speaks in many ways and one has but to listen and be aware – to relax the senses and mind so nature can enter in.

In the evenings, we offer the warmth of a wood-burning stove and a gathering place for visitors who may wish to meet and to exchange their experiences. There are often some rather interesting stories to share and questions to ask. There is a library filled with books on the himalayan forests, ecology, spirituality, and local folklore. Our local staff can also offer a wealth of views on related subjects.

Exact Location and Details:

‘Aranyaka Upanishad’ is set seven kilometers outside of the main town of Mussoorie in Uttarkhand. It adjoins the well-known ‘Woodstock School’ and access is from Woodstock parking lot. The closest airport is Jolly Grant in Dehradun, the capital of Uttarkhand, and the drive up to Mussoorie is about 60 kilometers. We offer a taxi-service with a chauffeur who can pick up and drop off guests with ease.

Services:

We offer basic services such as comfortable accommodation in the form of discrete cottages and private suites that are fully independent and self-sufficient with fully-stocked kitchen facilities. Each cottage is maintained by staff members who are always available. Fresh linen and towels are provided daily.

We also provide delicious and simple vegetarian meals on request. All our vegetables and fruit is grown organically in our own green-houses and fresh-picked daily by our resident chef.  There are a variety of jams and cakes and pies that are available in our main kitchen.

For those who are interested, there are daily hiking facilities along the forest trails leading to look-out points with spectacular views. Camping or tenting is offered on request with guides who are there for personal assistance.

We also offer personal yoga instruction on request and meditation sessions that can hel

p facilitate our connection to ourselves, each other, and to the exquisite web of life all around.

Staff members also provide Ayurvedic massages with oils and potions from local herbs and flowers in the gardens of ‘Aranyaka Upanishad’.

There is a temple for meditation and prayers and a swimming pool with stunning panoramic views to the forest.