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Anandwan: A Forest of Joy

Anandwan is a beautiful village carved from barren land by crippled social outcasts. Anandwan is the realization of the dream of one man- Muralidhar Devidas “Baba” Amte ­ and the enduring efforts of the organization he set up.

Anandwan located in Chandrapur district in the state of Maharashtra, is an ashram, and a community rehabilitation centre for leprosy patients and the disabled from downtrodden sections of society. Residents are self-sufficient in terms of basic subsistence through agriculture.

Land fertility in the region has been revived and is maintained by using organic farming techniques and micro-water management. In addition, the ashram has various home-based, small-scale industry units run by the residents that generate income to cover additional requirements.Anandwan today spreads over 200 hectares and has two hospitals, a university, an orphanage, a school for the blind and a technical wing. More than 5,000 people are dependent on it for their livelihood.

It was founded in 1948. For this journey, with all its trials and tribulations, holds major lessons for humankind. What made this journey possible is untiring energy and a never-say-die attitude. But what has given them sustenance, nourished their spirit and kept them going against all odds, are certain fundamental values that they have consistently upheld as an uncompromising charter throughout the years. These values are based on the belief:

  • In the inviolable, irreplaceable, intrinsic worth of each human being;
  • That however severe his or her disability may be; each person has uniquely invaluable gifts and capabilities to give to the world;
  • That an attempt must be made to overcome any disability; however great it may seem;
  • That social prejudice, taboos, and ignorance can all be overcome;
  • That as important as physical cure, if not more, is the restoration of the person’s sense of self-respect and dignity;
  • That to achieve this, the way forward is not charity but empowerment, even of the most challenged.

At Anandwan, people who happen to be leprosy patients and those usually considered ‘disabled’ like the blind and the deaf, enter the development process as responsible “subjects” – those who know and act, in contrast to “objects” which are known and acted upon.

Nothing but awakening of consciousness can explain the marvels typical of the place: structures, strong and functional, built without architects, engineers and contractors, weavers without fingers, leprosy patients successfully insisting on being licensed to drive heavy duty trucks; a man who cannot walk managing the industrial training centre moving on a tricycle fabricated with in-house talent and materials; a person without previous experience in printing, running a press with competence; a one handed cashier who makes up for a slight slowness by unusual thoroughness; a master tailor who cannot use his hands freely, training tailors from neighboring village.

According to Baba Amte,”Joy in Anandwan is much more infectious than disease itself.” Redirecting the development of India was the final dream project of Baba Amte. He always used to say that a sacrifice is the best he can do with hi frail body. This is ultimate commitment to the ideals he ha s articulated and left us.