More than 20 years ago, a successful businessman from Sowcarpet envisioned a village near Chennai exclusively for vegetarians. He wanted to create a little haven away from the congested city where people would live a simple and pure life amid greenery and inhale plenty of oxygen. Thus was born Chandda Prabhoo, arguably the first and only vegetarian village in the country.
The businessman, S. Krishnachand Chordia (68), who is also a Tamil scholar despite having his roots in Rajasthan, brought together a group of likeminded people and they purchased 82 acres near Puzhal and named it Chandda Prabhoo after the 8th Jain Theerthankara, in 1990.
“We divided it into plots and sold it to anyone who assured us that they would be lifelong vegetarians and teetotalers. No vice of any kind would be allowed in this village which would stand for family values and healthy living,” says Krishnachand.
The automobile financier was inspired to start the village after he witnessed a similar experiment while touring Israel when he visited Amirim, the only vegetarian village in the country at the time. “At that time, around 70 families of pure vegetarians lived and worked there.
They grew their vegetables and took turns to cook and eat. I wanted to do something similar here,” says Chordia. Chordia’s son Manohar Raajh and daughter-in-law were among the first families to move into the vegetarian village.
They built a large home surrounded by fruit-bearing trees and vegetable gardens. They also set up a goshala where cows were being raised for supplying pure milk to the residents of the village.
Over the last 24 years, the city has expanded.
Places as far away as Tiruvallur in the west and Uthandi along ECR, both about 30 km away from city, have witnessed the sprouting of a number of villa communities and high-rise residential apartment complexes. But, there seem to be no takers in Chennai for a teetotaler’s village that is barely 30 minutes from Central railway station.
While many people from different walks of life expressed interest in the property, only seven families now live in the sprawling village that is still lush green with abundance of water, thanks to the Red Hills reservoir.
Today, the model village remains desolate with several of the homes built two decades ago remaining locked and decaying. “Many folks were interested but only a few families actually moved into the village and started living there,” says Chordia.
But he remains optimistic. “Now, the village has come within city limits and real estate prices have gone up. More and more people are expressing interest in living there but we are very strict about banning alcohol and non-vegetarian food.
When we have enough people, I even want to initiate a community kitchen where food would be prepared for all the residents,” he says.
In a state where the state-owned beverage retailing firm Tasmac is the top revenue generator, a community of teetotalers obviously does not seem to be the preferred cup of tea for many.