Apani Dhani Eco-Lodge: Preserving Local Cultures and Heritage, India

Apani Dhani, located in the heart of Rajasthan, India,offers eco-friendly accommodation, excursions and activities such as cooking lessons, musical concerts and tie and dye workshops with local communities. Travellers seeking to discover the ‘real-India’ through immersive village life experiences are unlikely to be disappointed in this one-of-a-kind desert hamlet. By Prerna Shah.

7 December 2016, Singapore: Ramesh C.Jangid, the founder of Apani Dhani Eco-Lodge was inspired by and stirred into this enterprise as a result of the monopoly and unfair distribution of tourism income in the Indian State. “Tourism income was going to local barons who were the owners of castle/palace hotels, and seemed to consider tourism as their new inheritance. The tourism income was not equitably shared. This meant that tourists were seeing only one facet of our state,” says Mr. Jangid.

In a bid to break the stereotypical image portrayed by Western media and provide access to the real villages of India, Jangid started this family run project in his native town. Apani Dhani Eco-Lodge was a finalist/winner of Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Award in 2013.

 A traditional mud and grass thatched bungalow at Apani Dhani keeps the interior naturally cool in the hot desert climate.

A traditional mud and grass thatched bungalow at Apani Dhani keeps the interior naturally cool in the hot desert climate.

Five Aspects of Apani Dhani’s Responsible Tourism  

  • Eco-friendly accommodation: A local variety of pampas grass is used for thatching the roofs of the huts. Sun-dried clay bricks (adobe bricks), kiln-fired bricks, and ochre of the nearby mountains are used for masonry wall construction and decoration.
  • Renewable energy: Even though the enterprise is connected to the grid, solar photovoltaic panels and solar water heating systems provide uninterrupted supply of electricity. Further, low consumption bulbs are used in all dwellings.
  • Organic farming: Apani Dhani serves home-made vegetarian cuisine with all ingredients harvested from 3.3 acres of farm land where wheat, millet, lentils, several varieties of seasonal vegetables and oilseeds are grown. No chemical fertilizers or pesticides are used.
  • Water conservation: An underground rainwater tank is installed to collect and store rainwater running off from roofs and paved courtyard for irrigation use. During a stay, unless specifically requested, bed sheets and towels are changed only once every three days. Each bathroom is equipped with a shower. However, buckets and mugs are also provided to encourage guests to bathe the traditional Indian way, which requires less water (by two to three times).
  • Waste management: Waste is separated for recycling and non-organic waste generation is monitored. Communication materials such as brochures, business cards and stationery are printed on hand-made recycled paper that are mostly from waste textile fibres.

Best Practices Enabling Cultural Preservation

 A cultural experience to be had at the tie-and-dye workshop at Apani Dhani.

A cultural experience to be had at the tie-and-dye workshop at Apani Dhani.

Apani Dhani offers ample opportunities for tourists to interact with local communities. Activities such as guided visits, excursions in the countryside, art and crafts workshops, and cooking classes provide permanent employment and added income to the villagers.Wherever possible, free training to villagers is also provided. Guests are encouraged to buy handicrafts directly from the artisans, where Apani Dhani does not charge any commission.

Apani Dhani invests five percent of the room rent to support regional projects related to education, environment and local heritage conservation.A code of ethics called "Advice to travelers" is given to provide basic facts of the region and its culture. These documents are available on the website and are also provided during guest reservation. The enterprise also acts as the head office of the Indian National Trust For Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), a nationwide, non-profit organization set up to protect and conserve India’s vast natural and cultural heritage.

Photos courtesy of Apani Dhani.