Visiting Amma’s Vrindavan Field

On December 29, Gopika and I visited Vrindavan Field. This garden was started many years ago. At that time it was a tulasi garden. Over time, the devotees added many other kinds of plants. Several years ago, they discovered that some of the trees on the site were rudraksha trees. The seed that is inside of the rudraksha fruit is sacred. Since then, gardens all over the ashram have been raising rudraksha tree seedlings. The photo above shows an area that contains a combination of coconut palm trees and rudraksha trees. The tree in the foreground on the left is a rudraksha tree.

One of the first plants I was drawn to on this visit was a banana palm sprout that was growing out of a nearly dead banana palm stalk that was lying on the ground. You can see a tiny bit of the sprout on the left side of the first photo below; most of the photo is of the stalk. The second photo shows the full sprout. Banana palms only give fruit once; then they die and new sprouts take their place.

(Click on any of the galleries to enlarge the photos.)

The gardens and farms in this field have had to deal with so many problems over the years. For example: lack of water, flooding, disease, and poor soil.  The staff have experimented with so many processes to enrich the soil and to retain water. Their effort has definitely paid off, but challenges still come and go.

This year a lot of the tulasi plants died and the garden doesn’t seem as lush as it did last year. But there is still plenty of beauty and the site is producing a considerable amount of food. I saw bananas, coconuts, tapioca, many kinds of spinach, beans, eggplant, okra, basil and moringa growing. There were plants that I didn’t recognize and I suspect many of them are edible.

I didn’t see as many flowers as in the past, but there were some…

… and there were plenty of interesting plants.

As we were leaving, one of the staff offered to take us to see the rudraksha trees on the School of Ayurveda grounds. She said those trees were much smaller than the ones in Vrindavan Field. We  gladly took her up on her offer and it was well worth it; the trees were beautiful.

To read the previous posts in this series click here.

Amritapuri Tulasi Garden

The Tulasi Garden is the first garden I ever visited in Amritapuri. I probably saw it for the first time a decade or more ago. It has changed so much over the years. They have added land and there are so many different kinds of plants there now. Most of the plants are edible.

I really enjoyed my visit to the Tulasi garden last week. These first photos are of the nursery and some newly planted seedlings. (Click on any of the galleries to enlarge the photos.)

The garden had a banana palm that was at least thirty feet tall. It was twice the size of any I have seen in the past. I also saw several sprouts, the beginning of new banana palms. These photos show various views of banana palms.

I thought this scene of a coconut palm tree was beautiful.

These are old and new papaya trees. The short ones surround the tall one.

There was a wild orchid in the garden.

This is a photo of some of the rudraksha trees…

The seeds that are inside the fruit of a rudraksha tree are sacred. They are often used in making malas. I took these photos of the fruit of rudraksha trees, and the seeds that are inside of them, a few years ago. The second photo was taken at a work station where ashram residents were separating the seeds from the fruit.

Below are photos of other plants I saw in the garden.

And last but not least, I saw this unusual but beautiful tree as I walked back to the main part of the ashram.

To read the previous posts in this series click here.

Amma’s Vrindavan Tulasi Field… tulasi and so much more


On January 8th, I visited one of the oldest gardens in Amritapuri. While it is known as Amma’s Vrindavan Tulasi Field, it has become so much more.

In the early years, growing tulasi was the main focus. Then, the volunteers who worked at the farm discovered that Rudraksha trees were scattered around the property. Rudraksha seeds are considered sacred in India so they started harvesting the seeds and planting more of the trees. They also began growing vegetables and other plants.

Farming on that property has been such a struggle over the years. Among the problems they faced were lack of water, poor soil, and bugs. When I visited the farm last year, what I saw took my breath away. It had turned into paradise. (To see photos of last year’s visit, click here.)

When I went there this year, I was amazed by all the new projects that were underway. The first thing I noticed was an irrigation system that was under construction. I thought about all the years they have watered using small hoses. What a difference the irrigation system will make.

Then I noticed all of the raised beds. I was told that when there are heavy rains, the farm floods. With raised beds, the plants will be higher than the water. Several swales have been constructed to drain off the flood waters, but the photos I took of those ended up looking like flat ground, so I didn’t use them.

There is a big pond on the property. The plants that are growing in the pond are used for mulching. I saw, and talked to, volunteers who were constructing stairs that will go into the pond to make harvesting those plants easier.

There are rudraksha trees on several parts of the property. They are easy to spot because their trunks have all been painted white. Next year I will ask why they do that!


The numerous tulasi fields are thriving.

Many fruits and vegetables grow on the property.

I was surprised by the many varieties of eggplant. Later, I saw a bright yellow eggplant at Saraswati Garden but it was on the phone I lost on my last day at the ashram so you will have to use your imagination to see that one. I was particularly fascinated by the eggplant that looked like an egg!

The plant below is called Lakshmi Taru, The Paradise Tree, The Tree of Heaven, Simarouba or Simaroubaceae. It is a medicinal tree that has been used to treat dysentery, malaria, cardiac palpitations, asthma and epilepsy. It may have a role in cancer treatment.

I was intrigued by this flower.


Later, I learned it is a Sita Ashoka flower. Ashoka means “without sorrow”. Hindus believe that Sita, wife of Lord Rama, sat in a grove of Ashoka trees after she was abducted by the evil Ravana. Buddhists believe that Lord Buddha was born under an Ashoka tree.

I found this photo of an Ashoka tree on Wikimedia.


I will leave you with some final images of Amma’s wonderful Vrindavan Tulasi Field.


Amma’s Vrindavan Tulasi Field


After Lalita and I left Amrita Herbal Gardens, we walked to the Vrindavan Tulasi Field, the farm I had originally planned to see that day.  This property contains the gardens I have heard about most over the years. The devotees who have worked there have faced so many obstacles. Year after year it has been a process of trial and error. Amma teaches us to put in the effort and let go of the results.  Those who have worked at this farm have done such a good job of doing that.

When I walked onto the property, I gasped at what I saw.  The place had truly become paradise. The first plants that caught my eye were some that had beautiful flowers, different from any I had ever seen.

After leaving that area, Lalita and I walked from place to place, marveling at everything we saw.  There were coconut trees of course, but so much else.  We saw many banana circles, each with its own compost pile in the middle. We viewed many different types of plants, all looking healthy and luscious. (Click on the gallery to enlarge the pictures.)

This farm was first known as the Tulasi Field.  (Tulasi is also called holy basil and is known for its medicinal and religious properties.) Several years later, they discovered that Rudraksha trees were growing there and throughout the ashram.  The devotees started planting Rudraksha trees in all of the gardens.  For a while the Tulasi Field became known as the Rudraksha Farm.  This year I discovered it has been renamed Amma’s Vrindavan Tulasi Field.

Lalita noticed that the bottom portion of all of the Rudraksha trees had been painted white; I didn’t think to ask one of the workers why that was done.  A worker told us that 10,000 rudraksha seeds had been harvested this year.  Those were produced by a small number of trees, as the trees that had been planted in the last few years were not mature enough to produce fruit.  One thousand seeds had been harvested from the tree in the picture on the right side of the gallery below.  It was the most prolific tree on the property.

Rudraksha seeds are considered sacred in India. They symbolize the dissolution of desires and the awakening of truth. A rudraksha seed is divided into 1-21 segments. Those segments are also known as faces or mukhi. While all rudraksha seeds have healing properties, the properties change depending on the number of mukhi. The five mukhi rudraksha seed is the most common form. It can help with regulating blood pressure, heart problems, stress, mental disability, obesity, anger management, diabetes, piles, neurotic and behavioral problems.


Here are some pictures I took the first year they started harvesting the fruit of the rudraksha trees. After the fruit is picked, it is opened and the seed is taken out, soaked and then brushed until it is clean. To read an article I wrote about the rudraksha seeds two years ago go to: Rudraksha Farming at Amritapuri, pages 7-9.  That document contains more information and many pictures.

There may have been tulasi plants growing throughout the property, but one of the last areas we came upon before we returned to Amritapuri was a field of tulasi.  The plants were so big and so healthy.  A woman who had recently come to the ashram was watering them.  I had the feeling she didn’t understand why we were so astounded by what we were seeing.  She probably didn’t know about all of the years and effort that had been spent trying to get anything to grow in the dry, barren ground.

I found myself teary as I wrote this post.  The earth in so many of the pictures looks dark and rich; so different from how it used to be.  This property is certainly proof that when you put in the effort and let go of the results, miracles can happen.