In 2015, Soumya’s father hinted at how he was thinking of selling his plot of land on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar (on the periphery of Chandaka Dampara Sanctuary). It was becoming difficult for the family to visit the place frequently and prevent encroachment. Moreover, it also pained him to see trees he had planted more than 40 years ago, disappearing most probably to be used as firewood. As fate would have it, Soumya was also on the brink of a life-changing moment and shared his idea of a homestay. Within six months, the young couple packed up everything in Delhi and moved to Bhubaneswar.
“After relocating in 2016, was when we actually realized the magnitude of what we had undertaken. Fast forward to today, Svanir is all that we imagined and more.”
The Charm of Svanir
Svanir Wilderness Ecostay is a cozy eco-home hiding on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar. Four spacious cottages constructed from locally available material mimic the traditional tribal architecture. They offer an ideal gateway for weary travelers. Svanir has been a Meraki for Indrani and Soumya, the founders.
Having worked in an inbound travel firm for over a decade, Soumya Mukherji saw a distinct change in travelers’ preferences, especially among slow travelers who preferred smaller properties, giving them an immediate feel of the place. Many opted for homestay over typical hotels.
Standing on Their Own Two Feets
Soumya’s parents oversee the entire project and are their strong pillars of support both financially and emotionally. His father, a retired civil servant and avid traveler wanted Svanir to be a model project of how homestays can be built without taking any bank loans to augment tourism in remote locations lacking proper infrastructure. Hence, all the construction was done in a staggered manner to meet their salaries and his father’s monthly pension.
We love the most about their project because they did not cut any of the existing trees on the property during the construction, even though some could weaken the foundation in the future.
Svanir is a place where nature lovers can stay to unwind, escape from the city, reconnect with nature, breathe fresh air, look at the star-lit sky, and enjoy lovingly prepared home-cooked food.
Soumya and Indrani believe in sustainable tourism. According to them, sustainable tourism is leaving a place as you found it. It would enable the next person traveling after us to experience the same beauty.
“Exploring with locals, traveling light, and recycling is also our mantra when traveling.”
The duo is learning as they grow. As a part of the journey, the couple is trying to reduce water consumption by installing a drip irrigation system and rainwater harvesting. They also carry all their solid waste weekly into the city for recycling.
Apart from preserving the existing indigenous trees, Soumya and Indrani have also planted over 500 plants and trees to attract more birds and bees, building their own little ecosystem.
As they say, ‘the devil is in the details.’
When the couple decided to move to Bhubaneswar, things didn’t always go as planned.
Among them was the villagers’ initial reluctance during construction who thought that they were setting up an industry. Gradually, the couple successfully convinced the locals that they were building their own home. The village school headmaster told them in disbelief, ‘You will not last six months’ when he heard they were coming from Delhi to stay in their village.
The next challenge they faced was to convince nearby villagers to come and help them build typical mud houses. After waiting endlessly for months, they realized it was an impractical idea. In hindsight, that was for the best since Cyclone Fani 2019 would have flattened everything.
At last, after several alterations, Svanir was built in the Lauri-Baker style architecture using fly ash bricks and given a tribal motif on the exterior.
Svanir: Reviving the Rural Economy
Svanir is also working to help the local community. All the staff employed are from Dalua village. Indrani is training several women in hospitality, with two of them even entrepreneurs as chefs.
“Dalua village, the village we share our address with, is a poor and neglected tribal village. Mostly the women folk do the back-breaking work, either at a local brick kiln or in the forest.”
With tourism, they were able to hire and train a few ladies. They plan to involve more villagers with their initiative. More guests arrive and expand their mushroom cultivation to generate additional income for villagers and make them self-sufficient.
We loved how they are treating their young and energetic workers from the nearby village of Dalua. They can be found working around the property quietly, enthusiastically, always quick with their smiles.
Why Visit Svanir?
Svanir is an ideal place for travelers to halt and explore. Guests can enjoy several activities like a leisurely walk to the village, go on a nature safari at Chandaka Dampara sanctuary, admire the star-studded night sky (since there is minimal light pollution), learn about trees, in-house mushroom cultivation, and macro-photography.
Their homestay is also ideal for cycling trails through traffic-free village roads. The fascinating rock-cut temples of Udayagiri & Khandagiri are also close by.
“For us also in all our travels, we fondly remember those stays where we had the opportunity to stay and explore with a local.”
Svanir lies on Bhubaneswar, Odisha, the outskirts, about 24 km from Bhubneswar airport and railway station.
Odisha is located on India’s eastern seaboard and offers an array of astonishing tourism products. Most tourists visit Odisha for its tribal culture, amazing architecture, pristine beaches, dense forests, and unique cuisine.
Also, we believe that by staying at Svanir, you are helping the disadvantaged village ladies and their families learn hospitality oriented skills and earn a stable living. No material wealth, our sages have always urged, will give you such satisfaction. We can vouch for this. How? Because, even amid the Pandemic, we did not retrench any of our support staff, mainly ladies. Indeed, we employed one or two more! The happiness in their eyes made us easily reach the seventh heaven. Care to join us?