This Eclectic Community Transformed a Desert into a Fantastical Forest
Living offline and off-the-grid, these people gather in India to bring life back to a once deserted land, healing themselves in the process.
“The jungle is a womb. The air in the tropics is like warm honey, viscous, sticky, filling the ears until the sounds of the outside world are far away. People come from all over the world, people for whom ordinary life isn’t enough anymore.”
These are the words of Stockholm-based photographer Néha Hirve, who spent two months documenting Sadhana Forest, an off-the-grid community of about a hundred people in Tamil Nadu, a state in southern India.
Once thick with trees, European colonists razed the region’s dry tropical forests to build cities throughout the 18th-20th centuries, leading to desert-like conditions. In 2003, Sadhana Forest—the smaller community based within Auroville, which was founded in the 1960s—was established by an Israeli man named