When we talk about India, 60 percent of Indians still live in villages, where the country gets its essence. Indian villages have a charming and alluring way of life. The hustle and bustle of city life are absent from the towns, which are quiet, tranquil, and full of vegetation where one may breathe clean air. The way peasants contentedly reside in their modest homes constructed of mud or clay best describes the beauty of villages. A sizable open space bordered by bamboo, with trees in the front and a vegetable garden in the back.
But has anyone ever heard about a village with a luxurious life, where people live all their desired wishes? A village is breaking all the stereotypes, one of India’s unusual and bizarre villages- Dharmaj, Gujarat.
About the village
Dharmaj is a tiny village in Gujarat’s Charotar area (Anand district). It is frequently referred to as a “global village” because of the ongoing phenomenon of its citizens moving abroad since 1895. Like an ideal place to live, higher education, economic development, and the desire to explore new opportunities are the main drivers of migration.
Dharmaj, a part of the Baroda State during the Gaekwad era, played a significant role in several forward-thinking social and educational changes, including the Library movement and the promotion of public health. The NRI diaspora migrated to many regions of the world throughout the years, and Dharmaj now has 11300 residents.
The good part of acknowledging this is that Dharmaj is now among the state’s wealthiest and most literate villages and the entire country, thanks to a significant influx of finances. Only 11,333 people live in the little Dharmaj village in Anand district, which is around 70 kilometres away from here but has up to 13 banks. Compared to the over Rs, 1,000 crore that the residents of this small Dharmaj village nearby collectively have in their banks, Kerala’s approximately Rs 90,000 crore in NRI deposits, which is the biggest in the country, pales into insignificance.
Location and context-
Regarding the location and context of the village, Dharmaj is a village in the Anand district, and Petlad Taluka is located on National Highway 8/A between Borsad and Tarapur. Dharmaj has gained notoriety for several factors. With only 11,000 residents, this tiny community boasts every amenity that even a large city cannot claim. The infrastructure comprises pure drinking water, an underground drainage system, and asphalt roads. The roadways, however, are made of stone. Even the most minor and most isolated byways have adequate street lighting.
An initiative by The Avichal Heritage-
The Avichal Heritage Initiative is an initiative that will engage the NRI diaspora and the future generation by restoring and reusing historic homes in Dharmaj. Rhodesia House is the first instance of a venue that uses events to promote cultural tourism to convey the tale of the Indo-African relationship. Adaptive reuse of a historic building to create a multipurpose neighbourhood with opportunities for interaction between locals and the NRI diaspora.
Population and livelihood-
The village has a total size of 1461.11 hectares. Ten thousand four hundred twenty-nine people live in Dharmaj, 5,380 of whom are men and 5,049 are women. The literacy rate in the hamlet of Dharmaj is 79.04%, with 82.43% of men and 75.42% of women being literate. The number of homes in Dharmaj Village is roughly 2,232. In terms of governance, the sarpanch, a village representative chosen through local elections, oversees Dharmaj village. According to 2019 statistics, Dharmaj village is part of the Sojitra assembly district and the Anand parliamentary district. The closest town to Dharmaj for all significant economic activities is Petlad, located about 12 kilometres away. The Patidars of Dharmaj possess extensive agricultural knowledge. The land had remained fertile even after the entire crop had been harvested. The town’s primary crop is tobacco. In Dharmaj, Urvakunji Nicotine Industries extracted nicotine from smoking. The town is both industrial and agricultural. The Dharmaj Patidars played a pivotal part in the Independence Movement. They gave the freedom fighters shelter. Patidars make up the majority of the population of Dharmaj. Baniyas, Brahmins, Suthar, Valand, Garasiya, Vanakar, Harijan, Rohit, and other groups comprise the remainder of the people.
Education and other facilities-
\All people, regardless of caste or faith, have access to the infrastructure mentioned earlier and facilities. Dharmaj is one of the Chh Gaam Patidar Samaj’s most forward-thinking villages. Located along the Nadiad-Bhadaran Railway line, it used to have heavy train traffic but is now more popular with state transport buses and private vehicles. The other facilities in Dharmaj are of the highest calibre in addition to the basic infrastructure. The education system of the village is vital in its way. There has been a sound library and a gymnasium since the Gaekwad era (Vyayamshala). Some schools are taught in Gujarati and English, with the English-medium school housed in a residential complex.
Conservation and Restoration-
The constructed legacy of Dharmaj reflects the local identity, historical narrative, and traditional knowledge systems of the area.
Due to a lack of maintenance funding or active use, most of this legacy remains neglected in light of the ongoing phenomena of emigration. Through a pilot conservation initiative, this project aims to protect Dharmaj’s constructed history from deterioration while also actively involving the community’s citizens and heritage enthusiasts through a variety of training and volunteer opportunities.
Despite being a small village, Dharmaj has undergone substantial development. The goal is to make all Dharmajians aware that this is about our Dharmaj and that we are all a part of the ongoing development process rather than merely raising awareness among the people of Dharmaj and the next generation. Every village has enough dedicated people to replicate Dharmaj’s efforts and advancement. The aim is to encourage other communities to follow in their footsteps for the benefit of society by recognising the contributions that individuals made to the development process.