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Sustainable Living Workshop (6-19 Jun 2016)


What: Intensive service-learning workshop

Topics: Vernacular eco-architecture of the Himalayas, organic gardening, meditation

Where: Dharmalaya Institute in Bir, HP, India

When: 6-19 June 2016 (must attend from the start)

Language: English (with Hindi translation if needed)

Facilitators: Dharmalaya faculty and artisans, e.g. Mark Moore, Naresh Sharma, et al.

Description: Residential service-learning programme at the Dharmalaya Institute exploring both outer and inner sustainability, combining hands-on training in earthen building and organic gardening with a daily meditation programme. Learn to build eco-friendly structures in the neo-traditional Kangra style of esteemed eco-architect Didi Contractor, while contemplating our relationship with nature and the values of sustainable and compassionate living.

What is Vernacular Eco-Architecture? See this page for an introduction.

This will be an intensive training programme in two parts: For the first week (6-11 June), there will be hands-on workshops during the day and theory/discussions in the evening; and for the second week (13-18 June), there will be a practicum with work sessions in the morning and afternoon, while the evenings in the second week will be free (Sunday the 12th will be a free day).

After the introductions, orientation, and general overview of the programme, we will get straight to work doing various hands-on projects around the Dharmalaya campus, including work on several earthen structures that are in various stages of construction, as well as ‘meditation in action’ in the gardens. Participants who are more interested in eco-architecture will be able to focus on earthen building, while those who are more interested in organic gardening and landscaping will be able to focus on that, while anyone who would like to explore both will be encouraged to do so.

For those interested in earthen building, the two focal points during this programme will be raising the walls of a new earthen structure while doing some finishing work on another. The work will include adobe and other earthen techniques, and may also include stone, bamboo and slate, as well as mud plaster, landscape architecture, and possibly other activities. We will also have theory classes and other presentations, discussions, and explorations. 

Workshops and groups sessions may include the following:

  • Hands-on education in neo-traditional earthen architecture of the Himalayas
    • Making adobe bricks (sun-baked earth blocks)
    • Earthen masonry (building adobe/cob walls)
    • Earthen renders (mud plasters)
    • Other natural building materials and methods (e.g. stone, bamboo, wood, etc.)
  • Natural landscaping and organic gardening
  • Possible participatory design opportunities (if timing and circumstances permit)
  • Meditation/yoga/connected movement (morning and evening sessions)

What to expect:

  • Waking up early for meditation, karma yoga, and a healthy breakfast. 
  • A blend of practice and theory, with emphasis on deepening understanding through practical experience.
  • Opportunities to learn traditional methods by working alongside village artisans.
  • You will be working with your hands and body for approximately six hours per day on most days of the programme, so it is recommended to be in reasonably good physical fitness when you arrive, and you should bring work clothes.
  • Beautiful, rustic, village setting with a simple lifestyle.
  • Architecture and design students please note: The focus is not on design, but rather on doing real-world world to gain understanding of the materials, methods, and underlying principles of vernacular eco-architecture. 

For those who are serious about learning the techniques of earthen building, we recommend staying after the end of the programme to volunteer for a while, so that you can deepen your understanding and improve your skills by doing real-world, hands-on work here on the Dharmalaya campus. 


The fee for the workshop is Rs 1000 per day (Rs 14,000 total) including tuition, healthy meals, and comfortable accommodation in shared tents or dormitories (with private rooms available at additional cost). For low-income participants, a limited number of work-study positions are available (please contact us for details).


Before you pack for your trip to Dharmalaya, please read the very important information on our Visitor Info page and our FAQ. If you have a specific question that is not answered there, contact us here and we’ll be happy to answer.

NOTE FOR STUDENTS: This is not a certificate course. It is an introductory workshop offered for the benefit of those who sincerely wish to learn about traditional earthen building, not for credentials but for the sake of gaining understanding and experience in a real-world situation. Experiential learning is its own reward. If you are looking for a certificate course, you would need to look elsewhere.

Registration & Deposit

Enrolment in this workshop is limited, so advance registration and 50% nonrefundable deposit (Rs. 5500) are required. Registrations are confirmed only after receiving the deposit, on a first-come-first-served basis. To request registration, use this form. When we receive your registration, we will reply with further instructions and information. The remaining balance of Rs 5500 will be payable upon arrival at Dharmalaya Institute (though, if you prefer, you can also pay it at the same time as your 50% deposit, in which case the 50% balance would be refundable in case of cancelation but the 50% deposit still would not be refundable).

To make a deposit securely via credit card or PayPal (after registering and confirming availability with us), click the button below:

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