Overheard on the adjacent table: “Sorry Mam but your diet does not include bread. That’s ok, just bring me croissants then”. This delightful vignette, a definite throwback to a certain French queen, is an aching portrait of most lives lived on the margins, where health, nutrition and even wellness retire to the recesses of the mind, like the whiff of a lover who has long left the room. Herein lies the triumph of Ananda that makes the transcendent, heartbreaking beauty of the Himalyas work towards a healthy goal: travel with a purpose; wellness as an escape.
Undoubtedly, the well-intentioned rotund couple on the next table are here hoping that some of that Ananda magic rubs off on them. And they are not alone. This luxury destination spa resort is festooned with a mix of races that resonates almost like a United Nations in the hills. Flowing silver beard-sporting rock gods, overweight businessmen, corporate heavy weights , fashionistas weighed down by problems or simply diamonds, everyone at Ananda—most dressed in the classic white pyjama kurta—wears a purposeful look and a meaningful stride.
Generously sprawled across 120 acres of land, only 20 per cent of which is built up, there is a lot to take in and take back, whether you come looking to de-stress, detox or simply deal with health issues. Perched high, on the lush grounds of the palace of the Maharaja of Tehri Garhwal, above the cities of Rishikesh and Haridwar, you don’t really need a purpose to enjoy the restorative environs. It’s glorious enough to simply relax and recharge or even plan a romantic escape with extensive spa services thrown in as a welcome aside. The rooms are plush with sunny balcony’s furnished with day beds and magnificent views of the surrounding Sal forests, the lower Himalayas, or the teal calm of the Ganga quiet below. If you get tired of staring at the dense canopy of palm and bamboo that dots the ground, or the mystical river, just dial back to retro entertainment; they even have a television above the bathtub to make sinking your trivial pursuits more entertaining.
Not to be distracted by peacocks and peahens that literally walk up to you all across the property, wellness is part of the lay of the land and you would do well to surrender. The four-day detox starter programme that I had signed up for is ideal for the wellness virgin; a gradual immersion into a world laden with special diets, detoxifying scrubs, toning massages, cleansing treatments and rejuvenating body masks. Whether you check in to Ananda for a yogic detox, weight loss, stress management or rejuvenating programmes, the thrillingly large 24,000-square-foot spa with 24 treatment rooms, hydrotherapy facilities, outdoor swimming pool, sauna, steam rooms and fitness centre will be at the centre of your wellspring. The expansive spa menu includes more than 80 body and beauty treatments that include traditional Ayurvedic therapies as well as modern Western spa rituals. But every package can be customised to optimise your specific goals. Trust me, in the hands of their experienced spa staff, you’ll feel like having goals, and more importantly, sticking to them.
And it all begins with an appointment with the resident Ayurvedic specialist, Dr Naresh Perumbuduri, who charts your wellness quotient on the basis of an in-depth interview that includes everything from your favourite food to pet peeves, to how you react to anger, emotions, sleep patterns, dreams , health concerns. Half way through, I’m not sure whether I’m on an intrusive first date or a tell-all evening with an empathetic friend. The health check determines a Dosha or body type. In Ayurveda, there are three Doshas—Vata (air/ether), Pitta (fire/water), or Kapha (earth/water)— based on the five basic elements, space, air, fire, water, and earth. Everyone exhibits a different balance of these energies with one dominant Dosha that corresponds with your basic physical-mental- emotional type. The objective is to balance them perfectly and the solution lies in a carefully metered triad of diet, physical activity, and therapeutic treatments.
The Detox programme is divided into three parts: preparation, detox and rejuvenation. Each phase correlates to specific treatments and diet plans. Food is an essential prong and each diet plan is based on your body type. Although there’s no need to panic in case you are not inclined to go with a pre-set menu or are simply passing though for good old R&R. Each meal offers healthy options like a three sprouts salad, Miso soup, rolled oats upma, multi grain dosa across Indian, oriental and Continental cuisines. The portions are small, mildly spiced and seriously bereft of grease. It takes a little getting used, but once you do, the appreciation for each ingredient becomes amplified. All the veggies and herbs are sourced from organic farms in and around the property. Apart from purely healthy menus, decadence is available over a range of kebabas, biryani and meat preparations. But each dish helpfully comes with a calorie counter, carb count and protein intake so you’re well aware of the guilt you partake of. For further advice, ask any of the restaurant staff, who are as helpful and well-trained as they are knowledgeable. The idea is to encourage you to choose sensibly, but unfortunately, the bracing mountain air makes you ravenous. For cheat days, even if you do listen to your greed and opt for Eggs Benedict, it comes with a multigrain muffin and smoked salmon to make it savoury yet safe. The healthy menu changes every day as does your dosha-specific diet, which is a course meal with a dessert, which may just be something as mild as a green tea pâté, but less is more here.
If the day remains unfulfilled by food and treatments, Ananda offers free yoga sessions, fitness classes, golf lessons, meditation classes and Vendanta lectures twice daily. Wellness is a holistic experience here and one that takes on physical, mental and spiritual connotations. If all else fails, the view of the Ganga on its silent journey is a sight for sore eyes, Ananda makes sure they have a cure for the sore elsewhere.
Ananda is surrounded by a range of adventure activities for the thrill seeker and nature lover. From white water rafting in the Ganga to trekking the Himalayan foothills to an elephant safari to the Chilla National Park. RATES FOR HIMALAYAN BLISS AND COUPLES CONNECT GETAWAYS (for a minimum of three nights; *all prices are in Indian Rupees and vary with seasons)
Palace/Garden View : Rs. 22,000 – 33,000
Deluxe Palace/ Garden View: Rs. 29,000 – 40,000
Vice Regal Suite: Rs. 61,000 – 75,000
Two bedroom villa with private pool (2-4 person): Rs. 127,000 – 150,000
Ananda Getaways are short breaks for those who just want to relax and refresh. It offer a mix of spa treatments and activities
RATES FOR HIMALAYAN BLISS AND COUPLES CONNECT GETAWAYS (for a minimum of three nights; *all prices are in Indian Rupees and vary with seasons)
Contact: ANANDA-IN THE HIMALAYAS The Palace Estate, Narendra Nagar, Tehri Garhwal, Uttaranchal 249175, India Reservations: +91 124 4516650, Facsimile: 91 1378 227550, www.anandaspa.com