Saturday, July 24, 2010

Where Time Stands Still

I was in the land of fish and chips; in the land of lanky coconut trees and pristine backwaters. I was in the land where the science of Ayurveda has transcended time; in the land where this ancient practice is a prided legacy. I was in God’s own country to experience the healing touch of Ayurveda.
At the foothills of the Western Ghats is the unassuming town of Palakkad, popularly known as the granary of Kerala. Amidst the green cover and prosperous paddy is Kairali, an Ayurvedic Health Resort. Spread across 50 acres of luxuriant greenery, Kairali is an oasis of calm and a blissful retreat from the cacophony of our cities. Being a premier health resort, Kairali was ranked among the top 50 wellness Meccas in the world by National Geographic Traveler in 2008.
Thirty aesthetic cottages named after Indian zodiac signs dot the expanse of the resort’s sprawling lawns. Aswathi, Karthika, Bharani, Makariyam, Punartham, Avittam and Uthradam are a few jewels in the tiara of this resort. The cottages are designed to conform to Vaastu Shastra and are unique in name, style and decor. Bricks and stones used in the construction of each cottage are visibly different from the other. The red oxide coating on the floor acts as a natural coolant. The divine Valambari Conch (Turbinella pyrum) is placed in every cottage to emanate positive vibrations. A cascading rivulet running by the side of the cottages creates a harmonious atmosphere.
Designed by renowned horticulturist and Padma Bhushan awardee Dr. G.S. Randhawa Kairali’s landscape strikes a chord with nature. There are about 600 coconut trees that announce their presence by sending their sun dried leaves down to earth. Plants with therapeutic value are interspersed between trees of leak, mango, guava, pine and coconut. Medicinal plants are grown in the herbal garden. Blooms of jasmine, hibiscus and anthurium adorn the stone walkways. The coconut trees are the only high-rises here and samrani is the room freshener.
It’s back to basics at Kairali. The day begins with yoga. The food served is vegetarian. Fruits and vegetables are homegrown. Warm herbal water is favored over bottled water. Fresh juices are in and iced colas are out. Until it becomes a routine, the guests are cajoled to unwind while being pampered with good food and great hospitality.
Chasing butterflies, reading by the poolside, watching a kingfisher pick up its meal from the gurgling water and relaxing on an old rocking chair. For a city-dweller like me, these simple pleasures are hard to come by. Strolling in the 10-acre organic garden was an experience in itself. Within a few feet from the each other were plants of pineapple, chili, tomato, bitter gourd, pumpkin, ladies finger, eggplant, banana, snake gourd and a lot more. As we were taken on a tour of the garden we were told that these were fruits of labor and no chemicals went into making them look fresh and healthy.
Given that vegetables harvested across the road make it to our plates, it comes as no surprise that food was delectable. Apart from the food itself, the attention to detail at the Ayurvedic canteen was impressive. Everything from the juice, to the salad to the arrangement of napkins on the table was different for every meal. The food was delicious and the service was delightful.
The outdoor yoga session was a unique experience. This was the first time I was doing to the suryanamaskara (sun salutation) with the sun in my line of sight. I joined Europeans and Americans at the yoga session and we spent an hour together performing various asanas (exercises) and chanting sholkas. After stretching and bending we were treated to an amazing concoction of lime and mint. It was worth the effort of pulling myself out of bed early in the morning!
Through traditional techniques of Ayurveda qualified doctors administer treatments to cure ailments and relieve stress. The vivacious chief doctor, Dr. T. R. Chandrashekaran has been Ayurvedic practitioner for over four decades. Seasoned masseurs use their deft touch and the power of herbs and traditional oils alleviate stress.
Kairali is all about good health and happiness. As the warm oil was rubbed over my body, my muscles loosened and relaxed. I realized that a good massage is a great treat for an over-worked body. A steam bath followed the massage and I rocked myself to sleep on a hammock listening to birdsongs and gazing at the sky above. Indulging massages followed by delicious meals and an inviting cozy bed. It was blissful to say the least.
I was told that Panchakarma (a five-fold procedure for cleansing the body) and detoxification and rejuvenation therapies are the most common treatments opted by visitors. The guests are encouraged to practice yoga and meditation in the natural setting that compliments the holistic treatment. Dhara, Abhyangam, Pizhichil, Navarakizhi and Nasyam are a few of many of Ayurvedic treatments on offer. The doctor prescribes a special diet for guests undergoing treatment.
Every aspect of the resort from the sounds one hears and the water one drinks to the activities one indulges in, aim at imbibing the positive energy exuded by the elements of nature. Butterflies flit from leaf to flower with boundless joy. Birds wait eagerly to snatch a catch from water while fish dart across the stream. Lying in the lap of nature amidst the sound of falling water, the golden glow of the sun’s rays, the hiss of the wind and the kiss of the breeze is the perfect setting to switch off your mind and derail its train of endless thoughts.

Quick Facts:

Getting there: Palakkad is less than two hours away from the Coimbatore and Cochin airports.
Palakkad has a railway station and good road and rail links with all major cities.

Season: Kairali Ayurvedic Resort has visitors all year through. The weather is at its best between November and February. The summer months of March, April and May can be oppressive but the trees act as protective umbrellas and the weather is tolerable. June, July and August is the time to visit if you want to experience the monsoons in Kerala.

Accommodation: Deluxe, Classic, Royal and the exclusive Maharaja suites are the four classifications of the 30 cottages at the Kairali Ayurvedic Resort.

Leisure packages: Rs. 2999/- per person per night on a double occupancy basis.
Treatment packages: Rs. 35,000/- (taxes extra) onwards for 7-nights/8-days person on a double occupancy basis.
This package includes accommodation in a Deluxe Villa, one Ayurvedic treatment per day, all meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner), complimentary yoga and meditation sessions, consultation with the Ayurvedic doctor, one lifestyle evaluation session and the use of the resort’s facilities.
For more details log on to

This article was published in The Hindu on the 25th of July 2010. Below is the link to the online version of the article.


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