Retreat to the silent resort
A stay at Kairali Ayurvedic Health Resorts is not just about getting your oil massage but also soaking in some much-needed peace and quiet
Photos: ANAND SANKAR
Kottakal is the place most people think of when they try to place ayurveda in Kerala. It has done so much PR for the State that people not only from India but also from all over the world descend there in search of alternative therapy. But another ayurvedic centre far away in another part of the state is doing some remarkable work in the same field and is so tucked away that even people in the nearby town struggle to give you directions to get there.
The place I am talking about is Kairali Ayurvedic Health Resorts located in the tiny village called Kodumbu some 10 km from the town of Palakkad. Situated at the foothills of the Nilgiris, the resort is set in a 50-acre plantation, surrounded by green paddy fields for as far as the eye can see. It offers the usual ayurvedic massages and treatment for a variety of ailments such as diabetes, hypertension, arthritis and stress related disorders, in sync with practices like yoga and meditation. But what sets it apart from other resorts is the guarantee of complete silence and anonymity. This is a guarantee I can attest to. During my stay there wasn't a single unnecessary knock on my door or a call from the reception. The only noise you hear is the chirping of birds and the swishing of coconut palms in the gentle breeze.
The cottages at the resort number 30 and are set well apart from each other. They are connected with each other by granite pathways, which are intersected by a man-made canal network that runs through the resort. The cottages are built with strict adherence to vaastu shastras, but not one shares a similarity with another. This is because each is built according to the nakshatra of the person who is going to occupy it. Each has its own shape determined by a star. Some are circular while some semi-circular, and some, a mixture of shapes. Every cottage is also built from stone that is lucky for a particular nakshatra. Thus you have cottages, which are a vivid red from sandstone and those that are dark grey from granite. To add to the therapeutic value, every cottage has a high roof that is pyramidal in shape, because the shape is supposed to have healing powers. As a plus the high roof also makes the cottages feel quite comfortable even with the air conditioner off in the heat of Palakkad.
The vaastu doesn't stop at the construction. Everything inside is aligned by the book. The beds are never in the north-south direction and there is a conch shell in every room. The vibrations produced by air passing through it is said to bring peace. There is even a cottage called the Gold Suite, which has a gold-plated cot. It is said to be lucky for some people to sleep on such a cot but I would say you are damn lucky if you get to sleep on a gold-plated cot. Vaastu apart, every cottage is fully air-conditioned and is equipped with a television with cable, direct dial phone and refrigerator. Some suites even come with bathtubs.
Smoking, alcohol and non-vegetarian food are forbidden. The food is served at the restaurant, which has huge plate glass windows that look out at the green lawns that carpet almost every available inch of land. If you are a patient, the doctor who is attending to you prescribes your diet, but even otherwise the diet is quite spartan in keeping with ayurvedic traditions. The rice and vegetables used are grown in-house, organically; a part of the 50-acre spread also contains the vegetable garden and paddy fields. A typical meal contains fresh vegetable salad, soup from vegetable extracts sans cream or corn flour, rotis made from whole wheat, dal, and vegetable curry made from steamed vegetables, rice, curd, fruit salad and fresh fruit or vegetable juice. (A meal that a city dweller is definitely not used to.) The meal is designed to be high in fibre content and fluids, so that bowel and kidney functions are stimulated.
The ayurvedic treatment complex at the resort is huge and has separate massage rooms and steam baths for men and women. It even has its own small herbal garden but it is more a place where patients can see and learn about the plants that are being used to prepare the medicines. The treatment options vary from patient to patient (see box). There is also a man-made waterfall overlooking the treatment complex, again because the sound of flowing water is soothing.
The other facilities at the resort are the spacious meditation hall, billiards room, tennis court, Internet facilities and a swimming pool complete with deck chairs. In short the resort has facilities not just for patients but also for the stressed out urban dweller who just wants a couple of days away from the humdrum of everyday life.
A number of packages are available for both patients and guests to choose from. The packages include treatment costs and some even feature light trekking or a visit to Silent Valley National Park, which is just 50 km away. The cottage or suite rates range from Rs. 2,000 to Rs. 10,000 per day and includes only breakfast. All major credit cards are accepted. The nearest bus stand and railway station are at Palakkad, and the nearest airports are Coimbatore, Calicut and Cochin. Transfers from these places are arranged but at extra cost. The resort has obtained Green Leaf certification from the Kerala Tourism Department. For bookings call 04923-222623, 222553 or 224202/03 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. For detailed info, visit www.kairali.com.
The right touch
"The aim of ayurveda is nothing short of immortality," says T.R. Chandrasekharan, Senior Chief Physician, Kairali Ayurvedic Health Resorts. He, along with C. Sreenarayan, Chief Physician, attend to the patients at the resort.
When a patient first arrives for treatment, he is put through the traditional three-step process of ayurvedic diagnosis Darshana (see), Sparshana (touch) and Prashna (query). Dr. Chandrasekharan says that an ayurvedic physician can just use these three steps and study the naadi (pulse) to arrive at a diagnosis but it is helpful if a patient brings his/her medical file. He says that allopathic diagnostic methods, which use technology, can be quite helpful.
Once a diagnosis is arrived at, the first thing that is decided upon is the type of massage and the mixture of massage oil that is to be used.
"References to the massage can be found in the Brahmo Spruto Ayurveda, which was written in 3000 B.C. It is considered to be an upaveda. The massage started as a daily routine that included applying oil all over the body. It improves circulation, eyesight, cures sleeplessness and extends longevity. The mixture of the medicated oil used depends on the condition of the body. Every ailment needs a separate mixture. The base oil is sesame oil (gingelli oil)," says Dr. Sreenarayan.
Two masseurs often administer the massage. Each masseur works on one side of the body and their strokes have to be in tandem to get the desired effect. Careful attention is paid to every muscle and energy centre in the body. The massage table itself is made from wood that has medicinal properties and is aligned using vaastu principles. Some of the different types of massages administered are abhyangam (general massage), pizhichil (linen is used to squeeze oil onto body), navarakizhi (massage with small linen bags filled with navara rice), dhara (oil drips onto the body from an overhead vessel) and sirovasthi (head massage).
After the massage it is straight to the steam bath. The steam bath helps in freeing clogged sweat pores and results in mild weight loss due to dehydration and loss of a little fat. Then it is time for a warm shower during which one has to use a medicinal powder instead of soap. The whole process is quite refreshing.
Ayurvedic preparations for all kinds of diseases and also for day-to-day use are also available at the pharmacy. The makers say they are prepared from herbs grown in-house. The treatment is further supplemented by yoga and meditation sessions in the morning and evening.
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