Featured Hotel

Kalari Kovilakom, Palakkad, Kerala

The first sign on entering the hallowed portals of Kalari Kovilakom, reads 'Leave your world behind'. Quite appropriate, for this Ayurveda Palace is a place like no other. This temple of healing exudes a rejuvenating calm and quiet with no reminder of the chaotic world outside. Amidst echoes of Ashram-like discipline, guests enjoy a rare level of amenities.

On arrival, guests are handed simple cotton attire, a bath robe and some rubber acupressure flip flops (no leather is allowed) for the duration of their stay. Each day at Kalari follows a strict regime. With alcohol, meat and irrelevant technology being replaced by yoga, meditation and a strict vegan diet, it is the ultimate "me-time" destination to purge your former indulgences, detoxify yourself and revitalize yourself by removing the dissonance in your body, mind and spirit.

If old legends are to be believed, healing is a part of Kalari's very soul. Stories are told of a Prince who came to the foothills of Kerala's Annamalai Hills around the 10th century. He was apparently afflicted with a particularly troublesome skin ailment and hoped to cure himself in the healing spring waters of this land. Possibly, he also sought the medicinal Venga tree that grew here in profusion. He stayed back and founded the kingdom of Vengunad.

By the late 19th century, the pleasant little town of Kollengode, in the Annamalai foothills, had its own king. When his niece, Dhatri, turned 20, she wanted what most people of that age want - a little space. And so, Kalari Kovilakom was set up in the 19th century, a symbol of her protest against her uncle's tyranny. This erstwhile dwelling of Venganad's royalty has been restored authentically without compromising on the palace's original character.

Set against the background of picturesque mountains, the retreat has a sprawling 8 acre garden, where besides herbs, organic vegetables are grown to facilitate the guests' treatment and meals.

The 18 palatial suites showcase Kerala's architecture. They are spacious and comfortable with no hint of a spartan ashram-style set up. Polished terracotta floors, heavy teak beds, sweet-smelling petals strewn on the bed in the evenings, hallways and open air corridors fragrant with lemon oil induce a feeling of understated luxury. The Old Guest Wing has colonial Western rooms.

There are no game rooms, no shopping expeditions, no television sets. The evenings are alive with chanting and hymns, unsullied by the sounds of the city. In fact, apart from these post-dinner gatherings where guests and staff alike participate, there is absolutely nothing to disturb the new-found inner silence.

On the first day, guests undergo a detailed two-hour assessment to allow doctors to ascertain their holistic well being and after a couple of days their doshas (which symbolise whether they are governed by the elements of air, fire or water) are ascertained. Every therapy is personal and treatments are customized for guests by the doctors based on their needs and ayurvedic blood type. This is supplemented by yoga, meditation and diet among other methods to provide deep healing from within and without.

The flavour of pure spices and fresh tropical vegetables comes into play as each meal becomes a delicious medley of subtle textures and aromas. What is more, you need to eat less and less to feel completely satiated. Guests end up loving the food so much that they try to learn from the ever-obliging chef how to cook it back home.

Ten therapy and massage rooms offer a complete range of treatments. Expert masseuses and therapists work with you from head to toe, bringing new life to tired muscles, bones and tendons. Through a combination of massages, herbal treatments, medicines, diet and purifying baths, the Kalari experience promises you a chance to have a rebirth minus the aches, pains and ailments.

Cultural evenings of vocal Carnatic music are arranged from time to time giving guests moments of pure ecstasy. Besides, guests can watch Kalaripayattu (a local martial art considered the mother of all martial arts) experts at play and can even take a crack at it themselves as Kalari movements are great for strengthening and toning the whole body.

The strict regimen and the detoxification process may be tough for most but the odyssey is well worth it considering the glowing, energized, healthier and younger-looking people who leave the retreat with significant weight loss being an added bonus. Those who opt for the 28-day anti-ageing treatment sometimes report not being recognized even by family members on their return.

The monsoon months of June to August is considered a specially good time for healing in Ayurveda. However, September to December, a pleasant and dry period, is usually the main tourist season. This temple of healing is 50 Km from Nelliyampathy. The nearest International Airport is Cochin, 105 km, or about two-and-a-half hour drive away while Coimbatore Airport is just 80 km away.