If you are sick and tired of 21st Century life, just take a break, head for Kumbakonam and rewind to the 19th Century. For, at Hotel Anandham Swamimalai, you simply see, smell and feel ‘heritage’.
Located less than 40 km from UNESCO’s World Heritage sites at Darasuram and Thanjavur, this ethnic hotel is housed in an 1896 ‘bangla’. And, adding to the old world charm, an entire village reminiscent of the 1800s has been recreated on the 11-acre property.
From the moment, I enter the green zone consisting of 500 coconut trees, 400 teak trees, and a whole lot of other fruit-bearing trees, the hotel’s social responsibility and commitment are apparent.
I turn towards the thatched reception in the ‘thinnai’, where the staff attired in traditional white khadi dhotis and saris make me feel at home. Smiling broadly, they welcome me with a rejuvenating foot massage. As I soak my tired feet in a tepid mixture of herbal oils, my eyes catch the numerous awards and certificates hanging on the wall that this Tanjore villa has bagged.
Owned by Indologist Steve Borgia, who founded the INDeco Leisure Hotels, Anandham Swamimalai is apparently India’s only winner of the prestigious Global Eco Tourism Award. A deer roaming freely inside the reception draws my attention before I check into the unostentatious but comfortable room.
There are 28 cottages built around a central courtyard (mutram). The terracotta bathtubs and statues and traditional furniture in polished rosewood appeal, but the star attraction is the museum, which displays a collection of artefacts reflecting local culture and lifestyle.
The food is vegetarian, and served in traditional style.
The evenings turn particularly beautiful with hundreds of lamps lit in front of every cottage, pathways, verandahs, courtyard and the noor deepam mandapam.
How to get there
Anandham Swamimalai is located in an agraharam in Thimmakudy village near Kumbakonam (four km away) in Thanjavur (36 km away) district. From Tiruchi, it is 91 km, from Madurai 211 km and from Chennai 300 km.
Things to do
Morning yoga and meditation classes are usually attended by all guests. So are the evening cultural programmes.
Visit the Swamimalai Temple, one of the six abodes of Lord Muruga, the Nagore Dargah, Velankanni Church or Gangaikonda Cholapuram.
Shop for brassware, quality costume jewellery and iconography in Chidambaram, 74 km away.
Simply relax at the Bangla, feed the deer, ducks and hens, catch up with your sleep and reading after hearty meals.
There are 22 deluxe cottages, costing Rs. 3,000 each; three deluxe suites costing Rs. 4,500 each, and a royal suite for Rs. 6,500 (exclusive of taxes and meals).
For enquiries, call 0435-2480044 / 385 / 406 or mail firstname.lastname@example.org