melange Travel

Encounter infinity inside a plantation

The reception area in Anantya Resorts in Kanyakumari district.   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

In the heart of the plantation region in Kanyakumari district, nestling in the foothills of the Western Ghats and on the banks of a tranquil blue lake is a slice of serenity. A place where sunlight has a greenish hue and birdsong serenades nature; a place where clouds play tag with mountain tops and proud trees. A place to listen to nature and see her at her pristine best. Is that why this place is called Anantya (infinity)?

Gone with the wind is the feel of the city as soon as one turns into the twisting roads that are sheltered by a canopy of greenery. Rustling leaves and sighing branches capture the wind in the trees; bees and butterflies hovering around a profusion of flowers dancing in the breeze create the buzz on a sleepy afternoon, even as rain clouds gather in the hills far away.

Cozy cottages with paths meandering around patches of crotons and creepers welcome visitors to the resort on the banks of the catchment area of the Chittar dam. No two of the 20 cottages basking in the sun are the same and each has a pond and a private garden, with the verdant countryside forming a backdrop to each scenic spot in the resort.

Features of vernacular architecture have been used innovatively and playfully to create spaces that are in sync with the locality and the culture.

Mud-plastered walls enclose the lush tropical gardens filled with local plants. Inspired by the profusion of ponds filled with lily and lotus that dot the country side in Kanyakumari district, water and greenery bring nature to your doorstep in all the cottages. Different spaces such as an open-air jacuzzi, an outdoor bath, and a verandah are ideal spots to converse with nature.

Dragonflies skitter on the larger ponds filled with water lilies as you walk over the wooden walkways to the dining area that overlooks a swimming pool. Food is an elaborate and sumptuous affair with the chefs and waiters making it a gastronomical experience to remember. Garden fresh veggies, spicy chicken dishes and a mix of South Indian and North Indian cuisines make gluttons of the visitors.

In between the meals, curl up with a book taken from a library with an interesting selection of books for children and adults. A noisy game of carroms engages a family while another decides to play Frisbee in the pool! In between, friendly waiters keep interrupting the proceedings with bowls of ice cream, fresh juices and short eats. Ah, this is the life!

While a spectacular dusk paints the skies in fiery reds, blues and purple, fireflies come alive and so do crickets and nocturnal birds.

Sleep slips in as quietly as the stars that cover the skies, even as moonlight gives a silvery finish to the countryside.

Rise to birdsong and smell the coffee served in the room (or make your own coffee). Dawn is a noisy affair with every tree ringing with birds gossiping. As you sip your morning cuppa, keeping you company is a startling blue kingfisher while a stork and a magpie robin eye you curiously. Indian tree pies gossip loudly while the sun slips in through the clouds.

A new day begins at Anantya.

“We named our property Anantya, meaning endless… to stand for the truly endless experiences which it can offer. And the endless voyage that is life,” says Lakshmi Ashok, one of the directors of Vaikundam Plantations. Indeed.

The road taken

Going into the history of this ancient land that was once the granary of erstwhile Travancore, Lakshmi explains: “For 57 years this land flourished as a plantation under the care of my grandfather Sheshadrinath Sharma and his brothers.” As a child, Lakshmi and her cousins had spent many a memorable day in the estate. Her father would take them on an evening trip of the plantation and the area around it. “It was special as it would include those stretches with a good view. We would stop to admire butterflies and red and black spotted insects while trying to identify trees and shrubs. All to the accompaniment of constant chatter of stories of childhood and outdoor experiences of an earlier generation.”

When she joined the company, the resort was planned as a step to diversify into other areas, including tourism. “A boutique small resort in Vaikundam was one of the ideas. The question was whether our childhood experience would prove to be a similar one for visitors too. All the people who came and saw the place just beyond the Kerala border were amazed by it and gave us sound advice. Slowly but steadily we built up Anantya,” she explains.

What to do

Ayurveda spa for a holistic experience.

Go on treks and walks to explore the verdant surroundings.

Go for a plantation walk to see rubber being tapped.

Indoor and outdoor games (badminton, volleyball) aplenty.

Hire a bicycle and explore the plantation, Chittar dam.

Drive down to Kanyakumari or visit the numerous temples nearby.

Yoga classes

Past continuous

Anantya, built on a peninsular plot of 15 acres, is part of 900 acres of rubber plantations belonging to Vaikundam Estates. These lands traditionally belonged to the Maharaja of Travancore. He gave out many lands to local Chieftains through royal proclamations. There are documents bearing the names of Kani Mallan Mathan and Kani Narayanan Kali, Marthandam Mathevan Pillai , Mallan Pillai …

In the early 20th century, a few Europeans, mostly Britishers, acquired the small land holdings and converted them into larger estate holdings. Sir Daniel Mackianon Hamilton of Warren Hill Loughton in the county of Essex and Balmacara Yorkshire Scotland being one of the earliest. He started the Kaliyal estate that is now known as Vaikundam plantations.

In 1911 Captain Thomas Patrik Madden Alexander, a Scot from The Imperial Army of the Queen of England resigned from the service and came to south India. He along with William Coombe and Reginald Garnier were the first to start planting rubber here. He also built a nice British style bungalow in Marthandam and called it the Vaikundam Bungalow. Captain Alexander was so influenced by Hindu mythology that he named the estates he created as Vaikundam, Ambadi, Kamadenu, Sivalokam, Palazhi …

In 1928 Vaikundam Estates Ltd was registered as a company with it’s registered office in Sri Lanka. Later, the Sharma brothers took over the company and registered it in India.

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Printable version | May 5, 2021 3:55:05 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/travel/encounter-infinity-inside-a-plantation/article6177542.ece

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