A strong breeze ruffles the tranquil surface of the Paravur Lake and blows into a spacious verandah, making the wind chime tinkle merrily. Sunshine bathes the garden in a warm yellow glow, staff in pristine white tip-toe on the premises of Kalari Rasayana. This is one of Kerala’s premium Ayurveda treatment centres in Kollam’s panaromic locale. Patients are assured of customised care, privacy, confidentiality and strict adherence to Ayurveda treatment regime protocols. Dr. Firoz Varun, chief medical officer atKalari Rasayana, says, “We create a serene and aesthetic ambience that helps our patients heal while we treat them.”
Wellness meets healing
At these Ayurveda retreats, patients shut out the world to detox their mind, body and spirit in cosy, sylvan settings. Distinguishing between resorts offering a massage or two and Ayurveda retreats and hospitals, Rishabh Gupta, head of marketing, Kairali The Ayurvedic Healing Village, explains, “We are not resorts where tourists come for a holiday. Our 60-acre retreat in Palakkad is meant for patients with ailments or those looking for Ayurveda wellness therapies.”
At these places, the patient, physician and therapist work together towards the healing process. A wide range of therapies can be chosen, whether it be for curative purposes, weight loss, rejuvenation or maintaining your looks. Dr. Firoz says qualified Ayurveda doctors and practitioners decide the treatment protocol and diets of each patient. “There is a misconception that Ayurveda is all about massage. Not everyone should go for an oil massage. Those opting for weight reduction are given a massage using pouches (kizhi) filled with herbal powders,” he adds.
Mamta Wasan, director of Mekosha, a boutique property near Attingal, believes that patients who check-in for treatment have many physical problems. “And now, I find they have emotional issues, in addition to stress. So, a break from the noise, pollution and demands of the world can itself be a wonderful therapeutic experience for them,” she believes.
Fragrant medicinal oil revives tired muscles and ligaments as experienced hands tease out stress from exhausted bodies, healthy nourishing diets replenish the gut; baths and steam therapies flush out the toxins; the soothing ambience calms the mind. Medicines to purge the body of toxins, enemas and vegetarian diets are part of the routine, in addition to yoga and meditation. Wi-fi is restricted to the rooms and so are mobile phones. Television, with restrictions, is allowed in some places.
The who’s who of the entertainment industry are enjoying these stays the most. Following Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar’s tweet in 2017 — on how much he enjoyed his retreat and treatment in an “Ayurveda ashram” — Kalari Kovilakom at Palakkad, owned by CGH Earth Ayurveda, posted on their social media page: “...We are glad that his stint at Kalari Kovilakom was so rejuvenating and transformative that he chose the platform to spread the word...” The circumspect CGH Earth property went public with Akshay Kumar’s endorsement of Ayurveda only after he tweeted about it. Another star to gush about his Ayurveda treament was Mohanlal who wrote about his experience at Gurukripa Heritage Ayurvedic Treatments in Palakkad. So did Tamil film star Ajith.
In addition to silver screen stars, A-listers from the worlds of business, politics and entertainment are regulars at Ayurveda treatment centres for ailments ranging from lifestyle disorders, diabetes, stress and allergies, to arthritis, weight management, immunity boosters, post-cancer treatments and post-COVID-19 complications.
No tourists, please
Several Ayurveda hospitals in public and private sectors offer authentic, holistic treatment. However, not all have plush rooms, picturesque surroundings and individualised care. Unlike many luxurious resorts that have Ayurveda treatment along with tours and entertainment, these retreats and hospitals are dedicated to Ayurveda therapy, yoga and meditation. The managements do not encourage tourists who try to include Ayurveda therapy as part of their discovery-of-India experience.
Krishnadas M, managing director of Gurukripa Heritage Ayurvedic Treatments, puts it bluntly, “We do not entertain tourists who hope to stay here for a day or two to try out a massage or Panchakarma (a treatment protocol). It needs a certain number of days to complete a treatment. We treat illnesses. And we only take in patients who agree to abide by our rules. The minimum number of days of stay is seven and, in the meantime, they cannot step out of the therapeutic centre.”
Although Somatheeram in Kovalam, perhaps one of the first resorts in Kerala to highlight Ayurveda treatment as their USP, and Niraamaya Retreats are not against patients doing a bit of sight-seeing once their treatment is done for the day, Kalari Kovilakom, Kalari Rasayana, Kairali The Ayurvedic Healing Village and Vaidyagrama Ayurveda Healing Village in Coimbatore advise residents to stay on the premises.
In a few places, patients planning a stay are required to fill a questionnaire to help doctors understand their health concerns and, in turn, the patients are briefed about the treatment, diet, and stay, and what is permitted and what is proscribed. An RTPCR test is now mandatory. Medicines have to be taken on time and treatment schedule should be followed to the dot to get the best result, elaborates Firoz.
Diets are customised according to the treatment regimen of each patient and fresh vegetarian food is the norm. Nishanth M, a chef at Kalari Rasayana, says every day, the doctor sends in a diet for each guest on the premises. “That chart is put up in the kitchen and it tells us what should be included or excluded while preparing meals for the patients. We ensure that no food is refrigerated and spices are ground here in small quantities,” he says.
Dr. Ramkumar, director of Vaidyagrama, says most of the food is grown on its premises. To make the food as chemical-free as possible, no fossil fuel is used for cooking. “We depend on solar and wind energy, and recycle the water. A sustainable and healthy lifestyle is what we preach and practise. We have sessions where we show the residents how to make healthy recipes, participate in cooking and so on,” he says.
Although many Ayurveda retreats and hospitals downed shutters during the lockdowns to contain the pandemic, at present, business is up and running as the world cautiously opens for business. Somatheeram was one of the few that remained open to treat international patients staying in India on medical visas, says its general manager Subhash C Bose. Gurukripa also reopened its space about 10 days after the first lockdown in March 2020 as hospitals were allowed to resume work.
Post the pandemic, the profile of patients in most of the wellness centres has seen a change. “Before the lockdown in March 2020, many of our guests were from Europe and the Middle East. Russia and Ukraine were two important countries that our guests came from. The war between the two nations has been a dampener and curbed travel. But there has been a significant increase in domestic tourists who come for Ayurveda treatment,” say Dhaval Keerthi, head of marketing, Niraamaya Retreats, which has properties at Kovalam and Kumarakom in Kerala.
Traditionally, the Malayalam month of Karkkadakam (July-August) is considered the ideal period for wellness and rejuvenation therapies. However, at present, the rush for Ayurveda therapy when the monsoon reigns over Kerala, does not hold good for patients from other Indian States. Dr. Ramkumar explains that until the pandemic stopped travel, their patients used to come all around the year from 70 countries. “It was only during the peak of summer (March to April) that we saw a dip in international arrivals at our centre. At present, we are full, 80% of our patients are from Tamil Nadu and Indian metros.”
Sreejith KV, general manager of Kalari Rasayana, adds, “Malayalis might go in for the traditional Karkkadakam Ayurveda wellness regime during the monsoon. But that is not the case with patients from the rest of India. The season, if it can be called one, is from September to February.”
At these plush places, the costs vary from ₹1 lakh for 14 days to ₹5.5 lakh and depends on the treatment and medicines.
For those looking for a break from stressful schedules and urban jungles, this is the ideal way to combine wellness and mindfulness.