Amidst the serene environs, our journey unfurled at
the reception. Age old manuscripts on Ayurveda belonging to the forefathers of
the founder, have been painstakingly preserved as family heirlooms and hold a
place of the highest regard here.
The amiable staff gave us a traditional welcome,
with a cooling sandalwood teeka†, and aarti‡ with a
gleaming brass lamp surrounded by crimson seeds of Red Sandalwood, Rakta
Chandan or Manjadikuru (believed to be Lord Krishna’s
favourite). It is said that a seed contains all five elements of Nature—Earth,
Water, Fire, Air and Ether.
The sprawling retreat is spread over 60 acres, with
only 14 acres constituting built-in area. It became operational in 1999 as part
of the vision of its founding couple, KV and Gita Ramesh, to carry on Ramesh’s
hundred years’ old family tradition of Ayurvedic healing.
All the buildings in the retreat have been
sustainably designed on the principles of the revered architect, Laurie
(Lawrence Wilfred) Baker, also known as the Gandhi of Architecture,
for his role in the revival of regional building practices and use of local
materials. Although each cottage is a unique blend of aesthetics and
architecture, they are testimony to Bakeresque ethics of frugality of design,
with minimum use of plastering and superfluous decorations. The latticed bare
brick jaali§ work, particularly in the walls of the ayurvedic
hospital, next to the manmade pond, has been incorporated to keep the building
cool. The buildings are not just energy efficient but form the perfect backdrop
for the theatrical interplay of the five elements in Nature.
The stately trees, the burst of floral colours, the
bouquet of natural scents permeating the air—all vie for one’s attention. On a
leisurely walk through the retreat, it is difficult to ignore the large number
of butterflies floating by. Approximately 48 species of butterflies have been
spotted and recorded by an expert during his stay here, further underlining the
environment friendly practices being followed.
As we settled down in our Zen-like cottage, we were
bathed in serenity. In the process of connecting with Nature, we had already
slowed down and felt rejuvenated, even before the much needed Abhyanga, a
full body, four-hand, herb infused oil massage.
OUR BODIES ARE AN EXTENSION OF THE UNIVERSE
During an introductory lecture, the ayurvedic
physician reiterated the Puranic¶ aphorism, Yatha pinde
tatha brahmande, meaning: Man is amicrocosm of Nature and the five
basic elements, which constitute all. The Universe also exists within an
individual. From these five elements manifested in the human body originate the
trinity of Doshasor humours, namely Vata, Pitta and Kapha, which
decide our individual constitution or Prakruti, which further
governs all our psychosomatic functions.
All foods and experiences have an effect on the
overall balance of these three doshas. The wind blowing through the
trees, the sun shining on your face, its warmth pervading your body, the
indescribable beauty of the Water Apple tree in full bloom, the grounding
effect of the earth, the gently flowing water body, the tridoshic**
meals— all pacify one dosha or the other. In this haven of
natural energy, with the groundwork done, we felt more receptive and open to
FOOD IS THY MEDICINE
I have been trained as an allopathic physician. The
reductionist approach of this system of medicine has relegated food to a
forgettable set of calorific numbers and RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) of
nutrients. Many years ago, when I discovered the basic tenet of Ayurveda, ‘Aahaar
hi aushadhi hai’††, delineating what, when and how to eat, I became an
ardent follower for life.
But how can food, which is indiscriminately laced
with toxic chemicals throughout its entire journey from farms to our tables,
keep us free from disease? There are very few instances in the hospitality
industry, which meet my travel prerequisite of availability of farm fresh
organic food, eaten either raw or cooked simply with safe ingredients.
Kairali’s signature retreat fits the bill perfectly.
The meals are well balanced and served in
appropriately proportioned platters, which is pleasing to the eye (hence, gets
your digestive juices flowing!) and tastes divine. Long after the meal, the
silky texture of the locally grown rice, Matta, which we
tasted at the retreat, stayed with me, highlighting the significance of pure,
local and natural ingredients. This approach not only limits overeating but also
minimises food wastage.
Soon, the option of eating meals in Sukhasana or
the cross-legged sitting position, considered the best for digestion, will also
be incorporated in the retreat’s dining format. Here, herb infused (Pathimukham)
warm water is provided in steel flasks in the room, as well as, in the canteen.
COMMITTED TO GOING ALL THE WAY: SUSTAINABLE
Under the guidance of a trained agri scientist, KHV
grows organic herbs, vegetables and paddy. There are more than 120 species of
organic trees on the property. The total number of trees on the entire property
(including non organic ones) is 6,000, and they include fruit trees such
as guava, sapota, banana, papaya, lime, cherries, Indian
gooseberry, mango; medicinal trees like Nux vomica, Wrightia
tinctoria, frankincense and neem; as well as, palm,
native jackfruit, breadfruit, ficus and kino, to name a
An animal farm on the property—which is also the
favourite haunt of the staff for an energy recharge—ensures a constant supply
of natural manures for the organic farms. The kitchen and horticulture waste is
either used in the farm or is composted. This commendable return to integrated
farming has rendered the founders’ vision foolproof.
The purpose of Ayurveda is not to cure a particular
disease, but to bring each individual to his or her own state of harmony.
Hence, for deep-rooted and chronic diseases, the treatments are individualised
taking into account not only the Vikruti or the condition but
also the Prakruti or the nature of the patient.
Guided by age old methods, there is an exhaustive
list of treatments that are delivered through mostly inhouse organic herbs and
pure, natural oils. Unlike many mushrooming Panchkarma centres,
I learned, to my relief, that Panchkarma is not touted to be
the be-all and end-all of ayurvedic treatments at the ayurvedic hospital in
KHV. It is neither recommended nor performed as a detoxifying or destressing
regimen for all and sundry, rather it is administered carefully to those whose
disease condition warrants it.
HOLISTIC & HEARTWARMING EXPERIENCE
A day at KHV aims towards an amalgamation of Ayurveda,
Yoga and meditation. When heading here, one ought to leave
one’s baggage behind, both literally and figuratively.
As my friend put it, all that we needed during our
stay could fit into a polybag. Heartwarming memories of a doctor soothing a
distraught patient, light hearted antics of a foreign guest perfectly at ease
with his surroundings, witnessing the concern of the staff for a goat in labour
and love for the newborns of another, lend an endearing quality to the place.
Led by an unassuming general manager, the staff is
eversmiling and unobtrusive, yet happy to help. The management is open to
queries, discussions and suggestions. Their commitment to making one’s stay
comfortable and worthwhile puts one at ease.
AYURVEDA: THE SCIENCE OF DAILY LIVING
The strength of Ayurveda lies in its
all-encompassing approach to the dynamic inter-relationship between our
physiology, diurnal rhythm, emotions and external factors like diet, lifestyle
and Nature’s cycles. According to ayurvedic texts, most ailments can be handled
without a physician.
In the present context, the role of an organic
health retreat like Kairali – The Ayurvedic Healing Village, which
is steeped in this wisdom, becomes significant, as it is not just another
facility for relaxation. Rather, it is a proof of living Ayurveda and
its practical application in our lives. Moreover, in today’s harrowing times,
perhaps we need more than a few feel-good (superficial) massages in pseudo spa
TAKE HOME MASSAGE
Learning how to do a self-Abhyanga had
been on my to-do list since ages but I never really ventured that far. During
my stay at the retreat, I not only learned the ‘how-to’ but more
importantly the ‘why’ from doctors there. Ever since my return, a full
body massage with sesame oil has been part of my routine at least twice or
thrice a week. And what a difference such a small change has made to my chapped
lips, cracked feet, hair and dry skin woes!
A few days’ stay at places such as this perhaps
cannot bring radical changes in one’s body, mind and consciousness, but it does
pave the way for the revival of Ayurveda in our lives and spur us on the road
to recovery and self healing. À santé!"