Ayurveda - An Ayurveda Palace for a Younger You
Anu, my wife visited Kalari Kovilakom, in July 2007. The visit left her delighted - she came back glowing and full of praise for this Palace of Ayurveda. So I set off to visit this temple of healing, nearly 100 kms from Cochin, Kerala. “Gods own country”, read the inviting advertisements beckoning tourists to this beautiful land. Words that rang so true , when my flight landed Cochin airport,with the soothing sight of graceful coconut trees according me a warm welcome. Kerala in the monsoon season is a treat by itself!
A view of the main Palace building
For more photos, click here After a pleasant 2½ hr drive through paddy fields and villages, the car turned into a lotus lined driveway. I was greeted at the entrance with a jasmine garland, sandalwood paste tilak and a welcome drink of tender coconut water, not unlike many high end tourist properties in India. But this is where the similarity ended. My leather footwear was taken away and replaced by rubber acupressure sandals. No leather, alcohol, tobacco or meat is allowed beyond the reception area. As I checked in, Mr Mani, the ever smiling and efficient manager gave me a brief about my stay and the property. As I was escorted to my room, my attention was drawn to a sign which read – “Please leave your world behind”. Indeed, I was entering a different world. As I walked into the building, I was amazed by its simplicity and how it has been preserved over the years. The building was a queen’s palace in the Venugad dynasty and constructed in the year 1890. It was acquired by CGH Earth Group in 2000 and painstakingly restored over 4 years. The palace has many legends and stories associated with it including a small museum. Any staff member will be happy to recount some of those stories for you.
As I entered the room, I was filled with a sense of well being. The pleasant scent of lemon grass wafted over me. A flower petal etched greeting on the bed was a lovely surprise! The rooms are very comfortable, tastefully done and all modern amenities for a comfortable living have been provided. It was interesting to note that on leaving the room, guests are expected to leave the key hanging by the side of the door. It seems the only purpose of the room key was to let others know if I was in the room or not.
Weapons used in Kalarippayat training
For more photos, click here All guests are provided with 3 sets of simple white pure cotton Kurta Pyjamas and a bath robe to be used during treatments. I was asked to freshen up and change into clothes provided by Kalari and advised to wear only those during my stay. Soon, I was escorted to the dining area. As I walked there, I couldn’t help but stop to appreciate the intricately carved gleaming original wooden pillars, which bordered the passages and a podium like space, earmarked for evening cultural activities. The giant lemon grass bushes bordering one end of the courtyard tempted one to reach out, crush a leaf and deeply inhale!
The dining area faced beautiful lawns. The rains had imparted their very own freshness and flavor to the various shades of green on display. After a simple yet tasty meal, I had an appointment with the physician and was asked to carry any medical reports I may have. Dr. Jouhar Kanhirala who was to be my medical consultant had majored in Chemistry and then graduated in Ayurveda, unlike his other family members who had chosen to specialize in Western Medicine. It was a remark by his Professor that by practicing Ayurveda, you never have to feel guilty about prescribing a medicine that made him change his mind. He explained further that Ayurveda drugs, if prescribed and imbibed correctly do not lead to any side effects. However, when a doctor of western medicine prescribes even a paracetamol, he is essentially guilty of adversely affecting the health of the kidney and liver. He is also of the firm opinion that if we eat vegetables and fruits which are local and in season, there is no need to take multivitamins and other dietary supplements, which are unnecessarily marketed by pharmaceutical companies for profits.
I underwent a short physical examination and a detailed interview about my lifestyle and habits to determine my dosha (Vata, Pitha, Kapha). My dosha would determine my treatment over the next two weeks.
Immediately after the examination, I went for Udwarthanam – a powder massage used to exfoliate and cleanse the skin. This treatment burns fat and drains out the lymphatic systems – prepping me for the actual treatment which was to begin the next day.
European Wing - constructed 90 years ago for European guests
of the Royal family
For more photos, click here After the treatment, yoga consultation awaited me. I was asked to report at 7 am for a one-to-one yoga session. Dinner was again simple and I was introduced to other residents. All of us were wearing white, like the residents of an ashram. The look and feel was one of purity. I believe this sameness of dress is an important part of the process as it makes you focus on the treatment and takes away from the distraction of dressing and making fashion statements. It also helps one focus on the individual within,as externally we all look the same.
The chef and the wait staff are very nice and knowledgeable about food and ayurvedic relevance. They patiently explain to everyone their specific meal as ordered by the doctor. Even tea at the end of the meal was prepared separately for each individual as per their Dosha.
A cultural program of vocal Carnatic music with Mridangam and Violin awaited us. An hour of pure ecstasy, as the performers enthralled us.
10PM and I was fast asleep.
No breakfast for me today as I have started Snehapanam, this is the first step in the Panchakarma process. I have to drink medicated ghee during this process which penetrates deep in to the muscle tissues and collects toxins. The quantity of the ghee administered and the number of days it is given for varies from person to person, depending on the body type and reaction to the initial doses. This phase (varying from 3 to 7 days) can get a little trying symptomatically, since the aim is finally to purge the toxins naturally. The final purging leaves one a little tired but feeling light.
After early morning yoga, I was introduced to Nidra Yoga and then a very small lunch of Rice Gruel (Podiyarikanji) and vegetables. My treatment of Uzhichil followed in the afternoon. Uzhichil is an oil massage which externally foliates the body which allows for easier detoxification. This schedule will be repeated for the next few days until the doctor determines the next course of treatment. The Evening’s program was group chanting of Mahamritunjaya Mantra.
I spoke briefly with Mr. Cherian, the general manager of the place. He shared that he himself has undergone a transformation since coming here. Today he is a vegetarian and a teetotaler.Though his friends find this tough to believe, he seems a man at peace! He says that his biggest reward is when guests leave happy and return year after year.This is completely validated as most people who come here once, do come back again.
Meals being prepared in the kitchen for guests
For more photos, click here Jasmine (name changed) from Moscow, Russia is back this year. She recounts that when she went back home after her previous treatment, her 17yr old son could not recognize her. He did not respond to her greeting at the airport- said he was wondering who this strange young girl was trying to hail! Such is the power of Panchkarma that you not only feel younger but look younger as well. I wonder why more people don’t go for it? Is it because we don’t love our bodies or simply because we could not care less! Next time you plan an exotic foreign vacation or give a down payment on yet another (useless!) asset; think what you will be willing to pay to live a few more healthy years or look younger by a few years.
The food menu at Kalari is planned individually for every guest and is a part of the treatment. Its preparation is such that it assists in the detoxification procedure. As each individual’s detoxification regimen is different, so is their food. Similarly, the gentle asanas of Yoga and Yoga Nidra are designed to help the body detoxify.
I had taken a number of books with me to read, believing that I would have ample time on my hands to kill but this was not the case. The schedule was pretty tight and during the gaps in between, I chose to meditate and contemplate, rather than read. The beautiful library at Kalari has quite a few books in various languages, from fiction to non-fiction and computers with Internet access.
The intensity of the massage treatment had me wondering about the impact of these on the therapists who carried out the treatments. Was there an energy exchange? Could this adversely impact the health of therapists? How did they detoxify themselves? I wasn’t far off the mark. At the same time, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the therapists practice Kalarippayat, the traditional martial art form of Kerala every morning. In addition, once a year they themselves undergo a 19 day process of detoxification and rejuvenation (Abhyanga) during the monsoons, as a part of their training. Kalarippayat, is considered the mother of all martial arts, and is believed to have been carried by Bodhidharma in 4AD to China, which later became Kung Fu and spawned many other martial art forms. When you are in Kalari, you must witness a demonstration of this art by your therapists. It is a treat to behold. The art of Marma which is the precursor to acupressure is also taught to the therapists here, as a part of their training in Kalarippayat.
Oils and other medicines for treatment are prepared in house
For more photos, click here Many of the herbs used in the treatment are grown within the premises and if you will take a short walk with one of the doctors (as I did), he will be happy to explain to you the medicinal significance of the trees and plants growing on campus. All oils and most other preparations for treatment are prepared in house.
Most of the food served is local and in-season, prepared in stone and copper pots. The simple, ayurvedic vegetarian food is so tasty that many residents learn the dishes from the ever obliging chef.
The two yoga instructors who taught me yoga were from the internationally recognized Bihar School of Yoga and Shivananda School of Yoga. . The instructors provided individual attention to each guest, with great sensitivity towards each person’s needs and limitations.
As days passed the daily routine got more and more busy with multiple treatments every day, morning and evening yoga sessions and evening talks and cultural programs. As every person’s treatment varies, I will not go into my treatment details, but guests were here for a number of reasons. Some like me came here for general well being. Some to quit an addiction like smoking. Some to lose weight and others for a particular affliction like heart disease, diabetes, severe back pain and even multiple sclerosis.
All in all the experience was not just wonderful and energizing but also very holistic. Along with the Ayurvedic treatment; I did yoga; ate healthy food; exercised my intellect by listening to some enlightening talks and talking with other guests; and of course, enjoyed a feast for my visual and aural senses with different classical music and dance performances.
A perfect stay indeed!
Once back in Delhi, many commented on my glowing and younger looking persona; a few ladies even remarked – “What happened to you? You look handsome.” I have not been called that ever by anyone except my dear wife. The feedback and my feeling of well being made the trip worthwhile and I am already looking forward to my next one!
To know more about Ayurveda click here.
To know more about Kalarippayat click here.
To know more about Kalari Kovilakom and to read other reviews click on a link below
Life Positive Magazine
New York Times
Daily Mail (UK)
The Times (UK)
Kalari Kovilakom Website
Subject: Ayurveda treatments - 2 April 2013
It is often combined with yoga and other methods to provide deep healing from within and without. Every treatment is based on your needs and the ayurvedic body type. Can get here for anti aging, weight reduction, detoxification or stress management treatments.
Subject: information - 19 February 2013
may be benlficial
by: Dilip b.sarwate
|HOME | SUBSCRIBE | WALLPAPERS | ADVERTISING | POLICY | PRACTITIONERS | WRITERS | PEOPLE | ABOUT | CONTACT|