Nothing like a bit of spa pampering for that ‘everything is right with the world’ kind of glow. Added bonus — everything points to it being good for you and you don’t even have to lift a finger, because it’s being lifted for you. You might have to make it on your own steam to the steam room but for the most part, lie back, enjoy! Alas, every taste of it, if but one experience is right, has you craving for the next through the thinning glow...
The newly built spa in the Taj Usha Kiran Gwalior property is tucked into a corner of the sprawling lawns behind the original, somewhat careworn but grand, 120-year-old palace. It is built along the lines of the adjoining zenana area and its three massage rooms (all kitted for couples) are both charming and calming, with everything neatly laid out from flowers to fragrant oils and appropriately soothing piped muzac.
At first sight, just the broad heads in the Taj Group spas’ booklet can seem bewildering — Signature treatments, Indian therapies, Indian Aromatherapy, Scrubs and Wraps, Beauty, Yoga, Meditation, Spa Experience. Closer scrutiny will reveal that the signature treatments are often a mix and match of the other more specific ones, and that some of the proposed massages are but familiar Ayurvedic roses by another name. The numerous offerings can make you flounder, but the cleverly written descriptions that really don’t tell you the difference between one and the other will have to serve as guide — they will quote this bible back at you if you ask.
I clearly could not test and try it all in my short stay but took first plunge into the signature treatment — the royal Mangal Snan. In a word — delectable! A three-hour multiple course. First, a warm herbal tea, a little perfumed footbath and flat out on the table. To be lathered with a cool milky cleanser, a gritty masala rubdown, followed by tenderisation in the steam room and a shower to wash off the marinade. Willing flesh is then kneaded with a combination of warm oils that suffuses the senses and leaves body in a limp state between wonder and slumber. Accompanied by the strains of a Hindustani classical live musician behind a screened-off jaali. Aroused to be invited to dunk same supine mass in the sunken marble tub, in a warm bath of saffron, other spices and rose petals. Well done. I skipped the package dressing of a henna hand design.
Seeking variety, I next went for a deceptively named Pehlwan Maalish which was vigorous but gentle, then piously ate a Taj spa set menu lunch (has to be ordered in advance) — which was unexpectedly delicious—and after a suitable gap and nap returned to luxuriate in a Mocha Patra, a scrub followed by a slow basting completely wrapped and tucked in banana leaves.
The staff in the spa is decorous and attentive to a fault, but prudishness or prudence dictates that unlike in most traditional clinics, the practitioner will steer clear of any approach to or visibility of private parts which includes the female upper torso.
When I left, the hotel was gearing for full house over the Independence Day weekend. The swarms would no doubt make a beeline for the spa if they had come for pampering but having had my fill, I left with much sympathy, for Sumitra of the competent hands, the only masseuse, and Narayan, the only masseur, who would have to cater to the lot. And some empathy for the stragglers who would not make it to the appointment book.
Treatments Mangal Snan, massages, Ayurvedic treatments, body scrubs and wraps
Treatment Rates Rs 1,050-1,650
Treatment Packages Rs 2,800-4,800 (90min-5hr)
Room Tariff From Rs 3,000
Contact 0751-2444000, www.tajhotels.com
Mangal Snan (3hr), a unique treatment that includes your being serenaded with a live performance of musicians. Your body is first pampered with a deep cleansing, exfoliating and a calming massage using age-old royal spices, herbs and oils. The experience culminates with a royal saffron bath, and an auspicious henna hand design for ladies. Rs 4,500