The nerve centre of Ananda in the Himalayas — the first and only world-class destination spa in India — is its low-slung, 21,000 sq ft spa building. You can wander the Viceregal palace and its beautiful grounds, or enjoy the comfort of your room with a Himalayan view, but this is not a classic resort property with all its implications of entertainment, nightlife and a social scene; all the action is centred around health and wellbeing.
Ayurveda is the speciality at Ananda, so while there are standard international hydrotherapy, body and beauty treatments available (besides a gym, squash court, jogging track, pool and golf course), I opt for the classic Abhyanga massage. In the spacious changing room, I put my regular clothes in a locker, swapping them for disposable underwear, a terrycloth bathrobe and slippers. The therapist leads me to one of the 21 treatment rooms, where she and her colleague set to work.
Ayurveda is all about balancing the three doshas, or bio energies, of vatta, pitta and kapha in the body, by using medicated oils to massage the body. I’ve had the mandatory half-hour consultation with the spa doctor before that, who tells me that my dominant doshas are vatta and pitta, so after the therapists have done a little arti to me and chanted a prayer, they get to work with the appropriate counterbalancing oils.
I start out seated, with one therapist massaging my head, neck and shoulders for 10 minutes while the other one places my feet in a bowl of warm scented water and gently washes and rubs them. Then I’m laid out on the traditional wooden massage table, and two pairs of hands begin to massage my body in perfect synchronicity, 20 minutes each on the front and back of my body.
Abhyanga is an epic sort of massage, involving vigorous sweeping moves that leave me relaxed and tingling at the same time. It’s used to prime the body, stimulating its natural energy channels and processes like a wake-up call, so that it becomes more receptive to its own energies as well as to further treatments. They use so much oil that I don’t think I can possibly absorb it all, but I do.
When at last I heave my slithery body off the table I’m ushered into a steam room for five minutes, before rubbing my body with an oil-removing scrubbing and showering.
The lovely thing about Ananda is that it’s designed to make everything beautiful — the touch of the masseuse, the signature fragrance that floats in all the indoor spaces, the soothing music piped softly into every room, the maroon and orange colour scheme and the large windows which look out on banks of greenery.
The actual massage is not necessarily better or worse than any other decent spa, but the bells and whistles really do make a difference.
Treatments Over 79 body and beauty treatments; Swedish massage, aromatherapy, Thai massage, reflexology, couples’ massage, water therapy body treatments, exfoliation, body wraps, skin care treatments
Treatment Rates Rs 1,200-4,600
Treatment Packages Rs 72,600 for 3N/4D to Rs 2,16,000 for 5N/6D packages (inclusive of room tariff)
Room Tariff Rs 22,000-1,55,000
Contact 01378-227500, www.anandaspa.com