There are resorts and there are retreats in India and Ananda is second to none. It isn’t everyday you experience such a high level of service and Ananda’s staff are well beyond any travellers expectations. Arriving there we were fortunate enough to arrive by helicopter otherwise it is a serious drive from Delhi. That’s not to say that it’s not worth the drive and many if not most guests train on the shatabdi express from New Delhi Station, or drive there as part of the experience.
Arriving to the helicopter pad we are picked up and escorted to the main building to check in and get acquainted. The atmosphere at first is not that of an ashram, and if you are looking for simplicity, you can find it here once you delve into the main resort where things are humbled, yet stylish.
At first we are greeted with the local chanting beads 108 rudraksha beads that seed of a particular tree species that grows at a certain altitude mainly in the Himalayan region. Unfortunately, most of these trees were used to make railway sleepers, so there are very few of them remaining in India. Today, they are mostly found in Nepal, Burma, Thailand or Indonesia. It’s claimed these seeds have a unique vibrations and are a good support because they create a cocoon of your own energy.
Like so many people heading to the banks of the Ganges River referred to as Ganga there, there are humble beginnings for numerous ashram organizations. More importantly there you can experience the Navaratri, the festival of the goddess and there is no better place on earth to celebrate it. A breathtaking experience of natural beauty and undiscovered wildlife, not to mention the peace and tranquility of a landscape associated with a rich history of meditation.
There you can have an unforgettable experience in the foothills of the Himalayas by taking the 45 minute drive from Ananda to the holy town of Rishikesh. The gateway to the Himalayas, Rishikesh is at the base of Himalaya and the place where Ganga comes down to the plains from hills.
Flying over the city, the only disadvantage to this time of the year is the smokey overtones from farmers burning their fields. While it’s smokey-smoke lies in the lowlands at the resort located at 1200metres it is much clearer and the light is shimmers brighter.
According to legend, a great rishi (poet scholar) called Raibhya practiced intensive yoga mediation there and was rewarded by the appearance of the god Vishnu. Ever since then, Rishikesh has been a holy town, and is packed with ashrams to house the thousands of visiting pilgrims. Today, Rishikesh has become a center for learning and research in yoga and meditation, the renowned Indian methods for mental and physical health.
Up top on the mountain hills over looking the valley is Ananda’s 100 acres of forest centred on the palace of the Maharajah of Tehri-Garhwal’s Kingdom: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garhwal_Kingdom#Formation_of_Tehri_Garhwal_state
Unfortunately our stay at Ananda was short, however we had a good sense of the resort and treatments. So what does someone do at an Indian resort such as a retreat. The activities are all mostly based on the practice of Ayurveda, with outdoor activities such as hiking, meditation yoga and indoor spa treatments. But at Ananda you’ll find a fully equipped gym to include more modern day fitness such as pilates and abs burning classes. I am a little lazy about the spa but I did take a signature treatment which takes place in the main spa building and is 90-minutes of bliss.
Ananda’s rituals are mostly based on Ayurveda’s doshas called Vata, Pitta and Kapha, and states that a balance of these doshas results in good health, while imbalance results in stress and disease. My wife practices western styled yoga and was sure to point out the importance of the basics in breathing, releasing stress and focusing on inner energy, without the usual western focus on body flexibility and strength.
Ananda is a place for wellness and expect some hiccups because no place is perfect and travel in India is much more complex than most people believe. That’s not to say that its not worth the trip but its important to understand that Ananda is in the middle of nowhere, and for some in the centre of the universe. Yet travellers often have expectations of a grand resort, a matching wine list and cuisine to carry your culinary dreams to heaven. I can say the cuisine is good and certainly for anyone looking for variety. The menus are vast and the selection much greater than you would find in any other resort of this type.
I enjoyed the casual atmosphere, juices freshly pressed and the salad bar, a la carte ingredients, including a chef to mix your choices into a delectable salad.
The service is just superb and you feel a sense of community. Indians are proud and they have a county based on a sharing-giving community. They sincerely appreciate travellers who respect their culture and rich history. No doubt Ananda’s staff are there to take care of you, and they all make serious efforts to accomodate clients needs. I want to thank Rahul Makhija and the Spa manager Ankur Verma for managing our stay so professionally. It was a pleasure and we will return to re-experience Ananda’s again 🙂