The word ‘Ānanda’ means ‘bliss’ in Pali, Sanskrit as well as other Indian languages. And BLISS is the best word to describe what I experienced during my 3 day stay at the Ananda Spa & Resort in the Himalayas. I have heard so much of this place that its been in my “To Do” list for a while. And finally I told myself – “Don’t Think – ACT” and made an impulse decision to come for 3 nights. 9W 824 is a one hop flight from Bangalore to Dehradun Via Delhi (leaves at 07.50AM) and reaches Dehradun at 11.45. From the Jolly Grant airport Via Rishikesh its a 45 min drive to Ananda and I was in the hotel by 1.15 in time for a princely welcome and a stately lunch.
The majestic hotel is housed in the property that was the Palace of the Garhwal King and is located at Narendra Nagar. Its named after Ma Ananda Mayi a Sadhvi who was the spiritual guru of the Maharaja. Its spread across 100 acres, of which 25 Acres is developed as the Resort and Spa. The main Palace does not have any rooms (Barring 1 regal suite) and the rooms are located 500m away from the reception/palace. Ananda has 78 rooms , 5 Suites and 3 Villas.
While there is a lot to talk about Ananda there are 3 things that stand out
1. Verdant greenery, pristine and manicured
2. Excellent service – very well trained professionals
3. Great Spa – with wide variety of excellent treatments
The fresh verdant greenery is soothing and calming to the eyes. As you enter the hotel and drive to your room you see these well maintained gardens . The gardens even have peacocks and the entire area is filled with a wide variety of chirping birds.
The rooms are nice and comfortable. They all come with a balcony, a nice walk in closet and all the latest amenities that you will find any 5 Star Luxury hotel. The Wi Fi is super fast and Phone signals are strong. You can even pack light because they give you sets of Pyjama/Kurta your size and encourage you to wear that in the property. They have 24 by 7 room service and a TV / VCR. The view from the rooms is lovely – its either a garden view or a Valley View. The valley view in the morning is heavenly. And if you asks kid to draw heaven this is what she will draw – Green hills with multiple layers of clouds and a blue sky.
The Villas are luxurious – and thats where Oprah stays when she comes to visit Ananda in her private jet. Many a former Prime Minister, dignitary and famous people have visited Ananda. (http://shanti.shawfirecreative.com/oprah-winfrey-returns-to-ananda)
The Spa and the restaurant are very close to the Hotel rooms. The Spa has about 25 Treatment rooms and a wide variety of Treatments – Ayurveda, International Experiences, Healing With Hot Stone, Tibetan, Hydrotherapy – you name it they have it. The Spa is spacious , spotlessly clean and classy. All that it takes from ambience and experience to make it amongst the best in the world. Costs vary from Rs 4500 for a 55 min session to 8500/- for a 90 min session. But get your appointments at check in – they are almost always packed out. Adjoining the Spa is a large heated swimming pool and a decent Gym.
The restaurant serves a wide range of dishes from indian to international cuisine. You can have “Mung Dal Chila” for breakfast, Pasta and Thai Green curry for lunch and Curd Rice for dinner. You name the dish they have it. But what you must try is the special Garhwali food. This is made to order and comes with its own set of starters, soup, main course and desserts. The kababs are fabulous and the main course consisting of Jakhiya Aloo, Pahadi Kadi, Jakhiya Paneer, Gahat Ki Dal, Jakhiya Rice, Mandwe Ki Roti was a wonderful dinner. (And if you are wondering what is Jakhiya – its a smaller version of Mustard that grows here). The service in the restaurant is outstanding – and thats a common theme across all of Ananda, superlative service at every step.
One good thing that adds to the peace and tranquility of the place is that they do not allow kids below the Age of 14. This place is perfect for couples or to come solo. There are many activities – they have Yoga classes for beginners and intermediates in the morning, a 9 Hole Golf course, Vedanta classes, Cooking Classes etc. Outside the resort you can go for the Ganga Aarti at Rishikesh or White Water Rafting at Shivpuri (During Non Monsoon Season). Peak season is Oct – Feb when the foreigners come in hordes, many of them staying for weeks and months.
In July with the Monsoon it was perfect for me. Occupancy was a low 30% , it was raining 50% of the time – that added to the charm. At the pavilion in the midst of nature at 5.30 Am when you sit down to do your meditation listening to the pitter patter of rain and chirping of birds – it indeed feels like waves of peace are blowing over you. The “Kavad” season made Rishikesh so crowded that we were asked to stay away. The Ganga was in spate in Monsoon so white water rafting was closed. It starts again in Sep. But all this was good as it allowed me to spend all my time in the resort and soak in the nature, peace and tranquility.
I did take a few hrs and visit the famous ” Vashisht Caves”. This is located 45 Km from Ananda – 1 hr drive. Located on the banks of the Ganges this is the cave where the Brahma Rishi – Sage Vashisht is supposed to have meditated. Since then from Shankara to Sir M – many spiritually evolved people have come here to meditate. The place is empty and nice and the caves have strong vibrations which you can sense when you sit there for even a few minutes. Fortunately its not crowded.
As I sat by the Ganges – flowing relentlessly you realise the power of Nature and the thought that this river has been flowing for millions of years leaves you with a sense of awe and humility. The river feels alive and it can teach you so many lessons. The summary of what it says is – “Keep moving and don’t look back, for men may come and men may go but life goes on for ever“
So will I come back to Ananda. Most people do – and I definitely want to come back with my wife soon. Maybe in a different season. I am looking forward to that day. Ananda beckons.