Kochi: Ayurveda is a way of life. Not only does it continue to be one of the most popular methods of treatment preferred in Kerala, it is also a crowd-puller when it comes to tourism. The ancient way of healing was also on KTM 2018’s priority list in order to familiarise people with its true potential. I was part of a contingent of journalists from across the globe who were taken on a pre-KTM tour – a once-in-a lifetime indulgence of Ayurveda in its truest form at some of the prime Ayurveda centres in Kerala.
A few days before the grand event was to take off in Kochi, we were taken through the charming villages nestled within the districts of Thrissur and Palakkad. Our first stop was at Sopanam Welcare Centre, a multispecialty Ayurveda hospital located at Naduvarambu in Thrissur. Cocooned within tall trees and herbal plants, the property is a setting of tranquillity. Sopanam offers treatment for a variety of illnesses. After a quick tour, our next halt was at the picture-perfect Niramayam, a heritage Ayurveda hospital located at Cherpu, Thrissur. After a traditional welcome by the hospital staff clad in Kerala saree and mundu, Rakesh O M, Managing Director, Niramayam, took us through the three-storeyed building which has an irresistible old world charm, complete with aesthetically-designed rooms and meditation halls.
The tour wound up with a scrumptious traditional feast after which we were off to the next location on our itinerary – the Vaidyaratnam Ayurveda Museum. Call it the perfect ride back in time to the very roots of Ayurveda. The museum is a novel project started by Vaidyaratnam Oushadhasala which was established in central Kerala in 1941. A first-of-its-kind, the museum reveals the story of this stream of medicine through a series of exhibits that includes artefacts, sculptures, scriptures and pictures. The 3D gallery gave us a sneak peek into the manufacturing of Ayurvedic medicines as well as the treatment techniques that evolved over the years.
Our next stop was Neelambari, a premium boutique resort located by the banks of Karuvannur river, Arattupuzha, Thrissur. One of the most spectacular features of this property is the central building which combines the features of a Koothambalam and a Nalukettu. The Koothambalam hosts some art works carved on single piece of wood on its roof, exquisite stone art and murals that can leave one gaping in amazement. The evening comprised a ride on a boat or ‘vanji’, an ubiquitous mode of transport for people living alongside such waterbodies, as we snacked on traditional homemade eats and sipped tea. Feeling relaxed, we were more than happy to call it a day at the Nattika Beach Ayurveda Resort.
Day two kicked off with a boat ride to the beautiful Rajah Islands. One of three Rajah Ayurveda Hospitals, the 20-acre Rajah Island is situated on the backwaters of Kerala. One can choose accommodation on the waterfront or prefer a more secluded space tucked away in the mangroves. Here, the 10 treatment rooms, located away from the cottages, are conceptualised with inspiration from the Panchabhootas.
Our next stop was a heritage resort – The Kunnathur Mana Ayurveda Heritage Resort, one of the few ancestral homes in Kerala that is over 130 years old. The mana or illam, as ancestral homes were once called, is today home to a team of Ayurveda doctors and therapists.
The Sree Chithra Ayur Home at Manathala in the coastal town of Chavakkad in Thrissur, is another stunner. The traditional architecture and homely atmosphere is why it has been named Ayur ‘Home’. P V Madhusudhanan, Chief Physician, MD and fifth generation Ayurveda physician from his family met us here.
We visited Meiveda, an Ayurvedic beach resort next. Meiveda has recreated their cottages based on the traditional illam style, only, the amenities are modern, making the resort an idyllic wellness destination. This time, we were hosted at Perumbayil Ayurveda Mana.
Day three started off with a light yoga session followed by a relaxing massage, some black tea and a light breakfast. The renovated Perumbayil Mana is a delightful sight in the mornings. Each room has been named after the elements of nature and furnished with antiques.
Next stop was Ayurashram. A homely little space surrounded by medicinal gardens and swimming pools. The amazing Kairali Ayurvedic Health Resort at Palakkad formed the last visit for day three. Founded in 1989, Kairali is an out-of-this-world experience, be it on the property or treatment front. The evening was spent shuttling between massage and steam rooms. The landscaping was done by the famous Dr. G S Randhawa. This healing village overflows with exotic gardens, waterfalls, strategically-designed pathways and plush rooms named after the zodiac signs in Indian astrology. Day four, also the last day of the tour, had just one stop on the itinerary – Kalari Kovilakom, the palace for Ayurveda from CGH Earth. A visit to Kalari Kovilakom can be considered an introspective journey done best in solitude. They also emphasise that it is not a space for those looking for a spa vacation.
From the healthy food to the treatment facilities within the beautiful villages that even now seem undisturbed by the overwhelming bustle of modern times, the tour itself was a sign of Kerala at its best.