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Resort review: This boutique property near Alappuzha positions itself as an Ayurvedic hospital

Among the retreats that opened their doors in 2022 is Amal Tamara, a boutique property in Mannancherry village, near Alappuzha in Kerala, offering a holistic treatment, from Ayurvedic massages, meditation, and an in-house doctor and chef curating treatments and meals according to what your body requires.

January 08, 2023 / 11:01 PM IST
Amal Tamara, Kerala. (Photo: Kalpana Sunder)

Amal Tamara, Kerala. (Photo: Kalpana Sunder)

Ayurveda has been seeing a resurgence since the pandemic motivated us to seek more healthful ways of living. In December 2022, AYUSH Ministry secretary Vaidya Rajesh Kotecha said at the 9th World Ayurveda Congress and Arogya Expo in Goa that by the end of 2022, AYUSH sector will reach $10 billion.

This resurgence has also spilled over into wellness retreats and holidays. From Ananda in the Himalayas, in Uttarakhand, to Atmantan, Maharashtra, wellness resorts have been attracting the cash- and time-rich for detox holidays. Statista data show that India’s wellness economy was already worth $77.6 billion in 2020.

Amal Tamara, in Mannancherry village, near Alleppey, Kerala. Amal Tamara, in Mannancherry village, near Alleppey, Kerala.

Among the retreats that opened their doors in 2022 is Amal Tamara, a boutique property with 19 rooms, in Mannancherry village, near Alappuzha, Kerala. Here, the treatment schedules are for a minimum of 7 days and then in multiples of a week. A typical stay is  a week and multiples of a week. Average costs with activities and treatment is Rs 183,775 for single and Rs 257,299 for double occupancy.

The décor and ambience

A two-hour drive from Kochi, past meandering canals and palm trees, brings you to Amal Tamara, spread over 3.5 acres, where the staff greet you with aarti and a sandalwood paste teeka. The welcome drink is tender coconut water.

Past the reception area is a sunlit quadrangle filled with gleaming brass urulis, flowers, comfortable sofas and a dining room beyond that. Antique-looking wooden artefacts decorate the walls, from an old water wheel and a giant oar to an old boat displaying spices used in Ayurveda. On a wooden counter are memorabilia from the past from an old coconut scraper to an idiyappam press. Bright Kerala murals enliven walls, and a small shop sells ceramic diffusers and yoga mats as well as traditional games.

Amal Tamara. (Photo: Kalpana Sunder) Amal Tamara. (Photo: Kalpana Sunder)

There are sprawling lawns, and hammocks tethered to coconut trees for reading through a lazy afternoon. Dhanwantari  garden — a spiral garden with the statue of Lord Dhanwantari, the god of healing, and stone tablets with the various yogic mudras inscribed on them — has a gazebo near the water, where visitors can spend a quiet afternoon watching cormorants and kingfisher dart into the waters, fishermen pass by on their small boats, small boys hunting for clams, and large house boats gliding by.

In the garden in the front is the Nakshatra Vanam — a green  patch with 27 different trees which represent the birth stars of a person.

Fishing nets on Vembanad Lake, Allapuzha. (Photo: Kalpana Sunder) Fishing nets on Vembanad Lake, Allapuzha. (Photo: Kalpana Sunder)

My first floor room is elegantly  furnished with a large bed and a study area, and has a balcony overlooking the sprawling Vembanad Lake, dotted with fishing nets and boats. The attention to detail can be gauged from toiletries like wooden brushes and combs placed in a jute bag, to the copper jug at my bedside, filled with herbal water that is changed daily. During my one-week stay, the jug contains ginger water for digestion and tulsi water for sore throat, among other warm drinks.

The treatments

Ayurveda treats people based on body types and there's no "one size fits all". The Amal Tamara team employs the concept of Chikitsa Chatushpada — a tenet of Ayurveda that attributes healing to the synergy of four forces: physician, patient, therapist, and medicine. Most Ayurvedic retreats like CGH Earth Kalari Rasayana and Kairali-Ayurvedic Healing village operate on this philosophy.

The property has experienced Ayurvedic doctors, and I had a pre-arrival consultation on the phone so that the doctors were aware of my health issues. This is included in the costs.

On arrival, I also filled out a lot of forms about my health history, food habits and lifestyle, which the team said would help them to frame my diet and treatment plan to balance my doshas (energies).

Typical treatments include Panchakarma Detox, which is a detox that could incorporate everything from an enema to nasyam which clears nasal passages and even inducing vomiting. There are also anti-ageing, weight loss, immunity boosting, ortho care and even a pre-wedding wellness package. Amal Tamara offers a wider variety than just the traditional ones offered at similar Ayurvedic retreats. Every programme also is holistic, including meditation, yoga and  various other therapies like sound healing and music therapy.

The experience

Days start early here, with a wake-up call and yoga sessions at the Yogapeedam, with the views of the Vembanad Lake and the chirps of birds in the air. Every session starts with a small fire ritual and mantras called the agnihotram to purify the environment and add positive energy, and ends with pranayama and meditation.

Views of the Vembanad Lake from the Amal Tamara resort. (Photo: Kalpana Sunder) Views of the Vembanad Lake from the Amal Tamara resort. (Photo: Kalpana Sunder)

Visitors can opt for oil massages with medicated Ayurvedic oils and warm potlis filled with herbs (Kizhi treatment), medicated powders and grains, or spend their afternoons walking in the Dhanwantri garden.

I explore the Vembanad Lake on a houseboat one afternoon, which is offered by the retreat. Gliding through this gargantuan waterbody, an intricate network of canals, lagoons and estuaries, we see the saltwater barrier which helps arrest the intrusion of tidal saltwaters into the lowlands.

On some  evenings, we are treated to  cultural performances like the classical dance of Mohiniattam performed by a sola female dancer. I love the singing bowl meditation in a special room, where I close my eyes and lie down, focusing on my breathing and listening to the sonorous sound of the mallets striking the bowls. Buddhist monks have used Tibetan singing bowls for centuries in meditation. The bowls vibrate and produce a deep tone that is said to promote relaxation and have healing properties.

Tibetan gongs for meditation at Amal Tamara. (Photo: Kalpana Sunder) Tibetan gongs for meditation at Amal Tamara. (Photo: Kalpana Sunder)

I also take a tour of Kashaya Pura, their in-house Ayurvedic medicine production facility. This space is filled with brass and ceramic utensils and jars, home-grown and externally sourced herbs, and oils sourced from certified Ayurvedic companies. I watch the doctor prepare potlis or kizhi —small poultices of herbs, medicated powders or leaves carefully tied up in cotton cloth, and then  applied all over the body, either dry, dipped in oil or after they are steamed, according to the treatment. Kizhi helps you expel toxins and relieves pains.

The doctors here have a look at your entire medical history, reports, etc., before starting you on any programme/treatment. It is, of course, advisable to consult your medical practitioner.

The food

The healthy food at Amal Tamara is definitely the star of the show. All recipes are devoid of sea salt, refined sugar, preservatives and refined flour. The menu is  based on each person's health as assessed by the doctors on check-in and crafted accordingly by the chefs.

The food is healthy, sans salt and sugar, curated according to your health requirements at Amal Tamara. (Photo: Kalpana Sunder) The food is healthy, sans salt and sugar, curated according to your health requirements at Amal Tamara. (Photo: Kalpana Sunder)

The menu for me includes apple beetroot juice, red spinach avial, lauki curry, ragi rotis, multigrain dosas — all healthy and delicious. Sometimes, even international dishes are presented with a local twist, such as quesadillas with avocado salsa. Desserts are rare, served usually at lunch and use jaggery or coconut milk.

Tea time is for herbal teas and sukku (ginger) coffee served with small bites like dhoklas or kozhukattai, even steamed dumplings of pumpkin and corn flour. The accent is on healthy eating and staying light. Chef Joji is always at hand, making sure the food is to your liking and you are satiated.

Eating light and healthy at Amal Tamara. (Photo: Kalpana Sunder) Eating light and healthy at Amal Tamara. (Photo: Kalpana Sunder)

The resort actively encourages digital detox and discourages bringing your phone to meals. Mindful eating is what it wants the guests to practice, and I discover that after many years, I am actually focusing on my food and tasting it without any distractions. Early dinners, and early to bed and early to rise is the norm here. I am a little wary about sleeping early coming from city life, but find myself soporific after a day of treatments, yoga, meditation and exercise.

Dhanwantari herbal garden at Amal Tamara. (Photo: Kalpana Sunder) Dhanwantari herbal garden at Amal Tamara. (Photo: Kalpana Sunder)

Other Ayurvedic wellness retreats in India:

CGH Earth Prakriti Shakti offers cottages with private balcony at Rs 22,900 per day, for one patient in the room, with curative treatments that start at 10 days and Naturopathy Detox at seven days.

 CGH Earth Kalari Rasayana offers suites at Rs 40,921.42 per day, for 14 days, for one patient in the room, inclusive of all treatments, yoga and meditation, food and pick up from the nearest airport.

Kairali–the Ayurvedic Healing Village, Palakkad, offers a variety of Ayurvedic treatments. A one-week rejuvenation and healing package, which includes two treatments a day, yoga and meditation as well as accommodation and food starts at Rs 196,210 for a couple.

Kalpana Sunder is an independent travel writer. She is on Twitter @KalpanaSunder