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Anar, the King of fruits here
The Hindu Business Line - 05 May 2010

Pomegranates. Who would have thought that those blood-red edible rubies that are gingerly picked out of many a salad bowl can suddenly take on a whole new meaning.

First, they came in the form of a gift from Andhra Pradesh’s hinterland - a home-spun kurta cloth delicately dyed in pomegranate and then an offer to experience a luxury spa where the pomegranate reigns supreme. The fruit’s culinary efficacy and anti-oxidant qualities have always been known, and perhaps, taken for granted. However, its role as an effective vegetable dye and even more, its ability to nourish and nurture both the skin and the soul was sure a discovery.

Yes, it’s the pomegranate that holds centre stage and sets the theme at Kaya Kalp - The Royal Spa, ITC’s chain of branded luxury spas. The fruit that was originally brought to India by Mughal emperor Babur fits into the royal Mughal ambience that ITC hotels exude in design, art and cuisine and is meant to bring alive the wellness experience for clients.

The maya behind Kaya

The latest to join the Kaya Kalp chain of spas is ITC’s Jaipur property, Sheraton Rajputana. Already present in the ITC offerings in Delhi and Agra, Kaya Kalp in Jaipur completes Indian tourism’s golden triangle.

Sheraton Rajputana, just a stone’s throw away from the city’s railway station, already had a lot going for it. Its brick red exterior, reminiscent of the famous havelis of the region, along with the traditional courtyards dressed in green foliage are a welcoming relief from the heat and dust of a typical Rajasthan summer. Then comes the spa, like the icing on the cake, beckoning guests to unwind in its cool interiors.

“Yes, when the IPL teams stayed here, for many of the players Kaya Kalp came as a big relief after a day out in the scorching sun,” informs my host and guide, Suresh Menon, incharge of both marketing and media at the hotel.

So, after a quick freshen up in one of the tastily done up rooms and a generous sampling of the Peshawari platter, I savour a slice of Mughal luxury too.

Splash of pomegranate

Enter the spa space and you may as well conjure up a walk in the clouds. What sets it apart is the aroma that envelopes this 7,000 sqft basement area. No, the name of the essential oil that is being diffused in traditional clay burners cannot be disclosed - a trade secret - but its smell brings on a sense of freshness that tingles the mind and calms the senses. Waking up at 4.30 am to take the train to Jaipur suddenly seemed well worth it.

Then came the pomegranates in all their splendour. In hues of silver and ruby red, the royal fruit holds its own - be it in design form on the interior walls or in the exfoliate that cleans, cools and calms. Its effect when combined with the natural pearl stone carved pillars, latticework and mother of pearl inlay and mirror work, heightens the aura of royalty.

The therapy rooms, dressed in royal red and gold, with backdrop lights that can be dimmed to various desires and piped music, exude luxury, peace and simplicity at the same time - a combination difficult to come by.

If pomegranate is the signature theme here, the traditional namaste is the signature gesture. A team of therapists greet us with cherubic smiles and hands folded, led by the enthusiastic spa manager - Basudev Das. His qualifications are enough to instil confidence in nervous guests like me who are not sure what will come next.

A Phd in Yoga, Basudev has eight years of experience handling spas in Brazil. Totally engrossed in his amazing description of the Amazon region, I sip a cup of refreshing herbal tea.

But not for long, as Basudev deftly stirs the conversation back to the Kaya Kalp experience. Why and how pomegranates, I ask him. His answer is convincing. “Its anti-oxidant properties act on the skin too when applied. The exfoliate is an age-old pomegranate scrub formula that is used to cleanse, invigorate the body and leave the skin feeling smooth, soft and saturated with anti-oxidants,” he explains.

Exotic menu

Kaya Kalp has several other exotic offerings for its guests as well. Its signature massage is in the realm of aroma therapy. Carried out with soft, medium or strong pressure strokes it involves the use of three special oil combinations: eucalyptus and black pepper, lime and ginger and the precious sandal wood.
Apart from this, the three traditional Kerala style Ayurvedic treatments are on offer. The first is Shirodhara, where oil is dropped in a continuous flow on the forehead (the third eye) with simultaneous massage to the front of the body. In the second, Abhyanga, oil is poured along the body with two therapists massaging at the same time. The third, Pizhichil, involves squeezing the body with almost a litre and half of oil, as you would a towel.

“Coming to a spa does not only give you a perfect body, but also a perfect mind. The atmosphere here is so soothing and relaxing - the music, the aroma and the massage - it frees you of all tension,” says Basudev.

The Hot Poultice Massage involves herbal ingredients in a poultice being dipped in warm oil and rubbed on the body, while the Thai Massage is mainly dry but is carried out by stretching the body, which reduces tension, improves blood circulation and releases toxins. “It’s a sumptuous experience making you feel refreshed and relaxed,” he adds.

I try out the most simple - the humble head and foot massage. But these too leave the tired limbs enchanted. The combination of hot oil, the magic fingers of the therapists and the soothing music is enough to send you into a very sweet slumber. Refreshed, as if I had taken a short holiday, and with evening emerging, I venture to explore the hotel’s myriad dimensions with a peek into their luxurious suites and chambers.

But what catches my fancy is the 100-year-old bamboo tree in the courtyard that also sports the hotel’s swimming pool. It is sunset and the ancient bamboo is chirping with the birdsong of hundreds of sparrows - oh, what a feast for the ears and eyes. I walk closer to the crescendo and read the board under the tree. It says: “Our in-house residents. Night after night our valuable guests return to nestle in the comfort of this heritage abode planted by late Deewan Jai Nath Atal in 1903.” I find out Deewanji was the original owner of the property and around 500 sparrows have lived here since his time.

Yes, here was another experience at the Rajputana that was as soothing and enchanting as Kaya Kalp.

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