Kerala, the southern region of India, is a study in serenity – lush with tropical foliage, and sprinkled with green and verdant rice paddies. It’s as ancient as the Ayurveda medicine style that was spawned here and as laid-back as an afternoon nap on a hot day, low-key and mellow, making it totally different from the rest of India—a kind of cultural and geographical sense of apples and oranges with the north of India.
But the one thing it does share with the rest of India is one of the country’s most luxurious and elegant hotel and resort brands—in this case, The Leela Kovalam Beach, a 183-room, 44-acre, five-star beauty that sits cliff-top over premium beachfront, majestically scanning the coastline of Kovalam and the Arabian Sea.
Accordingly, most of the accommodations at this Leela property overlook the sea and are spacious and airy, with calming natural colors and all of the amenities you would expect from a five-star property. But what really stands out for the guests when they stay at The Leela is the almost eerie, but certainly pleasurable, anticipation of one’s needs, making the service at the entire Leela group of hotels nothing less than magnificent. Why?
Daymodaran Kallippal, spa manager of the resort’s Ayurveda spa, explains that the hotel group’s staff follows the company philosophy of “athithi Devo Bhava,” which in Sanskrit means “guest is God,” ergo, honoring guests is equal to honoring God, a belief that’s found in Indian ancient scripture, the Rigveda-Ancient Scripture, and, says Kallippal, the primary philosophy “… that drives the Leela group.”
“spa” to the nth degree And, of course, since Kerala is also home to Ayurveda, the ancient form of Indian medicine that’s been successfully practiced for hundreds of years, you can bet you’re going to get a healthy dose of it here. Divya is the name of The Leela Kovalam’s Ayurveda wellness spa and it’s unlike any spa you’ve ever see, offering unique, more encompassing treatments than you’ll find in the United States. Kallippal points out that, “Ayurveda is not just a spa treatment, rather it’s a lifestyle, a way of life combining spiritual, physical, food and treatment.”
So this is not just a few hours of getting pampered, which means it’s not for everyone. This is a total holistic approach to a healthy lifestyle in a package that runs from one to four weeks with some clients even coming here for months if they have a particular health issue. The spa even has a holistic doctor who can design programs for ailments ranging from the spine and neck, arthritis and insomnia, to weight loss, purification and detoxification, stress and strain relief, skin and beauty rejuvenation or just relaxation. There are many therapeutic programs to choose from and the treatment program will be prescribed specifically for guest’s individual needs after the initial consultation with the doctor.
Several massages were recommended to us during our stay, including the Kalari Massage performed by two therapists who are experts in Kalari, the martial art of Kerala. This massage focuses on and stimulates one’s vital energy points, allowing the flow of energy to increase within the body, thereby relieving aches and pains and improving body flexibility.
Another favorite was the Powder Massage, a technique utilizing a special herbal powder that the therapist moves in a specific rhythmic upward motion. The treatment is aimed at improving blood circulation, thereby reducing numbness in the limbs and is also beneficial for a slimming program.
And while Kerala is certainly the place to experience the special rejuvenating tradition of Ayurveda, this is also India, the traditional home of yoga, an integral part of the Ayurvedic path to good health. It is said to sharpen the intellect and aid in concentration, as well as steady the emotions and encourage caring concern for others. Thus, it’s no surprise that The Leela Kovalam has a variety of yoga programs and packages for everyone from beginners to advanced. All the yoga classes can be integrated into an Ayurvedic program and experienced at Divya, with its own expansive and beautiful open-air yoga room.
For a less-intense spa experience—or rather a more conventional and self-indulgent spa experience—the Leela also has an international spa, THE SPA. There, clients can choose from a variety of massages, body polishes, scrubs and other goodies. The signature treatment is the 90-minute Indian Magic, in which the therapist uses specialized oils blended with aswagandha, bala root and araku herbs, which help rejuvenate both aching muscles and tired minds.