From hardcore spiritual bootcamp to tranquil escapes here are spiritual retreats to discover a fascinating side to India.
India is an ancient land, home to many spiritual teachings that have found their way into books, Instagram quotes and movies. This has inevitably started a wave of ‘Eat Pray Love’ enthusiasts, that come to India to ‘find themselves’. Now, Eat Pray Love is one of my favourite books, but a lot of readers have taken the narratives and the ones before so literally, that this has given rise to commercial pop-up yoga retreats that have masked themselves as places of spiritual well being. But of course, the ones that have stood the test of time remain unperturbed and continue attracting spiritual seekers. Here are some of experiences, for those willing to discover what India has to offer.
Observing silence at the Dhamma Vipassana Centre
Ten days of the ultimate mental detox, this is a silent vipassana camp where you will have no worldly distractions like your phones or access to computers. Delicious organic vegetarian meals and light dinners, while you meditate and have but one thing to do – observe your thoughts. Taking inspiration from Buddhism, this silent meditation course is all about turning inward and understanding the monkey mind. There are vipassana centres located across the country with some beautiful and scenic ones. The course is includes accommodation and food, and is free of charge, with an option to donate. No previous experience is required, but having an open mind would help. The nature of this course does not intend to intimidate newcomers, but simply create a safe space of tranquility for spiritual awareness. Their courses run worldwide, and booking in advance is a must.
Learn the about spiritual teachings at The Deer Park Institute, Bir
Set in the scenic abode of Himachal Pradesh, this is the location where Buddha delved in the philosophies of the mind by asking questions of suffering and human nature. The ancient philosophies are taught here, preserved in their original language like Pali, Sanskrit and more. Deer Park Institute runs programs throughout the year on philosophical teachings, culture, yoga, film festivals and languages. A place where the Dalai Lama frequents with talks on Buddhism to writing workshops, and chanting classes – this is a place for your spiritual quest for knowledge.
A luxurious escape at the Ananda Spa, Rishikesh
If you are feeling frivolous, then treat yourself to a spa retreat and bit of yoga, by the Himalayan hills. The Ananda Spa is an award winning spa destination, with tailor made programs on detoxing, weight-loss, rejuvenation and anti-aging. Just land up at the spa and the team will take care of the rest with sessions of yoga, massages, aromatherapy, Ayurvedic body scrubs and consultations. Serving gourmet Ayurvedic cuisine, be treated to wholesome natural foods, while you enjoy your time of pampering. A perfect getaway with a loved one, or to reconnect with yourself – the experience is a treat for the senses.
Detox, reboot and rejuvenate at Jindal, Bangalore
Would you like to to try a natural approach to your current ailment? Whether it’s high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, depression, addiction or any other health issue – the folks at Jindal believe they have a natural remedy to cure you. Not to be confused with a weight loss institution, only applicants with diagnosed medical issues apply. Starting from a 10 day stay, your package includes a whole day of activities. You start your mornings at 5am, for a few yoga sessions, then on to spa and Ayurvedic treatments, followed by more yoga. In between, you will be treated to delicious vegan goodies grown fresh from their organic garden. A lovely escape from the city, the branch in Bangalore overlooks a scenic lake – which offers quiet the view in the morning as you stretch into your yoga poses. This is where your body, mind and soul comes to connect.
Reflect at the Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry
A demure hued building in the French Quarter of Pondicherry, holds a green sanctuary which was once the residence of one of the most respected gurus of India’s time – Sri Aurobindo. Now its where his tomb resides, this is a place of worship where devotees sit and observe silence. Sri Aurobindo was a spiritual guru during the British rule and was ahead of his times with his philosophical teachings and beliefs. Together with his entrusted companion, a French lady named Mirra Alfassa who devotees call with equal affection – The Mother, they created a movement of spiritual awareness and realisation that is still followed to this day. In fact, the Mother’s tomb is right beside Sri Aurobindo’s tomb. Ashram devotees can expect a simple life, where they can stay in buildings around the area, and attend the daily rituals, be part of cultural events and find out more about Sri Aurobindo’s teachings. This ashram, does not run a strict schedule which leaves space for you to explore Pondicherry – a town that is a beauty of contrasts.
Kalari Kovilakom, Kerala
Kerala is one of India’s most scenic destinations with its gorgeous palm trees, lagoons and backwaters – what it’s also famous for is being the centre of ayurveda. There is much choice to take your pick, but Kalari Kovilakom is a place where ancient rituals meet the modern outlook of today. Pick treatments based on your what you want, from cleansing to rejuvenating to anti-stress and weight reduction. Certified by the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Providers, this centre is located in a 200 year old palace amidst natural surroundings. Based on consultations at the start of your treatment, you will be diagnosed as per your body type, and given a full regime of what to eat and which treatments to pick. This paired with yoga and meditation, gives you an all round balance. But the picture is not complete without ‘satangs’, special events which you can enjoy like classical music, dances, mantra chanting and discourses.