Ananda In The Himalayas – Rishikesh
Located in the tranquil Himalayan foothills, close to the mythological cities of Haridwar and Rishikesh, surrounded by graceful Sal forests, overlooking the peaceful Ganga as it meanders into the distance. Ananda is the spiritual pathway to the ultimate, discovered through the union of body, mind and soul.
It is not just a retreat that will leave you breathless with the enchantment of its surroundings, but assists in redefining lifestyles to include the well-known traditional Indian wellness regimes of Ayurveda, Yoga and Vedanta combined with best of International Wellness Experiences.
Concealed by the resplendent façade of the palace of the Maharaja of Tehri Garhwal, lies the luxurious reception area of Ananda. Popularly known as the Viceregal Palace, it has played host to some of India’s most renowned heads of state, during the Maharaja’s reign. Completely restored, the Viceregal Palace is the ultimate statement in subtle style.
The reception area warms your heart and soul, as you are welcomed into the Ananda family by your courteous and efficient front desk staff. Far from any ordinary hotel check-in area, the splendor of the palace takes you back in time to the era of royalty. Relaxation and Rejuvenation at Ananda begins right from the moment you check-in, sipping the refreshing spa signature welcome drink. Whether it is the traditional ‘aarti’ welcome or the contemporary professionalism of our staff, your first impression of the Viceregal Palace will leave you reminiscing about kings and royal splendor.
Adjacent to the reception area, is the grand Viceregal Tea Lounge. Care has been taken to retain the old-world charm and understated elegance of the lounge, an ideal venue for a splendid cup of Darjeeling tea. Enjoy a quiet afternoon alone or with friends, as you admire the life size portraits of the erstwhile Maharaja and of other famous guests.
Also located in the Viceregal Palace is the Maharaja’s billiards room, housing the oldest billiards table in India, dating back to a 100 years. Stunningly crafted in wood, the table has the unparalleled distinction of witnessing some of the most famous political personages, all of whom were guests of the Maharaja. The walls of the billiards room are adorned with pictures of some of these guests. Whether you are a billiards enthusiast or an antique lover, the billiards table is sure to satisfy your quest for the historic.
The Viceregal Palace also features the Viceregal Hall, the original skating rink of the Maharaja of Tehri Garhwal. Now used as the preferred venue for conferences and management retreats, with natural sunlight streaming into the interiors of the Hall, the atmosphere is one of warmth and cozy comfort. The Viceregal Hall is the ideal venue for large gatherings, comfortably accommodating 140 people.
The history of Tehri Garhwal is fraught with drama and pathos. Now a small constituency forming a part of the state of Uttaranchal, it was once a princely state ruled by the Shah family, with Narendra Nagar as its summer capital and the Palace as the official residence – where the vice regal suite of Ananda in the Himalayas, is situated.
The neat little town of Narendrangar, with its charming market, it’s wide central road and its location serving far flung hill hamlets is a tribute to the Maharaja. In the days of the British Raj the beautiful palace was known to welcome Viceroys and people of eminence – including Mahatama Gandhi and Mira Ben and post independence it has played host to several eminent political and religious personalities.
Ma Anandmayi, a well known spiritual guide, whose wise teachings, gentle ways and immensely charismatic presence attracted a very large following from all parts of the world, often visited the Maharaja’s family and her room, quaint, simple and still holding much of her spiritual energy, is tucked away in a quiet corner of the Viceregal terrace, overlooking the valley and the grounds and stands testimonial to the old Maharaja’s close links with the history of spiritual India.
His son, Maharaja Manabendra Shah, father of the current Maharaja, took over from his father, but the changing face of post-freedom India, soon wiped out princely roles and the family turned to politics in order to keep alive their roots.
A venture into the Himalayas is more than a mere journey: it is a “yatra” (a pilgrimage). A pilgrimage does not hold more importance than it does in Garhwal and Kumaon, once known as “Uttarakhand” – the ‘northern territories’ – in the pre Vedic era. This is the domain of the ascetic Lord Shiva, the destroyer; it is a land charged with “Shakti”, the power and energy of the goddess Parvati, consort of Shiva and the daughter of Himavat, Lord of the Mountains. Together, Garhwal and Kumaon form a sizable wedge in the Central Himalayas, joining India and Nepal.
Garhwal today remains a land of myth and legend, where every stone tells a story. The earliest historical references to the region are found in the Vedas, paeans to the purity of the Himalayas. Specific mention of the mountains exists in the Mahabharata, dated around 1000 BC. This is when the protagonists of the epic, the Pandavas, are said to have ended their life on earth by ascending the slopes of the peak in western Garhwal called Swargarohini – literally, the Ascent to Heaven’. The epic also mentions this region being the home of the Kirata, Puolinda and Tangara tribes.