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Finding your Inner Rhythm

SwaSwara , an idyllic and secluded getaway on the stunning Om Beach in north Karnataka helps you re-connect with your inner self. Just a few hours from Goa, this CGH Earth property is just the place to find your inner rhythm and balance. 

A few hours from Goa, along the scenic hilly coast of north Karnataka located on the fabled Om Beach, is SwaSwara, a unique wellness resort.

My three hour plus journey from Goa is a visual delight. I’m on NH 17 a winding highway alongside an almost deserted coastline strung with virgin beaches, and small towns. But to get to SwaSwara, I turn off onto a smaller road which takes me up the hillsides giving me fabulous views of the blue sea, past the ancient temple town of Gokarna, just seven kilometers away from my destination.

But, nothing quite prepared me for this idyllic, quiet destination once I reach. Set on a verdant hillside, lush with coconut trees and a multitude of flowering plants and gardens, the resort overlooks the white sands and blue waters of the beautiful Om Beach. It is almost sunset when I get there and I’m given a warm welcome by Mini Chandran, the G.M. of SwaSwara who greets me in the spectacular reception area.

The Concept

Following the vision of the founder Jose Dominic, CEO of CGH Earth, this luxurious boutique resort is focused on wellness and yoga as a means of self discovery. Located as it is in north Karnataka, where several tourist attractions abound, the owners didn’t want SwaSwara to become just another beach property or a stopover in that circuit, and developed it on a strong concept of a ‘Wellness’ retreat.

The idea was to offer a boutique, niche and exclusive property with a focus on Wellness and Yoga. It is neither an Ashram nor a Spa, but instead a place drawn from Indian ethos for self discovery and self realization.

Eco Architecture

The luxury of privacy and space is evident in that the 26 acre property houses just 24 villas, with all built up areas occupying only 11 acres.  Gardens, rain water ponds and the organic vegetable garden occupy a considerable portion of the balance area, with indigenous trees and shrubs in the rest of the space.

Designed by the architect Jaigopal G. Rao of Inspirations & Co, the inspiration was ‘green architecture’. The resort is built in the traditional Konkan style, and you see extensive use of the local red laterite stone in not only the entire construction of the built up spaces and villas, but also the pathways. Each split level villa is spaciously built like a local cottage with a bench outside the door (to seat waiting guests) and a central courtyard open to sky. The villa features a big glass and mesh walled bedroom which is air conditioned, a veranda which opens out onto the large rain water pond and an open to sky bathing area. The upper level has a comfy sit-out overlooking the pond. The floors and benches are red oxide as prevalent in the south, and are frequently polished to keep them in gleaming condition. The roof of the villa (in fact all roofs), are intricately woven and thatched, made by local artisans.

“Such use of local materials and expertise is seen throughout the property, and we are committed to support the local community and foster local expertise through such initiatives” says Mini Chandran, G.M., SwaSwara. Moreover it makes for eco-friendly structures which blend in with the local surroundings.

The Wellness Mantra

SwaSwara is unique in that it is neither a spa neither an Ayurveda centre or ashram. It is a true wellness centre which integrates Yoga, Ayurveda, and Naturopathy to offer complete wellness solutions to guests.

When launched six years ago, it was not conceived as a wellness centre and mainly offered a Lifestyle and an Ayurvedic programme. It evolved over these years to what it is today, offering four main packages starting with ‘Swa’- a five day package, ‘Shanti’- a 10 day Yoga based package run twice a month, ‘Prana’- a 14-21 day Ayurveda package , and ‘Swastha’ – a 14-21 day combined Naturopathy and Ayurveda package.

Except for Swa, all packages starts with consultations with the Ayurvedic or Naturopathy physicians, and follow a diet prescribed according to the ‘doshas’ and the programme. A detailed health questionnaire is sent to guests well before they come in, and they are primed in advance on what they could expect as a part of their programme. According to Dr Dayananda, the Consulting Ayurveda Physician who has been with the resort from launch, guests come in with many misconceptions about Ayurveda and are able to understand once they are at SwaSwara.

Yoga is very popular, especially among European guests many of whom practice quite regularly says Dr. Vinod Nair, Doctor of Naturopathy and Yoga. He also oversees all forms of Meditation in the resort, held at daybreak on the Meditation Hill with a panoramic view of the Om Beach, and at sunset in the Blue Dome.

Cuisine for Wellbeing

Chef Joy rules the kitchen at SwaSwara. “I learnt the different doshas after I came here” he tells me. The focus of the cuisine is on local and fresh produce. 70 % of the kitchen supplies are locally sourced, and the resort is self sufficient for rice, and many of the vegetables are from their own organic farm.

As a principle, red meat and alcohol are not on the menu. All processed foods such as white sugar, maida, polished rice are not used, as are preserved foods. “Our milk, oil and butter consumption is less to zero and we even make yoghurt for vegans with peanut or soya milk” says the Chef.

The food is made with fresh farm produce, the catch of the day in seafood, and whole meal flours, and unpolished organic rice.  Molasses are used as sweeteners for tea or desserts, and fruits from their forest – raw mango, jack fruit, berries and cocum and vegetables and herbs are used to create an amazing variety of fresh health drinks.

Caring for the Environment

The location is as challenging as it is beautiful.

According to Chandran, the resort has no access to fresh water from the local municipal corporation and an erratic supply of electricity. The 26 acre property is set on a hillside and descends down a gradual slope to the beach below, which results in all the rain water getting washed away into the sea. Rain water harvesting was then an integral part of the design, ensuring that the rain water draining from different areas of the resort was filtered into the large ponds built for the purpose, thus making the resort more or less self sufficient.

One of the water saving initiatives at the resort is that the staff eats all their meals on plaintain (banana) leaves, as is the practice in the region. This alone saves them 3000 litres of water every day.

With power supply being erratic, the resort depends on its own gensets for electricity. But care has been taken during design to incorporate the use of natural air-flow to facilitate natural cooling and minimize the use of air conditioning. High ceilings and the use of natural materials in construction also help maintain cool temperatures within the structures. Interestingly, all bath water is heated by gas burners activated by the opening of the hot water faucet – a smart energy saving measure, I thought! However according to Chandran, “Solar heaters made six years ago when SwaSwara was launched, were not very water efficient, leading to lot of wastage of water. In a place where water is a prime commodity, this was not acceptable. But now newer models don’t lose a lot of water, and we would be looking to switch to those in the near future.”

Keeping its focus on all things natural and eco-friendly, all living areas are fumigated every evening with ‘Dhoop’- a natural insecticide.  

Working with the Community

Fostering the local community is an important activity at SwaSwara and it seeks to connect and support their initiatives continuously.

Take the thatched roofs, it revived a local art, which is kept alive as it is done afresh every year. Similarly, local people are trained and employed as far as possible, in different capacities depending on their ability. I met very efficient English speaking local staff in the restaurant and Hindi speaking ones in the Ayurveda Centre. But SwaSwara extends a hand to the local community by offering their experienced doctors in a free Ayurvedic and Yoga clinic in Gokarna every Thursday; they work with local Anganwadis to give them uniforms, notebooks and toys and has now facilitated an association of shack owners to keep the Om Beach clean, and garbage and motor boat free to prevent pollution.

Experience SwaSwara

The SwaSwara experience starts with the huge kolam (rangoli) on the reception floor, freshly designed every day, welcoming all visitors, as do the floral kolams done with petals and leaves on your made up bed.

Similarly, taking a walk with the Resident Naturalist Girish Varma to explore nearby beaches or watch butterflies and birds; visiting the quaint ancient town of Gokarna with Chinmay Pathak, the Guest Relations Executive; learning how to cook under Chef Joy’s watchful eye, or putting a paintbrush on paper for the very first time courtesy the resident artist…..all contribute to the unique SwaSwara experience.

Echoing the elemental sound of Om, SwaSwara resonates in your mind. Begin a journey here; go back with a change…..

Writer | Sandhya Chipalkatti


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