Eat, retreat, repeat at Shatam Jeeva
An ayurvedic retreat amid a 100-acre forest of medicinal trees near Jhansi offers an insight into living long and well
A palpable hush seems to descend as the cab rounds the corner into the Ayurvedic wellness retreat of Shatam Jeeva. The quiet of the place becomes more pronounced as one is ushered into an electric buggy for a short, slightly bumpy ride through a dense forest. The spell of the silence is only broken when the buggy slows to a stop, and you’re welcomed by a priest in a yellow kurta and white dhoti blowing a conch and following it up with a chant.
“Shatam Jeeva means ‘live a 100 years’ in Sanskrit, as that is how long a healthy person is expected to live, according to Ayurveda. Our intention here is to showcase the path to a long, healthy life to our guests, and hope that they take these learnings back with them,” says general manager Dr Sreeragh Nair, as you take in the beautiful circular lobby with a central display of plants reaching to the skylight above. The short walk to the rooms is filled with chants of ‘Om’ emanating softly from speakers placed throughout the living areas. Intermingling with the chirping of birds, it lends a meditative aura to the place that stays with you long after you’ve left.
Housed in a 100-acre manmade forest of medicinal trees, the wellness resort is located just 20 minutes from the historic city of Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh, famously known for the valiant Rani Lakshmibai. The land was dry and barren when first found in 1983 by Pandit Ramesh Kumar Sharma of the century-old Baidyanath Group. Over a decade, more than a lakh medicinal trees were planted by him, which have grown and thrived into a lush forest today. The built area is kept to a minimum, with only 10 rooms, a lobby, a wellness centre and a small dining space, all sustainably designed in vernacular Kerala style with the least disruption to the existing vegetation.
Offering a transformative experience based on the principles of ayurveda, holistic wellness, and sattvik diet, the property opened post-pandemic as a first-of-its-kind retreat bringing the age-old wellness practices of Kerala to North India. Whether you’re a long-stay guest with a chronic ailment or simply visiting for a weekend wellness getaway, each visitor is consulted with individually by the in-house vaids and prescribed a course of massage therapies, dietary guidelines, and wellness activities.
Days here begin early at the crack of dawn, with a cleansing herbal drink served hot, followed by yoga in the open, with peacocks keeping watch in the distance. With your body and mind awakened, you’re encouraged to visit the vegetable patch next and pluck your own produce for the day’s meals. More such activities that facilitate interaction with nature are conducted throughout the day, including tree-hugging, forest bathing, cow feeding, pottery amid a thicket of trees, and long, mindful nature walks with an in-house expert.
Pure-veg sattvik diets have long been considered bland and boring, especially for city palates. Here, however, the food made with the fresh produce is not just wholesome and utterly delectable, but also innovative and fun with different cuisines at play. There are millet pancakes for breakfast, served with honey harvested fresh from the forest; North Indian thalis for lunch; dosas for dinner. This is sattvik food unlike any.
The best part of any wellness retreat is the massage therapies, and there are a range of therapeutic Ayurvedic treatments on offer here too, from popular Abhyanga and Shirodhara to more specialised and localised massages for various ailments. Performed by trained therapists, the treatments use herbs, medicinal plants and oils all derived from the estate’s own forest. Couple these rejuvenating therapies with mindful meditations conducted by the priest at the in-house temple, and you’re in for an enlightening preview of what a healthy body and mind feel like—the basic requirement, and perhaps the ultimate secret to a long life well-lived.