It’s a Luxury retreat, it’s a Five star resort … No, its a hospital!!!
Nestled inside the little locality of Ponnad in rural Kerala, a new entity has taken birth in April 2022. This fledgling opens out its wings and doors to welcome its esteemed guests into its healing arms, for that is what the Amal Tamara is … an upscale ayurvedic medical institution which is purely a hospital but without the depressing look and aura of one. Here patients are offered treatments in its luxurious environs and are treated like special guests or Amal Yatris as per the nomenclature bestowed upon them by the establishment.
Amal Tamara, the new offering from the portfolio of The Tamara Leisure Experiences Pvt. Ltd, is a gem that lies within rustic surroundings of the Mannancherry village of the Cherthala taluk (town), which is in the district of Alappuzha (Alleppy), Kerala, India.
So step into this elegant retreat and get ready to be cajoled and pampered into wellness under the personalized guidance of the doctors and the indulgent attention of the various staff across the premises.
About the Tamara group –
The Tamara Leisure Experiences brand embodies responsible hospitality with core values of Integrity, Service from the heart, Team work, Responsibility to society and Constant improvement. Beginning with the Tamara Coorg resort in 2012, they have now burgeoned into a total of 4 properties including the Tamara Kodai resort and the city hotel O by Tamara in Trivandrum, Kerala.
Shruti Shibulal the CEO and Director of Tamara Leisure Experiences, is a dynamic and farsighted person who is constantly striving to expand the presence of Tamara properties in strategic locations and sectors both in India and internationally.
About Amal Tamara –
The Amal Tamara is a part of the Tamara Leisure Experiences Pvt Ltd. They call themselves a hospital rather than a wellness retreat because their concept is completely focused on healing without being diluted by other leisure activities.
Amal means pure and unblemished.
Tamara translates to Lotus and signifies the purity, tranquility and divinity of nature. In Sanskrit it also means Spice and in ancient Europe, it stood for the goddess of rivers and lakes.
This was conceptualized by Shruti who hails from a family of ayurvedic practitioners. Her late grandfather was a well known ayurvedic physician and the legacy is meant to continue with the establishing of Amal Tamara.
The family’s ancestral home also being in Alleppy, this was the natural choice for the location of the hospital.
The Ayurvedic concept of Chikitsa Chatushpasa is followed here. Translating to ‘Four pillars of treatment’ this ideology depends on the coordination of the patient, physician, therapist and medicine working together in order to eventually attain wellness.
From the time it opened its doors to patients, they are said to have treated a range of issues including issues like stress, diabetes, weight management, neuromuscular issues and so forth.
Transparency is the key here and every guest is first screened online to asses their ailment and they are taken in for treatment only if the doctors are sure of a successful outcome.
Every guest has a program crafted personally for them and the attention to detail runs deep and includes even a personalized menu and other finer specifics.
The treatment schedules are for a minimum of 7 days and then in multiples of a week thereof. 1 week is said to be the minimal time necessary in any of their treatments, to show noticeable results.
Features of the premises –
The Amal Tamara is a compact space which is spread over 3.5 acres on an long stretch of land which runs parallel to the shoreline of the lake Vembanad. There are 2 main buildings, the Padippura which is near the entrance and the Nalukettu which is further inside.
Padippura meaning Entrance, houses 16 of the guest rooms, the housekeeping station, the consultation rooms and a couple of treatment rooms. The central foyer called Yogapeedam, is where yoga, meditation and even cultural programs are conducted.
Nalukettu which is built in the traditional style of a Kerala home and eponymously named, is where the main Reception area, lounge, kitchen and dining hall are situated. There are also 3 guest suites, meditation room and treatment rooms.
Both the buildings are on 2 levels, ground and first and surprisingly there is no elevator to access the upstairs, especially since the majority of the rooms are on the first floor.
However, for those who have climbing issues, there are a few options on the ground floor and also wheelchair access into the building.
The front of these buildings face the West and while the façade is elegant and overlooks well maintained gardens, what blows you away is actually ‘what lies behind’. The rear side is East facing and overlooks the stunningly placid backwaters of the Lake Vembanad. This is one of the few places I have seen where the back of the building beats the front, in visual appeal 😀
The Vembanad is at its widest in this region and separates the districts of Alleppy and Kottayam, the latter which can be seen across the waters. The famous Thanneermukkom bridge connecting the 2 districts, is 10km further upstream and I have written about it in my earlier blogs on Kerala.
Ayurvedic healing is all about cajoling the Doshas (energies) in the body into consonance. The Amal Tamara with its harmonized setting of land, water and the sky along the horizon, seems to be the ideal place to achieve such a balanced state.
The reception area –
The architecture and décor are a blend of the traditional with a sprinkling of the modern.
The porch is where guests are first greeted with an ‘Arathi’ whose smoke is supposed to generate good vibes. A tikka of sandal paste is then applied to the forehead and the guest is greeted with a Namaskaram.
An open square (inner courtyard), the reception desk and the lounge area are on one side and on the left is the kitchen and restaurant.
The first floor of this building also has guest suites, a meditation hall named Dhyanam and a couple of treatment rooms. The view from the first floor is worthy of mention.
Antique wooden artefacts adorn the walls and tables and a Herb boat (like Spice boat) displays many of the ingredients used in Ayurveda.
A rich tapestry hugs the wall of the dining area and bears vignettes of Kerala’s art and culture. This bespoke piece of art was specially crafted by the well known artist Mopasang Valath from Ernakulam, Kerala.
The counter below bears exquisite kitchen related antiques. A charming ancient coconut scraper and wooden idiyappam press were my favorites in this collection. Which one do you like? Do mention in the comments.
Swimming pool –
The backdoor of the Nalukettu opens out into a verandah alongside which is the swimming pool. The pool also ensconces a cozy in-pool sitting area, ideal for candlelight dinners or even a space for guests to get creative and paint or indulge in similar activities.
The verandah also has provision for playing indoor games like Carrom and Chess.
A sprawling lawn from which coconut trees rise out like sentinels, eventually reaches out to touch the waters of the lake that eternally and gently lap the shoreline.
A small herb garden also lies within the lawn and the fresh produce is used in the in-house medicinal preparations.
There is a gazebo near the shore called Attakalari where one can sit and gaze out at the tranquil waters while being entertained by the hyperactive water birds.
A couple of hammocks lie tethered to the coconut trees, waiting to give you a swinging time.
Likewise, the rear of the Padippura block is separated from the lake by the Dhanvantari walkway, a spiral garden with a central statue of Lord Dhanvantari, who is called the God of Ayurveda. Stone tablets along the outer circumference, depict the various mudras in yoga.
And a charming stone bench allows you to sit and gaze in solitude at the waters.
Kashayapura is the name of their in-house ayurvedic medicine production facility. This is a compact space where some of their external medications are prepared in large brass utensils, using home grown and externally sourced herbs. The ceramic jars and receptacles are procured from sources that do not contaminate the clay with lead and other toxins. Guests are given a tour of this unit and also participate in preparing their own concoctions.
Nakshatra Vanam (Star Forest) –
The front yard also has a garden where 27 species of trees are grown which represent the related Nakshatras or birth stars of a person. As per Indian astrology, it is believed that each star is associated with a particular plant/tree and that meditating under one’s own tree is beneficial.
The rooms –
The accommodation is very elegant and comfortable and has a total of 19 rooms, presented in 3 options, the Astha, Ekta and Idha rooms.
Astha the base category with its 350 sq ft of comfort, comes with a private back porch (ground floor) or balcony (first floor), both of which offer stunning views of the Dhanvantari garden and the tranquil lake.
The room provides single or twin beds, a worktable, full length mirror, herbal tea maker, a large screen TV, an en suite bathroom, a wardrobe and electronic safe. The furniture is of hardwood and the floors are veneered with wooden strips.
The bathrooms are stylish and equipped with Kohler fittings, a hairdryer, eco friendly toiletries like wooden comb, wooden toothbrushes and jute toiletry holder. The bathing area is a shower cubicle with a sliding door.
There are a total of 13 Astha rooms, one of which is specifically designed to be user friendly towards specially abled guests.
The mid category Ekta rooms are 3 in number and offer the guest all the features of an Astha room along with suite-like feel with an extra seating area which enhances the size to 450 sq ft.
The 3 Idha rooms are of the highest category and are located in the Nalukettu building.
Apart from incorporating the features of the Ekta rooms, these 550 sq ft suite rooms are larger and also bestowed with a huge walk-in closet and a fancier bathroom. There is 1 room on the ground floor. The remaining 2 are on the first floor and have extra large balconies.
Let food be thy medicine.
All meals are purely vegetarian and are served in Oottupura, the restaurant which has indoor seating and also outdoor options in the verandah alongside the pool.
Ayurveda is a holistic science where healing is achieved by a combination of factors, not the least of which is the food. A healthy and balanced diet is served to every guest and what is commendable is that every guest has their own specifically crafted menu which the doctors arrive at after detailed consultations.
The skilled chefs then translate this into reality and what is noteworthy again, is that they manage to present what they call ‘Cure cuisine’ in a most stylish manner, where the well curated curative dishes can be easily mistaken for a multicourse gourmet meal, all 3 times a day.
And pampering reaches a whole new level, as the little paper scroll held together with a palm leaf ring opens out to reveal one’s name on every single menu 😀
The head chef Joji James was on leave, hence Chef Sanu and team took care of my meals.
Being a person who is excited by all things ‘food’, this topic begs me to elaborate on it and hence requires a whole new post. So let me write more on Cure cuisine in the next blog on Amal Tamara cuisine.
Ayurveda treats every patient individually and unlike modern medicine, there is no set method which applies to everyone in general. Hence each patient is treated uniquely as per their body type and constitution.
The human body is said to be made up of 3 doshas (energies) called Vata, Pitta and Kapha, A disruption in the balance between these doshas is supposed to be the cause of all ailments. The ayurvedic system of healing is based on harmonizing these energies.
Every patient undergoes a pre hospitalization online consultation and on arrival, the doctors also have detailed consultations, following which each person is given a tailor made and personalized treatment program which best fits their condition.
The programs offered, include weight management, eye care, immunity boosting, panchkarma, orthocare and so on.
The treatments include external therapies and internal medications, combined with other wellness activities like yoga, meditation and suchlike.
The team of doctors is headed by Dr Reji Raj who is the GM and Senior Ayurveda physician.
There are also 2 other ayurvedic doctors Dr Haripriya and Dr Ajitha and 2 Yoga and Naturopathy doctors, Dr Atul and Dr Deepesh.
While I have written in detail about the features of the place, I am not qualified to determine the efficacy of the treatments or the skill of the doctors, hence I will not even attempt to.
Every patient has a different situation and the outcome will depend on their set of factors. So it is best that one gathers the necessary information during the online pre-consultation and then makes an informed decision to go ahead or not, based on how convinced they are.
From my observation, all the medical staff were soft spoken, easy to communicate with, gentle in their approach and therapies and seemed very ethical.
The skilled massage and therapy staff are very considerate and understanding and make the experience stress free. There are male staff for men and female for women.
I have documented my detailed personal experience in the blog on Amal Tamara – Experiences.
Activities and Typical Daily schedule –
The day is chalked out from dawn to dusk for each guest, according to their specific requirement. The daily in house activities include consultations, Ayurveda treatments, yoga and meditation and lifestyle correction sessions.
For long stay guests, a trip to the village, temple visit, cruise etc would be included once during their time at Amal Tamara.
More details about this are available in the blog post on Amal Tamara – Experiences.
Environmental commitment –
The Tamara group’s ideology of responsible hospitality but naturally encompasses environmental commitment. The eco friendly and socially responsible concepts are introduced in various aspects of their operations.
For example, amenities like coir laundry bags and bins, paper pens embedded with seeds, lead free pottery, chemical free washing, bathrobes colored with natural dyes, wooden toothbrushes and combs etc are some of the items that are used instead of their plastic counterparts.
And the social commitment is fulfilled by sourcing the coir products from local manufacturers and the pens from Mini who is a differently abled local artist. The pens are also embedded with seeds so that they will sprout after their main work is done. The ceramics are obtained from Mandala Potteries from the neighboring Tamil Nadu.
Phone and internet signals depend on your service provider and were a bit tricky with my Airtel. However, there is a good WiFi connection provided in the rooms. Usage of phones and other disruptive gadgets are not recommended in the common areas, hence there is no WiFi provided there.
Visitor profile –
Of course this place is a hospital, thus people with varied health conditions or lifestyle ailments would obviously fit the guest profile here. This is clearly not a leisure retreat and hence such travellers are not accommodated here.
They usually treat adults over the age of 18 but exceptions may be made as per the situation for younger people.
Best time to visit –
As ill health does not wait for any particular moment, therefore anytime of the year is good to avail treatment. However, for those who can wait, there are off season times where the rates are lower.
Kerala is a coastal land and is humid and hot for most of the year but the weather is kinder in the winter months of November – February. In fact during my recent stay, it was surprisingly cool and pleasant and actually quite perfect.
What you should and should not carry –
This is a wellness facility, hence comfortable clothing would be sensible. The place is not very vast, so it is easy to get around in regular footwear.
Since almost all essential items are provided, one might possibly carry just their work gadgets and any other specific medications, personally preferred toiletries/cosmetics etc etc. A cap and sunscreen would help during the hotter months.
What one cannot bring inside is alcohol, cigarettes, other junk food items, non veg and such.
Getting there –
Kochi international Airport, Cochin, is the nearest airport and is 76 km via National Highway 66. The car journey depends on the time of day/traffic and can take anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 hours. It is better to err on the side of caution while departing to the airport.
Likewise, it is a 50 km journey from Ernakulam Junction, South Railway Station, Cochin.
To and fro Kochi transfers are a part of the package from Amal Tamara.
My journey –
I travelled from Bangalore by the 7.15 am flight to land in Kochi in an hour’s time. From the airport my uneventful ride was covered in a little over 2 hours. And as always, Kerala’s verdant landscape soothes your senses throughout your drive.
The roads are excellent and the journey is very comfortable. Amal Tamara lies just a last few meters off the main road.
Booking and contact –
The hospital accepts guests only after a pre arrival screening, hence there are no direct walk-ins. While most of the bookings are done directly through their website (details below), some bookings are also taken through authorized travel agents. Please be aware that no other portal can currently take a booking.
Pricing and insurance information –
Amal Tamara is presently in the process of obtaining the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Providers (NABH) accreditation and other necessary processes for insurance eligibility are underway.
The pricing details are provided directly while booking and the package includes the charges for Airport transfers from Cochin International Airport, accommodation, consultations and treatments, a certain number of post departure online consultations, other wellness programs at the facility, all meals, usage of 2 pairs of kurta pyjamas, Wifi etc. For accurate prevalent policies, please re-check during booking.
Ponnad PO, Mannanchery,
Alappuzha, Kerala – 688538, India.
Phone – +91 477 2250300
Please Note – This is a collaboration, based on the invitation of Amal Tamara and I thank them for hosting me with their warm hospitality. The narrative is based on the inputs that I received from various sources as well as my own experiences.
This itinerary was specially curated, hence some of the features might have been personalized accordingly. Before booking, please check the facilities offered in your package.
Nov 15th-18th, 2022