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August 20, 2019

This Eco-Wellness Retreat Will Leave You With A New-Found Respect For Nature

Text by Sharvari Sawarkar

Preserving and enhancing the delicate ecosystem of the Sahyadris with its lush surroundings, Dharana at Shillim is striving to make city-dwellers connect with the environment by offering organic farming sessions and tailor-made wellness programmes.

Nestled in the lush backdrop of the Sahyadri mountain ranges, the Dharana at Shillim provides a host of wellness programs to help guests access the best version of themselves. Simultaneously, the space strives towards ensuring that the property enriches the environment that it resides in. The expansive landscape has ways of enticing every sense of the body and the mind; rustling foliage that envelops you in a green canopy, soothing breeze that grazes your skin and myriad streams that cool your feet.

From promoting indigenous art to investing in wildlife-sensitive architecture, Dharana at Shillim encourages guests to partake in their sustainable ideologies by arranging for organic farming sessions and tailor-made relaxation therapies at their Wellness Sanctuary. We asked the team at Dharana to throw light on the sustainable values that were the keystone in building this retreat.

What were the principles that went into developing an eco-conscious retreat?
The most important thing for us was to not disturb the exotic landscape. We wanted to enable the guests to live in complete harmony with nature and experience simple joys like promenading through the forest or waking up to the sound of birds chirping. This is why we decided to build on the areas with the least ecological impact. We emphasised on low-rise architecture, sustainable energy sources and natural materials since we wanted the cottages to blend in with the woodlands. We also initiated reforestation programs to ensure the hills always stand strong and proud.

Is it difficult to follow the reduce, reuse and recycle mantra on such a large scale?
We have tried to keep conservation at the heart of everything we develop. We have minimised the packaging and disposal of waste responsibly. In order to recharge groundwater and retain the river flow, we worked with contour trenching. Even the rooftops are designed to collect rainwater. The journey hasn’t been without challenges, but we have grown from strength to strength.

How do you try to make guests a part of your value system?
Since the very beginning, we wanted to encourage our guests to feel at one with the environment. We try to introduce them to organic materials, local cultures as well as a healthy approach to everyday living. The floors are made from local stone, while the accessories are made from sustainable resources like coconut wood, bamboo and banana fiber. From the drapes to the paints, the materials used are eco-friendly. We also provide bikes and have marked out forest trails that can be used to explore the mountains.

What is the story behind the name ‘Dharana’?
We derived the name ‘Dharana’ from Patanjali’s 8-fold yoga path. It stands for the self-contained fortitude and relaxation evoked by the treatments at the Wellness Sanctuary. What we really wanted was for the guests to achieve long-term internal and external well-being and balance the energies that spread calmness and contentedness. The program comprises different courses of yoga, meditation, nature walks, as well as pottery, which can help city dwellers put the stress of everyday life behind them.

How did a ‘wellness cuisine’ become a part of your culinary philosophy?
The Dharana food philosophy was created for health-conscious people that form today’s zeitgeist. We help suggest meal plans that are tailor-made as per guests’ nutritive requirements. We are faithful to Ayurveda traditions in the sense that the meals are prepared from fresh, seasonal produce that preserves the natural flavours of the food. We encourage guests to participate in the farming process at the organic farm. Through this, they get a hands-on experience of our ‘farm to table’ ideology, which helps them learn a new skill and perhaps take the knowledge home as well. Their involvement in sourcing fresh produce makes them savour the delicacies even more.

How do you support the local communities that are a crucial part of the surrounding ecosystem?
We only employ local residents for our security and nursery. Even a part of the construction force is from local communities. We try to augment their farming techniques, provide organic foods for residents and even train them in building practices, sustainable farming and water management so that they can enhance their skills.

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