250 km from New Delhi, heading northwards towards fresh mountain air and a more conventional seasonal climate, lies an Indian city of just over a million people which was planned by world renowned Swiss-French architect Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris, better known as Le Corbusier. Originally dreamed-up by India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, Chandigarh is located in the foothills of the Sivalik Hills, a mountain range of the outer Himalayas. Renowned and admired countrywide, Chandigarh is one of the best experiments in urban planning and modern architecture in India. Streets are straight, clean and organised in a grid system, with different districts marking out neighbourhoods. The city is well kept, tidy and ordered. A large proportion of its residents are affluent, proud and generally well-to-do. Basically, Chandigarh is an organised revelation in a country where organised chaos is so very often the norm.
More than twenty years ago, the Oberoi Group reimagined India’s princely tradition of grandiose country retreats and made it relevant for the modern hospitality industry. Late last year, the premium Indian hotel chain arrived in the Punjab with a major opening and one of the country’s most talked-about new spa resorts: Oberoi Sukhvilas, situated thirty minutes outside Chandigarh’s centre, surrounded by more than 8,000 acres of protected forest.
Entered via a sequence of landscaped courtyards, surrounded by arches and colonnaded verandas, Oberoi Sukhvilas really is a hotel of divine splendour. Gilded finials gleam above domed rooftops. Towering brass-framed doors rise from floors of red sandstone. Fountains, streams and reflection pools are all around. Tranquillity and class abound as if one had stepped into another mystical, frescoed world.
Whilst some sixty bedrooms, villas, tents and suites artfully combine Northern Indian features and motifs with chandeliers, four-poster beds, acres of teak, and throws and cushions in Punjabi reds and greens, it is the resort’s show-stopping 12,000ft2 spa which is Oberoi Sukhvilas’s pièce de résistance.
Offering a custom-designed menu of Ayurvedic therapies, spa facilities include a steam sauna, an infrared sauna, a vitality pool, a Turkish hammam and a Roman tepidarium. It also offers courses of Ayurvedic treatments masterminded by Ram Kumar, an eminence among India’s Ayurvedic doctors, and a veritable coup for a hotel chain which only twenty years ago opened its first game-changing Indian country retreat, Rajvilas. In Oberoi Sukhvilas, the purpose-built palace hotel, combining traditional Indian design and contemporary Western facilities, has been brought glamorously up to date.