While travelling, our hotel stays more often than not follow a set pattern. We check into the hotel property, settle in and then stick to the breakfast-sightseeing-hotel-dinner routine. Of course, there are some explorer types amongst us, who show their curious streak and turn up to explore the property, with their exploration ending, quite predictably, at the hotel’s swimming pool. Though in their defence I must say that many a time the hotels indeed do not really propose any special or noteworthy experience beyond the standard ‘great location, luxurious stay, good food’ tag. Honestly, I would not really have given this a thought, but my recent stay experience at ShivAdya Resort & Spa near Manali got me reflecting about this.
During my 3-day stay at ShivAdya, I not just got an opportunity to understand more about Himachali ethos and aesthetics, the experience also gave me a beautiful and fascinating opportunity to sample a slice of Kullu life. From learning more about the traditional art and architecture of Kullu region to sampling the traditional cuisine to ambling around a tiny Himalayan village, this stay was by far one of the best culturally immersive stay experiences I have had in recent times.
Understanding Kath Khuni Architecture
The first bit of cultural exploration started with an overview of the indigenous Kath Khuni architecture of Himachal Pradesh. This traditional architectural form is the inspiration behind ShivAdya’s construction and layout. A typical Kath Khuni house uses wood and slate stone as the primary materials of construction and is usually two or three storeys high. The lowest floor is for cattle and the upper floors are set up as living area, kitchen, and temple. The walls of these houses are constructed with alternate courses of dry masonry and wood without any cementing mortar. Indeed an amazing and timeless way of building and I am so glad I now know a little more than just the name of this architectural style.
ShivAdya’s interior is dotted with traditional craftwork from the state. While the reception area has on display a beautiful crushed stone painting of the resort and an intricately carved wooden panel, rooms have miniature pattu pattern wall hangings adorning their walls. Pattu is a traditional drape style dress worn by the Kullu women. Woven out of woollen yarn, this dress has bright motifs adorning its borders. What a lovely idea to turn a traditional handloom item into a wall decoration, and get the guests curious about Himachali art and craft.
Another handicraft samples that I loved marvelling at were the vividly embroidered Chamba Handkerchiefs, popularly known as the Chamba Rumal. I so want to write a detailed piece on this craft but for now, I will suffice with the observation that Chamba Rumals are one of the finest specimens of Himachali handicraft. Made of fine cotton or muslin cloth, these rumals typically have royal, mythological and nature motifs embroidered on them. I am certain the next time I am in this region, I am going to learn more about this delicate art form.
Trailing a religious procession
As if the arty accessories at the resort were not enough to get me euphoric, a fortunate stroke of serendipity facilitated me with a delightful chance to witness a religious procession right across the resort. I trailed this procession for a small distance trying to grasp all the finer details. Heading from one village to another, this religious procession had traditionally attired men folk carrying multiple metal mohras (faces) of the village deity on their shoulders. This made for an intriguing sight, given the fact that such processions are ritualistic and follow a strict code of conduct.
Posing in a Kulvi Pattu
Now on to another of my favourite experiences – dressing up in the traditional Kulvi Pattu! I am sure so many of us visiting Himachal Pradesh’s many hill stations must have done this at some point or the other. In fact, I did this last year at the very touristy Solang Valley too and absolutely enjoyed the process of dressing up as a Himalayan lassie. Therefore, when my host and property owner Mr. Ritesh Sood mentioned that there was a Pattu tying session lined up for the guests, I excitedly looked forward to the experience. And here’s how it turned out! What do you say?
Indulging in Kulvi cuisine
Food is an integral part of any local culture and what better way to soak up a region’s cultural ethos than indulging in its traditional cuisine. But at ShivAdya, the hosts – Mr. Ritesh Sood and Mrs. Neelam Sood, his lovely wife, went a step ahead and planned up a traditional cooking session for the guests, with Mrs. Sood herself donning the head chef’s hat and leading the kitchen staff.
The result of this fun-filled, rice beer laced cooking session was a dinner table laden with traditional Kulvi dishes – Chana Madra (black chickpea and curd based dish), Khatta (tangy side dish made with gram flour), Kullu Trout fillets, and Sidu (a bread item made of wheat flour treated with yeast) to name a few.
Hike in the countryside
Wrapping this post with the most treasured moments from the trip – a leisurely hike through the Himalayan countryside. Gushing streams, a waterwheel so in sync with its serene surrounds, thick grove of trees with the breeze heavy with the smell of pine cones, locals breezing past us effortlessly carrying their heavy loads, Himachali women going about their daily chores…every scene seemed like a perfect antidote to the pollution-choked cities we had escaped from.
ShivAdya Resort offers a variety of sightseeing and related activities for guests wanting to explore Manali, which is roughly 20-minutes drive from the resort. However, for city-weary travellers who are ideally looking to relax and unwind in the lap of nature, staying put at the resort and enjoying its own customised itinerary is undoubtedly a far better idea. The resort’s scenic silence wins over the cacophonous chaos of congested Manali, hands down.
Note: The trip to ShivAdya Resort & Spa was by invitation. The views expressed here are my own.
For more information on ShivAdya Resort & Spa, you can check their website or connect with them on Facebook.