Deft hands rhythmically work on my back. A forearm pressing down the length of my spine. Thumbs seeking the knots in my middle back. Usually, I would be in heaven. But this time, I’m belching like a Mahanagar Gas faucet. I keep apologising, tears streaming down my face. The masseuse attempts to calm me down; hands me warm water to sip.
I do know this is good for me, even though it may not feel so. You see Dr Jitendra Varshney, or Dr J as he’s known at the Six Senses Fort Barwara, India’s newest wellness destination, had just diagnosed my dosha. That’s the term Ayurvedic practitioners use to denote an individual’s physical and mental make-up. Mine being a mix of fire (pitta) and air (vata), he had recommended a deep tissue massage along with a diet plan to help balance the forces at war within. “The air can either fan the fire or douse it,” he said to me. Right now, the air was on fire and I just had to abort the massage I had so been looking forward to. “You need to figure out how to use the air to keep the fire strong,” he’d added. Meaning: eating and drinking food that’s good for you and in the right proportions, which in turn helps balance one’s dosha.
Six Senses Fort Barwara
Dine in a turret
At Six Senses Fort Barwara, the chain’s first Indian property that’s housed inside a meticulously restored 14th-century fort, eating right isn’t a hard thing to do. This 48-suite resort, 130 km from Jaipur, has its own gardens where they grow seasonal vegetables, such as “wild” cauliflower and spinach, fruits like guavas and heirloom tangerines, and superfoods including moringa. Soon a mushroom farm and a free-range poultry zone will be added to this list.
What’s not grown is sourced, largely from producers within this region of Sawai Madhopur. All this goes into a mix of India, Asian, Italian and Mediterranean dishes (with plenty of room for both dosha and dietary needs) that are served at the hotel’s all-day dining venue, The Cortile, and a poolside location called Rani Bagh. There are several scenic dining spots as well, such as a turret, Shikar Burj, once used to hunt tigers.
The Library Bar within the area called the Mardana Mahal, uses the in-house produce to create potent cocktails. Since I did do a fair amount of eating — on doctor’s orders, of course — I can honestly say I have fond memories of the pickled beet and heart of palm salad, a wild mushroom risotto done just right, and a Rajasthani thali that I should have fasted for. If you visit, you must try the pineapple and watermelon pickled in vinegar; it’ll boost gut microbes and leave you drooling.
Not just for the wellness seeker
Beyond the food and drink, Fort Barwara is extremely easy on the eye. Indoors, the generously proportioned rooms (753 sq ft+) feature beds with nets hanging from chains, chairs with rope detailing, and hammered metal stools. All of which draw from the fort’s history as a garrison town. Alongside this there’s tech that makes the nerd heart skip a beat — auto-flush toilets with heated seats, blinds that rise as you enter the room and gear that help you sleep better.
- 14th century Rajput fort restored over 10 years
- 130 km from Jaipur; 35 km from Ranthambore
- 48 suites; 3 restaurants; 1 bar; 1 outdoor pool; 1 semi-covered pool
- Wellness programmes featuring Eastern and Ayurvedic healing
- Also, bio-hacking and sleep improvement programmes
- Workshops that teach how to be sustainable
On the outside, instead of the usual ornamental flora, they’ve chosen over 370 species of plants endemic to Sawai Madhopur and Ranthambore. Wild grasses such as baruwa and elephant cane. Trees and shrubs like madhu kamini and murraya, which help save water almost as much as the measures to reduce wastage, harvest rainwater and boost the area’s water table. Then there are medicinal plants, such as shatavari, dhak and marwa (maru in Tamil), which are used in wellness preparations.
That said, you needn’t be a serious wellness seeker to check-in. You just might want to chill by the pool, cocktail in hand. Or book yourself a hedonistic ritual involving pearls and 24 carat gold. You could also learn how to be more sustainable in your daily lives by figuring out how to make soaps and lip balms using beeswax from abandoned hives (the kids would love it). Then there are walks in the surrounding Aravallis with the resident horticulturist and forays to local temples and village markets. And, needless to say, the tigers of Ranthambore are just 35 km away.
To address the elephant in the room: is this hotel the venue of a Bollywood wedding rumoured to happen later this year? Well, unfortunately, I have no juice on that. What I can tell you though, is that Fort Barwara, with its ballroom (2,045 sq ft) and event spaces, can host a 200-person wedding. So, not quite the spot if you’re looking for that Big Fat Indian wedding.
Whatever be your reason, I know I’ll go back for the bio-hacks and sleep improvement routines. And if you’re wondering, I did finally get that massage. It was blissful.
Doubles from ₹75,000. Details: sixsenses.com