By Ashok Khanna
Ananda, Founder & Managing Director
Born into an eminent family of hoteliers, hotels were in my blood. My formative years were spent with the Oberoi Group of hotels where I learned about classic luxury and an unyielding commitment to detail. The world was a different place back then. As time progressed the Indian economy opened up to the world, competition started to grow, stress levels began to rise dramatically and people started to lose sight of life’s balance. I felt this in my own life and the lives of those around me. This reality led me to discover the purpose of a different kind of hotel, not just one which could proudly uphold India’s heritage of luxury and service, but one which could also provide an escape from life in order to assist people on a journey of well-being. That is when, in the year 1989, the seed for Ananda was planted.
I traveled the length and breadth of India searching for the location that would embody the soul of Ananda, a location that would bring Ananda to life. I finally found this in the foothills of the Himalayas, the birthplace of Yoga, where people have visited for centuries to be healed and to find rest and rejuvenation. There was a lot of work to be done before Ananda would come into being. In India a “spa” meant different things to different people. However, I wanted Ananda to mean one thing – holistic wellness for the mind, body and soul. I stuck to ancient Indian virtues, where holistic living was a way of life: back when people understood the balance of nature, the ways of the universe and how the elements affected not just physical health, but also mental wellbeing. It was always clear to me, that if people achieved harmony within, they would be at peace. This is the very philosophy which brought Ananda – In the Himalayas into being, believing that each individual is unique. Together with my wife Neelam, we began to study the wealth of ancient sciences and health practices in India to piece together the pillars of Ananda which are – Yoga, Ayurveda and Vedanta (a philosophy of life). Another vital aspect is the cuisine – Our ancesters believed that the way and what we eat largely contributes to a healthy life, and is an important part of wellness. We adapted the concept of traditional ayurvedic food (food for your body type) so that the same could be accomplished with International cuisines as well. All this, seamlessly combined with the authentic wellness traditions of other parts of Asia and the west, is our recipe for Ananda’s holistic wellness. The last and most important element essential to Ananda’s being are its people. Each and every member of the staff needed to understand, imbibe and live by the Ananda philosophy and we were lucky to find them. They are the single most important reason for Ananda’s success.
Ananda opened its doors in 2001 and has since received numerous awards and worldwide recognition. It remains at the forefront of innovation in health and wellness and strives to constantly improve. Ananda has accomplished what Neelam and I had envisioned by changing lifestyles and assisting guests on a path to personal well-being. It has done so for both of us and it will do the same for anyone who walks through its doors.