Just to stay at the Taj Falaknuma Palace in Hyderabad is to experience pampering of a substantial order. For where else will you be offered sparkling wine with breakfast – not to mention delicious Paya Nihari with Sheermal bread -, or Sufi Qawalis in the marbled courtyard with a stained glass dome, as the sun dips over the city of Nizams?
But you can take this pampering to a higher level with a spa experience at the luxurious Jiva Spa, where expert masseuses and therapists recreate the magic of a bygone era of opulent indulgence.
Profusion of rose petals
I enter a spa room surrounded by lush greenery for the signature treatment Nawab-e-Khaas, which promises nothing less than regal splendour. It is done up beautifully in the standard colours of the palace – grey, beige and brown - with a jaliworked wooden ceiling. But what takes my breath away is the sight of not only the bed, but the entire floor being sprinkled generously with red rose petals!
On the bed is placed a tray filled with the ingredients that have been freshly ground to prepare the fragrant scrub. Says Lanuinla Walling, the spa manager, “For the Nawab-e-Khaas treatment, we use a paste made from almonds, poppy seeds, saffron, vetiver, deliciously fragrant herbs, honey and dried rose petals, mix it with a few drops of poppy seeds oil and some rose water.”
The emanating fragrance from the scrub that my therapist Tenzin’s delicate fingers rub onto my body is heavenly. “This is the only scrub that we also use for the face because it is rather mild, and it is a skin lightener as well,” says Lanuinla. The last bit of information doesn’t excite this firm opponent of fairness creams, but the welcome thought is that it might take away a bit of the tan acquired over long years of swimming.
I go through 20 minutes of the most refreshing, exfoliating scrub/massage I’ve had in my life and fight hard to ward off sleep, but drift away into it nevertheless now and then during the 150 minute treatment, which includes 15 minutes in the steam room.
Did I dream about Nizam Mehboob Pasha’s wife and her spacious bathing tub done up with some intricate pipe system, with one of the pipes injecting perfume into the bathwater? Not too sure.
But I open my eyes to find Tenzin concentrating on my upper and lower back.
Are there too many knots in the shoulder region, I ask her gingerly. At every massage/spa treatment I’ve had till now, the therapist has chided me about the knots around the shoulders, with the disapproving words” Too much tension; learn to relax ma’am!”
Well, I must have learnt a bit of it, because Tenzin demurs: “No knots at all, only your muscles are a bit stiff…”
Well, that’s progress of some sort.
She then proceeds to gently rub my face with the same scrub in slow and languid movements. A gentle head champi with a fragrant oil infused with kewda, brahmi and frankincense follows. The result is sheer bliss.
Calming and rejuvenating
It is no exaggeration to say that the 150-minute Nawab-e-Khaas treatment not only left the skin softer and glowing… well, at least till I hit the pool after a couple of days… but one also emerged from it feeling calm and rejuvenated.
Along with this treatment (cost Rs 10,400), the Indian massage ‘Vishram’- a full-body relaxation massage to de-stress you, is also very popular here, says Lanuinla. This is done with alternating palm and thumb strokes that work on tired and sore muscles.
The spa menu at the Falaknuma is an exhaustive one and some of the scrubs and wraps that sound interesting include the plantain leaf wrap. This treatment uses the healing properties of the plantain leaf to “purify the skin and eliminate toxins by opening the pores. This induces sweating to restore the skin’s natural vitality.”The Prithvi Mrit, a firming and detoxifying wrap is made from “22 exotic Indian herbs and clay. Its therapeutic properties tighten the skin and leave it with a radian, youthful glow”, claims the spa booklet.
To relieve muscular soreness and improve blood circulation, try the spice or Masala scrub!
But if you are here to celebrate a special event or pamper yourself, go the whole hog with the Nawab-e-Khaas!