Tucked in the thick of a mango and litchi grove, far away from the clamour of the metropolis is the boutique retreat, The Mandala, in the village of Devprayag. A mere two hours north of the tourist hub, Rishikesh, The Mandala was acquired by the Sahni family from a couple who were dedicated to leading a spiritual life. The process of development for the property was a family affair, extended family and the couple’s children took over without the help of any external architects or interior designers. Mani and Madhulika Sahni, hosts and founders explain, “The entire family worked alongside the local labourers and craftsmen to build Mandala. With professional careers in design, hospitality and business, the extended family designed and today also manage the business covering sales and marketing, reservations and finally hospitality delivery.”
A couple with immense faith, Mani and Madhulika “would come here to reflect and would always leave with a little more acceptance and a lot less resistance than what we arrived with.” They share a strong belief in the divinity surrounding the region and feel an innate need to share the healing energy of the land, which is how the intimate space that is The Mandala was conceived. Devprayag, a former epicentre for Vedantic exposition and debate, has been sacrosanct for generations. The couple believes deeply in the energy of the knowledge seeking sages, which pulsates even today, through the mountains and rivers. Located at the confluence where the sacred river Ganga begins, The Mandala aims to be a space that fosters retrospection and individual growth amidst an immaculate natural backdrop, offering privacy to promote mindfulness and a contemplative experience.
Incorporating the couple’s vision to create a connection between the internal and the external, between the individual and the collective, between the sacred and the ordinary and between the heavens and the earth, the design maximises undisturbed silence and cancels out intrusions. “The decor, art and landscaping reflect the colours, textures and beauty of the natural surroundings. The elegant simplicity of the house is warm and welcoming, no detail has been overlooked. The original existing house was retrofitted into the new contemporary building. The house showcases the original pushta and stone walls and narrow staircases that add a sense of history and culture to the house. The existing cemented floors were sanded and buffed and lovingly restored back to their original beauty. A waterfall that sits perched above the swimming pool and deck used rocks and stones that were collected from the shoreline of the property’s river.” Multiple reading nooks and meditation spots have been created to heighten the individualised experience.
A mere three rooms and two eco cottages big, the retreat’s blueprint incorporates a sustainable outlook seamlessly. It has been constructed using traditional material, earthen mud, cow dung, turmeric, lime and wheat husks. “The property is further home to over a hundred mango trees planted over forty years that are now in full maturity. We made a conscious effort to not eradicate any of the trees and structures were built around them. The house is outfitted with solar panels and the property’s earthen mud buildings naturally stabilise temperatures without air-conditioning or heat. The thick thermal mass value of the walls act as a thermal buffer to the outside fluctuating temperatures.”
Designed and dedicated for spiritual and emotional healing and health, The Mandala further offers a plethora of activities tailor made in and around the village including yoga,cooking lessons, philosophy lessons, poetry readings and bird watching. An ode to slow living and rejuvenation, this retreat is the perfect reprieve to restore balance.
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Text Unnati Saini
Photographs Piyush Tanpure