Come summer and it’s time to shed the thick woolens that are so good at hiding away dry skin and a less-than-radiant complexion. That’s what convinced me to actually dedicate three-and-a-half hours to the Imperial spa in New Delhi. Hours later, after the sun has gone down, I emerge with what seems like brand new skin, with every pore cleansed out thoroughly and boasting a glow that has been missing for months.
Long, arched corridors infused with the scents of Neroli and frankincense, couplets from Rumi, hamaams, relaxation lounges, intricate Indian motifs, mirrored ceilings, tikri panels, an abundance of cooling marble… it’s like spa-ing within the hallowed chambers of the Taj Mahal.
But that’s getting ahead of ourselves, so let’s start at the beginning. At the very beginning, there was Sir Edward Lutyens, who had a vision to build “the most luxurious hotel in New Delhi.” It was the 1920s and a decade later, his vision had become a reality – inaugurated by Lord Wellington in 1936, The Imperial rose in imposing Victorian, Old Colonial and Art Deco splendour, complete with swaying palms, pillared verandas, high ceilings, opulent dining rooms and rare artworks. Set within eight acres of gardens, it provided a calm oasis away from city chaos.
Today, this calm oasis includes what is definitely one of the country’s best spas (open only for resident guests). As I stroll through the lush gardens to the 16,000 square feet labyrinth, it’s like stepping back in time to when Mughals walked the land. Long, arched corridors infused with the scents of Neroli and frankincense, artisanal marble inlays, couplets from Rumi, hamaams, relaxation lounges, a divinely sensual suite for couples, intricate Indian motifs, mirrored ceilings, tikri panels, an abundance of cooling marble… it’s like spa-ing within the hallowed chambers of the Taj Mahal.
Attention clearly lies in the details – even the spa menu is presented in a book made of raw silk. Considering my starved and dehydrated skin, we settle on the Ultra-Feminine Wrap, Imperial Depth Massage and O2 Awakening Facial. The therapist offers four choices of music (I opt for ‘Ayurveda’, which is a rhythmic, cleansing and balancing symphony) and then the rituals begin with a full body exfoliation that includes dry body brushing to banish dead skin cells and improve lymphatic drainage, thereby reducing toxins and enhancing the circulation. I have literally never been scrubbed so well in my life – a quick shower later, I discover that darkened patches that have plagued my legs for years have totally vanished!
The spa offers it’s own choice of pure cold pressed oil blends (which are now also retailed under the Sufi brand name)
This is followed by an herbal Ultra-Feminine wrap, whose purpose is to re-hydrate and rejuvenate the body – while making me feel unutterably blissful as I lie cocooned within the warm folds of a thermal blanket. An hour and another shower later (I am squeaky clean by this point!) it’s time for the piece de resistance – the Imperial Depth Massage, which finds and banishes hidden areas of stress and tension through integrating deep tissue techniques with Pranic healing.
The spa offers it’s own choice of pure cold pressed oil blends (which are now also retailed under the Sufi brand name) – I opt for Oil of Mirabai, which is a detoxifying symphony of figs, rose otto and black pepper). As the rhythmic music wafts through the room, the seductive scents put me to sleep – I awake an hour later, limbs feeling light and languorous, skin seeming taut and fresh.
Then it’s time for a short “break” (all that lying around on a plush bed while someone scrubs and massages your limbs with sensual oils can be quite exhausting, right?) complete with jasmine tea and a bowl of dry fruits. Now it’s time to tackle the face – with an intensively rejuvenating facial that infuses every pore of the face with pure oxygen, showing how a great spa can walk the line between both ancient and modern therapies with complete ease. Several more layers of scrubbing, showering, face pack and massage strokes later, it’s time to emerge from my cocoon – fresh, rejuvenated, radiant and blissful.
As I waft back through the emerald lawns, night has fallen, the stars are out and my husband takes one look at my fresh new countenance and asks me out for dinner. It’s our first “date” since as far back as I can remember – mission accomplished!