Mantra Koodam – a non-pretentious luxe resort by CGH – offers temple trips, siddha-based cuisine and a staff that plays dice with you.
By: Bindu Gopal Rao
Posted on: May 8, 2023
LF Says: ★★★★.5
Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu may be known as the town of temples, but if you look beyond, there are experiences that are hiding in plain sight and come with liberal doses of art, history, culture, and architecture.
Leaving the bustle of Kumbakonam behind, the landscape is all shades of green, and one such path leads to a quiet road that brings you to Mantra Koodam. The welcome is traditional with an aarti, tika, bell ringing, floral band, and a warm welcome drink. The reception is semi open and a swing on either side is the best way to start the visit here.
“The rooms are modelled on the lines of the traditional agraharam (rows of houses) and are an ode to Tamizh architecture with a ‘thinnai’ (raised veranda) as a distinct element. We have open air bathrooms with a Yali shower as well which is a cool shower,” says Harish Venkat, General Manager, Mantra Koodam - CGH Earth.
The living spaces at Mantra Koodam are an ode to the region’s regal past with the Chola empire which has seen a renewed interest post the release of the blockbuster movie Ponniyin Selvan. There are 30 cottages, including the Mantra Cottage (base category), the Mantra Illam (deluxe rooms) and the Pannaiyar Illam (premium rooms). The rooms are equipped with contemporary comforts, free Wi-Fi, as well as organic toilet amenities.
Natural way of life
The resort touches the riverbed and is home to several birds and other flora and fauna, including peacocks who roam freely here. Mr. Venkat jokes that they are always invariably present at teatime, even before the guests. The retreat is set amidst green landscapes and the best way to enjoy the space is to soak in the sounds of nature, the chirping birds and the water that flows gently at one end of the property.
A pottery experience here is a great way to get your hands dirty, in a nice way as you craft a piece on the potter’s wheel. A must-do is to play the traditional game of dice (Thayam vilayadum maithanam) with the staff – it is good fun and you can learn a thing or two about strategy. You can also indulge in a spot of cycling and take a walk with the in-house naturalist to explore the vistas around.
Being a retreat that is all about experiences. This is where you can base yourself to see the Great Living Chola Temples – the Brihadeshwara Temple, or ‘Big Temple’ at Thanjavur, Gangaikonda Cholapuram and Darasuram. The famed Navagraha circuit with nine temples dedicated to the nine planets in Indian astrology, which will take a couple of days, is also popular.
When here do check out the local Pattu (silk) weaver’s house to see handloom weaves, visit a unique Kalamkari artist’s home and visit Swamimalai to see bronze sculptures made using the ‘Lost Wax’ process. A wood carving workshop visit is also a good idea to see the temple chariots being built. In the summers, you can also visit the traditional doll makers of the region to see how they make the Navaratri dolls in the region.
A distinct element of Mantra Koodam is its food that is centred around the distinctive 3,000 plus year old Cholanadu cuisine. Executive Chef Maruthavana needs a special shout out for the distinctive food experiences he dishes out, all of which comes from his rich, close to three decades of experience. He showcases a variety of styles including the Vathimal Brahmin cuisine, Panniyar cuisine, siddha-based medicinal Patti Vaithiyam (kaivaithyam) food, and a special Saurashtrian meal as well. Each of the meals are distinct and come with a story that he executes perfectly. There is a balance of all the six tastes in his meals which make every meal an enjoyable experience.
You can also sample the traditional Kumbakonam Degree coffee experience at Tea Kadai with local snacks. One of the unique spaces here is Diraviyam where you can sample traditional probiotic drinks like butter milk, Ragi Koozh, Nannari Sherbat, Coconut water infused with singer and spices, and badam milk.
Giving a renewed platform to local crafts and cuisine, CGH has perfected the art of authentic experiences. Mantra Koodam is no different as it elevates traditional practices and presents them in endearing ways. A holiday that is refreshing and intellectually invigorating – CGH’s Mantra Koodam is a vacation all rolled into one.
LF Says: ★★★★.5Coordinates: No. 1 Bhagavatapuram Main Road, Extension, Sri Sailapathipuram Village, Veppathur, Kumbakonam, India