Hotel Nirvana Palace, Rishikesh

March 10, 2014
Katherine Austin Wooley


The entryway into the Hotel Nirvana Palace in Rishikesh

Success relies on being of service, and the owners of the Hotel Nirvana Palace in Rishikesh know this lesson well.

Govind Agarwal and his family - for in India, everything revolves around the support of the family, in business, in raising children, in daily life - are incredible hoteliers. By the end of my 9-night stay at their lovely, relatively new boutique hotel in the foothills of the Himalayas, I felt as if I were part of their family, for the care and concern and attention to every detail they offered from the moment we arrived until the final hugs as I waved goodbye.

I loved this hotel on many levels. For one, the actual design is incredible. There are cool stone floors to keep the hotel comfortable, simple spacious rooms in which to spread out and relax, and lovely design details - like gorgeous textured wallpaper in the ceiling of the cafe, and a yoga room with high square windows giving your practice views of the mountaintops and the birds in the trees.

But the special qualities of this hotel go deeper than mere design.

There is something to be said for running a business from the heart. And that's what Govind and his staff do. Every greeting from every staff member was offered with a heartfelt smile and hands pressed in prayer at the chest.

Sunset over Rishikesh from the roof of the Hotel Nirvana Palace (you can enjoy a chai up there!)

Govind and his family own several businesses in Rishikesh. They are proprietors of two lovely shops in the heart of town, where I bought jewelry and deities. An uncle owns a textile shop a few doors down, where I bought clothing, a suitcase, a handmade yoga bag, those wonderful wool socks and slippers that my family put on the minute I gave them as gifts.

Every time we walked into town, Govind or his brother MaDev would appear outside the store and ask if we needed anything. Every time we walked past their uncle's shop, he waved and welcomed us, as if, again, we were family, too.

In the airport lounge in Deradhun, as I waited to depart the north of India on Saturday, I met an Australian family who had also attended the International Yoga Festival. We talked about where we stayed in Rishikesh, and when I mentioned the Hotel Nirvana Palace, and explained that Katherine is friends with the owner, the father of the family exclaimed, "Oh we know them too! Govind!" And he went on and on, as I did, about how incredible their businesses are, how incredible the family is, how welcoming and friendly and talented.

Comfort when traveling abroad is important, especially in India, where the experience takes you out of everything you know and deepens who you are on a soul level. Before Rishikesh, we stayed in two exquisite Radisson hotels - one in Delhi, one in Amritsar. Luxurious, truly. So when we arrived to Rishikesh, after an 8-hour train ride through the heart of India, I almost felt like escaping to a five-star resort high up in the mountains.

I am so glad I did not. I was happier at the Hotel Nirvana Palace in Rishikesh than in the big cities, happier than perhaps on any trip I've ever taken. And so much of that has to do with the impeccable care offered by Govind and his staff. His manager, Sachin, escorted us on a tour of the Beatles ashram. Another staff member took us up the Himalayan climb to an exquisite waterfall. Govind's lovely wife Bindia helped us to find the right clothing and gifts in the two hotel shops - and she even shared her recipes with me.

I feel like they are my friends, too, now, and I would send anybody to stay with them, shop with them, get to know them. Order a masala chai and a rice pudding and sit and talk. It will truly change your life.

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