September 30, 2023

“Let’s pause, let’s succeed,” advocate Shradha Lohia and Saumya Agarwal, co-founders of Ekaanta, a unique learning destination on the banks of Ganges in Uttarakhand. Hit the travel button now to arrive at this destination where mindfulness is the way toward self-transformation.

Seated on the steps of Alakhnanda Ghat with feet immersed in holy water on the banks of the timeless Ganges is a divine experience. Even as the sun shines bright on our heads, we can feel the chilly breeze of the early morning in this northern part of India. The space is calm and serene and the view is purely blissful. Like a setting straight out of a beautiful painting. It seems like life has come to a standstill. With no chaos, no madness around. The only sound one can hear is that of the chirping of birds and the gushing flow of River Ganga. This is mindfulness at its best.

We are at Ekaanta, a distinctive learning destination, nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, amidst the hustle-bustle of Haridwar (hari ka dwar, the gate to God) in Uttarakhand. The retreat is located in a quiet bylane close to Har Ki Pauri Ghat, and is surrounded by a row of guest houses owned by the ancestral families of the Singhanias, Birlas and Jains from the Marwari community.

The story of Ekaanta

With the world evolving rapidly, we get so inundated with a million thoughts that we forget to be mindful and use our full potential. Shradha Lohia and her daughter Saumya Agarwal have for long understood and striven to develop a place where mindfulness is the way toward selftransformation. Ekaanta is that space where wisdom meets modern science, where calmness learns to thrive within chaos. Surrounded by the green forests of Uttarakhand on one side and the river Ganges on the other, it offers a transformational experience for those seeking to seamlessly navigate the everyday journey of life. “Can we pause for a moment and believe that we are boundless and capable of achieving extraordinary things, and every one of our dreams?” quips Shradha Lohia, founder of Ekaanta. Cofounder Saumya Agarwal shares her mother’s sentiment, “Mindfulness is no longer a luxury but a necessity.”

Establishing Ekaanta

The idea of Ekaanta germinated a few years back when Lohia discovered that a strong spiritual core serves as a great anchor for mental well-being. She instilled the same conviction in her family-her husband Ajay Lohia, daughters Saumya and Manvi and son Pranav. “I have been practising spirituality for a long time now. Many people would reach out to me for ways to remain applying that knowledge in their later situation. Since then, I wanted to share my experiences with the world. I was fortunate to get this rare property as we have the trinity-concept, content and location-which is unique to our programme. We are literally on the Ganges and we have our own private ghat here. When I got this place, I thought of using it to bring a change in the lives of a few people as my service in the journey of life.”

Driven by an incandescent desire to do good for others, she established Ekaanta, the multiversity on the Ganges. It took them two-and-a-half years to give shape to the project. The journey was tough yet incredible and help came from all quarters. Jyotsna Brar, the ex-principal of Welham Girls’ School became the intellectual head and helped curate the curriculum. Vanshika Bhatia, a chef listed in Thirty under 30, designed the menu. The twoday experiential programme enhances knowledge about the mind and imparts skills that enable one to handle life’s situations with equanimity. It is an exclusive cohort of 15 individuals seeking transformation with the philosophy of mindfulness forming the core of the programmes- conducted by globally renowned Masters of Mindfulness. The team includes Dr Christopher Willard, Professor at Harvard Medical School and Dr Ram Nidumolu, Clinical Professor at ISB, Dharmacharya Shantum Seth, Ankur Rupani, Dr Reena Kotecha, Antonio Sanz and Mani Lohia, who impart their teachings and practices at Ekaanta, apart from yoga, nature walks and a specially curated diet. “Even our roles are largely defined in the setup. Saumya has studied at Goldman Sach’s in New York, so she manages the finances. My younger daughter Manvi has worked as a registered dietician and lead researcher for diabetes in Harvard Med, and looks after nutrition. And I look after the emotional quotient of our guests,” she elaborates.

The Ekaanta experience

The Lobby and Cafe at Ekaanta

Lohia gives a glimpse into the design module of Ekaanta. “We have different modules embedded in the curriculum. One of them is Shinrin Yoku (a Japanese term for forest bathing). When you soak in the ambience of the forest, the toxins in your body are removed and you become more mindful. Forest bathing has helped people get rid of cancer. The other module is the Gratitude Ceremony which is very unique to us. We narrate the whole story of how Ganga was gotten on earth by Bhagirath and her sacrifices and values. There is a certain reverence for River Ganga, hence during the ceremony we light a candle and give energy to each other. This is our way of expressing gratitude towards the elements of nature. We have classroom kind of sessions where we teach techniques to stay calm in the midst of chaos. Life will throw up a lot of situations but one should learn to stay calm in the midst of these stressors. Every aspect of the day has been designed with detailing and personalisation.”

Lohia adds, “The key takeaways of the programme are sustainability (whatever you learn here, you can practise it at home or anywhere); journalling that helps one get rid of the stressors; and gratitude which is very heart-warming. The place is unique, the air quality is super and the food is wholesome. Overall, it is a very holistic approach.” Agarwal joins her, “The programme is relevant for all ages. Its learnings help you imbibe philosophies on modern awareness rooted in ancient wisdom, re-discover your true self and enable you to lead a fulfilling life.”