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Mixed metaphors

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A boutique hotel in might find favour with the devout.

Le Sutra, the “world’s first Indian art hotel”, is definitely not your average hotel striving to make a design statement. And not just because it’s an “art hotel” — a category that may be little known in India but is fairly well developed internationally.

This 16-room boutique hotel in south Mumbai which part-opened last month is unusual for the way its decor takes spiritual/aesthetic concepts from the Vedic scriptures and sets them in a purportedly contemporary design aesthetic. The three gunas (the fundamental attributes of the nature of life and existence in yogic philosophy) — tamasik, rajasik and sattvik —form the unifying principle for the hotel’s décor.

So the ground floor is tamasik, its closeness to the ground a metaphor, in this hierarchy of spiritual evolution, of base, bodily excess. “In the design sense,” says of The Busride, an architecture design studio which conceptualised the interiors, “it translates into opulence, decadence with gold, or gilded accents.”

The floor above is rajasik, the guna, or principle of action. “This floor would have all the activities for a healthy life — a gym, energy foods and so on,” adds Basrai. And finally the top floor —the first to have been completed and the only space unveiled — is sattvik, standing for purity, the highest attainments of the soul, according to the shastras, and done up in white and pastel shades.

Fittingly, the reception area has “kundalini” — the libidinal energy whose awakening is said to power the soul’s ascent from tamasik to sattvik — as its design theme, while the lift has representations of the seven chakras through which the energy rises — visible to its occupiers through a two-feet glass panel along one wall of the lift.

“It was a positioning strategy,” explains of The Bajaj Group (the owners of the hotel), of the concept and the ideation process that resulted in the admittedly unique decor. is the retrofitted avatar of Hotel Pali Hills, a small, mid-segment hotel that has existed for the last 35 years and which, in the last decade, saw three hip eateries come up on its grounds — Love Bar & Kitchen, Out of the Blue and Deliciae. “We toyed with the idea of coming up with a boutique art hotel, but all the designs seemed too frivolous. We wanted something that would put us on the world map,” adds Bajaj. Ambitiously, we might add.

“Among all the systems of Indian thinking, the guna philosophy has the most obvious design manifestations, and seamlessly extends into art, into design. But we had to be careful that it did not seem cluttered,” says Basrai.

Basrai and Mitali, Bajaj’s daughter, who runs Dr. Art + Design, an “aesthetic management” company, teamed up to put together a team of designers and artists, each of whom were given a room to work on.

Each of the room has been given to a specific emotion or character. Sattvik, for instance, has rooms named Prakriti, Nirvan, Shuddhi and Mandala, their decors evoking their names through paintings, artifacts, chairs, inlays and sculptures.

Shuddhi, for instance, has a mandu (an ancient system of water purification formed of channels running in concentric circles) inlay in lapis lazuli on the floor and “Yog Danda” chair, its armrest the T-shaped staff used by sadhus.

A haven for the spiritually inclined? We’re taking a deep breath.

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