River Aghanashini is one of India’s last few free-flowing rivers, unfettered by dams and following the same course for thousands of years to empty into the Arabian Sea at Kumta, near Gokarna in Karnataka. At the restorative Panchabhuta, Retreat @ the Foundation, located a three-hour drive from Goa’s Dabolim airport, there are many ways to enjoy its gifts, through clifftop views, boat rides, paddle-boarding and delicious meals.
Rooms named after rivers
The river is one of four in Uttara Kannada district that lend their names to the Retreat’s rooms. Aghanashini is bright with sunflower-yellow drapes and in the bathroom, natural light filters through rows of green glass discs repurposed from beer bottles. My room, Kali, is done up in white, with a balcony that opens out to the sunrise over paddy fields, and a bathroom with blue zinc oxide flooring lit up by gold granite triangles.
The design is thoughtful and beautiful: the khadi bathrobes are dyed with discarded temple flower offerings. No trees were cut in its building, the property is plastic-free and the construction is with locally sourced natural materials like laterite, bamboo, Cudappah stone, terracotta and recycled wood. There is free flow between indoor and outdoor spaces, such as with the restaurant’s open-plan kitchen and bar, and the bamboo-lined conference room that’s roofed but otherwise open to the elements, and a concrete-topped table with a leaf impression takes me back to Geoffrey Bawa’s Lunuganga Estate.