What if Gatsby had gotten the chance to spoil Daisy to within an inch of her life in exile in Rajasthan? Surely he would have chosen Jiva Spa – today one of the world's top hotel spa brands – at TAJ's Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur.
Abhilash Haridas, the veteran spa manager overseeing this property, insists I try the Sushupti treatment, telling me of its ritualistic role in "preparing Rajasthan's wealthiest, most ravishing brides for their wedding day." My therapist arrives early to prepare the treatment suite, one of eight rooms in this sprawling residence, once the sensual, private enclave of the Maharaja's most favoured bride.
She begins by cleansing my feet in a copper bowl of warm water, strewn with rose and jasmine petals. She then exfoliates my body with a blend of rice, honey and cream, drawing out every delicious stroke. And true to Jiva's preference for organic over synthetic materials, I'm then cocooned in a luxurious conditioning wrap using soft cotton sheets – not the cheap plastic or foil still used by many luxury hotel spas.
As she releases me from the wrap, I smell more like a dessert than a jet-lagged traveller. She showers off the paste in an enormous steam shower, and then guides me to a warm bath of pure milk and beautifying rosewater. Surrounded by scarlet rose petals, I soak in this fragrant broth (wishing I had a straw or spoon as my nose detects traces of cardamom and clove).
After two hours of epic pampering, she invites me to "rest" on the suite's palatial terrace, overlooking pristine palace gardens and the legendary Mehrangarh Fort in the distance.
Deeply nourishing massage stimulates blood circulation while the milk bath soothes the mind. The finisher, a languid facial massage, tames an unbalanced complexion with calming oils.
Umaid Bhawan Palace was commissioned by the reigning Maharaja Umaid Singh in 1929 and completed in 1944. One of the world's largest private residences, the palace still serves as the principal home for the Jodhpur royal family – only a portion of the 347 rooms are managed by TAJ as the hotel and subterranean spa. Book the Maharani suite and sleep beneath a stunning etched-glass mural depicting the Goddess Kali by Stefan Norblin (the Maharaja's favoured European artist), and soak in the Norblin-designed art-deco bathtub carved out of a single piece of pink Italian marble.
Umaid Bhawan Palace at Near Circuit House Road, Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India; 91-291-251-0101; tajhotels.com; $170 for two hours.
Special to The Globe and Mail