As an accomplished architect and designer, a classically trained
dancer, and the owner of Svatma (one of Tamil Nadu's most buzzing new
boutique hotels), Krithika Subrahmanian is quite the renaissance
woman. We caught up with her to learn more about this gorgeous new
property, her dance training - and why it's high time visitors
discovered Thanjavur's ancient beauty.
Krithika Subrahmanian is a talented
dancer, architect, and the owner of the new Svatma © Krithika
Greaves: You're an architect by trade and now the
owner of the beautiful new Svatma Hotel. What inspired you to open
your own hotel?
Krithika Subrahmanian: "I am an architect and designer of many
clubs, restaurants, hotels and resort projects…and I'm also a host
of exacting standards! I'm very passionate about menu planning and
the food prepared in my home and vacation properties. So here I am,
running this ship!
I always wanted to open and run a chain of luxury boutique
hotels in Tamil Nadu. I was inspired by the extraordinary boutique
properties I encountered in Europe and Asia - Italy's in
particular. Such warmth and individuality in the hospitality,
combined with a proud showcasing of culture and heritage. And
Thanjavur of course was the ultimate inspiration; the ancient
capital of Tamil Nadu, my home state, is a gem waiting to be
Svatma is one of Tamil Nadu's most
buzzing new boutique hotels © Svatma
How has your architectural training informed the
look and design of Svatma?
"The look of Svatma is a very deliberate set of moves on a
I like to think of it as designed by and for individuals with
spirit, inspired by Tamil culture and art, and full of mystique
and allure. The look is a combination of quirkiness and
Tell us more about the hotel: what was your mission
in founding it? What makes the venue special?
"Svatma is, in essence, all about surrendering to the
abundant charms of ancient Thanjavur: its arts, architecture,
culinary heritage and culture. We care a great deal about this
revival and preservation of local crafts, architecture, and
antiques - adaptive reuse and restoration, in other words.
A reaction I get from most guests is that Svatma is an inspiring
place. It's impossible not be affected by the energising space. We
wanted to evoke a multi-sensory experience of Thanjavur: from the
chants of Vedas to Chola Bronzes, from traditional chamber
concerts to the aroma of local coffee. It's a beautiful
heritage home environment."
Svatma combines Tamil design and
tradition with modern amenities © Svatma
Was it a challenge opening a stylish boutique hotel
in a relatively rural location?
"Yes, it was a challenge, but what isn't in India? A country of
abundant talent, craft, creative spirit and also extreme
challenges, it was a most enjoyable roller coaster ride with a
happy landing. I am pleased we managed to engage with local workers
and employ a majority of our staff locally, source much of the
decor and design from the area, and also manage a zero-waste green
building. We are proud of our sustainable design!"
What can guests expect on their Svatma visits? What
are some of the hotel's unique experiences?
"Svatma offers an element of discovery, and the possibility
to uncover hidden corners of this extraordinary, ancient city.
Guests can connect with local people for a number of experiences,
from bronze casting demonstrations to performances by
classic dancers and concerts by the inspired musicians of
Thiruvaiyaru, all of which articulate Tamil Nadu's rich heritage.
They can also attend intricate handloom demonstrations by
neighbourhood weavers, see Thanjavur-style painting or handmade
jewellery, or take culinary classes by local chefs. For those who
really want to explore the local culture, experts lead tours of
monumental Chola temples. Visitors can even enjoy astrology and
Svatma takes immense pride in its contributions and support
of the Marabu Foundation, a local organisation
that promotes peace and harmony through traditional arts,
literature, and education. Its activities are twofold -
working with the underprivileged children of the area as well as
reviving Thanjavur's 4,000 year-old arts and crafts traditions. The
foundation helps the region continually reinvest in its local
talent, community development and responsible tourism."
Svatma's beautiful exterior ©
In addition to being an architect and hotel owner,
you're also a classical dancer. How did you first get drawn to
"I am essentially a Chennai Brahmin girl, born into a large,
traditional Hindu family with strong theosophist leanings. My
parents are wonderful people who allowed our spirits to grow within
the performing arts while also keeping us disciplined. I started to
dance at the age of seven, under the famous Guru Sudharani
Raghupathi. I consider myself blessed to have found my
guru early in life! Dance gives me calmness, poise, and has
taught me much valuable knowledge - this parallel stream of active
learning helped me grow as a person."
Tell us more about the style of classical dance that
you do, and what makes it distinct.
"It is the Thanjavur style of Bharatanatyam in the Pandanallur
tradition, distinctive for its grandeur and spirituality. There is
a deep, simple geometry to the movements, and a focus on rhythm and
lyrical content. The style is less prone to fashion and flourishes,
and I think it will outlive more populist art forms because of its
depth of tradition."
Krithika is schooled
in Bharatanatyam classical dance © Krithika
Do you have any insider recommendations in or
around Thanjavur to share?
"To begin, visitors shouldn't miss the Brihadeeswarar Temple,
which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the finest
examples of Chola architecture. The Thanjavur Royal Palace is also
incredible: its collection of Chola Bronzes in the Gallery is not
to be missed, as well as its highly ornamental Darbar Hall.
There are plenty of traditional crafts to discover, too: the
veena [a traditional stringed instrument] makers, the
bronze casters, a weavers' colony, painters, etc.
And for those using Thanjavur as a base, there's plenty to
discover nearby. My list of personal favourites also includes:
Thiruvaiyaru (a town famous for its music), Tiruvarur (once a
capital of the Chola empire), Chittanavasal Cave (known for its
murals), Thirueeyachur Temple (renowned for its divinity), and the
town of Kumbakonam (full of colourful temples)…the list is