Temples and traditions of South India

Overview

India. a country which will enchant you with her beauty and diversity, delight you with her colorful pageantry, enrich you with her culture, stun you with her modernity, embrace you with her warmth, and overwhelm you with her hospitality.a land where the ancient and the contemporary exist side by side, where thousands of brilliant images fill the soul with wonder and where quaint and startling contradictions juxtapose to lend an extraordinary vitality, texture and poetry to life.

India ~ the ancient land of mystery, palaces and kings, romance and intrigue, nobility and grandeur. A land steeped in a tradition of services and privileges to royalty. A land which has the largest Tiger population in the world.

Imagine yourself transported back a couple of centuries. Imagine waking up to find yourself in a royal, canopied bed with the soft gauze of sunshine filtering in through exquisitely filigreed windows.

Day wise Itinerary:

Day 01: ARRIVE CHENNAI BY:INTERNATIONAL FLIGHT
On your arrival in Chennai, after baggage collection, our representative will meet you as you EXIT the ARRIVALS TERMINAL building after which you would be transferred to your Hotel

The East India Company established its presence in southern India on the Bay of Bengal in 1639 with the establishment of Fort St. George. The city of Chennai, formerly known as Madras, grew up around the fort area. It now serves as the capital of Tamil Nadu and is the fourth largest city in India, with over six million inhabitants.

The city grew up around the English settlement of Fort Saint George and gradually absorbed the surrounding towns and villages. However, despite the strong British influence, Chennai has retained its traditional Tamil Hindu culture and effectively blended it with the foreign influence.

Upon arrival at the hotel, you will be accorded with a Traditional Welcome. Welcoming guest is an age-old tradition. 'AtithiDevobhava' - treat your guest as if he were God. Indian hospitality can be savored immediately as one arrives at the hotel. The guest's forehead is anointed with the traditional red 'tika' which is considered auspicious along with garlanding. Relax with a non-alcoholic welcome drink following which proceed to check in at your room.

(Hotel check-in time at 1200 hrs)
Overnight at the hotel.

Day 02: CHENNAI
Buffet breakfast at the hotel.
Later, proceed for a city tour to Chennai. You will start your city tour with the visit of British outpost in India - Fort St. George and the commercial center, George Town. Visit the Fort house and the museum. From the British hold of center you will proceed to Mylapore, inhabited in the 16th century by the Portuguese, visit the San Thome Church. Continue to visit the Kapalesswarar temple - the biggest temple in Chennai

Drive back to Chennai city while visiting the bustling "vegetable & flower market" of the city - The market is jammed with people which can be imagined while considering the city population. This is going to be an awesome experience to find your self there where buyers are tough in negotiation and sellers are at top of their voice to magnetize buyers. Amazingly awesome..!!

Optional:
In the morning, visit to Kalakshetra - the Intuition of performing arts.
Kalakshetra: A vital centre of training and performance, the institution has produced and molded generations of acclaimed artists in a distinctive style. Kalakshetra is open to visitors from 8:30 a.m. to 11.30 a.m. All students and staff assemble at the banyan tree at the centre of campus for prayers at 8:30 a.m.

Take a walk with StoryTrails:
Storytrails uses two basic models - a walk through a locality with the aim of exploring the unusual things found there and, two, visits to places or institutions that fit into the theme. Storytrails' has a motley team of experts, including musician Ajit Srinivasan and travel writer Vaishna Roy, who put together other packages. Also on offer `Mystic Trails', `Dance Trails', `Potter's Trails' and `Bazaar Trails'where a different set of experiences are weaved into each of these themes.

Later in the evening enjoy the "welcome dinner" at the hotel.
Overnight at the hotel (Breakfast + Dinner)

Day 03: CHENNAI - MAHABALIPURAM
Breakfast at the hotel
Later proceed for Mahabalipuram (70 kms / 2 hrs drive).

Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram) built in the 7th century, is an ancient Pallava port. Today it is the site of several antique sculptural marvels. Declared as the world heritage site by UNESCO, Mahabalipuram boasts of some of India's most sublime rock-cut art.

Upon arrival, you will proceed for your check-in at your room followed by tour of Mahabalipuram visiting ShoreTemple, Arjuna's Penance&the CaveTemple.

The ShoreTemple: Though known as the land of Seven Pagodas, there is only one remaining today. The five-storied SoreTemple on the sea beachwas built by the Pallava King Raja Singha at the end of seventh century in pure Dravidian sculpture.

Arjuna's Penance- This skilfully carved rock of 29X7 metre is the largest vas - relief sculpture in the world. It gets its name from the figure of an ascetic who is believed to be Arjuna, the hero of Mahabharata, doing penance to obtain a boon from Lord Siva.

Mandapams/Cave temples: The temples are finely sculptured & carved out in Mahabali. KrishnaTemple is the oldest temple. The rectangular Ganesh Mandapam was also built carving out of a whole rock and is worshipped still daily.

Optional:
Snake catching with the Irulas
Clients looking out for learning experience with outright adventure can go snake catching with the Irulas at Mahabalipuram. The Irulas traditionally specialises in catching by hand, snakes and rats from agricultural fields. This experience is facilitated by the Irula Snake Catcher Industrial Co-operative society which was formed in 1978 by Romulus Whitaker, the renowned conservationist and herpetologist.

Overnight at hotel(Breakfast included)

Day 04: MAHABALIPURAM -PONDICHERRY (PUDUCHERRY)
Breakfast at the hotel
Later drive to Pondicherry (132 kms / 3 hrs) - the city earlier known as Pondicherry - A former French Colony presents an unusual combination of European culture & Indian traditions.

Later, proceed for a city tour of Pondicherry whose association traces its origin to saint Agasthya, the revered sage of the south. Visit Sri Aurobindo Ashram - the final resting Place of Sri Aurobindo, a saint-cum-yogi who synthesized yoga and modern science.

Although Pondicherry has many yoga learning centres, there are two yoga institutions, which are world renowned - the Aurobindo Ashram and the International Centre for Yoga Education & Research (popularly known as Ananda Ashram).

Move on to the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, noted for its Gothic architecture and stained glass panels, which depict the entire life of Jesus Christ. Visit the PondicherryMuseum where on display are findings of Arikamedu, the Chola bronzes and sculptures, glimpses of French heritage, specimens of modern and traditional handicraft, paintings, armouries, carvings and many other things of historical interest.

Enjoy the cycle rickshaw ride on the street of this Ex-French Colony and have a "meditation session" before ending the day
Overnight at the hotel (Breakfast included).

Day 05: PUDUCHERRY - THANJORE
After buffet breakfast in the hotel, you would be driven from Pondicherry to Tanjore (185 kms / 4.30 hrs) en-route visiting Chidambaram, the capital of the Cholas from AD 907 to 1310, It is of great religious as well as historic and cultural significance. Chidambaram is associated with Nataraja, or Shiva in his Ananda Tandava pose (the Cosmic Dance of bliss) in the cosmic golden hall and the hall of consciousness (Chit Sabha).

The dance of bliss, or the Ananda Tandavam of Shiva is said to symbolize the five divine acts (pancha krityas) of creation, sustenance, dissolution, concealment and bestowment of grace. The dance of Shiva has been frozen in metal and held in worships in Nataraja Sabhas, in virtually all of the Saivite temples in Tamilnadu.

After your visit, continue your drive to Tanjore and upon arrival, proceed for check-in at your hotel.
Tanjore was the royal city of the Cholas, Nayaks and the Mahrattas. Tanjore was at height of its glory during RajarajaCholan. The BigTemple and the other famous temples in the district are known all over the world.

Later proceed forvisit to art village:
The ArtVillage is situated just 2kms away from the Brahadeeswara temple (THE BIG TEMPLE) within the city but with the ambience of a village. The guest on arrival have to walk for two minutes to enter the foundry where the whole process of Bronze making is practically shown to the guest and the casting is done in front of the guest and the coasted bronze is cooled and broken open in front of the guest to give them an idea of how bronzes are made.

Following this the guest are taken to another hut to see how Thanjavur paintings are made after explaining the different steps the guest are shown how natural colors come from Vegetables and flowers are extracted.
Overnight at hotel (Breakfast included).

Day 06: THANJORE- TRICHY - THANJORE
After buffet breakfast at the hotel, you will be driven to full day excursion tour of Trichy (55 kms / 1.30 hrs)
Tiruchirappalli or Trichy situated on the banks of the river Cauvery is the fourth largest city in Tamil Nadu. Trichy is a fine blend of tradition and modernity built around the Rock Fort.

Visit the Rock Fort, which is a landmark of Trichy. The rock is one of the oldest in the world-approximately 3.800 million years, which makes it as old as the rocks of Greenland and older than the Himalayas. A climb of 434 steps leads to the ancient temple of Ganapati on top and a further climb to a ShivaTemple. You will visit SriRanganTemple.

After the tour of Trichy, return to your hotel at Tanjore.

We can also arrange for a visit to the Veena making unit.
The above visit takes a maximum of 20 to 30 minutes and has been appreciated by one and all.
Veena is a plucked stringed instrument used mostly in Carnatic music. There are several variations of the veena, which in its South Indian form is a member of the lute family.
The Guest on arrival will be welcomed with a garland and tilak and then will be taken to the private hall of the palace wherein they will interact with the Prince for sometime and later move to the Durbar hall(This hall was used by Raja Serfoji as a private hall to meet the visiting Dignitaries.)Wherein they will be joining in the cocktails(IndianWhiskey/RumorBeer).

Overnight at the hotel (Breakfast included).

Day 07: THANJORE - MADURAI
Today visit Brihadeswara Temple, built in the 10th century by Raja Chola. Sri Brihadeswara temple is regarded as a genius of ancient Chola architecture. The temple dedicated to Nandi, the Bull has been built from a single granite rock. The best part about the temple is that it has been built in a manner that the shadow of it never falls on the ground.

After visit drive to Madurai (142 kms / 5 hrs).

In the evening, you will proceed to the Meenakshi temple complex on cycle-rickshaws to witness the evening aarti ceremony in which Lord Shiva is carried in a palanquin accompanied by musicians, temple singers and priests to the temple of his consort Parvati to spend the night.

Note: Foreigners (Non Hindus) are not allowed inside the Inner Sanctum of the temple.
Overnight at the hotel (Breakfast included).

Day 08: MADURAI
Breakfast at the hotel

Morning, proceed for a sightseeing tour of Madurai City - The temple town is unique in that all its temples are living temples and it remains a major religious center attracting pilgrims the year round. Apart from MeenakshiTemple, another attraction is the TirumalaiPalace (1636) restored by Lord Napier, dance drama concerts are performed daily.

Optional:
Morning Visit to the flower Market:
This can be done after breakfast. The marketsattract up to 10,000 visitors a day. Loud and quiet negotiations hums as wholesalers examines small bags of jasmine buds, tuberoses and marigolds from farmers who pleaded their quality.

Shadow puppetry performance in the evening:
There are two forms of traditional puppetry in Tamil Nadu, viz. Bommalatam (string puppetry) and TholPavakoothu (shadow puppetry).
Private Classical Dance performance and interaction with a Brahmin family in a local Agraharam in the evening, followed by dinner

Agraharams are clusters of houses in a village where Brahmins live. Usually these houses are inhabited by Iyers, Iyengars and other Brahmin sects. Agraharams are found in South India mainly in Tamil Nadu, Palakkad, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.Agraharams are vanishing fast these days and many of the traditional houses are giving way to concrete structures and commercial buildings.

Overnight at the hotel. (Breakfast included).

Day 09: MADURAI - THEKKADY
After buffet breakfast at the hotel, you will be driven from Madurai to Thekkady, which is also known as Periyar (140 kms / 4 hrs). Upon arrival, proceed for check-in at your hotel.

In the afternoon, proceed to PeriyarNational Park to view the wildlife by boat. Situated within the confines of the Western Ghats in the southern Indian state of Kerala, PeriyarNational Park and Tiger Reserve is one of the most captivating wildlife parks in the world. The park has a picturesque lake at the heart of the sanctuary. Herds of elephant and sambar, gaur and wild pigs and wander down to the lakeside and can be observed from the launches that cruise the lake. Periyar also harbours the leopard, wild dog, barking deer and mouse deer. On the rocky outcrops along the lake, monitor lizards can be seen basking in the sun. Return to the hotel after your boat ride.

Evening enjoy guided nature walk in the nearby tea plantation areas.
Overnight at the hotel (Breakfast included).

Day 10: THEKKADY - KUMARAKOM
Breakfast at the hotel
Later drive (135 kms / 3 hrs) to Kumarakom, which is located on the shores of the enchanting VembanadLake.

In the lush backwaters of Kottayam in Kerala, lies a veritable paradise, which is called Kumarakom, or the 'Venice of the East'. Palm fringed narrow canals winding through the vast expanse of paddy fields, and the neat tiny hamlets lined up along either side of the canals are panoramic sights one can never forget.

Upon arrival in Kumarakom, proceed for check-in at your hotel
Rest of the afternoon is free to unwind.
Late afternoon proceed for a sunset cruise on VembanadLake.
Overnight at the hotel (Breakfast included).

Day 11: KUMARAKOM - COCHIN
Today you will be driven from Kumarakom to Cochin (90 kms / 2 hrs) en-route stopping at Alleppey for a short backwater cruise.
After your cruise, continue your drive towards Cochin.

Kochi, or more familiarly, Cochin is a city of many parts. Around for a long, long time, Kochi played a pivotal role in the development of shipping and trade in the region. Kochi's prime location on the west coast, its fine bay and protected harbour made it popular with seafarers and merchant ships who made frequent stops to stock up on spices, coffee and wood enroute to the rich markets of Europe and West Asia.

On arrival in Cochin you will check in at the hotel
Overnight at the hotel (Breakfast included).

Day 12: COCHIN
After breakfast visit Cochin City. You will first proceed to Mattancherry, where you will visit the oldest Jewish Synagogue in India, built in 1568; it was destroyed by the Portuguese and rebuilt by the Dutch a century later.

From Jewish Synagogue you will visit Chinese fishing nets. The cantilevered fishing nets line the entrance to the harbor mouth. Chinese traders are believed to have originally introduced them in the 14th century although, today parts of the nets are known by Portuguese names.

From the Chinese fishing nets you will visit St. Francis Church, originally named after SantoAntonio and dedicated to him as the Patron Saint of Portugal, St. Francis Church is the first church to have been in the new European influenced tradition.

You will also be visiting The Dutch Palace at Mattancherry, which was built in 1555 and its coronation hall and murals at Ramayana are noteworthy features.

In the evening, you will be taken to a Kathakali dance center where you will witness the most elaborate of the dance forms in southern India. Here you will witness the artists readying themselves up with the make up for the final performance.

Kerala owes its transnational fame to this nearly 300 years old classical dance form, which combines facets of ballet, opera, masque and the pantomime. Costume is elaborate with the face painted up.

Overnight at the hotel (Breakfast included).

Day 13: COCHIN - ABORAD
After buffet breakfast, our Representative will meet you in hotel lobby to transfer to the airport in time to board flight for onward destination:

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