Taj, Great Temples of South India, Beaches & Backwaters of Kerala
We went on a fabulous tour across South Indi, going from the Bay of Bengal to the Arabian Sea in November 2015. Some of the pictures I took are here:
India’s recorded history goes back to 4,000 years, with remarkable examples of civilization well ahead of other countries. Throughout this period, reverence was shown to the many Gods her people worshipped, and the land was dominated by independent kingdoms. Reverence to the Gods led to gold and jewels and the finest of architecture bestowed onto them, and the independent kingdoms accumulated wealth not seen elsewhere. Thus she was a prime target for marauders, attracted by her wealth and attributes of her civilization. Forts for defense and palaces for residence were de-rigor for the independent kingdoms, and though many have not survived the ravages of time, those that have, were either too beautiful not to have been maintained or too well built and withstood the elements. Thus, there are some exquisite examples of architecture that we will not only see, but also live in – most perhaps only 200 to 400 years old, though some forts going back to at least 1,000 years.
We will also visit Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, and one of the oldest cities in the world, Varanasi.
We will see the finest examples of India’s temples and forts, religions, jewelry and wealth - all that has made India famous. And we will stay in the best hotels in the area, some of which are amoung the finest hotels in the world, acclaimed by travel critics from across the world.
This tour will be led by Adrianna Catelazo. Adrianna loves India and starting in the mid 1990s, has been all over the country more than 30 times. Deepak Singh will accompany her.
The main tour is across South India, but a pre-Tour in North India is offered for the Taj Mahal and the splendours of Jaipur in Rajasthan.
Map of Region – Zoom in and out to change area. (Note this is showing directions by road. We will fly over the longer distances)
15 Depart the Americas
Main Tour Bay of Bengal to the Arabian Sea with Breathtaking Temples
21 Depart the Americas
More than a city, Madras as it was earlier known, is a potpourri of impressions: a fistful of colour, a whiff of jasmine, the rustling of silk. It brings to mind the subtle, intricate variations of classical music, the evocative grace of Bharatanatyam and spontaneity of bronzed Dravidian faces. Stray images chase one another: bold colour drawn into the pleats of the Kancheepuram sari; a neat, swaying, ebony plait crowned with a spray of flowers; complicated and exuberant sculpture lacing temple walls. The gateway to the south and the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu, Madras or Chennai is a vibrant metropolis and a combination of old world charm and modern day efficiency.
Afternoon city tour of Chennai, visiting Fort St. George, the seat of the state government and the legislative assembly. The Fort was built in 1652 by the British East India Company. The fort contains the fort museum with its collection of memorabilia of the East India co. St. Mary`s Church the oldest surviving Anglican church in India. Very near to Fort St. George is the Indo Saracenic High Court building, said to be the largest judicial building in the world after the Courts of London. Opposite the high courts lies the beautiful Marina beach. Kapaleeswarar Temple, a pure Dravidian temple and one of the most ancient in Madras. The Government Museum with its galleries off Chola Bronzes
Kanchipuram is the ancient capital of the Pallavas famous as a city of 10 Temples and still has 124 shrines. The first temple dedicated to Shiva was built in the 7th and 8th century and has paintings on the walls. Temples of Ekambaswara, Kailasanatha, Sri Kamakshi and Varadarajaswamy are of interest. Kanchipuram is also famous for its silks.
Later visit the magnificent rock temples and carvings in the beach town of Mahabalipuram. Five Rathas (chariots), ceremonial chariots, rock-cut monoliths, named after the 5 Pandavas. The Shore Temple by the sea surrounded by gardens designed according to descriptions of the original layout from ancient times. Built in sandstone in the 7th century. Bhagiratha’s Penance is a bas-relief (27 to 9m) sculptured on the face of two enormous adjacent rocks, depicts, the penance of Arjuna, myriad characters from the Mahabharata, realistic life-size figures of animals, gods and saints watching the descent of the river goddess Ganga to earth.
26 Mahabalipuram – Pondicherry
Pondicherry was a French settlement that comprised Pondy, Yanam, Karaikal and Mahe. There is a strong influence of French culture on Pondicherry town, especially on its architecture, a result of the centuries-old relations this place maintained with France.
Sri Aurobindo Ashram. The ashram was founded in 1920 when Sri Aurobindo reached Pondicherry, a French colony and put in place his ideas of peaceful community. The ashram was run by his French companion Mirra Alfassa, known as the Mother. The ashram houses the samadhi of Sri Aurobindo and the mother and is open to the public.
Pondicherry Museum has a very good sculpture gallery and a section of archaeological finds from the Roman settlement at Arikamedu. There is also a French section charting the history of the colony. The objects include the four-poster bed in which Dupleix is believed to have slept. There is also a superb collection of the snail shells from the Pondicherry Region.
Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Built in the Gothic style, this massive church is one of the most beautiful churches in Pondicherry.
27 Pondicherry – Chidambaram
The small town of Chidambaram is built around a great temple-complex is a highlight of Dravidian architecture and was built by the Cholas from 907 to 1310 AD. It has four large Gopurams with finely sculptured icons depicting Hindu myths.
Kumbakonam is a major historic and pilgrimage town, filled with the most glorious temples. (Please note that we will stay at the Mantra Veppathur which is the best hotel in Kumbakonam. Our coach cannot enter the property as the street is narrow. We will provide cars for transfers between the coach and the hotel.)
was the ancient capital of the Chola kings whose origins, go back
to the beginning of the Christian era. Power struggles between these
groups were a constant feature of their early history, with one
or other gaining the ascendancy at various times. The Cholas' turn
for empire building came between 850 and 1270 AD and, at the height
of their power. Probably the greatest Chola emperors were Raja Raja
Chola, who held the throne from 985 to 1016, built the greatest
of the empire's 74 temples, the Brahadeeswarar, with its soaring
tower over the inner sanctum rising more than 62 meters (200 feet)
with a single block of granite weighing 80 tons on its dome, and
his son Rajendra-I whose navy competed with the Arabs for controls
of the Indian Ocean trade routes and who was responsible for bringing
Srivijaya under Chola control.
29 Thanjavur – Trichy - Madurai
Tiruchirappalli (Trichy) is situated in center Tamil Nadu, was built by the Nayak rulers of Madurai around a rock fort, on the banks of the Kaveri (also Cauvery) river. It was a Chola citadel during the Sangam Age and was also briefly ruled by the Pallavas and the Pandyas. Today, Trichy is a blend of history, a pilgrim center and a thriving commercial city.
was and is famous for the Ranganatha Temple at Srirangam, 10 km
away. The Rock Fort is the center of the city and is a remarkable
83 meter high structure dominating the landscape. The Uchi Pillaiyer
Temple dedicated to lord Vinayaka or Ganesha has 344 steps, cut
into the rock leading to the temple with the Tyaumanaswami Temple
of lord Shiva half way up the hillock. Cave temples in the fort
with sculptures date back to the 6th and 7th centuries. The Sri
Jambukeswara Temple, at Tiruvankkaikaval, Srirangam is an island
in the Kaveri river, north of Tiruchirapalli. The Ranganathaswami
Temple here, built around 13th-14th centuries has 21 towers and
stone pillars covered with fine carvings. Continue the Drive for
Situated on the banks of river Vaigai, Madurai is more than 2,500 years old and has a rich cultural heritage and history, and even as early as 550 AD, it was an important cultural and commercial centre. Madurai was the capital city for the great Pandya kings.
Visit the Meenakshi Temple & Tirrumalai Nayak Palace and Thirumohur (10 km). This place has its legendary origin in the distant past when Devas (Gods) and Asuras (Demons) churned the ocean to get Amritham (nectar). In the evening visit the Meenakshi temple to attend ceremony every evening where the marriage of Meenakshi (Parvati) and Sundareshwara (Lord Shiva) is solemnized.
It is believed that spices originated from Cochin were presented to King Solomon by the Queen of Sheba. In 1000 BC Phoenicians, trading with Cochin, supplied the Pharaohs of Egypt with aromatic oils and spices which were used to preserve the embalmed bodies of the Egyptian Kings and Queens. After Rome conquered Egypt, the Roman galleys were carrying goods to imperial Rome where pepper, the most prized import, was worth its weight in gold.
St. Thomas arrived in the first century AD. The Jews arriving here in the wake of the Diaspora were given sanctuary and titles of land and established a flourishing trading community in Cochin.
the next thousand years the spice trade was controlled by the Arabs
who supplied these exotic wares through the Italian City State of
Venice. Marco Polo in his travelogue writes about a flourishing
trade between Cochin and China when he visited these parts. In order
to break the Venetian stranglehold on this lucrative trade, the
Catholic Majesties of Spain and Portugal financed independent explorations
to discover a direct sea route to Cochin. Christopher Columbus under
the patronage of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain began
his journey by sea to Cochin; but eventually discovered the continent
of the Americas. Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese explorer (1498) directly
established, for the first time, a sea route between western Europe
and the Orient.
Visit the Mattancherry Dutch Palace, built by the Portuguese in 1555 and renovated by the Dutch in 1663. In the ancient rooms are 17th century murals that relate in vibrant color the story of the epic Ramayana. See streets of picture-postcard houses out of another age, in 17th century Dutch and traditional Kerala styles. Visit St. Francis Church, the oldest European Church in India. It has several antiquities including a wealth of records. These include a palm-leaf title deed the local Raja gave the Portuguese in 1503. See the Chinese Fishing Nets, unique to this part of Kerala and living symbols of a centuries-old Chinese influence on this coast.
In Cochin we will visit the Jew Town and the paradesi Synagogue which was built in 1568. This is the first Synagogue that came into existence in the Commonwealth and is also one of the oldest in the world. This Synagogue was built by Samuel Castiel, David Belila, Ephrahim Sala and Joseph Levi. It stands on the grounds of Maharaja of Cochin’s residence overlooking the Hindu Shrine demonstrating cordial relations of the Jews with the people of Kerala. In addition, we will visit some important Hindu religious sites.
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