Goddesses, Elephants and Beaches of South India

A tour of 14-nights

Day 1, Depart The Americas.

Day 2, Mumbai. Depart Europe. Arrive late at night. Transfer to the hotel. Overnight: Orchid Hotel.

Day 3, Aurangabad. Take an early morning flight to Aurangabad. Three hours from Aurangabad lies Ajanta - a series of caves, hewn out of rock by Buddhist monks who found sanctuary here and left a legend for posterity. These 30 caves with 24 monasteries and 5 temples have wall paintings and sculpture of an aesthetic appeal that is timeless. The craftsmanship astounds scholars and art lovers even today. Some of the most exquisite paintings depict the life and teachings of Buddha as well as his earlier life as a prince. The Ajanta caves are like chapters of a splendid epic tale in visual form. Natural light brightens the caves at different times of the day leaving visitors awe-struck by the sheer brilliance of those ancient masters who created this marvel of art and architectural splendor. Overnight: Taj Residency.

Day 4, Aurangabad. One hour from Aurangabad, Ellora represents to the world the finest and greatest in terms of sheer magnificence of Indian sculpture. The awe-inspiring, mammoth Kailash Temple is carved out of solid rock. It is dedicated to Mount Kailash of the Himalayas, the abode of Lord Shiva. This monolithic structure is a very rare phenomenon that demanded the most careful planning, based not on what was added but what was removed! Ellora is a repository of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain religious expression, a sheer volume of information in carved pageantry. Thirty-four shrines synthesize Indian religion and Indian passion for sculpture. The Ramayana and Mahabharata are also depicted here in carvings as also the many-faceted personality of Lord Shiva. Ellora is a priceless page out of history. Fly to Mumbai this evening. Overnight: The Orchid. Hotel.

Day 5, Bangalore. Bangalore - a flourishing city, industrial center and garden spot all in one. Visit the Bull Temple, the monolithic deity being the Nandi or celestial bull, a marvelous work on granite. Leave for Mysore by road. (approximately 3 hours traveling time). Arrive and Check-In to the Mysore Hotel. Mysore - City of Palaces and Oriental splendor. Principal residence of the royal family. Visit the Maharajah’s Palace - a synthesis of Hindu and Muslim styles. An ancient temple and the 16-foot Nandi (Shiva’s bull) carved out of a single huge boulder. Somnathpur with its exquisite Hoysala Temple built in the second half of the 13th century at the confluence of the rivers Kaveri and Kabini. Overnight: Lalitha Mahal.

Day 6, Mysore. Full day visit to the Temples at Belur and Halebid. The 800 year old Belur Temple stands in a perfect state of preservation and is an outstanding testament to the skill of Hoysala craftsmen. Halebid is a sister temple dedicated to Shiva. Here too, the sculptor’s art is remarkable with details endless and exquisite: frieze upon frieze of gods, goddesses, animals and humans. Overnight: Lalitha Mahal.

Day 7. Nagarhole National Park. Leave at leisure for Nagarhole National Park, a drive of 2 hours. Check into the forest rest house. Take a safari into the forest on elephant back, and go on the coracles on the River Kabini. Overnight: Forest Rest House.

Day 8. Nagarhole National Park. A dawn safari into the forest, and return for breakfast. After breakfast, leave for Calicut, a journey of 2 hours. After lunch in Calicut, drive to Cochin, a journey of three hours. Overnight: Malabar House.

Day 9, Cochin. Visit the Mattancherry Dutch Palace, built by the Portuguese in 1555 and renovated by the Dutch in 1663; a Jewish Synagogue in Jew Town – the first Jews came to Kerala about 600 BC. Visit St. Francis Church, the oldest European Church in India. Kathakali Dance performance at a local theatre. Overnight: Malabar House.

Day 10, Cochin. Drive to Alleppey (2 hours). We will live, cook and eat on our very own Houseboat. During the day, the boat will cruise along Kerala’s backwaters through the beautiful canals lined with paddy fields and coconut groves on either side. Enjoy magnificent scenery all along the leafy waterways that meander from town to town, revealing fresh treasures and admire what history and religion have left in towns and villages along the way. Overnight: House Boat.

Day 11, Cochin. Your House Boat experience ends with the boat coming to a halt at Kumarakom around 0930 hours. Return to Cochin, and continue sightseeing in this historic town. Take the afternoon flight to Goa. Overnight: Taj Fort Aguada Beach Resort.

Day 12, Goa. At leisure. Overnight: Taj Fort Aguada Beach Resort.

Day 13, Goa. Full day sightseeing of Goa and the adjoining towns. Overnight: Taj Fort Aguada Beach Resort.

Day 14, Goa. At leisure. Overnight: Taj Fort Aguada Beach Resort.

Day 15, Goa. Morning at leisure, then take an evening flight to Mumbai. After dinner at The Orchid Hotel, we will transfer to the International airport for our flight home, late tonight. Overnight: On board aircraft.

Day 16, Arrive Europe this morning and the Americas this evening.

Information:    E-mail Deepak Singh, Spiritual Journeys, Inc., 262 Upland Road, Cambridge, MA 02140. USA. Ph: 508-358-4267.