Tour of South India
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.
Tamil Nadu – home to some of India’s most grand Hindu Temples, multi religious pilgrimage sites and various UNESCO World Heritage sites, the history of Tamil Nadu has seen the rise and fall of various dynasties through the medieval ages.
The Portuguese were first amongst the foreigners to arrive the city. The early conquests were primarily meant for trade as the city provided one good entry point into the Indian mainland. The Portuguese arrived in 1522 A.D. followed by Dutch in 1612 A.D. The last to come was the British East India Company. The East India Company bought the lands here from Nayak of Vandavasi and got the permanent settlement rights.
A city tour of Chennai is arranged for the afternoon
BASILICA OF THE NATIONAL SHRINE OF ST. THOMAS
National Shrine of St. Thomas is built over the tomb of Saint Thomas the Apostle, who came to India in the year 52 AD. After preaching on the West Coast, he came to Chennai (formerly Madras), and suffered martyrdom on a hill at the outskirts of the city, today known as "St. Thomas Mount." His body was buried on the spot over which the present Basilica stands.
This lovely Gothic Church is an architectural treasure. Rising 155 feet from the ground, with a nave of 112 feet by 33 feet, and an imposing sanctuary 62 feet long and 33 feet wide, it is adorned with stained glass windows depicting St. Thomas and the other Apostles. Inside the sanctuary is a statue of St. Thomas seated. A valuable work of art kept in the Basilica is an ancient painting of Our Blessed Mother, in front of which the other great apostle of India, St. Francis Xavier, used to pray.
There are two new structures today: The Tomb Chapel below the Basilica and Museum cum Theatre. The new underground chapel with a separate access outside the church structure, allows pilgrims to pray at the tomb and tourists to visit it, without disturbing the sacred functions in the church.
The museum exhibits artifacts connected with St. Thomas and the Basilica, and the theatre is used for screening a short video on the life of the Apostle.
There is a historical tale behind the origin of this Museum. In 1846 AD, the Madras Literary Society debated the proposal of establishing the museum. Finally, the proposal was approved by the Court of Directors of the East India Company in London.
The 133 chapters of his famous work Thirukkural have been depicted in bas-relief in the front hall corridors of the chariot. The auditorium at Valluvar Kottam is said to be the largest in Asia and can accommodate about 4000 people. It stands as a modern memorial to the great poet who represents the glorious culture of the Tamils.
ST. GEORGE FORT
Return to hotel
Overnight: Taj Coromandel
CHENNAI – KANCHIPURAM (83 Kms from the city)
Breakfast at the hotel
Mahabalipuram lies on the Coromandel Coast which faces the Bay of Bengal. This is an elegant place to watch which a well established sea port was during the 7th and 10th centuries of the Pallava dynasty. This was the second capital of the Pallavas who ruled Kanchipuram. Formerly, Mahabalipuram was known and called as Mamallapuram. The former name of this place ‘Mahabalipuram’ has a history. A very rude cruel King Mahabali reined this place and in a fierce battle king Mahabali was killed by Lord Vishnu and the place was named after the dead, arrogant kind Mahabali.
The richness in Mahabalipuram was not known to many, as these Pallavas did not outlet and expose their quality and innovative creations to the outer world for obvious reasons. The aestheticism in Mahabalipuram was hidden until the late 18th century. Mamallapuram is referred as an ‘open-air museum’.
The beauty of the place is not only due to these architecture but the vast casuarinas trees, the silvery sandy beach the classical hand made crafts around have made them all to form what is a collective splendour.
Overnight: Chariot Beach Resort
MAHABALIPURAM-PONDICHERRY (Approx. 95 Kms/02 hr drive)
Visit the Mahabalipuram temples once again early in the morning.
10.00 hrs: Drive to Pondicherry
Arrive Pondicherry & check-in at Le Pondy
Puducherry (or Pondicherry) was a part of the Pallava kingdom of Kanchipuram in the fourth century AD. During the next few centuries Pondicherry was continued to be under the control of several dynasties of the south.
The 17th century marked the beginning of colonial era in India. The French East India Company set up its trading centre at Puducherry in 1673. This outpost eventually became the chief French settlement in India.
Once a French colony, Pondicherry still today has a few French families living there and French is an important language. The French spirit can be observed in the very layout of the township. The streets, buildings, ornamental gardens, hotels and restaurants, everywhere the French influence still persist prominently.
Afternoon: Sightseeing at Pondicherry
Pondicherry is a blend of spiritual institution, French colonial heritages, Tamil culture and a cosmopolitan form of life. The city is full of French colonial buildings, clean and wide streets and the sprawling premises of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. This territory is important from spiritual as well as from cultural point of view.
Pondicherry’s beauty lies in its un-spoilt beaches and well laid out parks and gardens. The city’s temples and churches and imposing monuments of the colonial era are some of the worth visiting sites in this small port city.
Overnight: Le Pondy
PONDICHERRY–CHIDAMBARAM (Approx. 95 Kms/2 hrs drive)
08.00 hrs: Depart to Chidambaram
Chidambaram Nataraja temple.
Continue drive to Kumbakonam
Arrive and check-in at hotel Mantra.
Kumbakonam temple visits proposed for the afternoon.
There are about 17 temples situated in Kumbakonam, but we will visit must see temples only.
Airavateswarar Temple is located at Darasuram to the west of Kumbakonam. Airavat is the holy White Elephant and the temple is dedicated to the Lord of Airavat. The temple is constructed in the 12th century by Rajaraja Chola II and is an exquisite symbol of the supremacy of Chola architectural style.
The temple structure is remarkable. There are many inscriptions and images in this temple. One structure shows Lord Shiva as the mendicant Kankala-murti. Other structures and inscriptions depict stories from Epics and Puranas.
Swamimalai Muragan temple
Overnight: Hotel Mantra
KUMBAKONAM – TRANQUEBAR – KUMBAKONAM (75 Kms oneway)
A trip to Tranquebar proposed for the day.
Tranquebar or Tarangambadi, as the place is known in native Tamil, literally meaning, “The land of the singing waves”, is a perpetual paradox. It embalms in its fold but in its charm, it is relentless.
Tranquebar occurs in a 14th century inscription, mentioning the place as Sadanganpade. Tranquebar was founded by the Danish East India Company in 1620, when a factory (commercial settlement) was opened and a fort, known as Fort Dansborg, was built by a Danish captain named Ove Gjedde. This fort was the residence and headquarters of the governor and other officials for about 150 years. It is now a museum hosting a collection of artifacts from the colonial era.
Return to the hotel by the afternoon
Afternoon is at leisure or visit temples at Kumbakonam
Overnight: Hotel Mantra
KUMBAKONAM – THANJAVUR (40 Kms. / 1 hr drive approx)
Check-out and depart to Trichy via visiting Thanjavur en-route.
Thanjavur/Tanjore has been the capital of mighty Cholas for centuries. The Cholas have been known as the patrons of magnificent art & culture and that is why Thanjavur has a lot of attractions to see remains of the Chola dynasty.
The Brihadeeswara Temple: The massive temple built by Rajaraja Chola reflects the Cholas’ contribution to the development of arts in this area. It is also regarded as the Chola dynasty's finest contribution to the Dravidian temple architecture. Listed as a World Heritage site, the temple is visited by a large number of people for the regular worship here. The temple is characterised by its unique structure. Unlike the usual South Indian temples, the Brihadeeswara temple has a soaring vimana and a stunted gopuram. It was constructed from a single piece of granite weighing an estimated 80 tonnes and the dome was hauled into place along a 4-km earthwork ramp in a manner similar to the Egyptian pyramids. A huge Nandi, about 6 m long and 3.7 m high, faces the inner sanctum. The statue of Nandi was created from a single rock piece and weighs 25 tonnes. It is in fact one of the largest statues of Nandi bulls in India. The temple also has a spacious ground, number of pillared halls, shrines and 250 lingams.
The Palace of Thanjavur: The royal Palace near the massive Brihadeeswara temple is characterised by its vast corridors, large halls, shady courtyards and observation and arsenal towers. Built by the Nayaks in the mid-16th century, the Palace was completed by the Marathas. The Durbar Hall of the palace still retains the grandeur of the bygone era. The palace also functions as a Royal Museum housing a diverse collection of royal remnants, compilations of the early 19th century, the king’s slippers, head dresses and hunting tools.
The Art Gallery has a rich collection of 250 Chola Bronze statues and 150 stone statues dating from the 9th to 12th century. These statues belong to the many groups namely the Bhairava, Umasahita Shiva, Kali and the Rama Lakshmana.
Saraswati Mahal Library Located just by the side of the art gallery, the Saraswati Mahal Library has a huge collection of about 30,000 palm leaf and paper manuscripts in Indian and European languages. It also has some Tamil works including treatises on medicine, and commentaries on works from the Sangam period. It was built during 1700 AD.
Continue drive to Trichy
Overnight: Hotel Sangam
TRICHY-KARAIKUDY (CHETTINAD) (Approx. 95 Kms/ 2 hrs drive)
Sriranganathaswami Temple, Srirangam
Return to hotel; Check-out & drive to Karaikudi via visiting Ayyanar temples in Pudukkottai which is 53 Kms from Trichy and Thirumayam temple which is 20 kms south of Pudukkottai, en-route to Karaikudy.
In 1565, the Vijayanagara kingdom fell to the Deccan Sultanates in the Battle of Talicota and the Nayakas then became the de facto governors of this place. In the mid seventeenth century, Raghunatha Thondaiman turned Pudukottai to a princely state, and as he helped the British Government against Tipu Sultan, it became a protected native state and continued to do so until the independence of India.
The Thirukattalai temple at Puduottai is the only extant sign at Pudukottai of the Chola architecture. The Thirukattalai temple at Pudukottai has a central shrine and a mandap in front of it. Around the mandap, there are seven more temples for different angels at the Thirukattalai temple at Pudukottai. The temple's terrace has images of Thatchinamorrthi, Pitchadamoorthi, Varagan, Vishnu and Brahma. Nevertheless, there are many more places of worship in the Pudukottai.
Continue drive to Thirumayam (20 Kms from Pudikkottai)
Thirumayam is a place of historical importance. Miles before reaching the town one can see a fort atop a large hill. There are two famous rock-cut shrines, one for Siva and the other for Vishnu, adjacent to each other. The Siva cave temple is older among the two. The Vishnu temple is very venerated and considered second only to the temple at Srirangam . Closer to the rock-cut shrine of Siva is a large area dressed to take one of the largest inscriptions.
After visiting Thirumayam temple, continue drive to Karaikudy.
Karaikudi got its name because of the famous plant called "Karai" which is widely spread over this area. The people of Karaikudi played a major role during the India freedom struggle. The city was well facilitated with Railways and Roadways in 1930. The famous temple PillaiyarPatti is 12 km away from Karaikudi. The city is known for Sri Meenakshi-Sundareswarar temple, also known as Sivan Temple which was built during 1872. There is a temple here where there are 108 statues of Ganapathy.
Karaikudi is also known as the capital of Chettinad. Karaikudi and 74 other villages comprise Chettinad, the homeland of the Nattukottai Chettiars. The Chettiars were a prosperous banking community who ventured overseas to do business in South and Southeast Asia in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Arrive at Kariakudy; Check-in at Visalam (CGH Earth)
Overnight: CGH Visalam
KARAIKUDI – MADURAI (Approx. 105 Kms/ 2.5 hrs drive)
08.00 hrs: Drive past nearby temples in Karaikudi.
10.00 hrs: Check-out and depart for Madurai
Overnight: Coconut Lagoon
MADURAI – TEMPLE CITY
Madurai is situated on the banks of Vaigai River in Tamil Nadu. It is the second largest city of Tamil Nadu and has a population in excess of 1.1 million. It is well known for the Meenakshi temple situated at the heart of the town which attracts tourists as well as pilgrims. Madurai has a rich cultural heritage passed on from the great Tamil era more than 2500 years old, and has been an important commercial centre even as early as 550 AD.
13.00 hrs: Arrive Madurai and check-in hotel Heritage
Afternoon at leisure; Evening temple visit to attend evening prayers
Overnight: The Heritage
MADURAI / BANGALORE (Afternoon flight)
Return to hotel for breakfast, followed by a guided city tour.
Meenakshi Amman Kovil is a twin temple. The temple in the southern side is dedicated to Sri Meenakshi, the consort of Lord Sundareswarar (Shiva) and the other to Lord Sundareswarar. This is one of the biggest temple complexes of India.
13.00 hrs: Transfer to the Airport to board your flight to Bangalore
16.15 hrs: Arrive at Bangalore Airport. You will be directly driven to Mysore.
Mysore was the capital of the Kingdom of Mysore until 1950, except in the 18th century when Haidar Ali and Tipu Sultan were the de facto rulers for a 40-year period. Mysore state continued to be ruled by Maharaja H.H. Jaya Chamaraja Wadiyar till Mysore became part of Indian Republic in 1950.
Bangalore –Mysore is 140 kms and will take about 03 hours drive.
Overnight: Lalitha Mahal Palace
Visit Keshava Temple at Somnathpur in the morning (38 Kms one way)
The Keshava temple in Somnathpur, near the city of Mysore, is the last major temple of the Hoysala dynasty. The Keshava temple is the best-preserved most complete monument of Hoysala architecture. The temple is believed to have been built (around AD 1268) under Somnatha, a general in the army of Narasimha III.
Return to Mysore; Mysore city tour.
The historic background of the era throws some light on the intent of its construction. The fag end of the year 1799 saw the fall of Tippu Sultan and restoration of the power back to the Wodayars of Mysore. Though he was not commanding the assault troops, the young Colonel Arthur Wellesley Wellington was in charge of the rear advances that secured the fort of Srerangapatna. Immediately after the fall of Tippu, he was appointed as the commandant of the region. He occupied the summer palace of Tippu Sultan, Daria Daulat Bagh, in Srirangapatna.
The Wellington Lodge was hurriedly completed in this context, near the Mysore Palace. Later in 1799 Arthur Wellesley moved his residence to the Wellington Lodge. He stayed there as the commissioner of Mysore for two years till 1801.
Ranganathaswamy TempleRanganathaswamy Temple : The temples is one of the most important Vaishnavite shrines in South India. It is built by the Gangas in 9th century, later improved by the Hoysala and Vijayanagar kings. The temple is a tribute to Lord Ranganatha(Vishnu )
Optional activities in Mysore if time permits
Half-way up along the stone steps is Nandi, Lord Shiva's Bull, a majestic 4.8 metre monolith. At the top is the 12th century temple of Chamundeshwari, the patron goddess of the Wodeyars. Close to the temple is the gigantic statue of the demon Mahishasura. The summit offers a panoramic view of Mysore's lakes, parks and palaces.
The Green Hotel
The Green Hotel has been set up as a model of sustainable tourism, by a UK charity. All profits are distributed to charitable and environmental projects in India.
Visit Brindavan Gardens in the evening
Overnight: Lalitha Mahal Palace
MYSORE – HASSAN (130 Kms 03 hrs drive approx)
After breakfast drive to Hassan en-route visiting Melukote Temple and Shravanabelagola
MELUKOTE is 50 km north of Mysore. It is a sacred pilgrim centre. According to mythological account, this place was known as Narayanadri, Vedadri, Yadavadri, Yathishaila and Tirunarayanapura. The name of the place is derived as the temple of Narayanaswamy which is built on the hillock, surrounded by a fort. It is built on granite rocky hill-range named Yadugiri which is 3589 feet high above the sea level.
There is a big pond here. Many more shrines and ponds are located in the town. An old library founded in 1935, contains large number of Samskrita, Tamil, Kannada, and Telugu books and manuscripts.
Shravanabelagola in Hassan District is 70 km from Mysore (25 Kms from Melukote) and is an important Jain centre. There is a pond and two stony hills, called Chandragiri and Indragiri. Chandragiri has the Chandragupta basadi of the Gangas and the Parashwanatha basadi here is the biggest.
The town below the hill has the Jaina matha whose walls have very old paintings. Indragiri has the Gommata monolith, 58' tall, installed by a Ganga general and scholar Chavundaraya, and also Siddhara basadi, Odegal basadi, Chennanna basadi and Chauvvisa Tirthankara basadi, and also the finely engraved pillar called Tyagada Brahma Pillar. The floral designs on it are excellent. To the north of town is Jinanathapura which has the Aregal basadi and the Shantinatha basadi of Hoysala times. Shravanabelagola has over 500 inscriptions, and some of them are recording death by starving (`sallekhana') by Jaina ascetics and laymen.
Continue drive to Hassan.
Hassan district was the seat of the Hoysala Empire which at its peak ruled large parts of south India from Belur as its early capital and Halebidu as its later capital during the period 1000 - 1334 CE. Today Hassan is primarily known worldwide for its Hoysala architecture and is a veritable treasure trove of about fifty sculptural marvels tucked away in several villages and towns of the district.
Arrive Hassan and check-in at your hotel.
Rest of the day at leisure
Overnight: Hoysala Village Resort
Visit Belur & Halebid
Belur: This quaint hamlet - 38 kms from Hassan - is located on the banks of the river Yagachi. It was once capital of the Hoysala empire, today made unforgettable for its exquisite temples.
The Shennakeshava temple is one of the finest examples of Hoysala architecture. It took 103 years to complete this architectural marvel. The facade of the temple is filled with intricate sculptures and frescos, with no portion left blank. Elephants, episodes from the epics, sensuous dancers.....they are all there - awe-inspiring in their intricate workmanship.
Halebid: Halebid is 27 kms north-west of Hassan and 17 kms east of Belur. The temples of Halebid - like those of Belur - bear mute testimony to the rich, cultural heritage of Karnataka. The Hoysaleswara Temple, dating back to the 21th century, is astounding for its wealth of sculpture details. The walls of the temple are covered with an endless variety of Gods and Goddesses, animals, birds and dancing girls. Yet no two facets of the temple are the same. This magnificent temple - guarded by a Nandi Bull - was never completed despite 86 years of labour.
Return to hotel
Overnight: Hoysala Village Resort
HASSAN-BANGLORE (200 Kms/ 04 hrs drive approx)
This afternoon, drive to Bangalore. Arrive and check in at your hotel.
Overnight: The Oberoi
Depart for the airport in time for your flight.