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Home » Special Interest Tours » Spiritual Tours » Spirit of South India

Spirit of South India

Duration : 8 Days / 7 Nights
Destination Covered : Chennai - Mahabalipuram - Kanchipuram - Pondicherry - Chidambaram - Kumbakonam - Darasuram - Gangaikonda - Thanjavur - Srirangam - Trichy - Madurai - Chennai

Day 01: Arrival / Chennai Chennai / Mahabalipuram (70 kms - 90 Minutes)

WelcomeLate night arrival. Meeting and assistance upon arrival as our representatives welcome you and escort you to your car.

Whilst the room keys and check-in is organized, our representative would introduce the tour to you and hand over the documents to you.

Welcome to India, or as we say 'atithi devo bhava' (the guest is an incarnation of God). Thank you for giving us the opportunity to serve you!

Overnight at Fisherman's Cove - a 5* Taj Group Hotel (Sea View Cottage)

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Day 02: Mahabaipuram / Kanchipuram / Mahabalipram (60 Kms)

KanchipuramFollowing a leisurely breakfast, we will tour Mahabalipuram

Mahabalipuram is famous for its shore temples. The sculpture here is particularly interesting because, instead of Gods & Goddesses, the sculpture shows scenes from contemporary day to day life - women milking cows, pompous dignitaries, young girls priming and posing in street corners or swinging their hips in artful come-ons. Mahabalipuram is an easy going village of essentially two streets and positioned at the foot of low lying boulder strewn hill where most of the fascinating temples and the rock cut carvings are to be found. It affords a wonderful combination of an excellent beach, good seafood and the fascinating remains of an ancient Indian Kingdom.

Later we will have an excursion of Kanchipuram

Kanchipuram is a Hindu Holy City and capital of the Pallava dynasty from the 7th to 9th centuries AD, is renowned for temples and silk, and you will see plenty of both. The temples range in date from the 8th to the 17th century. The latest building was impressive in its size, the height of its gopuram, the intricacy of its carvings and wealth of colour, but, the earliest temples, of golden sandstone, are more aesthetically pleasing, the only colour provided is by a flock of ring-necked parakeets.

Across the road is a workshop where men sit at a loom, weaving fabrics that you will recognise immediately as "Madras cotton". However, Silk-weaving takes place on a grander scale than the cotton-weaving in this town dotted with cottage workshops. You could visit a factory where all the processes of spinning, dyeing and weaving take place. Of special note would be exquisite wedding saris made to order - the silk is heavily interwoven with gold thread. The sari and blouse are woven together so as to ensure a perfect match. From here we continue our ride to Mahabalipuram.

Overnight at Fisherman's Cove - a 5* Taj Group Hotel (Sea View Cottage)

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Day 03: Mahabalipuram / Pondicherry (113 Kms - 3 hrs)

MahabalipuramMorning we will drive to Pondichery

Upon arrival check into your hotel Le Dupleix

Afternoon, proceed on a tour of the city. More than anything else, the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, where Sri Aurobindo and the Mother lived for the most parts of their lives, is a major attraction of this little city. The Pondicherry Museum is home to some of the most exquisite collections on architecture and sculpture. Pondicherry also has a pleasant beach alongside promenade and historical monuments. Some of the other interesting sites includes the Bharti and Bharthidasan Memorial museums and the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The French, Britain's strongest rivals for the control of India, established their foothold here and only relinquished it in 1954. The town still has the feel of a French provincial town, with its librairie, epicerie, imposing Hotel de Ville, memorial to Franco-Indians killed in the Great War, and statue of Joan of Arc. The houses could be anywhere in southern France and bear the familiar white numbers on a blue ground. Street names, too, are shown in white on blue - rue St Louis, rue de la Caserne and so on. During a pleasant afternoon stroll you could hear French spoken frequently.

Overnight at Le Dupleix

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Day 04: Pondicherry / Chidambaram / Kumbakonam / Darasuram / Gangaikonda / Thanjavur (170 Kms - 8 Hours including tours en route)

PondicherryMorning we will drive to Thanjavur enoute we will visit Chidambaram, Kumkakonam, Darasuram & Gangaikonda.

Chidambram is in between two rivers in a 40 acres temple-complex, it is one of the oldest and magnificent temples of the South. Shiva Natrala or the Dancing Shiva stands in his cosmic dance pose in the golden rooted sanctorum. Flanking the temple are 108 sculptured illustrations of Bharat Natya Shashtra. In Akash Lingam hidden by a veil, lies the real secret of Chidambaram. Kumbakonam is flooded with temples of large size. There are as many as sixty temples, in and around Kumbakonam within 40-km of radius. Of the many temples in Kumbakonam, the oldest Shaiva fane is the Adikumbeshwara and the oldest Vaishnava fane, the Sri Sarangapani.

Darasuram is a 'Sculptor's dream in stone', musical pillars, mandapam in the shape of a chariot, a wealth of sculpture and painting are synonymous with Airavateshvara Temple. The temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, is a well-preserved example of 12th century Chola architecture. Darasuram is an ancient town about 380 kms south of Chennai in Tamil Nadu and also boasts a silk weaving centre. The original name of Darasuram was Rajarajapuram, which later got corrupted into Darasuram.

Gangaikonda We drive through the tropical mountains to Gangaikonda through the Coleroon river delta.. The ancient town of Gangai Konda Cholapuram in Tamil Nadu is an hour's drive from Chidambram. It was the capital of the Cholas till their fall in the 13th century. This place is well known for the Gangai Konda Cholapuram temple which was built in 11th century, to commemorate Chola King's conquest up to the Gangetic plain. The temple is one of the very ancient temples of Tamil Nadu, built in the Chola style. The temple is lavishly sculpted with beautiful stone sculptures including a dancing Ganesha, a lion headed well and a stunning freeze depicting Rajendra being crowned by Siva and Parvati.

From here we continue our drive to Thanjavur

Upon arrival check into your hotel Sangam

Overnight at Sangam Hotel (Standard Room)

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Day 05: Thanjavur / Srirangam / Trichy (65 Kms - 2 hours)

ThanjavurMorning tour of the Tanjavur Palace. It has huge halls, spacious corridors, observation & arsenal towers and a shady courtyard. Though many sections of the palace are in ruins restoration work has been taken up. The palace houses a library, a museum and an art gallery. The Royal museum displays many items from the kings who ruled the place in past. The eclectic collection of royal memorabilia can fascinate any visitor. The Royal cloths, hunting weapons, the head gears and many more such items are enough to catch the attention of any one. There are two Durbar halls where the rulers held public meetings. Though they have not been renovated, they are in good shape.

The Nayak hall of the palace is occupied by the Art Gallery. This gallery has an excellent collection of artifacts from the Chola dynasty during the 8th and 9th century. The bronze and granite statues reflect the height of craftsmanship obtained during those days. The bell tower which was put under restoration work, has emerged very different from the rest of the structure after renovation. But it is worth going up the tower to have a good view of the surrounding area. Next to the art gallery is the Saraswathi Mahal Library with an amazing collection of manuscripts on palm leaves and paper. The library is not open for the public. But one can always go in the museum to have a look at the full Ramayana written on Palm leaf or a set of explicit prints of prisoners

We will also proceed for sight seeing of Tanjore. See the beautiful Chola temple of Brihadeeshwara. The temple is capped by a monolithic cupola made of a single granite block weighing 80 tons which was taken to the top with the help of a 6 km long ramp- an old technique used by the Egyptians for building pyramids. You will also visit the Palace and its Art Gallery, which contains several granite and bronze statues of the Chola period.

Later we drive to the district's most important pilgrim centre, Srirangam, located in an island just 7 kms from Trichi. Srirangam, surrounded by the waters of river Cauveri on one side and its tributary kollidam on the other, is a 600 acre island-town enclosed within the seven walls of the gigantic Sriranganathaswami Temple. Most of it dates from the 14th to 17th centuries, and many people have had a hand in its construction, including the Cheras, Pandyas, Cholas, Hoysalas and rulers from Vijayanagar. The largest gopuram in the first wall on the southern side was completed as recently as 1987, and now measures 73m.
Srirangam Temple
From here we will drive to Trichy

Upon arrival check into your hotel Sangam

Evening tour of Rockfort Temple. The 83m high Rock Fort is the only outcrop in the otherwise flat land of the city. 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. The sheer abruptness of its rise is a thrill in itself, but the actual centre of attraction is not the fort itself, of which very little remains, but the temple at the summit. 344 steps hewn out of rock lead to the top where there are inscriptions dating back to the 3rd century.B.C. Hardly anything remains of the ramparts but the Main Guard Gate is still intact. The fort played an important part during the Carnatic wars and according to an inscription, mainly contributed to lay the foundations of the British Empire in India.

At the top of the rock is the Uchipillaiyar Koil, a temple dedicated to Lord Vinayaka from where one can enjoy a panoramic view of Tiruchirappalli. A flight of steps leads to the Mathrubutheswarar of Thayumanaswami temple, dedicated to Lord Siva where the lingam is a projection of the rock itself. Below the Siva temple are the two Pallava cave temples that have beautiful sculptures of the 6th and 7th centuries. At the foot of the Rock Fort are a tank and a pavilion which are used during the float festival of the temples. Near the tank is the house where Robert Clive lived when he was in Tiruchirappalli and there is an 18th century Church built by Reverend Schwartz of Denmark

The temple elephant in rock fort temple collects donations, giving a blessing and hands over the money to his "boss"

Overnight at Sangam Hotel (Standard Room)

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Day 06: Trichy / Madurai (130 Kms - 3 Hours)

Morning, ride to Tirumayam, which is one of the 108 Divya Desams. Tirumayam has two cave temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva, which are visited by large number of devotees. Mahendravarman and Narasimhavarman Pallava built the cave temples, which lie adjacent to each other.

After the tour we will drive to Madurai

Upon arrival check into your hotel Taj Garden Retreat.

Evening we will witness Bed Chamber Ceremony at Meenakshi temple.

Overnight at Taj Garden Retreat - a 5* Taj Group Hotel

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Day 07: Madurai / Chennai (9W 3520 - 2055 / 2210 Hrs)

Thirumalai Nayak MahalAfter breakfast we will proceed on a guided tour of Thirumalai Nayak Mahal. The palace was built in 1636 by Thirumalai Nayakar. A classic example of the Indo-Saracenic style, the piece de resistance of this Mahal is its carved dome outsoars without the support of girders or rafters. The stucco work on its domes and arches is remarkable. The gigantic pillars and structures represent the amazing architectural mastery of Nayak Kings. The courtyard and the dancing hall are being the center of attractions. There are around 248 pillars of each 58 feet toll and 5 feet diameter. Furniture and utensils used by the kings have been exhibited inside the palace.

We will also visit Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam, which is a huge temple tank. The mandapam in the centre has an idol of Vigneshwara (Vinayaka). This tank was said to have been dug by Tirumala Nayaka. It is the biggest tank of its kind in Tamil Nadu and one of the most imposing sights of Madurai when it is full of water. The vinayaka idol was found when the earth was being dug out from here to build the Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal. So, the place attained sanctity and was converted into a teppakulam (tank).

Our tour includes a visit to The Gandhi Memorial Museum, which is meant to be living Institutions and not merely a building preserving and showing exhibits, however precious. It seeks to help an ever increasing number of people to understand and to value the life, work and teachings of Gandhiji

Madurai is one of the oldest cities of southern India. It has been a center of pilgrimage, for centuries. The Meenakshi temple, the main architectural attraction here, is an excellent example of Dravidian architecture, with gopurams or multi pillared halls, covered from top to bottom, in a profusion of multicolored images of gods, goddesses, animals and mythical figures.

Evening transfer to the airport to connect your flight to Chennai

Meeting and assistance upon arrival and transfer to your hotel Taj Coromandel

Overnight at Taj Coromandel - a 5* Taj Group Hotel

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Day 08: Chennai / Departure

Transfer to Cochin airport to board your flight back home.

Overnight at Taj Coromandel - a 5* Taj Group Hotel

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We do hope the flavor of India will remain on your taste buds for all times to come and hopefully would kindle an indelible fondness for the country and her people; Thank you for being our guest, and as we say in India 'Please Come back Soon"

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