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IndiaTour - South India - South India Cultural & Heritage Tour

South India Cultural & Backwaters Tour

13 Nights / 14 Days

Places Covered : Cochin - Alleppey - Kumarakom - Thekkady - Madurai - Trichy - Thanjavur - Chidambaram - Pondicherry - Mahabalipuram - Kanchipuram - Chennai

Itinerary


Day - 01 Cochin Arrival
Indian Horizons representative will receive you on arrival at the airport and transfer to the hotel. The eventful history of this city began when a major flood in AD 1341 threw open the estuary at Kochi, till then a land locked region, turning it into one of the finest natural harbors in the world. Kochi thus became a haven for seafaring visitors from all over the world and became the first European town-ship in India when the Portuguese settled here in the 15th century. The Dutch wrested Fort Kochi from the Portuguese in AD 1663 and later in the last phase of the colonial saga, the British took over, the town in 1795. During 1660's, Fort Kochi peaked in stature as a prime commercial centre and its fame spread far and wide - variously as a rich trade centre, a major military base, a vibrant cultural hub, a great ship building centre, a centre for Christianity and so on. Today, centuries later, the city is home to nearly thirteen communities. Overnight will be at Cochin.

Day - 02 Cochin:
Breakfast will be at the hotel.then proceed for the city sightseeing. Old Cochin area - this is one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world. The Jewish community traces its history to nearly 2000 years ago. In 1948 the community numbered 2500 and today there are fewer that 30 people. The community is still centered round JEWTOWN where you will visit its crown Jewel, the Paradesi Synagogue. Built in 1568 and reconstructed after a Portuguese bombardment in 1662, the synagogue is distinguished by its tile roof and bell tower. The small synagogue is also known for its hand-painted, willow-patterned, blue and white Chinese floor tiles, and the many brass and crystal lamps that hang from the ceiling. Later visit the interesting International Pepper Exchange, also located in Jew town. Chinese fishing nets - The Chinese fishing nets erected on teak wood and bamboo poles work on the principle of balance. Records say they were first set up here between AD 1350 and 1450. Vasco Da Gama Square, the narrow promenade that parallels the beach, is the best place to watch the nets being lowered and pulled out of the sea. Learn the operation of the interesting Chinese fishing nets erected on teak wood and bamboo poles which work on the principle of balance. In the evening proceed for KATHAKALI DANCE PRESENTATION. Overnight will be at Cochin.

Day - 03 Cochin - Alleppey- Kumarakom: (53kms/1.10hrs)
After breakfast proceed to jetty. Check into a traditional houseboat of Kerala Style and go on a leisurely backwater cruise along the lake on a thatched houseboat. The houseboat with all modern comforts lets you discover the countryside at your own pace. You will have lunch, dinner and breakfast in the Houseboat. A ride on the houseboat is a fabulous way to explore the fascinating beauty of the backwaters.

Cruise through the backwaters towards Kumarakom. Lunch will be served on the boat. The menu is simple and traditional. The cook (chef) of the boat prepares the lunch from fresh materials and even you can have a peek at the recipe.

Tea and snacks would be served in the evening. The boat will be anchored in the backwaters along a paddy field and you can go for a stroll into the village or relax at the deck of the boat. Dinner will be on the boat. Overnight will be at Houseboat.

Day - 04 Kumarakom - Thekkady: (119kms/3hrs)

Breakfast will be on the boat.Start cruise through the backwaters and arrive at Kumarakom enjoying the beauty of the lakes and lagoons. Disembark the boat at the finishing point where your driver will be waiting for you to drive to Thekkady. Reach and check into the hotel.

Drive southwards over rolling hills and coffee plantations to the PERIYAR WILDLIFE SANCTUARY, one of the major wildlife reserves in India. Indian elephants, wild boars, lion-tailed monkeys, ibex, tigers, leopards and sloth bears are on the list. The park surrounds a large, many-fingered lake and a dawn or dusk foray on one of the boats will be a thrilling experience. It is from the lake rather than vehicles that the wildlife is viewed. The sanctuary is rich in bird life. Great hornbills, kites, darters, herons, egrets, owls and kingfishers are in abundance. Surrounding the reserve are many small spice plantations and we spend an absorbing afternoon searching for pepper, cardamom, turmeric, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon and betel.
Overnight will be at the Thekkady.

Day 05 Thekkady
Breakfast will be at the resort.Today you will visit the rare species of plants and animals by taking a NATURE TREK into the Park and then a short walk.

In the afternoon visit spice plantations like cardamom, cinnamon, pepper, coffee, tea estates etc. on your way back to the hotel, you could stop at the local market and pick up some fragrant spices.

Later, visit Kumily market to buy the best spices available.Overnight will be at Thekkady

Day 06 Thekkady - Madurai: (132kms/3.20hrs)
Breakfast will be at the hotel.Proceed to Madurai. Reach and check into the hotel. One of South India's great temple towns, Madurai is synonymous with the celebrated Meenakshi Temple. Situated on the banks of river Vaigai, Madurai has a rich cultural heritage passed on from the great Tamil era more than 2500 years old. Madurai was an important cultural and commercial centre even as early as 550 AD. Madurai was the Capital city for the great Pandyas kings. Tamil & Greek documents record the existence of Madurai from the 4th Century BC. The city was known to the Greeks through Magathenes who was their ambassador to the court of Chandraguptha Mauriya. This city was popular in trade especially in spices. It was also the site the Sangam the academy of the Tamil Poets. And Madurai is the centre of all the cities and Madurai is famous for the cotton Sungudi Saris.

Enjoy sound & light show in evening. Overnight will be at Madurai.

Day 07 Madurai:
Breakfast will be at the hotel.Enjoy the full day city sightseeing. Sri Meenakshi Amman temple: dated back to 2000 Years back and designed in 1560 by Vishwanatha Nayaka and built during the reign of Tirumalai Nayaka. The Temple occupies an area of six hectares. There are 12 temple towers (Gopurams). The outer towers are the landmarks of Madurai. They are:
Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam: Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam is a huge temple tank about 5 km east of the Meenakshi temple. The mandapam in the centre has an idol of Vigneshwara (Vinayaka). It is said to have been 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). This enormous temple tank is fed by water brought from the Vagai through an ingenious system of underground Channels. King Thirumalai Nayak was born in 'Poosa' Star. So in commemorating the birth of the king "Float Festival" is conducted in Tamil Month 'Thai' (Jan/Feb) in the tank in a colourful way, which attracts thousands of tourists.

Gandhi Museum: The Gandhi Memorial Museum is one of the distinct places to be visited in Madurai. This Museum is one of the rare living memorials of "The Father of India". The Museum is set in relaxing grounds and has a clear historical account of India's struggle for Independence.

Thirumalai Nayak Palace: This Palace was built in 1636 by King Thirumalai Nayak with the help of an Italian Architect. The building we see today was the main Palace where the King lived. The original Palace Complex was

four times bigger than the present structure. This palace consisted mainly of two parts, namely Swargavilasa and Rangavilasa. In these two parts, there are royal residence, theatre, shrine, apartments, armoury, palanquin place, royal bandstand, quarters, pond and garden. King Thirumalai Nayak celebrated festivals like Scepter festival, Navarathri, Chithirai festival, Masi festival and the Float festival. He conducted daily dance and music performances in the palace. This palace was destroyed by his grandson Chokkanatha Nayak and the valuables were transferred to other places. During the British rule, in 1822, Lord Napier made several renovation works. Then the palace was utilized to house some officials of the judiciary and district administration. After independence, this palace was declared as a national monument and is now under the care of the Tamilnadu Archaeological Department.
Overnight will be at Thekkady.

Day 08 Madurai - Trichy - Thanjavur (190kms/4.20hrs)
Breakfast will be at the hotel.Drive to Thanjavur visiting Trichy enroute.
Situated on the banks of river Kaveri, Tiruchirappalli, the fourth largest city in the state was a citadel of the early Cholas, which later fell to the Pallavas. Trichy came to be occupied in turn by the Nayaka of Madurai, the Marathas, the Nawabs of Carnatic, the French and finally the British. But it was under Nayakas of Madurai that Trichy flourished and prospered in tit's own right and grew to be the city that is today. Trichy is fine blend of tradition and modernity built round the rock fort Apart from the fort there are several Churches, Colleges and Missions dating back to the 1760s. With Excellent infrastructural facilities Trichy will serve as a good base to explore the South of Tamilnadu.

Sightseeing of Trichy includes visiting the Rock fort, a climb up its stone steps to the 'Hall of Hundred pillars' The Mathurbhuteshwar shrine and finally at the very top of the Rock Fort - a GANESH temple. Visit the Island of Srirangam, a massive Vishnu Temple with seven walls.
Continue drive to Thanjavur. Reach and check into the hotel.

Tanjore or Tanjavur as it was earlier called, was the capital of the chola empire from the 10th century to the 14th century A.D. later is become part of the vijaynagar kingdom, then passed into the hands of the Marathas and later still went to the British. For ages it has been the chief political. Literary and religious centre of the South. The celebrated temple Brihadeshra built by the Chola King during the 11th century is its major attraction. The Saraswati Mahal library, dating back from the time of the Marathas, containing a rare collection of books and manuscripts on paper and palm leaves. The home of carnatic music, musical instruments, dance, and the traditional Handicrafts. Tanjore is famous for the lord Brahadiswara temple {lord Siva}. Tanjore is the rice bowl of India. It is well contacted by air, train, and road transport.
Overnight will be at Thanjavur.

Day 09 Thanjavur - Chidambaram - Pondicherry (166kms/4hrs)
Breakfast will be at the hotel. Enjoy the city sightseeing. Brihadeshwara Temple or Big temple - The Brihadeeswara Temple is the main attraction of Tanjore. The massive temple built by Raja Raja 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 - The Palace of Tanjore also makes an important tourist destination. The royal Palace near the massive Brihadeshwara temple is characterized by its vast corridors, large halls, shady courtyards and observation and arsenal towers. Built by the Nayak 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.

Later drive to Pondicherry visiting Chidambaram enroute. Chidambaram: the capital of the Cholas from AD 907 to 1310, the temple town of Chidambaram is 75 km situated away from Pondicherry It is one of the Tamil Nadu's most important holy towns. Another important attraction of the town is the Annamalai University.

Nataraja temple: is dedicated to lord Siva {the destroyer} the dancing god, a favorite Deity of the chola kings. And this temple have a raja Saba the 1000 pillar hall, and this is one of the biggest temple In Tamil nadu. This temple

symbolizes the secret of the sky (one of the panchabuda called an agayam}.The temple complex is set within a walled rectangular frame, and covers an area of about 22 hectares. Of the four Gopurams surrounding it, the north and south ones are 49 meters tall. The long awesome corridors surrounding the sanctum contain sculptured pillared halls and numerous shrines. Continue drive to Pondicherry. Reach and check into the hotel.

PONDICHERRY - which was a far-flung outpost of the French maritime empire until the 1950s,. It is so different from the rest of Tamil Nadu that one feels that one has entered another country! This busy coastal town is divided roughly into two: the old White Town of elegant French houses, restaurants & administrative buildings and the Black Town west of the canal where India takes over again. Overnight will be at Pondicherry.

Day 10 Pondicherry
Breakfast will be at the hotel. Start sightseeing of the place with your guide who would even have deep French roots. Visit the immaculate Conception Cathedral that dates back to 1692 and also the Sacred Heart Church on the Southern boulevard with its stately Gothic architecture and beautiful stained glass panels depicting events from the life of Christ.

Drive to visit Aurbindo Ashram, the city of dawn, 10 km north of Pondicherry. It is an international community which has nearly 1800 people from over 30 countries living there. This ashram promotes Aurbindo ideas in bringing about a synthesis of Yoga and modern science, so as to unite the spirit and matter.
Visit the paper factory and the fishermen village. Enjoy a walk in the city. Overnight will be at Pondicherry.

Day 11 Pondicherry - Mahabalipuram (100kms/2.30hrs)
Breakfast will be at the hotel.Drive to Mamallapooram (Mahabalipuram) and check in at hotel. A few miles south of Chennai, at Mahabalipuram, on the sandy shores of the Bay of Bengal, a beautiful group of rock-cut monuments evokes the past. This ancient seaport was once the main harbor and naval base of the great Pallava Empire and is today the site of an enchanting seaside assemblage of temples and shrines. It was well known in the 1st century known to Greek traders, and was the Pallava's second city. Though their power waned nearly 1200 years ago, they left a breathtaking legacy in four distinct kinds of sculpture, Rathas (temple chariots), bas-relief sculptural panels, rock-cut caves, and free standing temples.

Seventh-century carvings of the Pallava dynasty include a series of freestanding boulders carved to resemble small temples and animals. Rock - cut caves and a masterful stone bas-relief are nearby. The 'Penance of Arjuna' relief, cut on two huge rocks, shows scores of figures of deities, people and animals including, according to one interpretation, the emaciated figure of Arjuna, the great warrior of the Mahabharata, standing on one leg and doing penance, praying to Lord Shiva for the strength to destroy his enemies. Sadhus of today perform this exact act of sacrificial devotion. On the adjacent beach stands one of South India's oldest temples, the Shore Temple, its foundations washed for twelve centuries by the frothy sea. Enjoy beach in evening. Overnight will be at Mahabalipuram.

Day 12 Mahabalipuram:
Breakfast will be at the hotel.Proceed for the sightseeing. CAVES: There are nine rock-cut temples. The Mahishasuramardhini cave, depicting the goddess fighting a demon on one side and Lord Vishnu's cosmic sleep on the other, is a particularly remarkable one.
KRISHNA MANDAPAM: A bas-relief, notable for its realistic representation. The panel relates to one of the stories of Lord Krishna.
ARJUNA'S PENANCE: This is the world's largest bas relief measuring 27m X 9m. This huge whale-backed rock contains figures of gods, demigods, men, beasts, birds and almost all of the entire creation. And, this is easily the pride of Mamallapooram.
THE FIVE RATHAS: There are the five monolithic temples, each created in a different style. They are also known as the Pancha Pandava Rathas - and four out of the five Rathas are supposed to have been carved out of a single rock.
THE SHORE TEMPLE: This is one of the oldest temples. Unique about this temple is the fact that it houses shrines for both Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. This belongs to the early 8th century AD and it is a classic example of the first phase of structural temples constructed in pure Dravidian style. Overnight will be at Mahabalipuram.

Day 13 Mahabalipuram - Kanchipuram - Chennai (55kms/1.10hrs)
Breakfast will be at the hotel. Drive to Chennai visiting Kanchipuram enroute.
Kanchipuram is a small rural town about 75 km from Chennai (Madras) in the state of Tamilnadu. It also serves as the district headquarters for the Chengalpattu district. Its economy is entirely dependent on tourism and the well-established handloom industry. Silk sarees manufactured here are one of the best in the entire world. Is one of the India's seven sacred cities it was the historical Capital of the Pal lavas. This city is also a world renowned for the gorgeous hand woven silk. Saris of myriad rich colors, noted for their shine, finish and matchless beauty. The Exquisite silk saris are woven from the pure mulberry silk in contrasting colors and have an enviable reputation for lustre, durability and finish.
Continue drive to Chennai. Reach and check into the hotel.
The first British Warehouse came up in 1639 when the British acquired the sandy beach from the local Nayakas on lease. It was called Madraspatinam then. Later by 1654, the Fort St. George was built. Still later the neighboring villages were included in the city which came either as grants or gifts. Triplicane was rented from the Sultan of Golconda in 1676. In 1744 Robert Clive worked as a writer from the Fort, later to become a military man of British Army. The Fort House, which housed the Governor and his council, were added in the 17th Century, the Assembly Hall in 1910 and the Secretariat in 1925.

All the neighboring areas were merged into the city now known as Madras or as Chennai as it is officially known. Until Independence, Madras was the capital of what in British times was called the Madras Presidency, comprising nearly the whole of South India, including the Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada speaking areas.
Relax and proceed for the city sightseeing.
Santhome Cathedral was built by the Portuguese in the 14th and 15th century and is named after St. Thomas. Historically important, it is one of the pilgrimages for the Christian community.
Fort St. George, one the first few bastions built by the east India company, marks the beginning of Chennai as a modern city. It occupies a place of pride and prominence in Chennai. This bastion achieved its name from St. George, the patron saint of England. The state legislature and the secretariat are located in Fort St. George. It houses the St. Mary's church the oldest Anglican Church in India which was built in 1680 and the tombstones in its courtyard are the oldest British tombstones in India. The Fort Museum, once a building that housed Chennai's first lighthouse, first commercial bank and first 'club', is now a well-kept repository of tangible memories of early Madras.
Kapaleeswarar Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva: Kapaleeswarar temple has inscriptions from the 13th century A.D. The temple 'Gopuram' (tower) is in the characteristic Dravidian style of architecture. The walls and pillars of temple have very delicate and intricate carvings which depict the scenes from Hindu mythology.
Visit the beach and the museum. In the evening enjoy shopping at NALLI SAREES. Overnight will be at Chennai.

Day 14 : Chennai - Departure: Breakfast will be at the hotel.
As per the flight timings you will be transferred to the airport to take flight back home with sweet memories of the South India Cultural & Backwaters Tour.