South India Temple Tour
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South India Temple Tour ( 17 Nights / 18 Days)

 

South India Temple Tour

Places Covered: Chennai - Tanjore - Trichy - Madurai - Periyar - Kovalam

South India, is an unforgettable panorama of unique temples and temple cities, overwhelming in their detail of sculpture and grandeur of scale. Many of them as much a part of everyday life as they were centuries ago. Not forgetting the warm and friendly people.

Follow the Southern temple trail and discover some of the notable examples of temple art and architecture, commendable pieces of creativity. The earlier temples that survive are rock-cut, literally carved out of enormous blocks of stone. It is a region vibrating with community life, bazaars, smells, color, dance, music and worship. Come feel the never-ending presence of a glorious civilization again.

Day 01 Chennai
Arrival in Madras and transfer to the hotel. Check in time is 1200 hrs.

Day 02 Chennai

Formerly Madras is now Chennai. The city traces its origin to 1639 when Francis Day a trader with the British East India Company, built a trading post - Fort St. George, near the village of Madraspatnam. Today Chennai is the fourth largest city of India with a population of 5,5 million people. Also called as "Hollywood of India" it is the center for making South Indian films. Half day sightseeing of Chennai. Visit Fort St. George - a British trading post and powerful bastion and entrance to South India. The 16th century Portuguese old Cathedral of St. Thomas Church in which the remnants of St. Thomas is buried who came to India in 52 AD. Pass by the University built in Indo-Sarscenic style, as well as 5 km long Marina Beach, a lovely esplanade by the sea, and National Museum with sculptures from Pallava, Pandava and Chola time which houses archaeology, art, exceptionally beautiful bronzes statues, with exhibits of stone and iron age.
Rest of the day free.
Overnight at the hotel.

Day 03 Chennai
Today see the procession of "Nandi Bull Festival" in Mylapore . Overnight in Madras.

Day 04 Chennai/Kanchipuram( 64 Kms)/Chennai

Morning drive to Kanchipuram (64 km), one of Hinduism's seven most sacred cities the "Golden City" of a 1000 temples. It was once the capital of the Pallavas and the Cholas. These two powerful ruling dynasties gave the city its numerous temples and tanks. It still has 150 active temples, dedicated to various gods and goddesses. The city is also famous for its "Kanchipuram Silk" First visit the Kailashnath Temple built in the 7th century AD It is built of sand stone and houses some of the most elegant sculptures of Natraja (Shiva in Cosmic dance). The Kailashnath temple also contains some remnants of mural paintings belonging to the Pallavas period.

Finally we visit Ekambaranathar-Temple, dedicated to Shiva is the largest in the city, are large complexes with mandapas, tanks and sculptured halls with devotees who still flock here. It has an ancient mango tree, and it's believed that its branches represent the four vedas and the fruit of each branch is said to have a different taste.

Before leaving Kanchipuram visit to Vaikuntha Perumal Temple. This temple is dedicated to Vishnu with its pillared hall having 1000 pillars. Evening return to Madras. Overnight in hotel.

Day 05 Chennai
Today there is "the big chariot festival" in the Kapaleeshwarar Temple in Mylapore dedicated to Shiva. A 5m high wooden chariot, decorated with colourful flowers and bronze statues of Lord Shiva and his wife Parvati proceeds through the streets accompanied by thousand of Hindu devotees. Overnight at the hotel in Madras.

Day 06 Chennai
Another visit to Mylapore for the "Festival of 63 Saints". Numerous Hindu devotees present carry the 63 pictures of saints, the statues of Shiva, Parvati, Ganesha, Nandi Bull and other gods through the streets in a long procession.

Overnight at the hotel in Madras.

Day 07 Chennai/Tanjore
After breakfast drive to Tanjore. En-route visit temples in Chidambram and Gangaikondacholaporam. Proceed to Tanjore.

In Tanjore visit Brihadisvara Temple in Tanjore. This Jewel of South India, was built in 9th century. The magnificent main temple has a 62 meter high vimana ( the tallest in India), which is topped by dome carved from an 80 ton lock of granite. A 6.5 km long wooden ramp was built to climb it. This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva.

Overnight at the hotel in Tanjore.

Day 08 Tanjore/Trichy
After breakfast drive to Trichy. Overnight at the hotel.

Day 09 Trichy
After breakfast drive to Srirangam, the big temple city, which lies on an island on the Kaveri. Visit Ranganathasvami Temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu, one of the largest temple in South India, is famous for its superb sculpture - the 21 impressive gopurams and its rich collection of temple jewellery. There is a huge statue of Lord Vishnu. Not to forget the hall with 1000 pillars and horse sculptures. Finally visit the Jambukeshwara- Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, is one of the oldest and largest temples of Tamil Nadu, has five walls and seven gopurams. Here the unusual lingam under the Jambu tree always remains under water.

Afternoon visit Rock Fort. In the centre of town is built on a 84 m high rock, from where you can have a memorable view of the surroundings, although you need to climb 437 rock cut steps.

Rest of the day is free to pursue independent activities. Suggested, discover the old city on foot, particularly Big Bazar Street and China Street.

Overnight in Trichy.

Day 10 Trichy/Madurai Early drive to Madurai via Swamimalai. Swamimalai is one of the abodes of Lord Murugan. It is famous for its school of iconography and craftsmen producing Chola style bronzes using the "lost wax" process.

Madurai, it is the cultural capital of Tamilnadu. Here, the Dravidian culture reached its zenith in art, architecture, palaces and temple buildings. Once the capital of powerful Nayaka kings, a bustling city packed with pilgrims, businessmen, bullock carts and legions of rickshaw pullers. Its narrow overcrowded streets seem to be bursting at the seams with activity. Southern India's oldest center for pilgrimage and learning. Upon arrival check-in to the hotel.

In the evening enjoy a rickshaw ride to Meenakshi temple to watch the night ceremony. The temple is a hive of activity, colorfully decorated temple elephant, flower sellers and performances by musicians. At 21:30 hours, the image of Shiva is carried in a procession accompanied by musicians, temple singers and priests from his shrine. Enroute Shiva visits the other deities before entering Parvati's (Meenakshi) temple to sleep with her for the night.

Overnight at the hotel.

Day 11 Madurai

After breakfast, again visit Meenakshi - Temple an outstanding example of the Dravidian temple architecture from the Vijaynagar kingdom. Meenakshi, the fish eyed goddess and the consort of Shiva has a temple to the south and Sundareswarar (Shiva) a temple to the west. One of the biggest temples of India. Its nine "Gopuram"-Temple towers (23-30m ) have wonderful stucco images of gods, goddesses and animals from the Hindu mythology. Later visit the Thirumalai Nayak Palace, a palace in Indo-Saracenic style built in 1636, with huge domes and 240 columns rising to 12 m, a beautiful garden and a attached museum. The celestial Pavilion, an arcaded octagonal structure is curiously constructed in brick and mortar without any supporting rafters.

Afternoon free.

Day 12 Madurai/Rameshwaram/Madurai
Same day excursion to Ramesvaram.

Ramesvaram is a place where Rama is believed to have worshiped Shiva, and so, a pilgrim to Varanasi is expected to visit Ramesvaram next. Visit Ramalingesvara ( or Ramanathasvami ) temple founded by the Cholas. The most remarkable feature of the temple is its pillared mandapas.

After sightseeing drive back to Madurai. Overnight at the hotel in Madurai.

Day 13 Madurai/Thekkady

After breakfast drive to Thekkadi the Periyar National Park through the cardamom country.

Periyar National Park, a unique wildlife sanctuary, is about 780 sq. km centered around an artificial lake fed by the Periyar River.

This afternoon game viewing is on board boats, which carry you through the jungle along convoluted waterways and afford sightings of elephant, bison, deer and occasionally, tiger. Small animals include black Nilgiri langur, bonnet and lion tailed macaque, Giant and Flying squirrel. There are some 246 species of birds and 112 species of butterfly. There are trees more than 100 years old and over 50 m high.

Overnight in the hotel at Periyar/Thekkadi.

Day 14 Thekkady/Trivandrum/ Kovalam Morning after breakfast drive to Kovalam via Trivandrum, almost the southern tip of India. Today known as Thiruvanathpuram, which has been the religious capital of Hinduism since time immemorial. Its contribution to the cultural wealth of India has been enormous. Major attractions are the scenic backwaters and excellent beaches - the best known is Kovalam Beach, 12 km away. A perfect place for a seaside holiday.

Overnight in a beach resort hotel.

Day 15 Kovalam Free for independent activities.

Day 16 Kovalam

Same day excursion to Kanyakumari, is the Land's end of India' where the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal meet. This is the only spot in India where it is possible to enjoy the unique experience of seen the sunset and the moonrise over the ocean. It is also a popular pilgrimage destination and of great spiritual significance to the Hindus.

Overnight at the hotel in Kovalam

Day 17 Kovalam/Trivandrum/Fly back home
Transfer to airport in Trivandrum to connect flight back home.