Spiritual South India
A journey into the rich and complex spiritual traditions of southern India.
This is the ideal tour for those interested in the spiritual, artistic and architectural traditions of southern India, particularly of the Dravidian period. It includes the great temples cities and complexes of Kanchipuram, Thiruvannai, Navagraha, Tangore and Rameshwarum.
Where are you going?
Day 1: Arrive Chennai and transfer to the hotel at Mamallapuram.
Day 2: Mamallapuram is a wonderful combination of heritage monuments, sandy beaches and excellent seafood. The perfect introduction to Indian life, it is also one of the best places in south India for handicrafts. Sightseeing includes the 7th century Shore Temple, Arjuna's Penance bass relief, cave temples and a crocodile farm with over 2000 resident crocs.
Day 3: Kanchipuram is the temple town of south India. The Ekambareshwar Temple , dedicated to Shiva, is one of the largest and houses the 3500-year-old mango tree from which its name derives and whose branches are said to represent the four Vedas. The oldest and most beautiful of Kanchipuram's temples is Kailasanathar, an excellent example of Dravidian architecture. A fitting compliment to all this history is a typical south Indian lunch of thali, served on a banana leaf.
Day 4: Thiruvannamalai is a major pilgrimage center of southern India. Arunachaleshwar Temple is dedicated to Shiva in the form of fire, its nine lofty towers are adorned with numerous stucco figures and stone carvings display superb Dravidian craftsmanship. Another important place is the Ashram of Ramana Mahirshi, a 20th century saint who lived in here and taught simple methods of meditation.
Days 5 & 6: Drive through rice fields and palm woods to Pondicherry, a former French enclave that is especially famous for the temples and Ayurvedic clinics founded here by followers of the mystic, Sri Aurobindo.
Day 7: In Chidambaram Shiva is worshipped as the Celestial Dancer, victor in the great dance contest against Kali, his hair flying in the cosmic wind, his body in divine equilibrium in the tandava pose. Shiva's four hands show that he dances in all four directions and his oscillating belt shows that he dances without rest. The purpose of the dance is to free all soul from the chains of maya, and the site dates back at least two thousand years. Continue to Vaithewarankoil.
Days 8 & 9: Many of the Navagraha temples are dedicated to the celestial bodies. There is a strong belief among the locals that the temple dedicated to Mars can cure them of their ailments – the temple's name translates as “ Temple of the Healer”. The temple is also famous for palm reading. Other temples are dedicated to the sun, Jupiter, Saturn and Venus. After a second morning exploring the temples continue to Tangore.
Day 10: This was the ancient capital of the Chola Kings between the 10th and 14th centuries and became a center of learning and culture. It is also known as the rice bowl of Tamilnadu. Sri Brihadeshwara Temple, built by the great Chola king Raja Raja in the 10th century, is an outstanding example of the Chola architecture and houses Asia's largest image of Nandi, Shiva's bull. The Raja Raja Palace has been converted into an excellent Museum & Art Gallery.
Day 11: Trichy is situated on the bank of river Cauvery and Srirangam, the largest temple complex in India, has twenty thousand people living and working within its labyrinths. The Rock fort temple, built by the Nayak King of Madurai, has shrines to both Ganesh and Shiva. Festivals are almost continually celebrated in the temples and along the shores of the river.
Day 12: Madurai, known as the Nectar city, is the oldest in Tamilnadu. It has a lotus shape and was founded by the Pandya king Kulashekara. Thousands of priests and worshippers come daily to Sri Meenakshi Temple where believers bathe themselves in the temple baths and have their fortunes told. The evening ceremony where the god Shiva is led to the bedroom of his wife, Meenakshi is not to be missed. Madurai is also a great place to look for bronze statues, carpets or other souvenirs.
Day 13: A day trip to Rameshwaram, one of the grandest of Dravidian monuments. Magnificent corridors are formed by closed ambulatories flanked by continuous platforms, with massive pillars on each side of a sunken pathway, and brackets corbelled to the point where they almost join. The god Ramanathaswamy is worshiped in the form of Shiva always accompanied by Parvati.
Day 14: Return to Chennai and spend a last evening at Mamallapuram.
Day 15: Depart. Transfer to airport or railway station.