Chennai > Kanchipuram > Mahabalipuram > Madurai > Periyar > Kumarakom > Alleppey > Cochin > Colombo > Kandy > Nuwara Eliya
(End nuwara eliya)
18 Dec 2020 - 01 Jan 2021 ** Indicates tentative date.
2 people in 1 Room (s)
Met on arrival at the airport in Chennai and transferred to the hotel. The first British Warehouse came up in 1639 when the British acquired the sandy beach from the local Nayaks 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. After wash and change, proceed for a half day city tour of Santhome Cathedral. Built by Portuguese in the 14th and 15th century, this Cathedral 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 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. Overnight will be at Chennai.
After breakfast drive to Mahabalipuram enroute Kanchipuram. Kanchipuram - is the ancient capital of the Pallavas famous as a city of 1000 Temples and still has 124 shrines. The first temple dedicated to Shiva was built in the 7th and 8th century and has paintings on the walls. Temples of Ekambaswara, Kailasanatha, Sri Kamakshi and Varadarajaswamy are of interest. Kanchipuram is also famous for its silks. Lunch at local restaurant and Continue the drive to Mahabalipuram. Reach and check into the 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 Pallavas 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. Overnight will be at Mahabalipuram.
After breakfast, proceed for the full the city sightseeing which will include a visit to 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. ARJUNAS 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 Mamallapuram. 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. Evening will be at leisure. Overnight will be at Mahabalipuram.
After breakfast drive back to Chennai. Reach and you will be transferred to the Airport to board the flight to Madurai. Met on arrival at the Airport in Madurai and transferred to 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 center 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 center of all the cities and Madurai is famous for the cotton Sungudi Saris. Madurais Main attraction is the Famous Sri Meenakshi Amman temple a riotously baroque example of Dravidian architecture with Gopurams carved from top to bottom in a breathtaking profusion of multicolored images of Gods. Sri Meenakshi Amman temple dates 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. The enormous temple complex is dedicated to Shiva, known here as Sundareshvara and his consort Parvati or Meenakshi. Kulasekara Pandyas, but the entire credit built the original temple for making the temple as splendid as it is today goes to the Nayaks. The Nayaks ruled Madurai from the 16th to the 18th century and left a majestic imprint of their rule in the Meenakshi - Sundareswarar Temple. The temple complex is within a high-walled enclosure, at the core of which is the two sanctums for Meenakshi and Sundareswarar, surrounded by a number of smaller shrines and grand pillared halls. The impressive GOPURAMS (towers) rise from solid granite bases, and are covered with stucco figures of deities, mythical animals and monsters painted in vivid colors. Evening will be at leisure. Overnight will be at Madurai.
After breakfast, enjoy the sightseeing of the temple town. Thousand Pillar Museum: Located inside the temple and has a variety of collections. 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 Indias struggle for Independence. The Vishnu Temple: There is a Vishnu Shrine called Kudal Algar (Kudal is the former names this town) and it is said that Lord Vishnu came down to this place to give away Meenakshi to God Sundareshwara. The vimana or the tower of the god in the temple is of a very fine workmanship and is known as the Ashtanga Vimana. The Marriage of the Meenakshi is to have been celebrated on the day of Panguni Uttram generally occurring on the Full moon day of the month of Panguni (March April). And is a very important Event in this place. 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, theater, shrine, apartments, armory, palanquin place, royal bandstand, quarters, pond and garden. King Thirumalai Nayak celebrated festivals like Sceptre 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. Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam: Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam is a huge temple tank about 5 km east of the Meenakshi temple. The mandapam in the center 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 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 colorful way, which attracts thousands of tourists. Evening enjoy the SOUND & LIGHT SHOW. Overnight will be at Madurai.
Proceed for Periyar after breakfast. Reach and check into the hotel. Four hour 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. Visit Kumily market to buy the best spices available. Overnight will be at Thekkady.
Breakfast will be at the hotel. Today you will visit the rare species of plants and animals by taking a boat ride 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. Overnight will be at Thekkady.
After breakfast, proceed for Kumarakom enjoying the beauty of the traditional Kerala houses. You will also pass through rolling tea gardens and rubber plantations. Stop at a tea factory to see the tea making process. Proceed to check into a traditional houseboat of Kerala Style and go on a leisurely backwater cruise along the lake on a thatched houseboat. The backwaters act as a vital waterway for the transport of goods, people and their produce are often the only link between isolated villages and crowded towns. In Kerala, the total expanse of backwater stretches over 1500 km, with a network of 44 rivers, lagoons and lakes from north to south. Alleppey which forms the main part of this network has the peculiar geographical feature of having the water in level with the land. This gives the advantage of getting a closer look at the village life on shore while on a backwater ride. Talk to the crew and sip your tea while enjoying the backwaters and seeing life pass by. The meals and refreshments will be served on the boat. Overnight will be at Houseboat.
Cruise through the villages after breakfast. Disembark the boat at Alleppey and drive to Cochin. Reach and check into the hotel. Alleppey is one of the most important tourist centers in the state, with a large network of inland canals earning it the sobriquet "Venice of the east". These large networks of canals provide Alleppey its lifeline. Alleppey was one of the busiest centers of trade in the past with one of the best known ports along the Malabar Coast. Even today it retains its charm as the center for Coir carpet industries and prawn farming. Alleppey the ideal headquarters for backwater tourism as well as for visits to the lovely church filled town of Kottayam, and the town of Aranmula, famous for its historic Aranmula Snake Boat Race which is an annual event. 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 center and its fame spread far and wide - variously as a rich trade center, a major military base, a vibrant cultural hub, a great ship building center, a center for Christianity and so on. Today, centuries later, the city is home to nearly thirteen communities. After wash and change, proceed for the sightseeing of 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 Jewtown. 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. The other important places are the Vasco Da Gama Square, Santa Cruz Basilica, St. Francis Church, VOC Gate, Bastion Bungalow, Mattancherry Palace, etc. Records say they were first set up here between AD 1350 and 1450. In the evening proceed for KATHAKALI DANCE PRESENTATION. Over night stay at hotel.
After breakfast, drive to Sigiriya, En-route visit Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, where the daily bathing and feeding starts at 9:15am onwards. Continue your drive to visit SIGIRIYA, or Lions Rock, is a single rock in the center of the island of Sri Lanka. A remnant of an extinct volcano, the rock raises high above the surrounding forests to reach a height of 370m above sea level. An elaborate garden with reservoirs and sundry ruins surround the rock. The chambers in the rock were in use as a Buddhist monastery from around the 3rd century BC, but evidence suggests that it may have been inhabited since prehistoric times. King Kashyapa commissioned a fortified palace to be built on top of the rock, and acity in its lower levels. The gardens surrounding the rock are remnants of Kashyapa palace. The entrance is through a steep stair case nestled between two gigantic stone paws. One of the chambers contains Sigiriya celebrated frescos gorgeous color renditions of bejeweled female figures - and much debate exists over the identity of the Ladies of Sigiriya. Enjoy sightseeing around the city. Overnight at Sigiriya
After breakfast, proceed toKandy, the beautiful mountainside and the weather of Kandy can be one of the best in Sri Lanka, not too cold, not too warm, it is the perfect weather for a vacation. Having checked in and refreshed at your hotel, take a city tour of Kandy including the market place, pollah and the Temple of the Tooth Relic, which houses Sri Lankas most sacred relic, a tooth of the Lord Buddha. The Temple itself dates from the 16th century and is entered via 2 doors showing mythical beasts. Enjoy a walk at the Royal Botanical Gardens of Peradeniya; explore the flora and fauna at the park. In the late evening view a dance performance featuring traditional dances from the different regions of Sri Lanka. Overnight stay will be at the hotel.
Take a scenic three hours drive to Nuwara Eliya, which is Sri Lanka`s tea growing region. During the drive, relish the endless views of tea carpeted valleys, processing factories belching out fragrant aromas and the bright flash of female "tea pluckers" in their pimento, fuchsia and cerise saris picking their way through the plantations. En-route visits a tea factory where the process of tea producing and grading will be explained. You will also be able to taste a cup of pure Ceylon tea in the factory. Once in Nuwara Eliya you will realize that the abundant rainfall combined with sunshine, cold nights and misty mornings offers the perfect climate for producing high grown teas. With brick and stone-built houses, rose gardens and perfect lawns Nuwara Eliya in many ways resembles a `small English village`. Enjoy a guided stroll pass the 18-hole golf course, the colonial members only Hill Club and English styled country homes. Visit the Horton Plains national park upon arrival at Nuwara Eliya. Relax and spend your time at leisure. Enjoy a walk at Royal Botanical Gardens of Haggala. Overnight stay at the hotel
Spend your time at leisure. Overnight stay at Nuwara Eliya Hotel
After breakfast, check out from your hotel, and drive to Colombo Airport for your flight home with sweet memories of India & Srilanka tour.
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Just wanted to drop you a note to let you know we had a wonderful time on our trip to India. All of the people involved from drivers to guides to airport transporters, to our contact people were absolutely fantastic. We had no problems and everything went as planned. Thank you for making all those arrangements. Tammy and I had lots of fun shopping. I even gave in and rode the elephant. Should any other of our friends express a desire to travel to India, we will certainly recommend that they contact you.
Thank you again!
It is my pleasure to write this recommendation for Randeep Shekhawat from IVAT, the Tour Director on our Harvard Alumni Association tour of South India in January this year. The tour was three weeks long, and it turned out to be complicated and exceptionally difficult, for reasons explained below. Mr. Shekhawat handled it all with great grace under pressure, and exceptional human skills.
Our tour started off with more complexity than usual, as three of the ten guests on the group were impaired, one severely so. He was semi-paralyzed by a stroke, but nonetheless insisted on struggling along without a wheelchair, and resisting help when it was offered. This guest’s wife, unused to tour situations, tried continuously to adapt the tour to meet her and her husband’s needs. Despite the continuous strain of having to look after this couple, while simultaneously taking care of the varied needs of the rest of the group, Mr. Shekhawat managed to keep an eye on all the transitions, and to manage them with great tact and effectiveness . He was alert at all times, including when boarding buses, transfers to local tour guides, getting the group through chaotic Chennai airport, sorting out situations caused by dropped boarding passes and forgotten crucial medicines, taking to hospital the tour guest who had a bad fall while simultaneously arranging for the different departure needs of the guests leaving the trip early and late. Most impressive of all was Mr. Shekhawat’s good humor in some very fraught situations. When things don’t work as planned, as often happens in India, despite the best intentions and good preparatory work, the person on the spot gets unfairly blamed more often than not. This happened on the Deccan Odyssey train trip, when our group arrived, and two couples who had booked – and paid handsomely for – special Presidential suites, found themselves in “regular” train cabins. They were furious and immediately called Mr. Shekhawat on the carpet for this. I was poised to intervene and help smooth the situation, given the tone of the guests’ comments, but it proved entirely unnecessary. Mr. Shekhawat calmly and pleasantly apologized on behalf of the train management, invited the angry guests to lunch, and assured them they would have their suites ready and sparkling by the time they’d finished their meal. This is just what happened, and a potentially difficult situation was averted with minimum fuss and maximum grace. I realized just how multi-talented and diplomatically astute Mr. Shekhawat is, at that moment, and thanked the powers that be that our tour had been blessed with his leadership.
A testament to Mr. Shekhawat’s abilities, finesse and human skills is the fact that at the end of the tour, the guest who made the farewell speech, Mr. Axelrod, toasted Mr. Shekhawat individually, and called to our attention all of Mr. Shekhawat’s abilities to balance a great many conflicting needs, desires and demands, and to effectively satisfy those simultaneously, to pull together an ultimately very successful trip.
I am returning to Harvard determined to continue the association with Mr. Shekhawat, and to try to engage him for further tours we may be developing – the ultimate proof of his prowess! I warmly recommend him to any group travelling to and within India; I only hope we can still nab him for our Harvard tours in the future even as his popularity and reputation grows.
Dr. Rena Fonseca,
Assistant Dean of Students and Alumni Affairs, Division of Continuing Education,
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