Southern India - View from the Inside

"By the time we reached Periyar it felt like we had arrived in another country, many mountain villages embracing nature and many plantations growing spices, rubber or tea."

November 2015 • Kyle McCandlish, Sales Consultant

Southern India - View from the Inside

India is a destination that boasts such diverse culture and spirit and Chennai sits in the north-east corner of Tamil Nadu, a state famed for its Dravidian styled Hindu Temples; this city is often referred to as the ‘Gateway to Southern India’. The first thing you'll notice is the heat and humidity - it is constant all year round and in the heart of this city is the famous Fort St George. We continued the city tour with visits to the Government Museum and the Marina Beach, which gave us an insight into the history of the city.

The road then took us to Kanchipuram; the city of a thousand temples. Whilst the sheer number of temples was enough to impress, it’s here where the majestic Ekambareswarar Temple stands tall and the archaic Kailasanathar Temple gently rests. Fascinating in their own right, they receive many Hindu worshippers who come to pray and worship the ‘auspicious god’, otherwise known as Shiva.

Further along the Coromandel Coast south of Chennai lies Mahabalipuram. This ancient city was once a major seaport for the Pallava Kingdom, and although those days have long passed, remnants of this once bustling town can be found in the monuments that still stand today. One of these was the Shore Temple, which peacefully sits upon the Bay of Bengal Coast.

India is a destination that boasts such diverse culture and spirit and Chennai sits in the north-east corner of Tamil Nadu, a state famed for its Dravidian styled Hindu Temples; this city is often referred to as the ‘Gateway to Southern India’. The first thing you'll notice is the heat and humidity - it is constant all year round and in the heart of this city is the famous Fort St George. We continued the city tour with visits to the Government Museum and the Marina Beach, which gave us an insight into the history of the city.

The road then took us to Kanchipuram; the city of a thousand temples. Whilst the sheer number of temples was enough to impress, it’s here where the majestic Ekambareswarar Temple stands tall and the archaic Kailasanathar Temple gently rests. Fascinating in their own right, they receive many Hindu worshippers who come to pray and worship the ‘auspicious god’, otherwise known as Shiva.

Further along the Coromandel Coast south of Chennai lies Mahabalipuram. This ancient city was once a major seaport for the Pallava Kingdom, and although those days have long passed, remnants of this once bustling town can be found in the monuments that still stand today. One of these was the Shore Temple, which peacefully sits upon the Bay of Bengal Coast.

We then visited Arjunas Penance, a curious looking 7th-century relief carved into rock and five Rathas, today these beautiful structures display frescos and carvings of Hindu gods and goddesses.

Our next stop was to the former French enclave of Pondicherry, known for its beautiful French architectural styles.

As we moved inland away from the coast, we arrived at the city of Tanjore. Considered to be a centre point for South Indian culture, our attentions were turned to Brihadeeswarar Temple; one of the largest temples in India.

Upon arriving into Madurai we visited Meenakshi Temple; famously known for housing some 33,000 sculptures, Thirumali Nayak Palace, and the Gandhi Museum.

After leaving Madurai we took to the mountain roads that led us up over the Western Ghats and across the state border into Kerala. Already the surroundings had changed into a multitude of different shades of green. By the time we reached Periyar it felt like we had arrived in another country, many mountain villages embracing nature and many plantations growing spices, rubber or tea. A night in Thekkady gave us the opportunity to witness the jaw-dropping displays of Kalaripayattu as skilled martial artists spar with menacing weapons and leapt through hoops of fire.

We woke early and made our way to Periya National Park for a short hike. Led on by guides, we negotiated our way through the forest keeping our eyes open to spot wildlife. After the hike we visited a spice plantation where we learned about the different spices grown within the region and sampled some of them straight from the plants.

As we made our way to Kumarakom we stopped in Mundakkayam to meet with a local rubber plantation owner where we had the opportunity to visit a working plantation, followed by a lunch with a local family. Arriving in Kumarakom we found ourselves passing through the gateway of the famous Keralan backwaters; a labyrinth of waterways and canals that feed through to numerous fishing villages. An air of excitement was with us for what was yet to come - cruising down these backwaters in a houseboat.

We awoke with anticipation and after a short cooking demonstration and lunch with a local family we travelled to Alleppey to board the houseboat and embark on our journey through the Keralan backwaters. We witnessed the true beauty of this place and the vibrancy in the locals as they traversed canals in their canoes full of produce and local wares to sell to each other and to houseboat occupants.

We briefly disembarked and took to the canoes on a more intimate journey into the quiet waters next to the villages where we were greeted by excited children as we drifted by. On our return to the houseboat we watched as the sun began to set over the waterways...its moments like these that you just never forget and can only smile as everything else dissipates whilst the sun fades away beyond the horizon.

After we disembarked we made our way to Chellanam where we visited a local fishing village. We then went to a local family's house for breakfast. Our host was very welcoming and told us of his family. I won't forget the delicious banana curry that they served.

Mararikulam was our next stop for some leisure time.

The final day took us to the port city of Cochin. On route, we visited a local village; From harvesting coconuts to farming fish and creating their own clay pots, it gave us a real insight into their culture. We enjoyed a city tour with visits to the Jewish Synagogue, Mattancherry Palace and the Dutch Palace.

We went around the market stalls and tried our hand at haggling for some souvenirs.  Our final treat was the Kathakali dance show at a local theatre - elaborate costumes, curious make-up and a display of dramatic classical Indian dance.

It is often said that India is a country full of surprises, but nothing quite like this. It was a privilege to have met so many fantastic people, to have experienced so much, and to have witnessed such beautiful sights - a rare hidden gem in a country so vast, and rich with culture that promises an experience that you'll never forget.

 

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