There are certain places that have the ability to capture the romance and magnificence of an era that once was. Hampi (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) the capital of the Vijayanagara Empire from 1336 -1565 is one of them. A walk through the ruins in the area is more than just a sightseeing expedition as the monuments and ruins present contrasting imagery. On one hand, they portray the skill and artistry that existed in the ancient period. On the other hand, they are a reminder of the mass destruction that was brought forth by attacking armies. With a complex of palaces, temple and other monuments, Hampi is a large open-air museum that allows travelers to get a glimpse into the past. Next witness the cradle of Indian temple architecture at Aihole, Badami & Pattadakal that are steeped in history. Begin tour with the Old City of Hyderabad, one of India’s most evocative ancient quarters. Looming over the old city are some of Islamic India’s most impressive architecture.
The late-19th-century Falaknuma Palace stands high atop a hill overlooking Hyderabad’s old city, but it might well be from another world altogether. The architecture and interiors are an unexpected mix of English, Venetian, Japanese, French, Chinese and Mughal influences. The opulent estate once served as a guesthouse for royal visitors of the Nizam, Hyderabad’s fabulously wealthy erstwhile ruler. Arabs, Chinese, Dutch, British and Portuguese seafarers followed the sea route to Kochi and left their impressions on the town. The Chinese fishing nets swaying in the breeze over the backwaters, the Jewish Synagogue, the Dutch Palace, the Bolghatty Palace and Portuguese architecture in Kochi enrich the heritage of Kerala.
The Vijayanagar Empire was based in the Deccan plateau region of South India. Established in 1336 by Harihara I, it enjoyed its greatest political and cultural prominence under Emperor Krishna Deva Raya and lasted until 1646, when it was conquered by the Muslim Sultans of Bijapur and Golkonda. The empire’s patronage enabled its fine arts and literature to rise to new heights, and its legacy of sculpture, painting, and architecture influenced the development of the arts in South India long after the empire came to an end. There were great innovations in Hindu temple construction during this period, and many diverse temple building traditions and styles in South India came together in the Vijayanagar style of architecture, the finest examples of which are to be found in the capital Hampi.
Vijayanagar era architecture can be broadly classified into religious, courtly, and civic architecture. Its style is a harmonious combination of the Chalukya, Hoysala, Pandya, and Chola styles that evolved in earlier centuries and represents a return to the simplicity and serenity of the past. Preferred for its durability, local hard granite was the building material of choice, as it had been for the Badami Chalukyas; however, soapstone, which was soft and easily carved, was also used for reliefs and sculptures.
Vijayanagar temples are surrounded by strong enclosures and characterized by ornate pillared kalyanamandapa (marriage halls); tall rayagopurams (carved monumental towers at the entrance of the temple) built of wood, brick, and stucco in the Chola style; and adorned with life-sized figures of gods and goddesses. This dravida style became popular during the reign of Krishnadeva Raya and is seen in South Indian temples constructed over the next two centuries.
Vijayanagar temples are also known for their carved pillars , which depict charging horses, figures from Hindu mythology, and yali (hippogriphs). Some of the larger temples are dedicated to a male deity , with a separate shrine intended for the worship of his female counterpart. Some famous temples exemplifying the Vijayanagar style include the Virupaksha Temple at Hampi and the Hazara Rama temple of Deva Raya I.
Mysore, or Mahishur as it was called in the past, traces its history back to the mythical past, when Goddess Chamundeshwari of Chamundi Hill, killed the wicked buffalo-headed demon, Mahishasura. This event that marked the victory of Good over Evil is the inspiration behind the Dasara festivities. Mysore’s most famous festival is the 10 day Dasara, when the entire city gets itself up to celebrations that include a majestic procession, dance, music, varieties of cultural activities and a torch light parade.
Festivities were first started by the Wodeyar King, Raja Wodeyar I (1578-1617 CE) in the year 1610. The Mysore Palace is lit up on all the 10 days of Dasara. It was during the reign of Krishnaraja Wodeyar III in the year 1805, when the king started the tradition of having a special durbar in the
Mysore Palace during Dasara, which was attended by members of the royal family, special invitees, officials and the masses.
Procession: On Vijayadashami, the traditional Dasara procession (locally known as Jamboo Savari) is held on the streets of Mysore city. The main attraction of this procession is the idol of the Goddess Chamundeshwari which is placed in a golden howdah on the top of a decorated elephant. This idol is worshipped by the royal couple and other invitees before it is taken around in the procession. Colourful tableaux, dance groups, music bands, armed forces, folklores, the royal identities, decorated elephants, horses and camels form a part of the procession which starts from the Mysore Palace and culminates at a place called Bannimantap, where the Banni tree (Prosopis spicigera) is worshipped. Before undertaking any warfare, the kings traditionally worshipped this tree to help them emerge victorious in the war. The Dasara festivities would culminate on the night of Vijayadashami with an event held in the grounds at Bannimantap called as Panjina Kavayithu (torch-light parade).
Navratri, meaning ‘nine nights’, is the world’s longest dancing festival: Entire country erupts into a circle of ecstasy that throbs nonstop nine day and night celebration. In villages and cities alike, Gujrati community gather in open spaces to celebrate and perform ras garba. Interesting feature of Navratri is the “garba “, a circular dance performed by women around an earthenware pot called a “garbo “, filled with water. As the dancer’s whirl around the pot, a singer and a drummer provides the musical accompaniment. The dance usually starts slowly; it gets faster and faster as the music too gets more rapid. Another dance which is also a feature of Navratri is the ” dandia – ras ” or ‘ stick dance ‘, in which men and women join the dance circle, holding small polished sticks or Dandias together, adding to joyous atmosphere
Durga Puja: Bengali’s have a long tradition of lavishly celebrating the Durga Puja, an annual Hindu festival that reveres the goddess Durga. It is the biggest and most popular festival in the state of West Bengal, where elaborate stage decorations, known as “pandals,” draw huge crowds. During the nine-day festival, thousands of pandals are constructed in almost every neighborhood in the city. Over the years, they have become a popular display of creativity and grandeur.
MYSORE: Untilill independence it was the capital city of Wodeyars, the erstwhile Maharajas of Mysore. The city is famous for its silk and is also a thriving sandalwood and incense center. The Mysore Palace, once the residence of the Wodeyars, is one of the largest palaces of its kind in India, and one of the most splendid. Built in Indo-Saracenic style with domes, turrets, arches and colonnades, the Palace is often compared with the Buckingham Palace of Britain because of its grandeur. The palace has now been converted into a museum, which treasures the souvenirs, paintings, jewellery, royal costumes and other items, which were once possessed by the Wodeyars. It is said that the palace displays the largest collection of gold items, quantity wise.
The Golden Royal Elephant Throne, the Durbar Hall, and the Kalyan Mandap (wedding hall) are the main attractions here. The entry to the palace is through a beautiful gallery featuring Indian and European sculpture and ceremonial objects. The gate is decorated with floriated designs, and bears the Mysore royal symbol of a double-headed eagle. To the north of the gate the Royal Elephant Throne is displayed which is embellished with 84 kilogram of 24-carat gold.
Walls leading to the Kalyan Mandap are lined with intricate oil paintings, illustrating the royal procession of the Mysore Dussehra Festival. A unique thing about these paintings is that seen from any direction, the procession seems to be coming in one’s own direction. The hall itself is magnificent and is decorated with huge chandeliers, and multi colored stain glass arranged in peacock designs. The historic Durbar Hall of the palace has an ornate ceiling and sculpted pillars which are said to have been painted with gold. It is also a treasure house of rare paintings by some celebrated artists. This hall, which is up the stairs, offers wonderful view of the Chamundi Hills that towers over the city and houses a temple dedicated to the Goddess Chamundeshwari, the royal family’s patron deity.
KOCHI: a collection of tiny islands and peninsulas along the shore of the Arabian Sea, shaped and nurtured for centuries by foreign powers such as the Dutch, British, Chinese and Portuguese. This port city (also known as Cochin) is the biggest city in the Indian state of Kerala, and it’s a must-visit for people who want to learn about the rich history of colonial India and its trading prowess. Art centers showcase the traditional dance, Kathakali. European influences are seen in the 16th-century Portuguese-built churches and forts, while the mark of early Chinese traders is visible in the unusual fishing nets dotting the shoreline.
2021 – LAND TOUR PRICE (Same as 2020)- $6,988.00 per person sharing
Single room- $9,786.00
** Not combinable with other discounts and promotions
TOUR EXTENSION: AYURVEDA SPA & BEACH RESORT – Oct. 19 – Oct. 2, 2021 (2 nights/ 3 days)
Package includes: Stay at Beach Resort Hotel- Garden Villa with Breakfast, Daily activities such as- Kalari Martial arts demonstration, Early morning and evening Yoga & meditation session, Butterfly Garden visit with Naturalist. Talk on Ayurveda by the Ayurveda practitioner, Bird watching with Naturalist, local Instrumental Music Lessons. Kitchen Garden visit & daily harvesting. Visit a local village, Evening Tea ceremony, An Interactive Cooking Demonstration with the Chef, Saree & Dhoti wearing demonstration, Round trip transfers from Kochi.