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: Until 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, jewelry, 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.
DAY 1: ARRIVE HYDERABAD
Arrive in Hyderabad, richest and largest state at the time of India’s independence. The city is nearly 400 years old and is perched on the top of the Deccan Plateau. A multitude of influences have shaped the city’s character. Its palaces and buildings, houses, tenements, gardens and streets have a history coupled with an architectural individuality of its own, making Hyderabad a city of enchantment. On arrival, you will be greeted with a traditional Indian welcome and escorted to the hotel. Rest of the day is at leisure. Join fellow tour members for a tour briefing and welcome dinner including presentation of local music and dances. . TAJ FALAKNUMA PALACE- D
TAJ FALUKNAMA HOTEL: Built in 1894, the former palace of the Nizam, rumored to be the richest man in the world at one time, this enchanting palace exudes romance and grandeur that take one back to when the Nizam ruled Hyderabad. Walk the walk of kings through the Grand Staircase to retrace the steps of Nizams, European royalty, enchanting Begums and distinguished Heads of State. The five-star luxury hotel, spread over 32 acres, allows you to journey to the gilded ages, where opulence and excess is celebrated and savored in equal measure. The 60 rooms and suites are beautifully refurbished and lovingly restored by Her Highness Princess Esra, the Nizam’s Turkish wife. Each provides marvelous views of the palace courtyard and the 400-year-old city of Hyderabad.
DAY 2: HYDERABAD- City Tour, Arts & crafts village
Tour of Hyderabad reveals an amalgam of old world charm coupled with modernity. Visit Char Minar, Mecca Masjid, Birla Temple and Salar Jung Museum housing the Nizam’s private art collection. This afternoon visit Shilpagram, a village to showcase arts, an endeavor to preserve India’s dying arts & forms. Set amidst picturesque rock formations that are unique for the region, Shilpagram brings together craftsmen and artists of every ilk. Truly, A home to thousands of visiting artisans’, where the artistic manifestations of centuries mingle with dynamics of modern-day life. TAJ FALAKNUMA PALACE HOTEL – BL
DAY 3: GOLCONDA FORT Excursion
Visit the Golconda Fort, former capital of the Qutab Shahi dynasty, a mud structure evolving into a magnificent citadel fortress. The Qutab Shahis ruled the Deccan for almost 171 years, contributing to the growth and development of Indo-Persian and Indo-Islamic literature also culture. During the Qutb Shahi reign, Golconda became one of the leading markets in the world of Diamonds. Afternoon time to explore the markets famous for traditional handicrafts and Pearls, In the evening enjoy a spectacular sunset over the city from the garden or terraces of the Hotel. TAJ FALAKNUMA PALACE HOTEL -BL
DAY 4: HYDERABAD/ HAMPI
After breakfast, check-out from the hotel and transfer to airport to board your flight to Vidyanagar and continue overland to Hampi, a village in northern Karnataka. Hampi is a haven to travelers from all over the world. Stunningly beautiful, this idyllic place sprawls on the sides of river Tungabhadra and is one of the sites to house ruins of the Vijayanagara Empire. UNESCO has credited Hampi ruins as a World Heritage Site and rightly so, for visiting these ruins is more like a lesson in history and lost kingdoms. Rest of the day is at leisure to explore the village on own. EVOLVE BACK HOTEL- BD
DAY 5: HAMPI
After breakfast embark on a sightseeing tour of Hampi, a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Someone rightly said “If dreams were made out of stone, it would be Hampi” The foundation of the Vijayanagara Empire was laid in Hampi in 1336 A.D, making it the capital of the largest empire in post-mogul India. It later became famous for its support towards renovation/reconstruction of temples re-establishment of Indian culture, its support for music, art and literature throughout India. Today the ruins silently narrate the story of grandeur and fabulous wealth, palaces and gateways of the broken city tells a tale of men of infinite talent and power of creativity together with his capacity for senseless destruction.
Vithala Temple Complex – The most splendid monument of Hampi is undoubtedly the Vithala Temple Complex with its 56 musical pillars. Here see the famous Stone Chariot with stone wheels that revolve. In front of the shrine stands the great mantapa. Resting on a richly sculpted basement, its roof is supported by huge pillars of granite, each consisting of a central pillar surrounded by detached shafts, all cut from one single block of stone.
The Virupaksha Temple rises majestically at the western end of the famous Hampi Bazaar. The temple has a 120 feet tall tower on its eastern entrance. The temple contains the shrines of Shiva, Pampa and Bhuvaneswari. Parts of this temple are older than the Vijayanagar kingdom itself. The work of this style dates back to the 11th or 12th century.
Hazara Ramaswami temple is believed to have been the private place of worship of the royal family. The chief attraction of the temple is the series of scenes from the Ramayana carved on two of the inside walls of the mantapa. The genesis of the place known today as Hampi dates to the age of the Hindu epic Ramayana when it was the site of Kishkinda, a monkey kingdom.
Later visit the Achyutaraya Temple and walk through the bazaars of Sule and Hampi. EVOLVE BACK HOTEL – BL
Day 6: HOSPET EXCURSION
Travel to Hospet, the World Heritage site consisting of ruins of the medieval city of Vijayanagara, former capital of the Vijayanagara Empire. Hospet was built by Krishna Deva Raya in 1520 AD, one of the rulers of Vijayanagara in memory of his mother, Nagalambika. Return back to Hampi after the tour. EVOLVE BACK HOTEL – BL
Day 7: HAMPI/BADAMI
Travel this morning to Badami, formerly known as Vatapi, a town and headquarters of a aluk by the same name. It was the regal capital of the Badami Chalukyas from 540 to 757 AD and is famous for rock cut and other structural temples. This afternoon, visit the Badami cave temples, composed of four caves, carved out of the soft Badami sandstone on a hill cliff in the late 6th to the 7th centuries. The 18-armed Nataraja, striking 81 dance
poses inside Cave1 are guarded by Shiva’s monolithic Dwarapalas! One of the most remarkable is Cave 3. With multifaceted fluted designs, flying figures sculpted to embellish ceilings, Vishnu flanked by Lakshmi and Garuda; Shiva, Indra and Varuna are among the principal deities; Krishna vanquishing demons, and with other epic stories depicted on the walls and much more. This cave is undoubtedly symbolic of a Hindu reign. KRISHNA HERITAGE HOTEL – BD
Day 8: AIHOLE & PATTADAKAL EXCURSIONS
Rich in detail, quiet and peaceful, Aihole, “cradle of Indian architecture” as it is aptly referred to, is home to over a hundred temples. Built between the 5th 8th centuries AD, on the banks of the River Malaprabha. The 22 groups of temples are scattered around the village. In a bygone era, Aihole served as the centre
of Chalukyan sovereignty. Today, it stands in virtual anonymity. See the Hindu temple architecture in its embryonic stage, from the earliest Ladkhan Temple to the later and more complex structures like Kunligudi and Durgigudi. The large scale of the architecture, the complex elevation and spatial treatments, the rich ornamentation in the different building styles, artistic traditions from different parts of the subcontinent, the Pattadakal temples provide a striking illustration of their harmonious coexistence. The 10 or so major temples represent the zenith of the early Chalukyan era. Today, a World Heritage Site, Pattadakal served as the royal commemorative centre. The coronation of the Chalukyan rulers between the 7th & 9th centuries AD. KRISHNA HERITAGE HOTEL – BL
Day 9: BADAMI/HAMPI/ BENGALURU (Bangalore)/ MYSORE
Retrace your steps back to Hampi and connect with flight to Bengaluru. The capital of Karnataka is known as the Garden City because of its salubrious climate and greenery. Begin a brief tour of the garden city & lunch before continuing overland to Mysore. Enroute stop at Srirangapatnam where Tipu Sultan built his summer palace. Mysore was the capital of a princely state where there are palaces and festivals of yester years is celebrated. Mysore, once the capital of a princely state still carries the aura and charm of palaces, and the opulence of festivals of yester years. LALITHA MAHAL PALACE HOTEL- BD
LALITA MAHAL PALACE HOTEL: built by the erstwhile Maharaja of Mysore to host his most important guest, the Viceroy of India. The Lalitha Mahal is now, a palace hotel that offers an experience of princely living in a real Maharaja’s palace. Just outside the city of Mysore, stands a shimmering white palace – a splendid Italianate palazzo, double-columned and domed – set in sprawling terraced and landscaped gardens. Set on a ridge commanding a panoramic view, this dream-like palace was built in 1931 for special guests of the Maharajas. The building is a majestic, two-story composition of twin ionic columns, a projecting porch on the ground floor, spherical domes with lanterns and the central dome which dominates the elevation rises above the central entrance hall.
Day 10: MYSORE CITY TOUR & PRE DASARA CELEBRATIONS
Tour the Maharaja’s palace, built between 1897 and 1907, the palace is a splendid structure in the Indo-Saracenic Style, among its many attractions are a magnificent gold throne displayed during the Dasara celebrations. Next visit the Jaganmohan Palace housing an excellent collection of ceramics, ivory, sandalwood, stone, antique furniture and ancient musical instruments, St. Philomena’s Church – this imposing Gothic structure with beautiful stained-glass windows and lofty towers is a must see. Continue to chamundi Hill, named after the goddess Chamundi, to see the 17th century statue of Nandi Shiva’s mount, 16 feet high, carved out of one rock.
In the evening-attend rehearsal of Torch Light Parade at Bannimantap. After Dinner at local restaurant, we will visit the illuminated Mysore palace and participate in the folk dance show and other festivities. Details will be provided as they become available. LALITHA MAHAL PALACE HOTEL- BD
Day 11: DASARA CELEBRATIONS
Intricately woven with legends and mythology, the city of Mysuru is a confluence of history, art and culture. As per local mythical lore, it was once ruled by Mahishasura, a buffalo-headed demon (after whom the city of Mysuru is named). His oppressed subjects invoked the gods to rid them of his evil reign and Goddess Parvathi, in the form of Chamundeshwari vanquished him in a battle that lasted 9 days and nights. The tenth day is celebrated as Dasara, symbolizing the victory of good over evil, a tradition initiated by the Vijayanagar kings in the 9th century. During the festivities, the Mysuru Palace is adorned with bright lights and the streets are festooned with colorful streamers. A spectacular procession of decked up elephants carry the idol of Goddess Chamundeshwari in the golden howdah to be worshipped by the royal family and masses alike, along with colorful tableaux, ecstatic dancing groups and music bands, horses and camels. Across the illuminated Mysuru Palace, the local Dasara annual carnival is held selling, exquisite handicrafts and local eatables and exciting rides. Mysuru city is bedecked in its full glory, with decorated and caparisoned elephants, garlanded idols, folk dance performances, music carnival, food and film festivals, fireworks and much more. Enjoy a festive dinner at the Hotel terrace or rooftop overlooking the city lights this evening. LALITHA MAHAL PALACE HOTEL- BD
Day 12: MYSORE / BENGALURU / KOCHI
Free morning to shop for handicrafts & more before returning to Bengaluru where you will board flight to
to Kochi, set on a cluster of islands and narrow peninsulas. The influence of Chinese, Jews, Arabs and Europeans is evident in Kochi and its people. BRUNTON BOATYARD HOTEL- BL
THE BRUNTON BOATYARD: This restored building sits well with its colonial era surroundings and counterparts – the great trading houses of British India when pepper from Kerala was considered as precious as gold. Like the cultures they celebrate and display, Brunton Boatyard is a five star hotel whose interiors reflect an eclectic but tasteful blend of English, Portuguese and Dutch influences as seen in its high ceilings, hanging fans and a plethora of artifacts and curios from a great mercantile age known for its pomp and glamour. The scent of colonial history is all around you as you take a tour of the historic Fort Cochin area where the hotel stands. Though little remains of the fort itself there are legacies of its proud history to be seen everywhere.
DAY 13: KOCHI Touring
After Breakfast visit Mattancherry Palace, built by the Portuguese in 1557 and presented to the king of Kochi, Raja Verra Kerala Varma, as a gesture of goodwill. The Dutch substantially renovated it after 1663, hence, called the Dutch Palace. St. Francis Church is India is India’s oldest European-built church. Vasco de Gama the first European to reach India by sailing around Africa died in Kochi in 1524 and was buried here for 14 years before his remain were transferred to Lisbon. The Jewish Synagogue was constructed in 1568; is the oldest synagogue in the region. Proceed to the Chinese Fishing Nets, reflecting the traditional method of fishing. Continue to the spice markets, a rich trading centre in medieval times. This afternoon is at leisure to explore the island on your own or visit the nearby town of Ernakulum. BRUNTON BOATYARD HOTEL- BL
Day 14: KOCHI- Backwater Cruise
Breakfast at Hotel and rest of your day is free for independent activities. This evening embark on a fascinating cruise around Cochin Harbor. Spectacular sunsets, glorious sea air and probably a dolphin or two. The cruise is followed by farewell dinner and presentation of Keralite music & dances. BRUNTON BOATYARD HOTEL- BD
Day 15: Depart Kochi
Visit Ernakulum this morning and walk through markets or try the Ayurvedic massage therapy and spa facilities. Enjoy Keralite cuisine, served the traditional way on banana leaf or thali for lunch at a local restaurant. Transfer to airport in the evening to catch your international flight home. B
TOUR EXTENSION: AYURVEDA SPA & BEACH RESORT – (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.