Rhythmic chants and jingling anklets serve up a picture of divinity, a feature that has been around for almost a century. From mid-December to mid-January, the auditoriums in Chennai are packed with patrons eagerly awaiting their favourite renditions of Classical Music and intense performances by renowned Classical Dancers. The mysticism of it all is invigorating to say the least, and if you close yourself off to the fringe senses, you’ll be transported to a completely different realm.
The Sun, the Cow and the Farmer are a celebrated trifecta in this agrarian economy. Every year in January, the line between villagers and urban populace is blurred as everyone comes out in festival regalia to pay their respects in traditional fashion. The high point of the celebration is signified by an overflowing pot of milk, which just happens to be your cue to join in and yell “Pongal O’ Pongal!”.
You can experience fine spicy cuisine, colourful, folksy weddings and traditional gatherings of local clansmen in Chettinad – the organic collective of villages in Karaikudi. Just don’t miss a stop at a local home. The iconic Chettinad homes with their large inner courtyards are everything! We also highly recommend stopping at the markets and picking up an antique or two at good bargains.
Like huge, shaggy, gold-coated dogs taking respite from the unyielding heat, little mounds of palm leaf covered salt dot the expansive stretches of pans on your Ride to World’s End. The ride from Rameswaram to Dhanushkodi is absolutely surreal and we’re sure you’ll have take some great shots along the way. Journey on the spit of land that stretches between two seas, as you move ever closer to the mythical bridge that was said to have once connected Sri Lanka to India.
A curious fish saunters forward as you let loose a stream of bubbles, only to find that you’ve arrived smack in the middle of Temple Reef. Diving adventures and surfing escapades are just a few of the offerings in erstwhile French India. Home to colorful, colonial buildings and boutiques, Pondicherry is your relaxing getaway. A little away from the main town, Auroville is a complementary portal through time, and is a utopia for the eco-conscious, spiritual soul.
A quiet Sunday evening with some wine and cheese is an addictive thought, but even more so when you’ve churned the cheese yourself! High up in the hills of Coonoor, in an unassuming farm, you can make your own feta or haloumi to take back with you. The natural, fresh concoction will leave you feeling like a Master Chef discovering the secrets of the little-known hill station. The best part is, you can take home a cheese colander and make your own cheese whenever a craving for the good stuff hits you.
Tantalizing to the taste-buds and stimulant of choice for half the world, most people would agree that coffee is life. Indians take their coffee very seriously. From the hills of Chikmagalur, coffee beans travel hundreds of miles to find themselves at Kumbakonam where the namesake Degree Coffee is the most sought after Cup of Joe. We’ll sweeten the deal for you with a local tour of the most famous Coffee Shop, at the source where you can catch a glimpse of what goes on behind the counter.
Like the harp of Orpheus, the veena is a significant facet of Hindu mythology and emits the sweetest sounds you’ve ever heard. In one of the last places on Earth where you can catch the making of this instrument, you can converse with the dying breed of veena makers. Later you can hop over to the artists who make exquisite paintings studded with stones and gilded with foil for a truly ostentatious souvenir.
What could be better than retreating to the place that deserves the name ‘Land of Temples’ and exploring the living and the ruins? Seek out the famous weaving houses that gave birth to the Kanchipuram saree (a traditional garb worn by many women all over India). The silk sarees that come from Kanchipuram are revered and many are even handed down as heirlooms. Here is where you can unravel the mysteries just like the silk threads unfurl from the cocoons.
The Tanjore temple is a grandiose engineering marvel full of oddities characteristic to it. You can chase the ‘shadow you can’t find’ or you can also head out on a hunt to find quirky marvels. One such quirk is the carving of an Englishman in a bowler hat, which has left many history buffs bewildered, for the English did not arrive in India till many centuries later!
Tranquebar is a land locked in time. The old-world charm of the town reminds you of a 17th century Danish East India establishment. You can visit the first printing press of India, housed in a fort that has withstood the test of time and a tsunami! As you weave through colourful fishing boats, while walking along the shore to ‘Bungalow by the Beach’, you might hear the famed singing waves of Tharangambadi.
Tufts of green and brown intertwine on the backwaters, at Pichavaram, in a delightful maze of arches and swaying roots. You will finally grasp the true essence of serenity as you tune out everything but the call of the birds and the rhythmic swoosh of oars. Some claim they can hear their heart racing with premonition as they head deeper and the twines reach down from the canopy. However, the depths remain ever inviting to the adventurers of the world.
Whether you want to walk through the lush greenery, enjoy organic, farm fresh food, or even check out an apiary, your ideal getaway is at a farm. That feeling of being one with nature and giving back to the land that provides is immensely satisfying. You can volunteer to plant saplings and move them when they are mature enough or simply find the nearest hill and hike up for an unbelievably green panorama.
A low humdrum fills the air when you start your engine… As you straddle one of many popular muscle bikes – perhaps a Harley Davidson or a Royal Enfield if you prefer – and feel the vibration of the powerhouse under your feet, you’ll know it’s time for the ride of your life. With the wind in your hair and a song in your heart, what more do you need to conquer the famed East Coast Road that stretches along the entire coast!?
Deities and mythos are entwined in the Indian psyche, and as much as it is an intriguing prospect to study their origins, daily rituals are just as enthralling. In the Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple, every night, song and dance follows the divine procession of Lord Shiva being taken to Meenakshi’s abode in a palanquin. While you wait for the procession to begin, we urge you to try the famous Jigarthanda – an anytime drink for the weary, sun-worn traveler.
We speak in many languages, but the ones we understand best are of gold and gems. On a quest to discover the little-known artisans that thrive in back alleys and churn out designs of exquisite proportion, you will also hear tales of fabled jewels of the Maharajas and their plunder, the gems and their mysticism, and of their symbolisms in the Indian culture.
Locals may not be fascinated with Auroville anymore, but for those not from these parts, it is a truly unique realization of the pinnacle of humanitarian ideals – a place without religion or race. With a rich history that has always seemed forward thinking at the least, Auroville has thrown open its gates for you to catch a glimpse of everyday life in the ‘International City’, and experience the significance of a spiritual and eco-friendly lifestyle.
Click for a quick taste of the region!
The erstwhile capital of many dynasties that ruled the land, Trichy has a slew of temples, the most popular of which is The Rock Fort Temple. The Trichy Dam is also a popular spot to catch a memorable sun set.
The hill station of choice for backpackers and honeymooners, it is somewhat low-key when compared to sister Ooty. But with it’s lush greenery and charming trails through the woods, it will keep you wanting to remain in the cool, spring air.
An important backdrop for the great Indian epic – Ramayana – the place is to this day an exciting spot along the East Coast. Always bustling with activity, legends speak of the floating stone bridge that persists beneath rising seas.
As the southernmost tip of India, it holds great strategic value. But thousands throng here every year for religious reasons. The sands of Kanyakumari when dissolved in the Ganges are said to bring absolution.
Best known for the Brihadeeswara Temple, it might not seem like much, this place gave birth to the intricate art of carving a veena and the glorious Tanjore paintings. Nearby Gangaikondacholapuram, the erstwhile capital of the Cholas has some interesting temple ruins.
The great Chettinad region, rich in riches and warm welcomes is the quintessential Tamil countryside. Chock-full of farms and illustrious homes, Karaikudi will leave you wanting for more.
The town that truly helped Tamil Nadu earn the mantle of Temple State. Religion and textiles go hand in hand here. Leave with a Kanchipuram saree and it will become a treasured heirloom.
Pondicherry is Chennai’s weekend getaway. Faces will light up at the sound of its name. Former French Pondicherry has given way to chic boutiques and hippie adventurers.
This Pallava pride was a bustling sea port in a bygone era. The ruins of soft-rock cut monoliths are all that remain. Mahabalipuram’s pride today lies in scrumptious cuisine of the piscine variety.
The heady aroma of freshly picked tea leaves is a heavenly introduction to Ooty, a hill station smothered with colourful homes. Nearby Coonoor offers some great experiences like cheese-making.
Grand mustachioed, brave men are the archetype of Madurai. Oppositely The scent of wild jasmine flowers will captivate as Meenakshi beckons to her holy abode.
Starry-eyed wanderers of the South eventually find themselves in this metropolitan that welcomes all. A calculated smorgasbord of everything you could think of.
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