Do you now want to experience the real heart and soul of sacred India? Because on our amazing South India Tour, we will now have that rare opportunity in an awesome once-in-a-lifetime experience. On our awesome tour to South India, we will visit amazing sacred temples, experience profound sacred ceremonies, get astounding astrology readings, get the darshan of many holy men and women (blessings and grace that come from being in the presence of these holy people), and see all the colorful and beautiful sights. Our expert tour guides, who will attend to all of your needs meticulously, will take us on an extraordinary tour that will meet and exceed our every expectation.
On Christmas will visit Satya Sai Baba's ashram in Puttaparthi near Bangalore. We will also see Ramana Maharishi's ashram and Arunachala at Thiru Annamalai, Tamil Nadu. On New Years we will visit Amritanandamayi (Ammachi--the "hugging saint") in Amritapuri, south of Cochin, Kerala.
Day 01 / Welcome to Delhi
Fly overnight to India, arriving in the late evening. Your tour leader will accompany you to your hotel in the heart of Delhi, followed by the Traditional Indian Welcome at the hotel. Overnight at hotel.
Hotel: The Oberoi Maidens or Similar
Day 02 / Explore Old Delhi and New Delhi
Meet your group over the late breakfast, then enjoy a walking tour of Old Delhi, featuring Raj Ghat, where Jama Masjid, India's largest mosque. In the afternoon, drive through New Delhi to visit the India Gate and the old residences of British Viceroys.Visit the powerful, majestic Hindu Temples of Delhi: Chattarpur Temple, Yogmaya Temple & Lakshmi Narayan Temple.
Hotel: The Oberoi Maidens or Similar (Meals: Breakfast & Welcome Dinner at Chor Bizarre)
Old Delhi: The 350 years old walled city was built by Emperor Shah Jehan in 1648 as his capital. Opposite the fort are the black and white onion dome and minarets of the Jama Masjid, the most elegant mosque in India. Raj Ghat is worth a visit where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated in 1948.
New Delhi: The new capital designed by Sir Edward Lutyens. An interesting drive in the one passing through the impressive Rajpath from the World War I memorial arch, the India Gate towards the Presidential Palace. Visit Humayun's Tomb built in 1565 AD, Safdarjung's Tomb, the Qutab Minar, 72 meters high and the most curious antique, the uncorroded Iron Pillar, which dates back to the 4th century AD.
Day 03 / Delhi - Bangalore - Puttaparthi
After late breakfast, transfer to Domestic Airport for flight to Bangalore, and continue to Puttaparthy by surface. Reach Puttaparthy. Transfer to hotel. Dinner & overnight at hotel.
Hotel: Sri Sathya Sai Village (Meals - Breakfast & Dinner)
Day 04 / Puttaparthi (Christmas with Sathya Sai Baba)
After breakfast, full day at Puttaparthi and visit Sri Sathya Sai Baba Ashram. Dinner & overnight at hotel.
Hotel: Sri Sathya Sai Village (Meals - Breakfast & Dinner)
Day 05 / Puttaparthi - Tirupati
After breakfast, drive to Tirupati and transfer to hotel. Visit to Lord Balaji Temple. Dinner & overnight at hotel.
Hotel: Guestline or Similar (Meals Breakfast & Dinner)
Tirupati is a dusty bustling little town at the foot of the Tirumalai Hills in the southern tip of Andhra Pradesh. Every day thousands of pilgrims descend on Tirupati spilling out of buses, cars, taxis and trains. They are all on their way up to the temple of the Lord Venkatswara up in the Tirumalai hills. It is an old temple, that has witnessed the rise and fall of powerful dynasties. The Pallavas, Cholas and Pandayas were all patrons of the shrine and they endowed it with jewels and wealth. Later in the 16th century the great Vijayanagar kings enriched and embellished the temple and gave it a new lease of life. Today this shrine probably attracts more devotees than any other temple in India and about 25,000 people coming from all over the country visit it daily, firm in the belief that any wish expressed before this image of the Lord Venkateswara will be granted. The temple is located in the cool of the verdant hills at a height of 890 metres. It nestles in a hollow surrounded by the peaks of the 7 hills of Tirumalai and legend has it that these are the seven hoods of the serpent god Adishesha, the vahanam or the mount of the Lord Venkateswara.
It is a pleasant drive from Tirupati up to Tirumalai and as the road winds its way up the forested slopes there are splendid views of Tirupati and the plains. In earlier times people climbed to the temple on foot, many do even today making the 11 kilometer trek a part of their pilgrimage. They start the ascent from Alipiri, and as the groups of devotees go up the hills echo with the chant of "Govinda Govinda" and "Om Namoh Venkatesaiya" Up at Tirumalai is a sparkling little township, beautifully maintained, with its guest houses, hotels and gardens. The imposing gopurams or gateways of the temple dominate the scene. Around the temple itself are colourful stalls selling souvenirs and handicrafts, brass lamps, copper ritual vessels and all the paraphernalia needed for the rituals. The air is full of the indefinable fragrance that surrounds a temple, of flowers, incense sticks a flickering oil lamps. All around is a shifting mosaic of cour as people move towards the temples. Yet there is order in all this chaos and devotees are directed to well-equipped sheds where they form orderly queues as they wait patiently for a darshan or a glimpse of the deity.
The temple is a perfect example of the Dravidian style of temple architecture. Within the three parakarams or enclosures of the temple complex is the main shrine with its exquisitely worked and gilded vimana above it, gleaming in the sun. Within the sanctum is the majestic "swayambhu" or naturally formed image of the Lord Venkateswara. He is seen standing on a lotus with his symbols the shankh conch and the chakra or discus in his hands and on the chest are the image of the goddesses Lakhsmi and Padmavati, the figure is laden with jewels. Worship at the temple starts in early hours of the morning before dawn, with the "Suprabhatham" when the Lord Venkateswara is woken from his rest. This early morning ritual is an unforgettable experience - as the myriad flickering oil lamps light up the sanctum and the majesty of the deity decked in glittering ornaments, the absolute silence is broken by the chant of the priests. It is the beginning of another day at the temple.
Day 06 Tirupati - Chennai
After breakfast, drive to Chennai. Reach Chennai and later on half-day city tour of Chennai. Dinner & overnight at hotel.
Hotel: The Trident or Similar (Meals - Breakfast & Dinner)
Chennai (previously known as Madras), the first city of South India and the capital of Tamilnadu state, is a historic land of ancient culture. India's most southerly city brims with magnificent architecture, exotic pageantry, and age-old traditions. The Dravidian dynasties of Pallavas, the Cholas and the Pandiyas, all left their marks on the culture and architecture of the region. Chennai, a thriving seaboard that did business with the Chinese, Greeks, Phoenicians, Romans, and Babylonians 2000 years ago and later the French, Portugese, Armenians, and Arabs. Chennai remembered history goes back to the 4th Century.
Immensely proud and aware of the classic antiquty of their three thousand years old Dravidian Culture, respected by the Aryans when they came in 1500 B.C., many modern day Tamils still live largely the same life in many ways, not only in their culture and language, but in their food and clothes as well. Tamil -- one of the oldest languages known on the earth -- spoken by majority of the people, today Chennai is a city that still sustains a pure Tamil culture vibrantly alive with modern participation. Inspite of successive invasions, the Tamil art, scriptures, religion, dance, drama, vocal and instrumental music and architecture have remained essentially untouched.
Modern day Chennai sprawls over 174 square kilometers and is home of more than 5 million people. This modern metropolis of Chennai, Tamilnadu's principal port, offers excellent hotels and transport, a terrfic range of food and some serious shopping for silks, cottons, jewellery and handicrafts. And of course, magnificent old Hindu temples that offer more than just a fabulous photo opportunity to the discerning. More, you will hear the splendid strains of classical music and sniff a heady compound of jasmines and spices living traditions that are still savored from Chennai's ancient past.
Day 07 / Chennai - Kanchipuram - Mahabalipuram
After breakfast, leave for Mahabalipuram, en route visiting Kanchipuram and Kamakshi Temple. Reach Mahabalipuram in the evening. Dinner & overnight at hotel.
Hotel: Quality Inn - MGM Beach Resort Or Similar (Meals Breakfast & Dinner)
Mahabalipuram: Globally renown for its shore temples, Mahabalipuram was the second capital of the Pallava kings of Kanchipuram. 58 kilometres from Madras on the Bay of Bengal, this tiny sea - side village of Mahabalipuram, is set in a boulder - strewn landscape. Tourists are drawn to this place by its miles of unspoiled beach and rock-cut art. The sculpture here is particularly interesting because it shows scenes of day-to- day life, in contrast with the rest of the state of Tamil Nadu, where the carvings generally depict gods and goddesses. Mahabalipuram art can be divided into four categories : open air bas - reliefs structured temples, man-made caves and rathas ('chariots' carved from single boulders, to resemble temples or chariots used in temple processions). The famous Arjuna's Penance and the Krishna Mandapa, adorn massive rocks near the centre of the village. The beautiful Shore Temple towers over the waves, behind a protective breakwater. Sixteen man-made caves in different stages of completion are also seen, scattered through the area.
Kanchipuram is among the most famous of the 'temple cities' of Tamil Nadu. Its temples house different Hindu sects. Though today it is only a destination for pilgrims, and a repository of major architectural monuments, in antiquity it occupied a more preeminent place in the history of South India. The city was the political capital of the Pallava rulers during the 7th - 9th centuries. It remained an important city during the succeeding Chola and Vijayanagara periods.The Kailasanatha temple is the finest structural project of the Pallava ruler Rajasimha. The temple is almost entirely constructed of sandstone and is integrated into a coherent complex. A large variety of Shaiva images adorns the outer walls; the inner walls were once painted. A polished linga (phallus, the symbol of regeneration associated with Shiva) is enshrined within.
The Ekambareshvara temple is the principle Shaiva sanctuary and its soaring gopuras dominate the city's skyline. This temple was erected in 1509 by the Vijayanagara emperor Krishnadeva Raya. The temple is preceded by a long columned mandapa into which earlier shrines and altars have been incorporated. A corridor surrounds the principle shrine on four sides, presenting a continuous sequence of receding piers.The Vardhamana temple is the most important Vaishanava temple. Local legend has it that the temple commemorates the site where the Lord Brahma performed a yajna (fire sacrifice) to invoke the presence of Vishnu. It has a long history spanning the Chola and the Vijayanagara periods. One of the two high towered gopuras resemble 12th-13th century Chola projects while the other is characteristic of the 16th century Vijayanagara period. The main sanctuary enshrines bronze images of Vishnu flanked by his consorts. Some specimens of Vijayanagara paintings are still preserved on the walls.
Day 08 / Optional Day Trip to Thiru Annamalai and Ramana Maharishi Ashram.
OPTIONAL: Visit to Thiru Annamalai and the ashram in Arunachala of famous Vedanta Advaita (Non-dualism philosophy) saint, Ramana Maharishi.
Day 09 / Mahabalipuram - Chennai - Madurai
After breakfast, transfer to Domestic Airport for flight to Madurai, Reach Madurai. Afterwards, visit to the Meenakshi Temple and transfer to hotel. Dinner and overnight at hotel.
Hotel: Pandyan Or Similar (Meals - Breakfast and Dinner)
Day 10 / Madurai - Kanyakumari
After breakfast, half-day sightseeing of Madurai and continue to Kanyakumari. Reach Kanyakumari and transfer to hotel. Dinner & overnight at hotel.
Hotel: Madhini Or Similar (Meals - Breakfast and Dinner)
Madurai, situated in southern Tamil Nadu, is a district with its headquarters in Madurai city, on the banks of Vaigai river. Madurai is the second largest city in Tamil Nadu. It is more than 2,500 years old and is an important cultural and commercial centre. Madurai, once the seat of Tamil learning and still the place where Tamil language is spoken in its purest form, is an ancient city planned in the shape of lotus.
Day 11 / Explore Kanyakumari - New Years Eve at Mata Amritanandamayi Ashram
After breakfast, full day sightseeing of Kanyakumari and Vivekenanda Memorial Rock. Dinner and overnight at hotel.
Hotel: Maadhini Or Similar (Meals - Breakfast and Dinner)
Cape Comorin, Land's End mainland India's southernmost point, where three seas meet and where the shore temple to the virgin goddess Kanyakumari stands. It is one of the sacred pilgrimage places of the hindus. There are two significant memorials here. One is the Gandhi Mandapam, built to commemorate the immersion of the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi in the waters by the temple. The other memorial, dedicated to Swami Vivekananda, is built on the rock 656 ft. from the shore where he meditated in 1892 before taking the message of the Hindu philosophy to the west. Swami Vivekananda was the foremost disciple of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa.
Day 12 / New Years Day at Mata Amritanandamayi Ashram - Trivendrum
New Year's Eve and New Year's Day at Mata Amritanandamayi Ashram and later on continue to Trivandrum. Transfer to hotel. Dinner & overnight at hotel.
Hotel: The South Park (Meals - Breakfast & Dinner)
Mata Amritanandamayi is believed to be an avatar--an incarnation of Mother Divine in human form. She is the first Indian saint to give her blessings by hugging each aspirant who visits her. To receive a hug from "Ammachi," as she is called by her devotees, is to experience the nectar of divine love flowing into your heart and illuminating your mind. This is something that has to be experienced in order to understand its power. A feeling of true spiritual grace is bestowed upon every person who visits this wonderful saint. We will have the honor of spending New Years Eve and New Years Day with her.
Day 13 / Trivandrum - Delhi
After late breakfast, transfer to Airport for flight to Delhi After reaching Delhi, transfer to Village BISTRO for Farewell Dinner and later on transfer to IGI Airport and tour terminates.