Light of South India

A Pilgrimage to Sacred Sites of the South

January 7th through January 26th, 2018

This tour is a sacred pilgrimage through the most important holy sites of southern India. We’ll also enjoy some time on beautiful beaches, a gorgeous day in the green hills of Munnar, and have plenty of free time for shopping, massages and enjoying the pools and facilities of the great hotels we’ve chosen. After arriving in Chennai, our first stop will be Mahabalipuram, with a day for yoga, massages, and relaxation by the pool, the perfect way to erase the jetlag. We’ll also visit the ancient temples of the Pallava Empire, a UNESCO site. We will then move to Thiruvannamalai, where we will meditate on the holy mountain Arunachala and visit the ashrams of Ramana Maharshi and Shivashakti Ma. Our next stop is Pondicherry, where we’ll meditate in the ashram of Sri Aurobindo and the Holy Mother and take a tour of Auroville. We’ll then head out for a day of touring famous ancient Shiva temples in Chidambaram, Darasuram and Tanjore. The next day we’ll see Trichy, including the important Sri Ranganatha Swami. We’ll next visit beautiful Kovalam Beach, in Kerala, where we’ll stay in an ayurvedic spa and meditate by the ocean. Our next stop is Kanyakumari, where we’ll receive the blessings of the Goddess in the Amman Kumari Temple, and then take a boat out to the famous Vivekananda Rock Memorial. The next stop in our journey is Amritapuri, the ashram of Amma, India’s world-famous “Hugging Saint.” After two full days there, we’ll drive to Alleppey to enjoy a ride in a houseboat on the famous Kerala backwaters. We’ll spend the next day at Kumarakom, a resort on the backwaters. From there we will head up to gorgeous Munnar, and enjoy the cool mountain air and vast vistas of tea plantations in the verdant hills, where anyone who so desires may ride an elephant! Your departure to your home country will be from Cochin International Airport.

 

The tour also includes guided meditations, laughter yoga classes, devotional singing, and classes about Hindu philosophy. In the excellent 4-star hotels we have selected in each location, exquisite food of many kinds will entice and delight you, and you can retreat into cool comfort each evening. In short, this tour is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that is truly not to be missed!

Dates:

January 7th through January 26th, 2018

Note: It is also possible to leave India on January 23rd.

Places we will visit:

Chennai, Mahabalipuram, Thiruvannamalai, Pondicherry, Chidambaram, Gangaikonda, Darasuram, Tanjore, Trichy, Trivandrum, Kovalam Beach, Kanyakumari, Amritapuri, Alleppey, Kumarakom, Munnar and Cochin.

Where and When the Tour Begins

Chennai

Return flight

Cochin

Guides:

Tarini Ma Dagnino  , Ram-Das Batchelder

Languages spoken during the tour:

English & Spanish.

Your International Flights

Your incoming international flight should arrive in Chennai International Airport anytime from the afternoon of January 7th through the early morning hours of January 8th, 2018. Your departure should be from Cochin on January 26th (in the late morning, afternoon or evening).  If you wish to buy a round-trip ticket from your home country to and from Chennai, we can book a connecting flight for you from Cochin to Chennai for the 26th. Let us know.

 

Daily Itinerary

 

Day 1: January 7th: Chennai-Mahabalipuram:

Your flight will arrive in Chennai on the afternoon or evening of January 7th or early in the morning of January 8th. Members of our staff will meet you at the airport and escort you to our 4–star hotel located in Mahabalipuram one hour away from Chennai’s airport.

 

Mahabalipuram is one of India’s most beautiful cities, and one of its oldest. It is known for its gorgeous ocean views, and its numerous carved-stone monuments and ancient temples. Located in Tamil Nadu, Mahabalipuram was a port town during the 1st Century to 140 AD, and was ruled by the ancient Pallava dynasty, whose kings commissioned the construction of most of the area’s impressive monuments in the 7th and 8th century AD. A group of these monuments have been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Dinner in our 4-star hotel.

Night in Mahabalipuram.

 

Day 2: January 8th: Mahabalipuram:

The tour officially begins in the morning of January 8th with a welcome breakfast and an introduction to the tour. Day off for relaxing, yoga, and enjoying the beach and the pool. Let that jetlag go! In the afternoon Ram Das will offer a class in Hindu philosophy for those who wish to attend.

Evening meditation.

Dinner at the resort.

Night in Mahabalipuram.

 

Day 3: January 9th: Mahabalipuram to Thiruvannamalai

After breakfast we will visit the ancient and sacred sights of Mahabalipuram and the amazing group of temples deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Afterwards we will drive from Mahabalipuram to Thiruvannamalai (approx. 3 and a half hours drive).

 

Thiruvannamalai is home to the holy mountain Arunachala, which is considered by Hindus to be an embodiment of Lord Shiva. Each month on the full moon night, hundreds of thousands of people walk the 14-kilometer trek around the hill barefoot, as an act of worship.

 

Upon arrival at our resort, Ram Das will give his second class on the essence of Hindu philosophy.

Evening meditation at Ramana Maharshi’s ashram.

Dinner at the resort.

 

Day 4: January 10th: Thiruvannamali

After breakfast we will have the darshan of the living saint, Shivashakti Ma, followed by a visit to the ashram of Ramana Maharshi, where we can circumambulate his samadhi shrine (tomb) and meditate in the room where he gave darshan for many years. We will then take a 20-minute hike up to one of the caves on Arunachala where Ramana lived for many years, and have a brief meditation there. From the mountainside we’ll have a wonderful view of the entire town, including the famous Shiva temple. Great photo ops!

Evening meditation at the ancient Arunachaleshwara temple.

Dinner at the resort.

 

Day 5: January 11th: Thiruvannamalai

Today we will rise before the sun, and depart at 5 a.m. for the 8-kilometer pradakshina (walking circumambulation) of the holy mountain Arunachala. We will make brief stops in some of the many temples along the way, including the ancient Adi Annamalai temple and a Shirdi Sai Baba mandir. Our vehicle will accompany us, so that if anyone gets tired while walking they can climb on board. Later we will visit the ashram of Yogi Ramsuratkumar, where we hope to meet with Ma Devaki, Yogi Ramsuratkumar’s closest devotee. We will then rest for some hours in the tranquility of our resort; those who wish may take a swim in the pool or have a massage. In the late afternoon Ram Das will give a class on Jnana Yoga, and afterwards we will feed dinner to a group of poor sadhus in a local ashram.

Dinner at the resort.

Night in Thiruvanamalai.

 

 Day 6: January 12th: Drive from Thiruvannamalai to Pondicherry (by car, approximately 3hrs)

After breakfast we will drive straight to Auroville, where we will watch a film about this beautiful spiritual community and get our tickets for a possible visit to the Matrimandir the next day.

 

Auroville is a community inspired by the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Located about 7 miles north of Pondicherry, Auroville is known as "the City of Tomorrow," for it was envisioned by the Holy Mother as an experiment in human unity, where people from different nationalities, faiths and beliefs could live in peace and harmony while aspiring for realization of the Divine. It is recognized as an ongoing experiment in human unity and transformation of consciousness.

 

Check-in at our beautiful hotel in Pondicherry.

Evening class with Ram Das about the life of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.

Dinner at the resort.

Night in Pondicherry.

 

Day 7: January 13th: Pondicherry

After breakfast and according to our timing of visit to the Matrimandir (something that the office will decide on the time of arrival) we may have to leave sooner or later from the hotel to be able to meditate inside the famous Matrimandir, a special temple designed by the Holy Mother herself.

 

Upon our return to Pondicherry we will visit the local Ganesha temple and very likely receive a blessing from a living elephant named Lakshmi outside the temple door.

 

We will then visit the samadhi (tomb) of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, located inside the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, for meditation.

Dinner at the resort.

Night in Pondicherry.

 

 Day 8: January 14th:Pondicherry

Morning off for relaxing and enjoying the pool and the beach. Early afternoon walk to the French town and the beautiful local market of flowers, spices, fruits and veggies and fish.

5:00 p.m: Class about Hindu temple symbolism and rituals with Tarini Ma.

6:30 p.m: Kirtan (devotional singing) and meditation on the beach.

Dinner at the resort.

Night in Pondicherry.

 

Day 9: January 15th: Numerous temple visits en route to Trichy.

Today we will drive from Pondicherry to Trichy, en route visiting famous temples in Chidambaram, Gangaikonda Cholapuram, Dharasuram and Tanjore. (The drive is approx. 150 miles.) Breakfast 6:00 am, departure 7:00 am.

 

The famous Chidambaram Nataraja Temple is one of the most important temples in South India, containing one of the miraculously manifested “Jyotir Lingams,” symbolic of Lord Shiva. The worship here is full of potent divine energy and thrilling to behold, as more than a dozen priests are active in various ways. The temple is an excellent example of a unique amalgamation of a number of architectural styles. The innermost sanctum has idols of Lord Shiva and goddess Parvati. Lord Shiva is worshipped here in the form of a small crystal lingam. Powerful! The other temples we’ll be seeing today are equally ancient and impressive.

 

When we arrive in the bustling city of Trichy, we’ll check into our hotel for dinner and a well-deserved night of sleep.

Dinner at the resort.

Night in Trichy.

 

Day 10: January 16th: Temple visits in Trichy, then fly to Trivandrum

After breakfast, we will visit the Sri Ranganatha Swami temple.

The Sri Ranganatha Swami temple complex is very well preserved, with excellent carvings throughout and numerous shrines to various gods. The main temple is dedicated to Vishnu. The deity in the inner sanctum, a large reclining Vishnu in black stone, is absolutely stunning. Very much worth the wait!

 

Afterwards we will drive to the airport to take a short flight to Trivandrum and a quick drive to our resort in Kovalam Beach.

Dinner in the resort.

Night at Kovalam Beach, Trivandrum.

 

Day 11: January 17th: Kovalam

After breakfast we will enjoy a day off at the ayurvedic resort in Kovalam Beach, where we can enjoy special massages and health treatments, steeped in the great tradition of Kerala’s ayurvedic experts. A class on Hindu philosophy will be offered for those who just arrived for the second half of the tour.

Early evening kirtan and meditation with Tarini Ma and Ram Das.

Dinner in the resort accompanied by a Kerala cultural program.

Night at Kovalam.

 

Day 12: January 18th: Drive from Kovalam to Kanyakumari (approx. 2hrs)

After breakfast, we will drive south to gorgeous Kanyakumari.

 

In addition to being celebrated for its special role in the life of Swami Vivekananda, Kanyakumari is also one of India’s most well-known honeymoon spots. It is located at the southernmost tip of India, where three oceans meet. You just can’t get any further south — or find sunsets more beautiful!

 

After checking into our hotel we will enjoy sightseeing, including the Vivekananda Rock Memorial, reached by a short ferry ride, the Kumari Amman temple, and the Vivekananda Kendra, where there is an excellent museum about the life of Swami Vivekananda and a beautiful garden where we may be able to view an awesome sunset.

In the evening Ram Das will give a class about the life of Swami Vivekananda and his great Guru, Sri Ramakrishna.

Dinner at the hotel.

Night in Kanyakumari.

 

Day 13: January 19th: Kanyakumari to Amritapuri:

After breakfast, we will drive to the railway station and take a 4-hour train ride to Amritapuri, the ashram of Amma, the world-famous “Hugging Saint.” After checking into our rooms, we will watch a video about Amma’s extraordinary life and charitable mission.  Afterwards we will attend the evening bhajans (devotional singing) before enjoying dinner at the Western Café.

 

We cannot guarantee that Amma will be in the ashram during our stay, but if she is, you’ll be able to receive one of her divine hugs, hear her sing, and meditate in her presence. This will be one of the tour’s greatest treasures. If there are 10 people in our group who are interested, we can request a 2-day course in Amma’s “I AM” Meditation technique.

 

Amma, or Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, is frequently referred to as “the Hugging Saint” because she spends the majority of her time giving hugs and motherly guidance to all who come to her. Due to her vast network of highly successful charitable projects, she is revered as one of the world’s greatest humanitarians. She is also the spiritual Guru to hundreds of thousands of devotees around the world. Those who wish will also have the chance to learn her special form of meditation, the I AM Technique, taught during a 2-day class, starting on January 19th.

We will have dinner in the ashram’s Western Café.

Night in the accommodations of Amma’s ashram.

 

Day 14: January 20th: Amritapuri

A day full of ashram activities and meditation. Those who wish can rise for the 5 am chanting of the Lalita Sahasranamam (the Thousand Names of the Divine Mother), or attend the impressive 5 am homa (fire ceremony). After breakfast those who wish will begin the “I Am Meditation” course. Others can join us for a lovely nature walk in the surrounding village, and some “seva” (selfless service) in the ashram, such as chopping vegetables. If Amma is in the ashram we will be able to receive her embrace and meditate in her presence.

Bhajans (devotional singing) will be at 6:30 pm.

Dinner in the ashram’s Western Café. Night in Amma’s ashram.

 

Day 15: January 21st: Amritapuri

A day full of ashram activities and meditation. Those who are participating in the “I Am Meditation” course will spend the full day in class. For those not taking the class, we can take another morning nature walk, and participate in chanting or seva activities. In the afternoon Ram Das will be offering a class on aspects of Hinduism. If Amma is in the ashram we may be able to receive her embrace and meditate in her presence.

 

Bhajans (devotional singing) will be at 6:30 pm.

Dinner in the ashram’s Western Café. Night in Amma’s ashram.

 

Day 16: January 22nd: Amritapuri – Alleppey – Kumarakom.

After breakfast, we will drive to Alleppey (approx. 2 hours). There we will enjoy a 6-hour cruise in a houseboat on the famous Kerala backwaters, with lunch included.

 

Kerala is blessed with a unique feature called the backwaters, a series of interlocking inland waterways which open up into large lakes and also connect to the ocean. The best way to enjoy the Kerala backwaters is to take a cruise on a houseboat, and witness the delightful scenes of Kerala life unfolding on the shore as you cruise by in the comfort of your boat, being waited on by our onboard master chef!

 

After the cruise we will take the short drive to a beautiful resort in Kumarakom. Those who wish may enjoy a swim in the hotel pool.

Dinner at the hotel.

Night in Kumarakom.

 

Day 17: January 23rd: Kumarakom

Today we have the day at leisure to just relax in our gorgeous resort. The day is yours to enjoy in any way you wish.

An afternoon class on Hindu philosophy will be offered by Ram Das, followed by a laughter yoga class and meditation.

Dinner at the hotel.

Night in Kumarakom.

 

Day 18: January 24th: Kumarakom-Munnar

After breakfast, departure for Munnar.

 

Munnar is a beautiful area set high in the Kerala hills and surrounded by tea plantations. A favorite spot for tourists due to its cool climate and panoramic views, a day in Munnar is a delightful dip in the fragrant beauty of nature. Situated at the confluence of three mountain streams - Mudrapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundala, Munnar is 1,600 meters above sea level; it was once the summer resort of the erstwhile British Government in South India. Munnar is home to many species of rare butterflies, animals and birds, and also has the highest peak in South India, Anamudi, which towers over 2,695 meters.

 

Evening laughter yoga or philosophy class will be offered along with meditation and devotional singing.

 

Dinner at the hotel.

Night in Munnar.

 

Day 19: January 25th: Munnar

Today we will take a hike through the countryside, and tour a tea plantation. We will be taking a pack lunch with us, and may be able to see wild elephants. Elephant rides can be arranged.

Farewell dinner at the hotel.

Night in Munnar.

 

Day 20: January 26th: Munnar-Cochin-Home

After breakfast, we will drive to Cochin airport, where everyone will take their flight back home.

 

End of the tour.

 

Extensions of the trip are available upon prior request. Such extensions can be prior to the starting date of the tour, or after the final day of the tour. Please note on our website that there are also two 10-day versions of this tour available, one focusing on Tamil Nadu, and the second focused on Kerala. Let us know what you’d like; we will be happy to accommodate you!

 

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