Photo Location : Chettinad, Tamil Nadu

Julie Kale

Julie Kale visited Kerala and Tamil Nadu last year, only to find herself wanting to come back for over 2 months, the time she spent in her last trip. “There is just so much to do,” she said. Julie found that a small village in the Chettinad region of Tamil Nadu took her by surprise, as she didn’t expect much. The 18th century mansions of businessmen, ancient temples, the spicy food and the wonderful handwoven cotton saris made an indelible mark on her trip. Even though the mammoth Chola temples of Thanjavur commanded much respect, she secretly pegged Chettinad as her favourite part of the trip. Julie got the chance to stay in one such mansion. When she was leaving to go back, this is the last shot that she took of the place.
In the day, the tribes showcase their art forms at the Hornbill Festival.
The different musical accents of the vast country of India are showcased best in the festivals. The winter months hold a promise of some of the most colourful events of the year, in all parts of the country. We’ve handpicked our five favourites that you should consider adding in the itineraries. These are a window into the cultural world of the region and expose the traveller to the different musical backgrounds of the cities. Thyagaraja Aradhana, Thanjavur: Celebrated over five days, this Carnatic music festival honours the saint and composer Thyagaraja.
This low-key music festival is celebrated in Thiruvaiyaru, 13km north of Thanjavur. What is great to see is that Indian classical music stalwarts from across the world come here to perform for the entire city. The entry is free, giving an opportunity to everyone to come and see the performances. Rajasthan Kabir Yatra, Rajasthan: In commemoration of the great saint Kabir, a small troupe of singers take a six day journey across the state to go back in time when the 15th century north Indian mystic poet as well as other Bhakti and Sufi poets held sway. This is a musical tribute to Kabir in different villages of Bikaner, where singers take the power of Bhakti, Sufi music and poetry to places recently affected by communal violence. The purpose of the festival is to contribute to peace and harmony in our inner and outer worlds. Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Festival, Pune: One of the biggest and most popular classical music festivals in India, this festival has been on the calendar since 1953. Classical music enthusiasts have this on their schedule for months. Soul rending performances by some of the greatest musician s can be expected here.
Bombay Jayashri in concert in Chennai
It also commemorates Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, one of the biggest names of classical music in India. The festival is held in Pune. Madras Music Season, Chennai: Six weeks of musical celebrations are held with aily concerts in Chennai every December-January. This is the season when a number of large and small kutcheris (Carnatic music concerts) are held in the city. Old timers, stalwarts and new singers get a chance to showcase their talent in front of thousands and the city is flush with performances. This is a great time to get oriented into the world of classical music. The bookings to the concerts have to be done well in advance. Hornbill Festival, Kohima: A musical treat of a different kind awaits you at the annual tribal festival in Kohima, Nagaland. Seven days of December are dedicated to getting oriented with all the tribes of the state and their dance and music. At night, the vibe changes to rock music, when the festival hosts one the best of rock musicians from the country.
Get hypnotized by the charm of Tamil Nadu’s various hues. Be it the art, culture, music, architecture or culinary heritage. Svatma offers eight unique experiences to the guests encompassing the different aspects of the culture of the state. This includes Veda chanting, Bharatnatyam performances, chamber concerts, handloom weaving, Tanjavur paintings,
restoration and temple architecture, bronze casting and culinary insights.
Highlights include:
• Heritage essence is retained with local aesthetics
• Lovingly restored 30 luxury heritage rooms
• Live in the company of Chola bronzes and soul enriching ambience
• Traditional home styled vegetarian cooking is the highlight
• Palaharam is a joyful affair of coffee and tiffin in the veranda
• Arogyam the Gym and a Yoga centre guide you to a world of fitness
• Soukyam, the luxury spa offers a number of rejuvenating treatments
• Swimming pool with a Jacuzzi is great for weary travellers
ootloose in Thanjavur
The keeper of Tamil Culture
Tamil Nadu has always been the bastion of secrets of ancient temples and a veritable keeper of cultural nuances of the state. Our editor, Supriya, has always loved the state for its myriad experiences but she hasn’t visited Thanjavur for a long time. Needless to say, her first visit there left her enthralled. The timeless temples and the traditional cuisine were the highlight for her. For this edition of the Indo Asia Diary, she handpicked some more experiences that are worth a traveller’s while
The enchanting façade of the Royal Palace
Royal PalaceThanjavur’s royal palace is a potpourri of art and artefacts, housed in seven different sections. It is a maze-like complex that was constructed by the Nayaks who took over Thanjavur in 1535. Later a local Maratha dynasty that ruled from 1676 to 1855, made some changes. Of the entire palace, the Saraswati Mahal Library Museum and the Art Gallery are the highlights. The museum is a rich repository of the history of the region. Keep at least half a day to trawl through the entire palace. Brihadishwara Temple The World Heritage–Rajaraja I, also known as the ‘king of kings’, built listed Brihadishwara Temple between 1003 and 1010. Later, Thanjavur's Nayak and British regimes put up the fortifications. The temple is known for its grand architecture and sheer size – a true representation of the Chola aesthetics.
Brihadishwara Temple, Thanjavur
Come here two times (morning and evening) to catch the play of light on the temple – cool mornings and the hot reds and oranges in the evening. It is the entrance of the temple that stays etched in the memory for long. Shopping for saris and Tanjore (Thanjavur)
paintings The two things that should be on your souvenirshopping list are the hand-woven saris and the classic Tanjore paintings of the city. Apart from this, throw a glance on the Thalaiyatti Bommai, a head-bobbing doll. You can also buy bronze items at the local market. Different sizes allow you to remain within a budget. Kandiya Heritage, Chola Art Gallery and Poompuhar are the three places that one should hit for shopping. Amongst these three, you will be able to find everything that you need. Eat at Sahana The vegetarian classic food of Tamil Nadu is something that one should not miss in Thanjavur.
A traditional Tanjore painting
This is your chance to eat the famous thaali, which has a variety of dishes in small portions. The sheer variety of vegetables and pulses, along with a dollop of rice and topped up with buttermilk works wonders for the stomach and the soul. Tamil food is meant to be extremely rich and wholesome with a wide variety of grains and food types. Thyagaraja Aradhana The five-day music festival, held 13km away from the main city is a brilliant chance to see the country’s (and world’s) best Carnatic music maestros come and perform for everyone. The vibe of the festival is unique as it is free and available for anyone to see. It is heartwarming to witness the love of music amongst all kinds of people, who congregate to hear these musicians. The festival is a commemoration to the works of famous Tamil saint and poet, Thyagaraja.
27 for Hyatt by end of
World renowned hotel, Hyatt is ready to have a total of 27 properties in India by the end of this year., Vice President, Sales Operations, South Asia – Hyatt Hotels Corporation, Harleen Mehta addressed the media and said, “Currently we have a portfolio of 24 hotels in India, representing five brands (Park Hyatt, Grand Hyatt, Hyatt Regency, Hyatt and Hyatt Place). A sixth brand (Andaz) will enter India in latter part of 2016 with the opening of the Andaz Delhi. By end of this financial year, we aim to have 27 properties in India. Apart from the aforementioned Andaz Delhi – the thirteenth Andaz hotel in the world.” This is great news for luxury travellers as they get one more option in the key cities of India.
Port Blair-Kolkata-
Chennai connection
more robust with Indigo
India based airline brand IndiGo has introduced new daily non-stop flights to Port Blair from Kolkata and Chennai from September 28 and September 30, 2016, respectively. Port Blair will also be connected to Delhi (via Kolkata) and Hyderabad (via Chennai) for better connectivity. The airline will also launch additional frequencies with daily non-stop flight between Delhi & Kolkata, Delhi & Chennai and Hyderabad & Varanasi sectors. These sectors have great need and this is being fulfilled by the airline. President IndiGo, Aditya Ghosh said, “We are extremely pleased about adding Port Blair as our 41st destination. It is going to be an important part of our destination network, catering to the needs of both business as well as leisure travellers, looking to embrace the deep blue waters. In addition, IndiGo will connect holy city of Varanasi with Hyderabad with daily non-stop service. Clearly, these are exciting times for the aviation industry and for us, as we are now in the 11th year of operation. We thank our flyers for their unflinching support in
these past 10 years and we will continue to provide them an on time, hassle free and affordable flying experience.”
Skies open up between
India and Greece
India and Greece have signed an open skies agreement which will allow airlines from India to operate unlimited number of flights to Greece while Greek carriers have been granted unlimited traffic rights to six Indian metro cities which are Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Kolkata and Chennai. This means that the Indian traveller and the Greek traveller can now look forward to easy access to either countries. Right now the connection is poor as there are no direct flights. Rajiv Nayan Choubey, Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation, Government of India, said “Greece has become the first country to have an open sky agreement with India under the new policy,” India had entered into an open skies agreement with the US and Britain earlier. The open skies with Britain covers airports excluding London Heathrow.
Gateway resort opens
doors on Pushkar-Ajmer
Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces has opened doors of its latest property in Rajasthan — The Gateway Resort Pushkar Bypass Ajmer. The hotel has 81 rooms and suites and is built in the Rajasthani aesthetics with a royal touch. It is ideal for leisure
and business travellers both. “Ajmer and Pushkar are two secret jewels in the beautiful state of Rajasthan; they are cities with a rich history stretching back to the Rajputs, Mughals and Marathas and which blends Hindu and Sufi tradition. The 81 rooms and suites at the resort are inspired by this heritage and offer guests the best of Rajasthan whether here for leisure, business or to celebrate special occasions in a stunning destination.” said Nagendra Hada, General Manager, The Gateway Resort Pushkar Bypass Ajmer.
Kaziranga to be open for
8 months in the year
Wildlife enthusiasts can rejoice as the Government of Assam, Tourism Department has declared to open the Kaziranga National Park from the first week of October this year till middle of May 2017. Earlier, it was from November 1 to April 30
every year. The BJP-led government is taking steps to keep the Park open for the tourists for eight months instead of the normal six months with an aim to increase tourist inflow to UNESCO’s world heritage site, which suffered due to the recent floods. The recent floods in the state as massively affected the tourism and this is likely to boost.

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