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India
South India

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One comes across temples at every corner in Chennai, truly representative of South India . The Marina Beach here, is the second largest sandy beach in the world.Near Chennai is the former French colony Pondicherry .

A provincial town, it retains a distinctive  French character, in its architecture, language and way of life.  

At Mamallapuram stands the largest bas relief structure in the world – ‘Arjuna’s Penance’. The fluidity of Pallava sculpture enchants here in the cave, monolithic and structural temples.

Kanchipuran, 76 kms from Chennai, once had more than a hundred temples. Many still stand and are part of day to day life as they were centuries ago.

Further south at Chidambaram, the legendary spot of Shiva’s cosmic dance, Tandava, is consecrated by a magnificent temple, built by the Chola kings.  

Thanjavur (Tanjore), was the capital of the Cholas and in this temple town stands the Brihadeeswara temple, noted for its exquisite carvings. At Tiruchirappalli nearby stands the Rock Fort temple dedicated to Dhiva. 

Just 10 kms away, at Srirangam, the Ranganathaswami temple. Dedicated to Vishnu, and built in the 13th-14th centuries A.D, is one of the biggest temple complexes of Tamil Nadu.  

The ancient city of the Pandya kings, Madurai , has a sprawling temple complex, dedicated to the Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Shiva.

At Trichur, an hour’s drive from Cochin , the Vadakkunnatha temple grounds come alive at the famed Pooram festival. Half an hour away is the temple-town of Guruvayoor, with the shrine of Lord Krishna.

The Hiysala temples at Somnathpur, Belur and Halebid;  and the Badami, aihloe and Pattadakkal cluster are the prime sites of evolution in temple architecture in Karnataka.

The palace of the Travancore kings at Padmanabhapuram is an architectural marvel. The highly polished floors, the woodwork, the fine sculpture and the frescoes on the walls of the temple in the complex, all bear tertimony to the perfection of the craftsment’s skill.

Chinese fishing nets adorn the harbour at Cochin , a port city bustling with the spices trade. The mattanchery Palace ( Dutch Palace ) and the Jewish Synagogue at Fort Cochin are worthy of a visit.

Mysore , a city of palaces is famous for its silks. The Mysore Palace , the Vrindavan Gardens and Tipu Sultan’s capital Srirangapattana display a mixture of Hindu and Islamic traditions in architecture; and are the Chamundi Hills, where stands the huge monolithic statue of Nandi Bull the hang-glider can take off into the winds. The rocks around Chamundi Hills provide ample scope for rock-climbing.

At Bijapur, stands the world’s second largest unsupported dome. The dome of the Gol Gumbaz mausoleum is said to echo any sound 11 times.

Hyderabad , the capital of Andhra Pradesh, theformer state of the Nizam, and now a thronging metropolis, has retained a Mughlai flavour in its way of life and cuisine. The Nizam’s palace and the Salafjun Museum , Charminar in the old quarter of the city and Golconda Fort nearby make for a treat of spectacular object d’art and architecture.

Amaravati and Nagarjuna Konda to the south of Hyderabad are the sites of excavated Buddhist settlements dating back to the 2nd century BC . The Nagarjuna Sagar dam nearby is amongst the world’s highest masonry dams.

Kodaikanal and Ooty (Ootacamund), the quaint, colonial hill resorts in Tamil Nadu offer facilities for trekking, boating, hanggliding and fishing.

Popular Kovalam in neighbouring Kerala, has as many as five superb stretches of palm-fringed beaches. Excellent facilities are provided for surfing, sailing, deep-sea fishing and beach sports.

Take a boat from Kochi to Lakshadweep – tropical islands in the sun. Stretches of beaches like the lovely Bangaram Resort dot the ‘one lakh islands’ with facilities for scuba- diving and other water sports.

On the lower ranges of the Western Ghats , above the plantations of tea, coffee, rubber and spices, stretches the rain forests of the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. A boat-cruise along the Periyar river or a foray into the sanctuary on elephant back, or a trek into the forest; all provide good opportunity to view the Nilgai Thar and the Asian elephant, besides the tiger.

On the second Saturday of August (Onam), the great snake boats, said to be the longest in the world, vie with one another on the backwaters at Alleppey, near kochi .

North of Kerala lies the land of jasmine and Sandal, Karnataka. Bangalore the garden-capital is a beautiful city. Nearby are Nandi Hills and Bannerghatta National Park

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