Temples, Traders & Tamarind: Culture & History in South India

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Chennai temple_panorama


Exploring the mix of old and new that permeates life in India is one of the joys of travelling anywhere in the country. But this mix takes on a particular resonance in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. Traditions in architecture, dance, music and literature stretch back more than two millennia and continue to flourish in South India.

Chettinadu houseIn the busy capital Chennai; laid-back Pondicherry, where the French vibe still lingers; and remote Chettinad filled with hyperbolically-styled mansions, we will take in some of the best South India has to offer. For many Hindu Tamils, the year is still organized around colourful, centuries-old festivals and religious ceremonies, which we will have the opportunity to attend. We’ll visit brightly painted temples and the stately mansions of Pondicherry and Chettinad built by the French and by Chettiars who grew wealthy exporting vanilla, pepper and cardamom to Europe. The trip also features an optional extension to the lush, relaxed backwaters of neighbouring state Kerala.

To help put everything into context, we’ll read short stories from Malgudi Days by Chennai native R.K. Narayan, a pioneer of Indian modern fiction in English, a small selection of classical poetry, and the contemporary novel The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. Whether you’ve already visited North India and are ready to now head south, or this will be your first plunge into the delights of the subcontinent, we hope you will join us for an exploration of one of India’s most distinctive regions.

See our detailed itinerary for more information, and read Worldwide Quest director Laurielle Penny’s account of two of the resorts where we’ll be staying.

“Bigger than earth, certainly, / higher than the sky, / more unfathomable than the waters / is this love for this man / of the mountain slopes”

– from the Kuruntokai, trans. A. K. Ramanujan

Image credits: Chennai temple at dawn, PlaneMad on Wikipedia; Blue Chettinadu mansion, Jean-Pierre Dalbéra on Flickr



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Tamil Nadu, India

February 10–20, 2017

Malgudi Days, by R.K. Narayan, The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy and a selection of classical poetry translated by A. K. Ramanujan

The Leela Palace, Chennai; Palais de Mahe, Pondicherry; and Visalam, Chettinad

Melanie Blake is the executive director of Classical Pursuits. She travelled extensively in India while working as an editor in New Delhi. She loves the sunshine and spices of the south and looks forward to exploring the region’s cross-cultural literature and history with you.

US$4,395 per person based on double occupancy
US$5,890 per person based on guaranteed single accommodation
US$275 taxes and gratuities per person

Fee includes guides, readings, accommodation, two meals a day, discussions, ground transportation, walking tours, talks, excursions, and admissions.

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Travel Pursuits 2017