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Notes from “Beyond the Beaten Path” in India and Bhutan!

Posted on Thu, 10/24/2013 - 12:56 by conniekincheloe
 

A series of notes on the experiences of an ETI guest on her 2nd trip with us that took her across the length of India from Mahabalipuram in the deep south all the way to Shimla in the lap of the Himalayas and then onward to scenic Bhutan and back to Ladakh!

I arrived in Mahabalipurum on the Bay of Bengal, famous for incredible 8th Century rock cut sculptures made as models for temples, manmade caves of sculptures and my favorite; the world’s largest bas relief in stone of daily life. So charming! Students here are given bicycles to encourage them to stay in school. In uniforms biking everywhere.

Then went to Kanchipuram, the Golden City of a Thousand Temples all very different from those we saw last year and all still in constant use. Our guide finagled my wearing my boot so I could enter but had to take off other shoe. Thank goodness for my walking sticks! Thrilled because the largest temple was beautiful with halls of stone with smaller temples where we actually received blessings from the Hindu priests.

Saw statues dressed in emeralds, rubies and diamond jewelry and halls of brightly painted merry go round looking animal figures that carry the deities in festival parades. So bright and different from temples in North. In contrast a charming small temple with carvings reminiscent of Angkor Wat, ancient frescoes still visible. Our guide was a wonderful interpreter of his Hindu faith.

For my girls... during lunch at our hotel,I noticed a table of 30 something women surrounded and hidden by staff. Thesewere wives of wealthy businessmen in Chennai. Wish I could have photographed but didn't dare. The latest in Indian fashion gorgeous colors but very different with nose rings attached to diamond hair Pins on some. My guide said that his wife has 300-400 saris!


Aurangabad

Posted on Tue, 10/15/2013 - 09:48 by easytours
 

Although it is more famous (in tourism circles) as the nearest major city to Ajanta & Ellora, Aurangabad is one's of India's main commercial centers and a bustling metropolis. It has an interesting history, and a culture (and monuments) that are worth exploring. The city was founded, in the early 16th century, by Malik Amber (a former Abyssinian slave who was, at that time, prime minister to the Moghul rulers of nearby Ahmadnagar). Scattered over a large industrial sprawl are remains of various monuments, some of which can be explored between your visits to Ajanta & Ellora.

Aurangabad's brocade creations (the finest silks combined with gold and other threads) have been long acknowledged as the best in the world. The city is also a bustling center of manufacturing and other commerce.

The Chowk area retains it's Islamic flavor from the days of the Nizams. Visit the Bibi-ka-Maqbara, the Pan Chakki, or the Dargah of Baba Shah Muzaffar. You can also choose to explore the Buddhist Caves as a prelude to your visits to Ajanta & Ellora. Aurangabad is easily accessible from most major cities in India...More details.


Khajuraho

Posted on Fri, 10/11/2013 - 10:07 by easytours
 

Created by the Chandela dynasty between 950AD and 1050AD, the Hindu Temples at Khajuraho are a magnificent example of the architectural and artistic achievements of the Hindu Kings in Medieval India. Hewn from stone a thousand years ago, the twenty two surviving temples are an amazing display of stone sculpture and erotic art. The sculptures depict Gods and Kings in an large variety of sexual activities, in an incredible number of postures and positions. They were designed and built to be Temples, and there are many theories as to the purpose of their explicit nature.

The eroticism of the sculptures and their explicit nature have been well documented; what has not been emphasized enough is their incredible detail and vast number. Part of the reason these exquisitely crafted monuments are in such good condition is that they were forgotten soon after they were built, to be discovered again in the 19th century. The other reason is that, besides the Temples, Khajuraho is but a small village in the middle of nowhere, and not many people visited the temples till tourism and travel became common in India.

As there is not much else to do in Khajuraho (besides visiting the awe inspiring temples), our visits here are scheduled for one day. During February/March, the "Khajuraho Dance Festival" (An exposition of classical Indian dances) takes place, including some performances using the Temples as a backdrop. We can arrange for a longer stay during this time. Khajuraho's hotels are booked well in advance for this event...More details.


Varanasi

Posted on Thu, 10/03/2013 - 12:20 by easytours
 

Located on the banks of the Hindu holy river Ganga, "The Eternal City" is one of the most visited pilgrimage destinations, in a land blessed with many. Near here (at Sarnath), about twenty five hundred years ago, the Lord Buddha preached his message of Enlightenment for the very first time. Two thousand years ago, it was a well planned city, renown for its universities and places of worship.

It has survived onslaughts by India's Mughal Emperors, who destroyed some of the ancient Hindu temples and learning centers. The famous Ghats, Hindu Temples, Muslim Mosques, and various museums are almost all worth a visit.

A heritage walking tour of the city is included, as are sunrise & sunset boat cruises on the holy river (Ganga). It's advisable to use the assistance of ETI support staff when visiting religious institutions; some temples are not open to non-Hindu's; there are other areas where photography is prohibited...More details

 

 


Kochi

Posted on Thu, 09/26/2013 - 18:29 by easytours
 

One of the least acclaimed tourist destinations in India, Kochi has something to delight every explorer. It is know as "The Queen of the Arabian Sea", among other names, and is a scenic and lush collection of islands, capes, and mainland; connected by an elaborate yet intricate system of ferries and bridges.

Europeans controlled Kochi, and it's thriving trade, from the early 16th century. Their influence can be seen all over the picturesque city and the surrounding area. There are many monuments, architecture, and other reminders of the Dutch, Portuguese and British. The old world charm of Mattancherry and Fort Cochin have not changed much in the last couple of centuries. There are also many events in surrounding Kerala, such as the "Great Boat Races".

Visit Mattancherry Palace and its exquisite murals. St. Francis Church (early 16th century) is the oldest European church in India, and The Pardesi Synagogue was founded around the same time (history records Jewish settlers in this area as early as the 6th century, the guides will tell you that roots can be traced to over two thousand years ago). Fort Cochin is distinctly British Indian (with a little bit of Dutch thrown in) in it's architecture, and the Chinese fishing nets that dot it's northern end add to it's languid charm. The modern section called Ernakulam is pleasant and offers one of India's best opportunities to view classical Indian dance.

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