Tribes and Temples of India

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Day 1: Arrival in Bhubaneshwar

There are no planned activities today but if you have the energy, explore on your own! There will be a group meeting and welcome dinner this evening. Overnight in Bhubaneswar.


Day 2: Bhubaneshwar - Temples & Tribal Museum

Today we explore Bhubaneshwar with a Heritage tour. We will visit some of the temples that are right in the city starting with the Mukteswara Temple and continue onto the Parsurameswar Temple. We will have walk around the city streets before we visit the Tribal Museum. Dinner and overnight in Bhubaneswar.


Day 3: Sun Temple (UNESCO); Puri by Rickshaw

Today we travel along country backroads to reach the UNESCO World Heritage Sun Temple in Konark. Conceived as a giant chariot, this is one of ancient India's architectural marvels. We then skirt the coastal Marine Drive to the pilgrimage city of Puri. In the afternoon, we explore Puri by cycle rickshaw.
Dinner and overnight in Puri.


Day 4: Explore Chilika Lake

We have an early start to our day with a visit to Asia's largest salt water lagoon; Chilika Lake. Enjoy a quiet boat cruise as you search for bird life along the banks of the lake. We finish our boat journey at the former colonial town of Gopalpur on the Sea. Once a prominent trading port for the Dutch, this little fishing village is now a popular beach destination for the world. We have time to relax by the beach before our upcoming remote tribal journey.
Dinner and overnight in Gopalpur.


Day 5: Journey to Tribal India

Today we have another early start as we have a long day of driving as we leave the coast and head for the rolling hills of the Eastern Ghats. Adivasis, or literally "original inhabitants", are the indigenous population of India. Nestled in the remote hills, they constitute 25% of Orissa's population - the most populous Adivasi region of all of India. Approximately 400 tribal villages compromise 62 diverse ethnicities and although co-dependent, they fiercely guard their own distinct traditions. We learn about the cotton trade as we drive through cotton fields before arriving at our hotel in the late afternoon.
Dinner and overnight in Muniguda.


Day 6: Muniguda, New Hope NGO Community

Today is a special day as we have a full day exploring some of the surrounding villages. We meet some wonderful people, as well as see the younger boys perform their traditional dance for us and the villagers. We will visit an orphange and learn why these children are here and also enjoy lunch with them. This is a special opportunity to meet these friendly and fascinating people in their village in this remote region.

We return to The New Hope community, which is a non profit organization looking after the sick, orphans and the elderly for this remote region. We will meet the children and the elders to learn about their beliefs, their culture and customs that are still practiced today and find out what the future holds for these children and the families that depend on this community. Truly immerse yourself into how people really live with in this remote region.

New Hope: is a NGO, non profit organization that brings opportunities to some of India's most marginalized communities. Working in Orissa since 1985, New Hope started off by providing medical attention for people with leprosy. Today New Hope is so much more by providing cataract surgeries, running a school for children, operates an HIV and an elder-care facility, trains community leaders in mother/child health, distributes birthing kits to reduce infant mortality, teaches micro finance, savings and literacy, provides a self-sustaining agricultural plan and has built a safe home base for the tribes who travel over the mountains with their market goods.
Dinner and overnight in Muniguda.


Day 7: Chatikona Market & Dongria Kondh Tribe, To Chandoori Sai

We say goodbye to our gracious hosts at New Hope community and drive to the Chatikona Market in hopes to see the Dongria Kondh people. This is a weekly market for the Dongria Kondh community who descend the hills to trade local produce once a week. A healthy balance maintained between co-dependency and individual identity is most apparent during these occasions. We explore this market and after lunch, we continue onto Chandoori Sai where we arrive at our guesthouse in the late evening. Dinner and overnight in Chandoori Sai.

Please Note: Due to local government restrictions, Chatikona Market might be off limits to tourists as entry may not be permitted on that day. If this is the case, we can visit other local villages.


Day 8: Onukadelli Market and Paraja & Gaddava Tribes

Today is an exciting day as we rise before the sun to journey 3 hours to the colorful Onukadelli Market. Here we hope to see India's most ancient indigenous communities; the Bonda Tribe. The Bonda people are also seldom seen within the markets and surrounding areas due to the remoteness of their villages. We will see the Paraja & Gaddava people and possibly other tribes. Soak up the festive atmosphere and try your luck in the ancient art of bartering. Explore a typical Gaddava village, visit their homes and fields, learning about their farming methods and enjoy a traditional Dhemsa tribal dance. Depending on the days events, we will learn about the communities in Chandoori Sai and will walk through the local village, famous throughout the region for their hand-crafted terracotta pots. You can even try your hand at the clay wheel. Dinner and overnight in Chandoori Sai.

Please Note: Due to local government restrictions, Onukadelli Market might be off limits to tourists as entry may not be permitted that day. If this is the case, we can visit other villages.


Day 9: To Vishakhapatnam

Today we travel to Vishakhapatnam, stopping in the early morning to visit a local market as they trade and sell livestock, baskets and so much more to local villagers. Today is a long travel day so upon arrival you will have a free evening to relax before our early flight the next day.
Dinner and overnight in Vishakhapatnam.


Day 10: Fly to Chenni, Drive to Mahabali Puram

Today we have a chance to relax in the morning. After lunch we fly from from Vishakhapatnam to Chenni. We then have a scenic drive to Mahabalipuram (also known as Mamallapuram), once a flourishing port of the Pallava Kings of Kanchipuram. Upon arrival we will have a relaxing evening.
Dinner and overnight in Mahabali Puram.


Day 11: Shore & Varaha Cave Temples (UNESCO)

We explore Mahabali Puram with a visit to the Shore Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site, originally constructed around the 7th century and which contains shrines dedicated to Shiva and Vishnu. We continue onto the Five Rathas (Pancha Pandava Rathas dating from the 7th century and ending with the UNESCO World Heritage site and Varaha Cave Temple. After lunch we will visit the Arjuna's Penance, also known as the Descent of the Ganges which has been designated as a World Heritage site.
Dinner and overnight in Mahabali Puram.


Day 12: Pondicherry - Sri Aurobindo Ashram

This morning we drive to Pondicherry to explore this ancient city, which was prosperous as early as the 1st century. Legend has it that Sage Agastya built his Ashram here and Pondicherry became a Vedic center. The French became the rulers in 1816, ruling until it became a part of India. We walk through the French streets before we visit the famous Sri Aurobindo Ashram and The Sri Vedapureeswarar Temple.
Dinner and overnight in Pondicherry.


Day 13: Thanjavur - Brihadeewarar Temple

We journey to Tanjore (Thanjavur) where we visit the grandest temple in all of South India. The World Heritage listed Brihadeeswarar Temple is known for its superb religious, historical and artistic associations. The dome of the Temple was made from a single piece of granite and weighs approximately 80 tonnes. The sanctum of the temple houses a 13ft high lingam that has a circumference of 23ft.

Tanjore was the ancient capital of The Chola Kings and became the center of learning and culture between the 10th and 14th centuries. Tanjore is known for its original style of painting, known as Tanjore Painting, a combination of raised and painted surfaces.

After lunch we will visit the Tanjore Palace known locally as Aranmanai and is the official residence of the Bhonsle family who ruled over the Tanjore region for many years.
Overnight in Thanjavur.


Day 14: Tiruchirapalli - Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple; To Madurai

We depart early this morning for Tiruchirapalli (also called Trichy), situated on the banks of the river Cauvery. Tiruchirapalli is the Chola Center from the Sangam Age. The Nayaks of Madurai built the town and the Fort, which played a vital role in the Carnatic War in the 18th century. It is now a center for pilgrimage and commerce. Upon arrival, we visit Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple which is dedicated to Vishnu and dates from the 10th century. We also pay a visit to the Cavery River Ghats.

We continue on to Madurai, the second largest city in the state of Tamil Nadu and one of the oldest cities in India.

Dinner and overnight in Madurai.


Day 15: Meenakshi Temple

Madurai is celebrated for its Meenakshi Temple which is an exquisite example of Dravidian style architecture: it has nine majestic Gopuram (towers) which are covered in fantastic, multi-colored images of animals, gods and goddesses. The most interesting feature of this temple is the thousand-pillared hall, built in the 16th century. Some of its life-size sculptures are a marvel of patience and artistic skill. We will have an early dinner and then return to the temple in the evening, during 'Pooja Time'.
Overnight in Madurai.

Please Note: Cameras may not be allowed in the Meenakshi Temple. This will be advised to you the night before so you can prepare.


Day 16: To Thekkady

We drive to Thekkady where Periyar National Park is located. After lunch, there will be time to relax and enjoy the surrounding area. We will take a walk for those that want to and watch as the shop keepers slice the plantains into huge pans of oil to make salty, crisp platain chips.
Overnight in Thekkady.


Day 17: Periyar: Boat Journey and Spice Garden

This morning we enjoy a morning boat ride on Lake Periyar in hopes of seeing sambar deer, black monkeys, otters and bird life. Periyar is one of India's most picturesque reserves. We will also visit the Spice Gardens to see pepper, coffee, cardamon, vanilla, and clove growing and learn about how it is all harvested and processed. This afternoon we can relax, go for a walk or enjoy a soothing Ayurvedic massage which is part of the ancient Indian lifestyle. We will have dinner at the spice garden in the local home cooked by a local family and enjoy the evening getting to know the family. Overnight in Thekkady.


Day 18: Kumarakom

Today, we descend from the hills to Kumarakom. The ancient village and plantation homes, called Tharawads, have been painstakingly transported and reconstructed using ancient carpentry methods. Set around the lake and the irrigation canals, they retain their original charm with thick doors, intricate window carvings and terra cotta tile floors. Traditionally, Keralites bathed in the rivers and in rural areas many people still do, however our cottages feature bathrooms, some located in an inner courtyard so you can shower al fresco under a starlit sky in complete privacy.

Today is time to relax and enjoy life on the many canals that criss-cross the properties in Kerala. Take a walk and explore the "land of the short people" because the folks here are always knee deep in rice paddy fields. Enjoy a real Southern Indian coffee from the coffee boat, a small dugout canoe with a brass coffee urn hot with coffee. Take a sunset cruise on the lake before a wonderful dinner by the river.
Overnight in Kumarakom.


Day 19: Backwaters cruise, Kochi (Cochin)

Today we embark on a small boat journey into the true Kerala where we see local families and how life is lived in the backwaters of India. We spend the day cruising on a boat through small canals; passing by rice paddies, villages and coconut plantations. Learn how these backwaters are actually man-made and the influences the Portuguese had from faith to style of living.

In the afternoon we disembark in Alleppey where we will have a short journey to Cochin.

This evening we take in a performance of the famous Kathakali Dances; this performance is one of Cochin's highlights. This form of dance theater, dating back 500 years, can be seen nightly, with explanation and narration, all over the city. By tradition, all dancers are male and wear elaborate costumes and mask-like make-up to mime stories from the great Hindu epics; the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The make-up is highly symbolic: green denotes the hero king or god, and black and red denote demons. The actor slips a seed from the cunlappuvu, or eggplant vine, under his eyelids to make his eyes red.

As much an act of worship as a highly dramatic folk theatre, Kathakali is traditionally performed by the flickering light of temple lamps, accompanied by musicians and a chanting Brahman priest. Artists use a vast repertoire of acrobatic eye movements, dramatic facial expressions and perfect muscle control that requires years of training.
Overnight in Fort Kochi, Cochin.


Day 20: Sites of Cochin; Synagogue, Dutch Palace & St. Francis Church

This morning we visit the synagogue; the center for the Jewish community - which can be traced back to the exodus from Palestine 2000 years ago. The magnificent structure was built in 1568. The Great Scrolls of the Old Testament, copper plates of inestimable historical worth containing the privileges granted to Jews by the Cochin Maharajas and the exquisite Chinese hand painted tiles are artifacts of great interest at the synagogue.

The Jewish area is one of Kochi's spice trade centers. We also stop at Mattancherry Dutch Palace which was built by the Portuguese and presented to the Maharaja of Cochin in 1568. At the center of the building is a large coronation hall. Seventeenth century mural paintings depicting scenes from the India epic Ramayana can be seen in the palace.

This city is regarded as one of the most beautiful spots of India. The Port of Cochin is known as the "Queen of the Arabian Sea" and is the industrial hub of the state where the ancient civilization mingles with the 20th century.

We see St. Francis Church; the first church to be built in India by the Portuguese. Vasco-de-Gama, who discovered the sea route to India from Europe, was originally buried here (his remains were later taken to Portugal). We continue on to view the famous Cochin Chinese fishing nets and the beautiful board walk before our Farewell Dinner.
Overnight in Fort Kochi, Cochin.


Day 21: Depart Kochi (Cochin)

After breakfast you will be transferred to the airport for your onward flight.

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