TEMPLE TOWNS OF SOUTH INDIA
5 Nights 6 Days
DAY 1 - CHENNAI – VELLORE – TIRUPATI
Upon arrival at Chennai, one of our representatives will meet you and introduce you to your driver, giving you an overview of your itinerary and all necessary information before you set off on this amazing Tirupati temple tour.
Your first stop will be Srikalahasti / Kalahasti, one of the most famous Shiva pilgrimage sites and a place of great importance in South India. The Srikalahasti temple is said to be the site where Kannappa was ready to offer both his eyes to cover blood flowing from the Shiva linga before the Siva stopped him and granted him mukti (emancipation). A linga is an abstract representation of Shiva, and you will be able to see the Vaya linga here, representing wind. The inner temple was built around the 5th century, followed by the outer temple in the 12th century when Chola kings ruled the area.
After this first introduction to South Indian temples, we move on to Tirupati where you will first visit the amazing Padmavathi Temple in Tiruchanur. The temple is dedicated to the goddess Padmavathi – the incarnation of goddess Lakshmi and consort of Lord Venkateswara.
Further on, we’ll see the Govindaraja Temple at the heart of Tirupati, built in the 12th century by Saint Ramanujacharya. This is one of the biggest temple complexes in Chittoor district and displays a seven-storied Rajagopuram with scenes from the Ramayana. It is a massive architectural monument, which will take us some time to visit properly. However, we will also see the Sri Lakshmi Narasimhan and Sri Kapaliswaraswami Temples depending on time, as well as the Iskcon Temple. Finally, we stop at your hotel in Tirupati for the night to allow you to relax and unwind after such a full first day of your temple tour.
DAY 2 - TIRUPATI
Today, we will continue our visit by taking a trip to Tirumala where we can visit the Venkateswara Temple – the temple of Lord Balaji. This is a landmark temple for Vaishnavites as Lord Balaji is an incarnation of Vishnu and it is believed he appeared here to save mankind from the trial and troubles of Kali Yuga. There are records as far back as the 10th century of this temple and many legends are associated with it. It is an amazing architectural monument, with massive temple towers (Gopuram) several stories high, intricate detailed decorations and golden doors and vases as well as a multitude of statues.
After you have wondered at the beauty of Sri Venkateswara Temple, we continue on to Sri Bhu Varaha Swamy and Sri Bedi Anjaneya Swamy Temples. In the evening, we return to Tirupati and – depending on time – you may catch up on the previous day’s objectives if we missed any. Then we stop for the night in Tirupati.
DAY 3 - TIRUPATI – TIRUVANNAMALAI
After breakfast, we will go visit the Vellore Golden temple this morning. This is known as the Sri Lakshmi Narayani temple, dedicated to goddess Lakshmi located at 120 km from Tirupati. When you arrive, you will be awed by the complex after walking to it through Sripuram spiritual park. It is gilded with 1,500 kg of pure gold and decorated with ornate manual details. Every single detail has some significance from the Vedas and the attention to it all is astounding.
We then move on towards Tiruvannamalai, an important pilgrimage town in Tamil Nadu and your next stop on the temple tour. The town once ruled by the Chola and Pallava dynasties is named after the central god of Annamalaiyar temple, Annamalaiyar. The temple is dedicated to Shiva and is one of the temples associated with the five elements, the Pancha Bootha Stalas, specifically fire in this instance. You will be visiting one of the largest temple complexes in India, over 10 hectares, built in the 9th century under the Chola dynasty.
Once you have visited this awe-inspiring temple, we will go find peace at the Sri Ramana Ashram, which was once the home of master Ramana Maharshi. At the foot of Arunachala hill, you can visit his shrine and take in the serene surroundings.
Tiruvannamalai also has some interesting caves to entice you with. In the afternoon, we’ll walk to Skandashram, one of the caves where Ramana lived and taught. Either on our way up, or returning from Skandashram on the side of the hill, we will also visit Virupaksha cave, also a place which housed Ramana Maharshi, but which was venerated since the 1300s as well because of the saint Virupaksha Deva.
We return to the town and you’ll spend the night at your hotel in Tiruvannamalai.
DAY 4 - TIRUVANNAMALAI – TANJORE
After our time in Tiruvannamalai, we are now going to drive you to Tanjore, another important pilgrimage site as it hosts the brilliant Brihadeeswarar Temple from the 11th century. This is a UNESCO world heritage temple as it is one of the three Great Living Temples of the Chola dynasty and the biggest of the three. This example of Dravidian architectural style was built by the Tamil king Raja Raja Chola I between 1033 and 1010 and included a large part of what we can visit today. In addition, further monuments and towers were built around the original buildings and the fortified walls you’ll walk through were added in the 16th century.
This is one of the most popular attractions in Tamil Nadu so prepare to be impressed but also to be going through large crowds of pilgrims and visitors. After the temple, we’ll go through the town for a look at the Thanjavur Maratha Palace and the amazing Saraswathi Mahal library with its palm-leaf manuscripts.
We’ll spend the night relaxing in Tanjore.
DAY 5 - TANJORE – TRICHY
Our tour continues today with Trichy – an ancient city known for its Hindu temples. We’ll visit the Sri Ranganathaswamy temple here, dedicated to Vishnu in his reclining form. This is the largest Hindu temple in the world, with 81 shrines, 21 towers, 39 pavilions, and many water tanks integrated into the complex. The temple has an amazing rich history, full of stories and legends, so prepare to spend some time here taking it all in.
The other important sight at Trichy is the Rockfort temples, and in particular we’ll visit Ucchi Pillayar temple, on the rock where the god Ganesh ran from King Vibishana, after establishing the Ranganathaswamy deity in Srirangam at Trichy. The temple stands 83 metres tall perched above the rock, and has awe-inspiring architecture. We’ll visit here in the evening so you can enjoy amazing views back over Trichy and Srirangam island, and the rivers Kaveri and Kollidam.
We’ll then return to Trichy for the night.
DAY 6 - TRICHY - CHENNAI
On your last day with us, your driver will take you to Chennai airport to board your flight home. Thank you for sharing this fantastic temple tour with us!