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Sacred South India with Andrew Harvey

Day-by-Day in India

DAY 1. FRI, FEB 16: Arrive Chennai

IndiaWelcome to South India! You will be met at Chennai airport and taken to your hotel where you can rest and rejuvenate after your flight. There are no scheduled events today to give you an opportunity to arrive and acclimatize at your leisure.
(Overnight in Chennai at the Sabari Inn or similar)

DAY 2. SAT, FEB 17: Mahabalipuram (B, D)

IndiaToday begins with a traditional Indian welcome, where you will receive garlands of fresh marigold and jasmine flowers as well as mineral water and fresh fruits for your journey. An air-conditioned coach will transport you to Mahabalipuram, stopping en route for tea/coffee.

After check-in at the hotel, you will have free time before coming together in the early evening for a very special Welcome Dinner that includes a hands-on cooking demonstration with Chindi Varadarajulu, owner of L’Attitude 49 restaurant. Chindi grew up in Singapore, moved to Vancouver, BC, and opened the authentically southern Indian restaurant Chutney Villa before calling India home in 2011. In this 2-hour class she will discuss South Indian cuisine and how it differs from food in the North, explaining the basic flavour and styles of South Indian cooking. You will then learn how to make a rice dish, a dhal, and a vegetable, prawn or fish dish, which will become part of your Welcome Dinner! This will be a real epicurean treat and immersion into the connection between food and spirituality as well as a fabulous opportunity to connect with your fellow travellers.

After our class there will be an introductory talk where you will learn about the customs, rules, and etiquette of the places we will visit.
(Overnight in Mahabalipuram at the Grande Bay or similar).

DAY 3. SUN, FEB 18: Mahabalipuram; Shore Temple (B)

IndiaThis morning, after breakfast, we will join together for a sightseeing tour of Mahabalipuram. Also known as Mamallapuram, the town is famous for its Shore Temple, and was also the second capital and a bustling seaport during the time of the Pallava Kings of Kanchipuram. Ravaged by wind and sea, the temple complex, built in AD 700-728 by the Pallava Dynasty, retains its alluring beauty, and is a must-see site. We will also visit the intricate rock carvings and monuments such as the Descent of the Ganges and the Arjuna’s Penance relief, depicting animals, deities, and other semi-divine creatures.

The remainder of the day is at leisure – you can browse the local bazaars or take a walk along the beach. This evening we will have an opportunity to listen to Andrew’s teachings.
(Overnight in Mahabalipuram at the Grande Bay or similar).

DAY 4. MON, FEB 19: Puducherry (Pondicherry) (B)

IndiaThis morning we drive to Puducherry, formerly known as Pondicherry, considered the French Riviera of the east, with its French style avenues and many colonial buildings. It is home to one of the most important Ashrams in India, the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, the former home of Mother Mirra and Sri Aurobindo. We will explore the sites of this coastal city on a sightseeing tour where we will learn more about its history and continued spiritual importance.

Sri Aurobindo was born in Kolkata in the North East of India in 1872; he was a poet, philosopher, yogi, and guru who was an advocate for Indian independence from the British rule. Aurobindo, who passed over in 1950, wrote many important books including theses on human unity, yoga, and “the life divine”; he established the ashram at Pondicherry in 1926, welcoming students from around the world.
(Overnight in Puducherry at the Kailash Beach Resort or similar).

DAY 5. TUE, FEB 20: Auroville; Chidambaram (B)

IndiaAfter breakfast this morning we drive to Auroville, “The City of Dawn”, an intriguing experimental town. Founded by Mother Mirra Richard in 1968, Auroville manifests Sri Aurobindo’s vision by creating a “universal town” where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, all politics and nationalities. The purpose of Auroville is to realize human unity. The Matrimandir is a striking 30-metre high golden metal globe in the centre of the town, conceived as “a symbol of the Divine’s answer to man’s aspiration for perfection”.
Overnight in Chidambaram at the Lakshmi Vilas Heritage Hotel or similar.

DAY 6. WED, FEB 21: Chidambaram (B)

IndiaThis morning we embark on a tour of Chidambaram, the Capital of the Cholas from AD 907 to 1310. We will visit the famous Natraja Temple, dedicated to the dancing Lord Shiva, a favourite deity of the Chola Kings. One legend surrounding its construction suggests that it was built by “the golden-coloured Emperor”, Hiranya Varna Chakravati, who suffered from leprosy. He came to Chidambaram on a pilgrimage from Kashmir in about AD 500. After bathing in the temple tank he was reputed to have recovered from the disease, and as a thanks-offering rebuilt and enlarged the temple. Today the temple is highly active with impressive ceremonies.

The remainder of the day is at leisure, and we will gather again in the evening for Andrew’s teachings as well as pujas and blessings from a local priest (TBC).
Overnight in Chidambaram at the Lakshmi Vilas Heritage Hotel or similar.

DAY 7. THU, FEB 22: Chidambaram; Tanjore (B)

IndiaBefore breakfast we pay an early morning visit to the local temple to receive blessings. We then drive to Tanjore, also known as Thanjavur, one of the oldest cities in India and an important centre of South Indian art and architecture.
Overnight in Tanjore at the Ideal Riverview Resort or similar.

DAY 8. FRI, FEB 23: Tanjore (B)

IndiaWe start the day with a sightseeing tour of Tanjore (Thanjavur), home to most of the “Great Living Chola Temples”, UNESCO World Heritage monuments, the foremost among them being the Brihadeshwara Temple, a brilliant example of the major heights achieved by Chola temple architecture. Known as the “Big Temple”, Brihadeshwara was built by Chola King Raja Raja 1 (ruled AD 985-1012). The magnificent main temple has a 62-metre vimana (the tallest in India), topped by a dome carved from an 80-ton block of granite, which needed a 6.5-km ramp to raise it to the top. The attractive gardens, museum, and pristine surroundings make the temple visit a truly rewarding experience.

This evening you can enjoy classical South Indian Dance in the hotel lobby.
Overnight in Tanjore at the Ideal Riverview Resort or similar.

DAY 9. SAT, FEB 24: Shantivanam Ashram (B, L, D)

IndiaToday we switch gears and prepare to immerse ourselves in monastery life with a 2-day stay at the Shantivanam, or Saccidananda, Ashram. Father Bede first stayed at the Ashram in 1957-1958 and then took over stewardship in 1968. Under his charismatic leadership, Shantivanam became an internationally known centre of dialogue and renewal. The aim of Shantivanam has always been to bring the riches of Indian spirituality into Christian life, to share in that profound experience of God that originated in the Vedas, was developed in the Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita, and has come down to us today through a continual succession of sages and holy men and women.

Accommodation at the ashram is humble and basic: guests are expected to sit on the floor and eat vegetarian meals with their hands, and then wash their own dishes afterwards. You are also welcome in the kitchen to help with preparing the meals. This change of pace is a welcome opportunity for reflection and spiritual connection.
(Overnight in Shantivanam at the Ananda Ashram)

DAY 10. SUN, FEB 25: Shantivanam Ashram (B, L, D)

IndiaWe spend a second tranquil day at the monastery, with the option of an early morning walk into the village or later by the river. We take all meals at the ashram, and respect the allotted times for meditation and prayer. On this pilgrimage to South India, our stay at Shantivanam deepens our understanding of spiritual traditions, and we are honoured to hear the excellent teachings of Brother John Martin and Father Peter who discuss Hinduism and Christianity.

Here, you will also have the chance to use the services of a local tailor who can stitch traditional Indian dresses for you. Please note that towels, toilet paper, and soap are not available at the monastery so guests will need to arrange to bring those with them. Our local guide will work with guests to ensure everyone’s comfort and arrange for chairs for anyone who is unable to sit on the floor during meals, etc.
(Overnight in Shantivanam at the Ananda Ashram)

DAY 11. MON, FEB 26: Tiruvannamalai; Ashram of Sri Ramana Maharshi (B)

IndiaAfter saying our fond farewells to Shantivanam we drive to Tiruvannamalai where Sri Ramana Maharshi lived and meditated for 54 years. Late in the evening, we will visit the ashram where you will have the opportunity to see the Samadhi shrine of Ramana Maharshi, the spot where he attained Mahasamadhi (left his mortal coil), and the Samadhi shrine of his mother, which is known as the Matribhuteshwara Temple. The ashram is peaceful and relaxed, and an excellent place for meditation or pujas.

Ramana Maharshi is widely acknowledged as the outstanding Hindu guru of the modern age. He was born in Tamil Nadu in 1879 and made his way to Arunachala at the age of sixteen, not leaving the sacred mountain until his spirit united with the holy mountain in 1950; many people witnessed his light enter in Arunachala as the life in his body expired.
Overnight in Tiruvannamalai at the Sparsa Resort or similar.

DAY 12. TUE, FEB 27: Tiruvannamalai (B)

India After breakfast we'll visit the Arunachaleswarar temple, thought to be the largest temple in the world dedicated to Shiva, and one of the most captivating temple sites in India, dating from the 11th century. This major pilgrimage centre lies in a striking setting at the foot of the rocky Arunachala Hill and is one of the holiest towns in Tamil Nadu; it is considered the home of Shiva and his consort Parvati. After our visit, you will have free time for independent activities or, if you wish, you can return to the ashram and spend time at the library.

This evening we will take a walking tour of Mount Arunachala – the circumambulation of Arunachala, known as Pradakshana (“pra” signifies the removal of all sins, “da” the fulfillment of all desires, “shana” the freedom from the cycle of rebirth) is a popular pilgrimage destination and, along the way, we will see offerings at shrines as well as sacred rocks, caves, trees, and more.
Overnight in Tiruvannamalai at the Sparsa Resort or similar.

DAY 13. WED, FEB 28: Tiruvannamalai (B, D)

IndiaToday we will walk up to Virupaksha cave where Ramana Maharshi lived and meditated for more than 20 years from 1899 to 1922. We will also listen to Andrew’s teachings before enjoying some free time for walking, reflection or preparing for the journey home.

This evening we gather together for our Farewell Dinner.
Overnight in Tiruvannamalai at the Sparsa Resort or similar.

DAY 14. THU, MAR 1: Depart Chennai Airport (B)

IndiaThis morning we drive back to Chennai. We can use the rest/washrooms at a local hotel to freshen up after our coach journey before continuing on to the airport for flights home.

(B=Breakfast; L=Lunch; D=Dinner)

Note: This itinerary is subject to change due to conditions beyond our control.

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