The devout Dravidian people of the south live and breathe their ancient religion. Nothing, however, can really prepare a visitor for the temples, where images of the quiet bustle of the vast halls, the huge gopurams completely covered by coloured sculptures of gods and goddesses, the sight of bare feet walking across cool slabs, the heady smell of incense and the chime of the temple bell rung by priests and the faithful leave entrancing impressions. Rustic carts drawn by oxen with their brightly coloured painted horns, smiling villagers harvesting the hay at the side of the road - these will be some of the memorable features of the short journey from Madras to the famous temple town of Mahabalipuram.
There are so many impressive temple towns in South India - nearby Kanchipuram with its spectacular gopurams, ’ visible from miles away, or other magical sounding places - Chidambaram, Tanjore, Tiruchirapalli, and, most of all, the pilgrim centre of Madurai - one of the oldest cities in Southern India - with its dramatic and lively Meenakshi temple, dedicated to the fish-eyed goddess.
Alternatively, for a different style of relaxation, visit the attractive French-style coastal town of Pondicherry, south of Madras. In the neighbouring state of Karnataka lie the stone-carved temples of Belur and Halebid. Relive the exciting era of the Hoysalas, who flourished around the 12th century, by examining the endless stories which the sculptural detail portrays the war, the hunt, the animals, the dancing girls and, of course the gods.
Best Time to Visit
All year except from mid-April to end June (state depending).
All non-residents require visas for India, which must be obtained prior to departure. Tourist visas for British passport holders are usually valid for 6 months from the date of issue and currently cost £30.00 per person. Passports must have at least 2 blank pages and be valid for 6 months after your return from India.
Flying Times from the UK
Chennai: 9 hours 40min direct non-stop
Bangalore: 9 hours 35mins direct non-stop
Goa: Approx. 10 hours not direct
Cochin: Approx. 10 hours not direct
India is 5 1/2 hours ahead of GMT