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South India Temple Tour: Art and Culture

South India is a fascinating land boasting of rich cultural heritage and architectural wonders. South India Temple tour offers you a glimpse of the unique form of architecture which characterizes the temples sprinkled across southern part of Indian subcontinent. 

South India temples are specimen of pure Dravidian style of architecture dating back to medieval times. Various southern dynasties such as the Pallavas, Cholas, Chalukyas, Hoysala and Vijayanagar Empire have subsequently contributed to the evolution of Dravidian architecture over many centuries.
South India temple tours
Tirumala Tirupati by vimal_kalyan (DSCF3796  Uploaded by Joschi90) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The south India temple tour starts from Tirupati. One of the most revered pilgrimage destinations, Tirupati is located in the vicinity of the Tirupati temple. The city is home to a large number of temples of which Lord Venkateshwara temple is the most popular. Some other temples that you can visit in Tirupati are Padmavati temple, Govindaraja Swamy temple, and the Kodanda Rama Swamy temple.

Another major destination when it comes to temple tours in India is Tamil Nadu. It is replete with many temples situated in various cities of this region. Kanchipuram is an ancient city that lies in the Kanchipuram district of Tamil Nadu state.  It is also known as “the city of 1000 temples“ due to the fact that it houses a large number of temples. Some of the famous temples that one can explore in Kanchipuram are Kailasanatha Temple, Ekambaranatha, Kamakshi Amman Temple among others.

Another major destination in South India is Mahabalipuram, also known as Mamallapuram, a 7th century port city of the Pallava dynasty situated in Tamil Nadu. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city is known for its historic monuments dating back to 9th century. Some famous temples situated in Mahabalipuram are Shore Temple, Pancha Rathas and Varsha Cave Temple.
South India Vacation
Mahabalipuram by http://www.flickr.com/photos/pnglife/ [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Thanjavur, also known as Tanjore, is another destination in South India for those on a temple tour to more than 70 temples. The Brihadeshwara temple located here is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and attracts tourists from all over the world. Madurai is one of the oldest cities of India, the history of which can be traced back to 2,500 years. The city is built around the Meenakshi Amman Temple which is the topmost attraction here.
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Brahadeeswarar Temple in Tanjore by Aruna at ml.wikipedia [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
If North India temple tour is incomplete without visiting Varanasi, the same goes for Rameshwaram in South India. Rameshwaram is a pilgrim destination which offers a dash of mythology and religion. Rameshwaram, situated in the Ramanathapuram district of Tamil Nadu, is one of the Char Dham’s in India.  The Ramanathaswamy Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is the most sacred temple in the city.
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Rameshwaram Temple by Nsmohan at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons
You will reach Kanyakumari on the penultimate day of your south India temple tour. Located on the southernmost part of Indian peninsula, the city is mostly visited for Kumari Amman (also known as Kanyakumari temple) and Vivekananda Rock Memorial. Located on the confluence of Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean, the temple is a Shakti Peetha dedicated to the virgin form of Goddess Parvati.

To say that south Indian temples are repository of art, culture and Dravidian tradition will not be an overstatement. With each temple draped in sheer architectural brilliance having its own mythological significance, they attract travelers and devotees alike from across the world.  Embellished with intricately carved pillars, huge gopurams and beautifully adorned idols, these temples never fail to catch the attention of the visitors and are major attractions when it comes to cultural tours in India.
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Beginners Guide to Rajasthan Tours

Think of Rajasthan and the rainbow colors of turbans and sari is inevitably conjured up in the canvas of imagination. Although a harsh land when it comes to weather and geography, its association with numerous maharajas of erstwhile Rajputana has ensured that the allure of Rajasthan is indelibly itched in the popular consciousness and folklore. Countless stories of valor, romance, intrigues and sacrifices have lent a unique stature to the state and various journals and annals of the British Raj era have only added to that appeal.

Snake Charmer of Rajasthan (By Paris75000 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
Owing to its royal legacy, Rajasthan is dotted with multitudes of fortresses, palaces, temples which form the major attractions of Rajasthan. Then there are vast stretches of deserts and diversity of wildlife which have become intrinsic part of Rajasthan tourism. Further, globally renowned Pushkar fair along with Ajmer Sharif attracts millions of devotees and pilgrims alike from around the globe.

With the ‘things to do’ list in Rajasthan as varied and vast as it is, even a month’s time is too short for a fussy traveler to explore and uncover the treasure troves of this desert state. Although conditions are harsh, traveling is quite easy as the destinations are well connected by road, rail and air with railroad being the best option.

Owing to huge tourist influx, hospitality industry in the state has developed in leaps and bounds. Hotels, guest houses, lodges and homestays have come up across destinations to suit every taste and budget of the travelers. Best time to visit this vibrant state is from October till February when sun is not harsh. Mentioned below are some of the most famous destinations which should be included to make for a memorable Rajasthan trip.

Jaipur also known as the Pink City is the capital and the largest city in Rajasthan. A young Bengali architect Vidhyadhar Bhattacharya designed the city in accordance with the Shilp Shastra - an ancient Hindu treatise on architecture. Today's Jaipur is pink, visually described as the city shaded with the autumn colors of the sunset. Major attractions here include Amber Fort, City Palace, ethnic bazaars and Chokhi Dhani, an ethnic resort in the outskirts of the city.

Beginners guide to Rajasthan tours
By Artist: W. Purser; Engraver: Percy Heath [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
One of the few places with temples dedicated to Hindu creator god Bramha, Pushkar is no more a sleepy little hamlet thronged by domestic and international tourists and pilgrims alike. It is said that when Bramha hit a demon with his weapon – which ironically was lotus flower – it fell to three places and one of them happens to be Pushkar where a lake sprang up. According to the legends a dip in the holy waters of the lake here ensures salvation especially when performed on Karthik Purnima (fteenth lunar day of Kartik month November–December).
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By Nomad Tales from Australia (Hippies at the Ghat  Uploaded by Ekabhishek) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Udaipur is another major tourist destination in the colorful state of Rajasthan. Udaipur is popular around the world for its Lake Palace which is considered one of the best honeymoons hotel in the world and which also featured in the James Bond movie Octopussy. There are many attractions in and around Lake Pichola including Jagdish temple, Puppet Museum, City Palace, Monsoon Palace among others. Apart from this, Udaipur is also famous for its festivals, which include Teej, Mewar festival and Shilpgram festival.
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Taj Lake Palace by Indian Luxury Trains, on Flickr
Jodhpur, also known as “the Sun City” and “the Blue City”, is famous for its historical monuments, palaces, forts and temples. This desert city is one of the favorite destinations of tourists coming from various parts of the country and the world. Some of the well known sites to visit in the city are Mehrangarh Fort, Balsamand Lake, Osiyan temple, Umaid Bhawan Palace, Ganesha temple, etc. The festivals of the city also have a huge impact on tourists, which include Teej, Nag Panchami fair, Gangaur and Mahaveer Jayanti.
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By Kroisenbrunner (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Ranthambore National Park
Ranthambore, located in Sawai Madhopur, is one of the most visited national parks in India. Tourists and wildlife lovers from all across the globe are attracted by the fascination of this tiger reserve in Rajasthan. The major attractions of the park are wild animals and numerous species of birds. It includes tigers, panthers, chinkara, sambhar, nilgai, leopards, peafowl, Bonelli’s eagle, jacanas, black storks, etc. Ranthambore National Park is considered to be the best bet in India when it comes to tiger spotting due to its sparse vegetation.
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By Rhaessner (taken by myself) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Mount Abu
Highest peak in the Aravali range, Mount Abu is the oasis in the harsh land of Rajasthan. It is the only hill station in North-West India. Besides the salubrious weather throughout the year, major attractions of Mount Abu include Dilwara Jain temples, Nakki Lake, Sunset point, Achalgarh Fort, Mount Abu Wildlife Sanctuary, Museum and Art Gallery.

The above destinations are the most famous tourist destinations in Rajasthan and if you are planning to visit this erstwhile domain of maharajas, then including some of these destinations in your itinerary is definitely recommended. Other destination which could also work wonders include Bikaner and Jaisalmer.

Author Bio: A post graduate in marketing from University of Mumbai, India, seek out travel inspiration with friends and often through solo wandering, exploring heritage and culture, meeting new people, tasting local cuisine and choosing homestays over hotels . His travel stories and articles have appeared in several travel magazines, online travel guides and travel blogs among others.
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Jaisalmer: Travel Tips for Rajasthan Tours

If Jodhpur offers threshold to the stark landscapes of the Thar Desert, then Jaisalmer lies in its heart. Jaisalmer is popularly known as ‘The golden city’ due to the extensive use of yellow sandstone in the architecture that glows golden in the sunlight. The city was founded by Rao Jaisal in 1156 AD. The city was once ruled by the famous Bhatti kings of the region. Due to its strategic location on the main trade route linking India to Egypt, Persia, Arabia, Africa and West, the city enjoyed a long lasting trade-relation with these countries in medieval times.
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Golden Castle in Jaisalmer
Attractions in Jaisalmer
Jaisalmer is renowned for its sand dunes, camel safaris, massive forts, striking havelis and beautiful temples. Besides forts and havelis, the 3-day long desert festival is a major attraction for the travelers. Some famous attractions in Jaisalmer are as follows:

Jaisalmer Fort
The Jaisalmer fort, popularly known as ‘Sonar Qila’ (golden fort) is situated on Trikuta hill. The massive structure is built with the extensive use of yellow sandstone which appears golden-yellow in sunshine and honey-gold at the time of sunset. The magnificence of the fort lies in the several inbuilt structures which include intricately carved havelis, sculptured Jain temples, Lakshminath Temple and 99 poles (towers).

Jaisalmer Havelis
Havelis and mansions of Jaisalmer are worth visiting for their intricate designs, decorations and yellow and red sandstone carvings. Some of the famous havelis of Jaisalmer are Patwon-ki-Haveli, Salam Singh-ki-Haveli, Nathmalji-ki-Haveli and Haveli Shreenath.

Jain Temples
The Jaisalmer fort has 7 beautifully carved and decorated Jain temples inside the fort complex. These spectacular temples were built in the 12th century are a part of Jaisalmer’s cultural heritage. Some of the famous Jain temples include Dilwara temple, Parswanath temple, Tirthankar temple and Shantinath temple. Some other Jain temples around Jaisalmer are Brahmsar, Pokharan, Lodavra and Amarsagar.

Desert Festival in Jaisalmer
The 3-day desert festival takes place in the month of February every year. The festival held in the enthralling background of the Golden fort. The festival showcases the rich and colorful Rajasthani folk culture through various traditional art forms which include desert ballads, puppeteers, snake charmers, folk music and dance and camel race. The highlight of this festival is the famous sound and light show performed in Sand-Sam dunes.

Desert Safari in Jaisalmer
One of the ‘must do’ things in Jaisalmer is the camel safari ride in the shimmering glory of the golden sand. A magical safari in the undulating golden sand-dunes of Thar Desert usually lasts for two days with a camping stay in night to behold the rising sun in Jaisalmer. A camel safari ride allows tourists to explore the splendor of Rajasthan.

Shopping in Jaisalmer
Shopping forms an interesting part of your Jaisalmer trip. Shopping at the local markets of Jaisalmer is a unique experience. Jaisalmer is famous for mirror work, silver jewelry, antique items, silk and cotton textiles, handicrafts and embodied garments. The main shopping markets are Sadar bazaar, Manak Chowk, Pansari bazaar, Rajasthali and Sonaron Ka bas.

Hotels in Jaisalmer
Most of the hotels in Jaisalmer are renovated from the old havelis with their interiors designed in ethnic Rajasthani style. These hotels provide cozy accommodation to the guests. An array of hotels in Jaisalmer is available to suit the requirement of the tourists and fit to all price range. Various accommodation varieties in Jaisalmer include heritage hotels, deluxe hotels and budget hotels.

Visit the website of Indian Luxury Trains to choose from an array of Rajasthan Tour Packages. You may also visit the Flickr photo stream of Indian Luxury Trains for the images to get a sneak peek into tours to India.
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