Tamil Nadu, India: The Peaceful South - December 6 - 19th
Images: Abhishek Hajela
Culture-Heritage-Devotion -Village Life: South India
In this southern state of India the sarees are brighter, the people darker, the dosas more intricately spiced and the people fiercely proud of their ancient traditions. Hindu culture is vibrant in the temple towns and the warm and peaceful people of Tamil Nadu have a reputation for being devoutly religious. The landscape is lush and India of old still exists in the villges we will be photographing in.
This trip is a journey through the tranquil small towns along the coast stopping at French influenced Pondicherry and seaside Kumbakonam. Going inland we will photograph the lost majestic palaces in Chettinad and the surrounding villages where artisans weave silk, paint fabric, manufacture floor tiles, make baskets and men clang metal into household objects. The group will encounter religious pilgrims worshipping at the enormous Meenakshi Amman Temple in Madurai. Hindu culture will al be photographed at dawn along the Kaveri Riveras as the death rituals take place. The group will photograph with abandon as the people in Tamil Nadu are welcoming.
On this small group, thirteen day photography excursion we will stay in boutique style heritage lodges that are full of ambiance. We have selected the Bangala in Chettinad which is an iconic upscale paradise. The Mantra Kodam in Kombarkonam has been used as a film set. The Maison Perumal in Pondicherry is an 130 year old mansion that was reimagined as a ten room hotel. This trip is well paced so that you will have time to unpack and feel at home.
This is a culturally immersive experience where we will rub shoulders with artisans, devout pilgrims and people that live an enlightened lifestyle. A special feature of South India is the decorative art of "Kolam" practiced everyday at dawn on the cleansed threshold of the house. In Tamil Nadu villagers are still throwing baby showers for their pregnant cows.
Photography leader Abhishek Hajela will provide individual assistance in the filed as well as lightroom assistance. Parts of this itinerary were completed on a successful photo tour in 2014. All of the stops on this itinerary have been visited by myself and Abhishek.
This will be a wonderful, meandering journey through South East India.
Day 1 Chennai
The group will get together for a trip orientation and dinner. It is suggested that you arrive a day or two earlier to acclimate after the long flight. The trip itinerary does not include any time spent in this tumultuous, sprawling city. It will begin and end here. Lodging: Chennai Raintree
Day 2 Chennai- Mamallapuram - Pondicherry 100 miles
After breakfast and check out we will start our drive to Pondicherry. Our first stop will be to photograph on the Bay of Bengal. Here we will find the 7th century UNESCO world heritage shore temples. These towering temples have bass reliefs and stone carvings inside. Pilgrims dressed in colorful sarees come to worship at the temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva.
Pondicherry was the largest French colony in India. The French colony has Meditteranean style colorful villas, coffee and pastry shops, churches and a certain flair and peaceful ambiance. On this first full day of the photo tour we will photograph the French section on an early evening photo walk
Day 3-4 Pondicherry
The next two days will be spend photographing pilgrims at the Arulmiga Manakula Vinayag Devasthanma Hindu Temple, the Sacred Heart Basilica, the local markets, the old colonial white town and capture the essence of Pondi. We will take a bicycle rickshaw ride through this quaint city. Meditation and yoga will be offered. We will spend time at Auroville. It is recognized as the first and only intentional community and an experiment in human unity and transformational consciousness. We will have lunch in their cafe and have dialogue with a member of the community. Free time will be offered while in Pondicherry to walk along the beach, work on your images and wander.
Lodging: Maison Perumal
Day 4-5 Kumbakonam
We will spent time photographing in this beautiful temple town and the surrounding small villages stuck in time. The streets are dirt, tea sellers are everywhere and people are devout. Every street and every lane has a temple of different size, shape and color. We will photograph at a little village market as well as meet artisans who practice the ancient way of painting natural die Kalamkari fabrics. This is old India; quiet, cheerful and agrarian. Village life still practiced.
Lodging: Mantra Kodam
Day 6-9 Chettinad
The group will explore the villages in the Chettinad district. Here we will find palaces, mansions, wide boulevards in grid fashion lined with massive, colorful richly detailed homes of the once wealthy Tamil traders. This area is a living museum. Tile roofs, symmetrical buildings with enormous courtyards, Belgian glasswork, ornate embellishment, stone iron and wooden pillars and ornate sculptures make this a hypnotic photograph adventure. The people who live here are easily photographed and have a certain gentleness to them. We will gain access to some mansions and have a model shoot with women in brightly hued sarees.Women hitch up their sarees and ride bicycles through town.Men roll beti's (cigarettes) and are dressed in whte dhoti's. The group will photograph Kandanji cotton hand loom saree makers, the rotating weekly vegetable market the stunning the decorative Athangudi floor tile tile factory. We will take a bullcart ride through the lush fileds.
One morning we will journey to the Kaveri River in Tiruchirapalli (Trichy) to watch the death ritual. Mourners pray, chant, prostate themselves and are wrapped in white cloth. Candles are lit and puja is made. Then we will go to the the worlds largest functioning Hindu temple- Sri Ranga Nathaswamy Temple. Colorful and vibrant with pilgrims, street vendors and photo opportunities galore. If time permits we will visit the Rock Fort Temple. A stop on the way will be to photograph the 100's of terra cotta horses and elephants at Namana Samudrum.
Day 10-12 Madurai
The two hour drive from Chettinad will take us to Madurai, the oldest continuously inhabited city in the Indian peninsula. Known as the temple city we will photograph a vedic school where the boys study scripture as well as the UNESCO Meenakshi Amman Temple. The streets surrounding the temple are a visual mosaic. Puthu Mandapam near the entrance to the temple has dozens of tailors, metal and bronze workers and stalls selling ritual articles. Once a temple it is now an indoor bazaar that pulsates from morning til night. Piles of colorful textiles hide the ancient marble pillars. We will have a farewell dinner our last evening.
Lodging: Heritage Madurai
Day 13 Madurai-Chennai
The group will fly back to Chennai and day rooms will be provided. Our last group meal will be lunch back in Chennai.
Photographs taken...friends made...India experienced....
DECEMBER 6-19, 2023
Cost: $6,200 per person
Single Supplement $640
All photography fees