Accompanied by Professor Julius Lipner, who has lived and travelled extensively in India, explore the southern regions of this vast country and the beautiful island of Sri Lanka. Often overlooked, Southern India is an exotic land full of centuries-old temple precincts, bazaars selling fragrant spices, women dressed in vibrant silks, wild-life parks abounding with rare animals, birds and flora, lush green vistas, charming narrow waterways, and a peninsula encased in a band of coconut palms.
On this specially planned itinerary in South India, discover the distinctive cultures of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhara Pradesh states. The journey begins in Chennai (formerly called Madras), a city of curious mixtures. While it retains the old colonial legacy of the British, it is also the gateway to Tamil Nadu and serves as an introduction to Tamil culture, food, customs and people. Enjoy the old British buildings such as the Fort St. George with its glittering white wash of limestone mixed with crushed sea shells. Near to Chennai is Kanchipuram, one of Hinduism’s great holy places and the beautiful rock cut sculptures and temples of Mamallapuram which formed the capital of the 7th and 8th century Pallava rulers.
Fly to Hyderabad, capital of Andhra Pradesh which, up until independence, was India’s largest and richest princely state. Today Hyderabad is a vibrant city with grand palaces, mosques and some of the most colourful bazaars in south India. Kochi (formerly called Cochin) is a picturesque harbour with islands, backwaters, magnificent buildings, and a rich history. From Kochi enjoy a one night cruise on a traditional and very comfortable houseboat whilst you sail through thick forests, tea plantations and palm-thatched villages on a beautiful stretch of inland waterways. In Madurai, a town throbbing with life and teeming with pilgrims, visit the temple dedicated to Meenakshi which dominates the skyline. Here, amidst bazaars, granaries, kitchens and store-rooms, every facet of Hindu ritual is practised.
From Madurai fly to the tranquil and beautiful island of Sri Lanka, one of the world’s first great Buddhist kingdoms. Explore its ruined ancient cities, palaces and gardens. Professor Lipner will comment on the remarkable kingdoms which created an irrigation system to make the landscape bloom, then crowned its rocky outcroppings and fertile valleys with magnificent temples and royal residences.
Kandy was the cultural stronghold of Sri Lanka and the seat of the last king of Sri Lanka until the British captured him in 1815. Visit the Temple of the Tooth said to house the tooth of the Buddha and brought to the island in the 6th century AD hidden in the hair of a princess. Wander through the Royal Botanical Gardens where 150 acres are filled with tropical plants of every description.
Travel through a jungle rich with wildlife to Sigiriya, one of the best preserved examples of town planning in Sri Lanka. Nearby is Anuradhapura founded by King Pandukhabaya in 380 BC and the capital of Sri Lanka for over 1,400 years. The ruins here are integral parts of the elaborate architectural complexes with stupas that are the largest monuments of their type in the entire Buddhist world. Marvel at the tremendous knowledge of construction, water conservation and management that is revealed throughout Anuradhapura. At Polonnaruwa discover King Prakrama’s seven story palace with its exquisite bathing pool. Step over moonstone slabs carved with prancing animals and walk through ancient monasteries, libraries and a vast university in all stages of ruin.
Trip Leader: Professor Julius Lipner
Professor Lipner is a Fellow of Clare Hall and lectures in South Asian Culture and Religion at Cambridge University. He is also a Fellow of the British Academy. Since 2000, he has accompanied eight extremely successful visits to India for Cambridge Alumni including two visits to South India.