Exploring the Arts & Artisans of South India

Cultural tour of India with Dr. Stephen Inglis

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Dr. Stephen Inglis After the success of our first Exploring the Arts & Artisans of South India tour, cultural travellers will now have another opportunity to discover one of the richest civilizations in the world under the expert guidance of Dr. Stephen Inglis, an authority on Indian art and artisans as well as a curator of ten major exhibitions. Explore some of the country’s most landmark temple architecture in the fascinating state of Tamil Nadu, with daily lectures and guidance from Inglis himself. Meet local artisans, friends and colleagues of Dr. Inglis and learn about the generations-old traditional practices of stone carvers, bronze sculptors, potters and weavers. This riveting Indian experience will give explorers an intimate, hands-on look at South India’s artistic heritage.

Dr. Inglis served as a Director General of Research and Collections at the Canadian Museum of Civilization (now History) for 25 years. He has led tours to India for esteemed scholars and curators, and been honored for his innovation in museology, art history and community engagement with awards from the Canadian Museums Association, the Hans Mannerby Foundation of Sweden, the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute and the President of India.

Tour Information
Duration : 16 days
Minimum : 15 persons
Maximum : 20 persons
Price (From) : US$ 4795
Includes international air
Day 01: Oct 19, 2020: Arrive Chennai
Day 02: Oct 20, 2020: Chennai
Day 03: Oct 21, 2020: Chennai
(B, D)
Day 04: Oct 22, 2020: Chennai/Dakshinachitra/Mahabalipuram (Drive)
(B, L, D)
Day 05: Oct 23, 2020: Mahabalipuram (Drive)
(B, D)
Day 06: Oct 24, 2020: Mahabalipuram/Pondicherry (Drive)
(B, D)
Day 07: Oct 25, 2020: Pondicherry
(B, D)
Day 08: Oct 26, 2020: Pondicherry/Chidambaram/Tanquebar/Kumbakonam (Drive)
(B, L, D)
Day 09: Oct 27, 2020: Kumbakonam
(B, D)
Day 10: Oct 28, 2020: Excursion to Swamimalai (Drive)
(B, D)
Day 11: Oct 29, 2020: Kumbakonam/Tanjore (Drive)
(B, D)
Day 12: Oct 30, 2020: Tanjore/Karaikudi (Drive)
(B, D)
Day 13: Oct 31, 2020: Karaikudi/Madurai (Drive)
(B, D)
Day 14: Nov 01, 2020: Madurai
(B, D)
Day 15: Nov 02, 2020: Madurai/Chennai (Flight)
(B, D)
Day 16: Nov 03, 2020: Depart Chennai
B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner

Day 01: Oct 19, 2020: Arrive Chennai

NAMASTE! We are warmly welcomed to India as we arrive at Chennai Airport and are transferred to our hotel.

Overnight: Taj Coromandel, Chennai (5-Star Deluxe) (3 nights)

Day 02: Oct 20, 2020: Chennai

Breakfast is at our hotel with the balance of the day free to recover from jet lag. Vibrant Chennai is the capital of Tamil Nadu state and the guardian of its artistic and architectural heritage. Take some time to visit its museums, explore its temples and sample some of its delectable South Indian food. Evening, subject to availability, we visit a film studio and get a glimpse behind the scenes of a Kollywood movie. Kollywood is the name coined for Kerala’s prolific film industry, which is a strong rival to India’s Bollywood film industry. (B)

Day 03: Oct 21, 2020: Chennai

Our first stop is beautiful Kapaleeshwarar Temple, where we experience the continuing role of an important temple in a great city. Originally built in the 7th century, then demolished by the Portuguese and rebuilt in the 16th century by the Vijayanagar kings, the temple’s name is derived from the words Kapalam (head) and Eeshwarar, an alias of lord Shiva. According to the Puranas, during the meeting of Brahma and Shiva on top of Mount Kailash, Brahma failed to pay due respect to Shiva. As a result, Shiva plucked one of Brahma’s heads (kapalams). In an act of penance, Brahma came down to the site of Mylapore and built a Lingam to please Shiva.

Next, we explore the historical Fort St. George, which was the first establishment of the British in India. This museum showcases a host of artifacts, including coins, medals, paintings and letters from the Colonial period. We also have the chance to explore Tamil State Museum, which houses one of the finest bronze collections in the world dating from the Christian era to current times. This museum contains something of interest for every visitor, including well-known Buddhist, Jain and Hindu sculptures, 600 inscriptions on copper plates, rare coins, Stone and Iron Age artifacts, antiques and musical instruments of South India, arms, jewelry and vintage stamps. In the evening, we are treated to a welcome dinner at the famous South Indian specialty restaurant Dakshin (Crowne Plaza). (B, D)

Day 04: Oct 22, 2020: Chennai/Dakshinachitra/Mahabalipuram (Drive)

After breakfast, we journey south to visit Dakshinachitra Heritage Museum, a living museum of the art, architecture, lifestyles, crafts and performing arts of South India. En route, stop at Cholamandel, an artist colony essential to the history of contemporary art in India. Dakshinachitra offers a collection of 18 authentic historical houses sourced from different regions in the area with contextual exhibits, as well as a bazaar of artisans from various parts of India. Lunch will be at the center’s restaurant, followed by a traditional performance. Later, we can have our fortunes read by the local traditional fortunetellers.

Overnight: Vivanta By Taj Fisherman’s Cove, Mahabalipuram (5-Star) (2 nights) (B, L, D)

Day 05: Oct 23, 2020: Mahabalipuram

An incredible day ahead as we visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mamallapuram*. This group of sanctuaries, founded by the Pallava kings, was carved out of rock along the Coromandel Coast in the 7th and 8th centuries. It offers famous rathas (boulders carved into temples), mandapas (cave sanctuaries) and giant open-air reliefs such as ‘Descent of the Ganges’, as well as the Shore temple, with sculptures to the glory of Shiva. During our visit, we meet and interact with the stone carvers who work at this ancient site. (B, D)

Day 06: Oct 24, 2020: Mahabalipuram/Pondicherry (Drive)

A unique highlight as we spend the day at Auroville, an experimental township made up of 50,000 people from all over the world. The purpose of this unique site is to realize human unity. Today, Auroville is recognized as the first and only internationally endorsed ongoing experiment in human unity, concerned with sustainable living and the future cultural, environmental, social and spiritual needs of mankind. At the very centre, we find the soul of the city, the gleaming Matrimandir monument, from where the settlements radiate outward. The atmosphere is quiet and charged, the area beautiful. The large golden sphere, seemingly emerging from the earth and set in a large open area called ‘Peace’, symbolized the birth of a new consciousness.

Overnight: La Villa Shanti, Pondicherry (Heritage) (2 nights) (B, D)

Day 07: Oct 25, 2020: Pondicherry

We start our day in Pondicherry, the former French colony, with a visit to Sri Aurobindo Ashram. This spiritual community grew out of a small community of disciples who had gathered around Sri Aurobindo after he retired from politics and settled in Pondicherry in 1910, and has since become the largest in India. The day starts with a meditation around the Samadhi, the memorial to Aurobindo that forms the heart of the community. We spend the day in the quiet spiritual surroundings, seeing the ashram’s art and craft undertakings and visiting the restoration projects of the French city. (B, D)

Day 08: Oct 26, 2020: Pondicherry/Chidambaram/Tanquebar/Kumbakonam (Drive)

Journey to Chidambaram, taking in the sites of rural India en route. In Chidambaram, we see the wonderful Nataraja Temple, famous for its antiquity, the richness of its festive traditions, its association with music and dance and its architectural and sculptural splendor. Several legends are associated with Chidambaram. The best known are those describing the Cosmic Dance of Shiva, the dance duel between Shiva and Kaali, and the re-discovery of the Tevaram hymns.

We continue to Tarangambadi, a major trading post of the Danish in the early 17th century. In 1620, the local ruler Raghunath Nayakas signed a treaty which allowed the town to be colonized and renamed Tanquebar. All Danish settlements were transferred to the British East India Company by mid-19th century. Here, we visit the Dansborg Fort, the New Jerusalem Church and the remaining Danish homes off of King Street. At the entrance of the town is an old gateway with wooden doors, built by the Danish in 1792. The main street of the town, called King Street, boasts a memorial dedicated to the original Danish settlers. Near the beach, the Danish Governor Bungalow built in 1784 is still the largest building in the town, and a unique location to enjoy lunch. Opposite the bungalow is the Danish Fort, built in 1620 as a stunning piece of Viking architecture, with enclosing stone walls and cannons facing the sea. The fort has now been converted to an archaeological museum. From here, we drive to Kumbakonam with the balance of the day free.

Overnight: Mantra Koodam, Kumbakonam (Boutique Hotel) (3 nights) (B, L, D)

Day 09: Oct 27, 2020: Kumbakonam

This morning, explore Airavatesvara temple at Darasuram, which stands out for its intricately beautiful sculptures. The temple is in the form of a chariot being pulled by an elephant and a horse. At the entrance to the temple, two Dwarapalakas, Sankhanidhi and Padmanidhi, are imposing figures, giving vivid anatomical expressions of the exuberance of youth. In the afternoon, we have a unique chance to visit the weaving centre of Tirubuvanam and see both cloth shops and weavers at work. (B, D)

Day 10: Oct 28, 2020: Excursion to Swamimalai (Drive)

A highlight of the tour today as we visit the bronze casters of Swamimalai, working on a street they have inhabited for centuries. Dr. Inglis will share a deep knowledge and understanding of the region’s wealth of artistic traditions. Foremost is the creation of exquisite bronze images through the process known as Cire Perdue, or the “Lost Wax” technique. A model of the image is first made in wax and then coated with layers of clay to create a mold, which is heated to allow the melting wax to flow out through a hole at the base. A molten alloy of five metals (Pancha Loha) is poured into the hollow. When it cools, the mold is broken and the image is finished and polished. Finally, the image’s eyes are sealed with a mixture of honey and ghee, then ritually “opened” by a priest using a golden needle. Even today, traditional artisans known as Sthapathis create these images according to a fixed set of rules and guidelines laid down in the Shilpa Shastra, an ancient treatise on art. In the evening, we visit the pilgrimage temple of Lord Murugan in Swamimalai or enjoy other optional activities. (B, D)

Day 11: Oct 29, 2020: Kumbakonam/Tanjore (Drive)

Following breakfast, we drive to Tanjore. Our first stop is the stunning Tanjore Palace Museum, originally constructed by the rulers of Thanjavur Nayak kingdom, then serving as the official residence of the Maratha kings. When most of the Maratha kingdom was annexed to the British Empire in 1799, the Thanjavur Marathas continued to hold sway over the palace and the surrounding fort. The bronze sculpture collection here is one of the finest in India. Next we visit Brihadeswara Temple, an architectural masterpiece designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Finished in 1010, this temple was the center of the vast Chola Empire. The temple boasts a gigantic Siva Lingam, more than 12 feet tall. The main hall was used by dancers and musicians performing in service of Shiva.

Overnight: Hotel Svatma Tanjore, Tanjore (Heritage) (1 night) (B, D)

Day 12: Oct 30, 2020: Tanjore/Karaikudi (Drive)

Our journey continues as we make our way to Karaikudi after breakfast. Karaikudi is rich in cultural heritage, art and architecture, and has been declared a heritage town by the government. It’s well-known for its houses embellished with marble and Burma teak, as well as its 18th century mansions. Afternoon, we embark on an exploration of Chettinad Palace, offering a classic example of traditional Chettinad architecture. This ornate palace provides tantalizing examples of antique furniture, stained glass and beautiful wrought iron art pieces, as well as ornate doors and halls decorated with elephant tusks. Later, we will also visit an antique market.

Overnight: The Bangala, Karaikudi (1 night) (B, D)

Day 13: Oct 31, 2020: Karaikudi/Madurai (Drive)

Journey to Madurai, visiting Athangudi village en route. At this site, famous Athangudi tiles are made one at a time by trained craftsmen. These colourful tiles not only adorn opulent homes in the region, but are also exported to other parts of the world. On arrival in Madurai, we check in to our hotel. Evening, experience the night closing ceremony of the lovely Meenakshi Temple.

Overnight: Heritage Madurai, Madurai (Heritage) (2 nights) (B, D)

Day 14: Nov 01, 2020: Madurai

Morning we embark on an excursion through the villages north of Madurai. After a drive, we park our vehicle and walk on scenic pathways to an isolated temple where deities are worshipped with clay images, truly an unforgettable experience. We will also have the chance to meet some potters in their workspace and learn about their craft. We return to the hotel to relax, Then, in the afternoon, we experience Meenakshi Temple, the majestic abode of the triple-breasted warrior goddess Meenakshi. This temple is considered by many to be the height of South Indian architecture, as vital to the aesthetic heritage of this region as the Taj Mahal is to North India. The great temple is the centre of one of India’s oldest cities, still organized on a concentric plan with streets devoted to different communities and occupations. Here we’ll see the legacy of the Nayak kings and the activity of one of India’s greatest pilgrimage places. Later, enjoy a rickshaw ride and a walk in the market. (B, D)

Day 15: Nov 02, 2020: Madurai/Chennai (Flight)

Free time after breakfast to relax or further explore bustling Madurai. In the afternoon, we are transferred to the airport for our flight to Chennai, then transferred to our hotel on arrival. Evening we enjoy a lovely farewell dinner at Southern Spice Restaurant at our hotel.

Overnight: Taj Coromandel, Chennai (5-Star Deluxe) (1 night) (B, D)

Day 16: Nov 03, 2020: Depart Chenai

Our unique tour of the Arts & Artisans of South India comes to an end as we are transferred to the airport for our departure flight. Alternatively, continue your time in India with an extension to visit the majestic monument of the North, the Taj Mahal. Contact Bestway Tours & Safaris for additional information and suggestions. (B)

B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner

Departure Dates & Prices

We accept payments in US$, CA$ as well as in other convertible currencies like EUR, AUD and GBP. Tour prices have been costed in US$. CA$ price shown below is an indicative amount reached at by using the conversion rate at the time of web posting and will be applicable if there is no change in the conversion rate. Should the currency conversion rate change, the US$ pricing will prevail. Bestway Tours & Safaris offers a conversion rate protection. Once full payment has been received and no modification has been made to the tour itinerary, we will honour that rate. For complete payment procedures, please click here

Stay tuned for future dates! If you want to be the first ones to know click here
Stay tuned for future dates! If you want to be the first ones to know click here



Tour Price Includes
  • Accommodation as mentioned or similar, including hotel taxes
  • Domestic airfare: Madurai/Chennai (based on current application fares)
  • 30 Meals as mentioned (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
  • All sightseeing and transfers by private transportation
  • Services of local English Speaking tour guides
  • Entrance fees to museums and sites included in the itinerary
  • Accompanying tour host Dr. Stephen Inglis
Not Included
  • International airfare
  • Insurance/visas
  • Tips/gratuities


This tour operates on a minimum of 15 and a maximum of 20 participants

Customised Itinerary

If you would like to have a tour on dates other than the above ones or with a customised itinerary, please contact us and we will be happy to work out an exclusive program for you.

Contact Info
You may e-mail us at bestway@bestway.com or call 1-604-264-7378. Residents of U.S.A./Canada may call us toll free at 1-800-663-0844.

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