Dasara 2019

Come on a journey to discover the culture, people and festivals of South India on a trip co-hosted by pennie scott, The Bush Goddess and the India Unravelled Team.

Bengaluru – Mysuru – Chennai – Pondicherry

17 days / 16 nights

29 September – 15 October 2019

AUD6530  per person twin share
AUD8290  solo traveller with own room

  • all prices are in AUD
  • maximum of twelve travellers
  • prices quoted are based on twelve travellers
  • price does not include international airfares

Inclusions

accommodation icon png

Accommodation

  • Bengaluru – 2 nights in a 5 star hotel
  • Mysuru – 8 nights in a 4 star heritage hotel
  • Chennai – 3 nights in a 4 star hotel
  • Pondicherry – 3 nights in a 4 star boutique villa
car icon png

Transport

  • Private air-conditioned vehicles
  • Auto rickshaws
  • Bicycle rickshaws
  • Open-top jeeps
meals icon png

Meals

  • Breakfast daily
  • 10 lunches
  • 7 dinners
higlites icon png

Highlights

  • Dasara procession
  • Block printing workshop
  • City tour by jeep
  • Market and street food tours
  • Cooking classes
  • Visit Auroville

Itinerary

Namaste! Welcome to India

Sunday 29 September

Arrive Bengaluru

This traditional greeting literally means “I bow to the divine in you”. It is a gesture of love and respect and is the way that you will be greeted throughout your time in India. When spoken, it is with our hands in the prayer position, held at the level of our heart chakra and can be accompanied with a slight bow.

Arrive at Bengaluru International Airport. Catherine, Varis and pennie will be there to meet you. After your long journey from Australia, you’ll be needing some rest so we are staying at The Taj Hotel just minutes from the airport.

Bengaluru (also known as Bangalore) is the capital of the state of Karnataka in South West India and is recognised as the IT capital.

Overnight: Taj Bengaluru (Deluxe room)

Monday 30 September (B) (L) (D)

Today we are doing a textile block-printing workshop at Tharangini Studios, a wonderful hub of creativity set in beautiful grounds by a lake. Surrounded by trees, birds and squirrels, you would never know you are in a city of ten million people. Padmini and her expert printers will teach us how to use natural dyes and the basics of printing, enabling you to unleash your imagination on exquisite silks and hand-woven cotton.

Ravitej will join us today. He has a wonderful eye for colour and is very experienced with design so if you need a little help to get your creativity flowing he will be more than happy to assist.

A delicious vegetarian lunch and as much chai you can drink will be provided throughout the day. After this creative day, we’ll head to the Druid Garden for a drink and welcome dinner before returning to the Taj for the night.

Overnight: Taj Bengaluru

Tuesday 1 October (B) (D)

After breakfast and check-out, we are going clothes shopping! India is the most colourful country in the world and this is reflected in the beautiful and practical clothing which forms literally the national dress. Saris are usually worn by older women and to special events. There is a real art to folding 6-8 metres of cloth around the body!

A practical combination is the kurta, a longer length straight tunic for women and men with or without sleeves, worn over long trousers such as palazzos or tights. A matching dupatta (long scarf) can be used as protection for your head and neck, and really compliments this outfit.

There are no rules as to colour combinations, however, there are a multitude of colours and patterns from which to choose – unleash your creativity and feel fabulous dressing like a local, a gesture which is sincerely appreciated by the Indian people.

After lunch, we are off to Mysuru (also known as Mysore) in a private air-conditioned vehicle. On the 3 – 4 hour journey to what is regarded as the cultural capital of South India, there is ample opportunity to observe the incredible traffic as we travel through smaller towns, each known for a local speciality. We’ll arrive in Mysuru around 7pm and you can enjoy dinner and a drink in the grandeur of The Metropole Hotel’s courtyard while check-in is handled for you.

Overnight: Royal Orchid Metropole (Royal room)

Wednesday 2 October (B) (L)

If you wish to start your day with yoga, free classes are held at 7am from Monday to Saturday at The Metropole. Mats are provided and everyone from beginners to advanced are welcome.

Today is the Gandhi National Day, celebrating his birthday and we will attend an event in his memory and honour. In 2007, the United Nations declared it the International Day of Non-Violence. We will find out how Mysuru will celebrate closer to the date.

After lunch at a local restaurant we have some free time. For those who love textiles, we’ll visit textile alley where exquisite silks and cottons are available. As there is another opportunity for block-printing, you can choose your own fabric if you wish. If shopping is not your thing, there are other activities available which we will arrange for you.

Tonight, we will take a city tour in open jeeps. Winding through the streets will be slower than usual due to many visitors in Mysuru for Dasara but joining the throngs of people in autorickshaws, scooters and motorbikes is fascinating. Everyone is in a festive mood admiring the thousands of lights draped over 40kms of the city streets. From the back of the jeep, you can chat with people as the traffic comes to a standstill as everyone creeps closer to the Mysuru Palace. This is an evening you’ll never forget.

During the day we will decide where to have dinner.

Overnight: Royal Orchid Metropole

Thursday 3 October (B) (L)

Today is devoted to creativity with many types of workshops to choose from including textile block-printing for those who wish to explore this wonderful craft further, silver jewellery making, wooden inlay work, stone carving, basket weaving and more. Prior to arriving, we will have discussed your preferences so your places at the workshops are already confirmed.

Today lunch will be delivered in a tiffin, the ubiquitous container featured in the movie The Lunch Box. Having a tiffin delivered is like having a picnic Indian-style filled with delicious local foods.

After lunch, we are visiting Odanadi, a local NGO which has been operating for 26 years in Mysuru. This institution has been rescuing children from human trafficking and gives them a new start in life providing a safe environment to learn and grow, receive education and some training for the older ones to give them skills to earn a living. After meeting the team and taking a guided tour, we’re off to the beauty parlour to be given a traditional Mehendi (henna) application by the girls. They enjoy the opportunity to practice their skills.

Tonight with so many activities in the city we have theatre, flower shows, traditional music performances and much more to choose from. We’ll pick up some dinner along the way.

Overnight: Royal Orchid Metropole

Friday 4 October (B) (L)

Today we are travelling a short way to Srirangapatna on the Cauvery River, a town of deep religious, cultural and historical significance. The ghats (steps) on the river bank are the centre of many village practices including bathing, washing clothes, worshipping their deities and making offerings. Pilgrims from all over India travel to visit this holy place.

Srirangapatna is a town built on an island in the middle of the river and once the fort and summer home of Tipu Sultan, who fought four battles against the British forces here. If you’re interested in the history of the British Raj you’ll be fascinated by the stories you will hear. Nearby is the ancient Vishnu Temple, consecrated in 984CE. The scale and vastness of this structure is humbling and it is fascinating to ponder how many millions of bare feet have trodden the large, smooth flagstones through the temple. Lunch is at a secluded riverside restaurant before we return to Mysuru to be enthralled by more of the Dasara evening events.

We’ll decide on the day what everyone would like to do for dinner.

Overnight: Royal Orchid Metropole

Saturday 5 October (B) (L) (D)

Today is another day of workshops with options to choose a full day or, two half-day activities. Making flower garlands and creating a traditional rangoli (design created using chalk or rice flour) only takes two and a half hours so you can swap to another workshop after lunch. Anyone with a bigger project such as jewellery making or marquetry (wooden inlay) can continue. Lunch is provided.

Once the workshops have finished, there’s time to relax and compare notes at your hotel prior to meeting for drinks, then dinner at the beautiful Lalitha Mahal Palace. Dining in the grand ballroom, you’ll find yourself wondering about the guests and dignitaries who dined and danced here in the early 1900’s when the palace was built by the then Maharajah of Mysuru.

Overnight: Royal Orchid Metropole

Sunday 6 October (B) (L) (D)

This morning we head straight to Mysuru’s oldest market, Devaraja, to explore the narrow rows of fruit, vegetable and flower sellers. There are also stallholders selling kitchenware, incense and oils, essentials for performing pujas (rituals) at home, bags made from recycled rice sacks and so much more. The stallholders are even more interesting than the wares they grow, make and sell and Catherine has been known to be ‘lost’ for hours in the rows of flowers taking in the perfumes, the vendors calls and riot of colours. Varis can be found chatting to the men who make rustic and beautiful tools from recycled woods and metals; in India, everything is repurposed.

Later this morning we are invited to a local home where our host, Anu, will teach us how to combine spices to create the amazing flavours of India in this cooking class so we can eat what we prepared – a meal to remember! After lunch there is time for a rest at the hotel before the evening activities begin.

Every evening from 5pm, the streets come to life as this is the most popular shopping time and at 6pm we’ll take a walking tour through the old city, sampling some of the street foods. We know the best vendors from whom to buy their specialties. Then we will head to a rooftop restaurant for a drink before proceeding to the Mysuru Palace for the weekly illumination.

The visual of 97,000 incandescent light bulbs outlining these ornate buildings against the dark night-sky is breathtaking and there is a collective and audible intake of breath expressing wonderment when the lights flash on.

We’ll be back at The Metropole by 8pm where you can have another drink in the courtyard or have an early night.

Overnight: Royal Orchid Metropole

Monday 7 October (B) (D)

Today is the second last day of the Dasara Festival and the streets are buzzing with the excitement of tomorrow’s procession. There are two walking tours from which to choose – seeing the opulent interior of the Mysuru palace or, the artisan workshop tour through the narrow back streets of the old city, visiting small workshops where you can meet many craftsmen at work.

At the conclusion of the walking tours, we’ll meet for drinks and an early dinner before heading to the torch light parade signalling the end of the festival. Performed by the city’s police officers, you will be astonished at the talents and skills during a night of high theatre and energy. Afterwards, we return to the hotel.

Overnight: Royal Orchid Metropole

Tuesday 8 October – Dasara (B) (L)

This year is the 409th consecutive Dasara procession and Mysuru will be swarming with happy people trying to gain a vantage point for this final event.

Skillstourism has organised exclusive seating outside the Grand Mercure Hotel right on the parade route. The parade includes traditional dance troupes, marching bands and floats, and concludes with the highlight of the Dasara elephants, the last carrying the Golden Howda (throne) containing a deity of the Goddess of Mysuru – Chamundeshwari. As this is the only day of the year she is paraded, everyone seeks her blessing as she travels along the streets.

While waiting for the parade to arrive at the Grand Mercure, we will lunch here although, if you prefer, you can be amongst all the action in the streets with one of us to guide you back!

As there is a beautiful rooftop garden at the Grand Mercure, we can hang out here if the traffic looks too hectic, and discuss where we’d like to enjoy dinner.

Overnight: Royal Orchid Metropole

Wednesday 9 October (B) (D)

This is our last day in Mysuru so plenty of chance for more shopping, another trip through the city in an auto rickshaw, enjoying an ayurvedic massage or simply inhaling the wonderment of this beautiful city while relaxing alone with your thoughts.

Check-out time from the hotel is 2pm. We will ask you to have your luggage ready and leave it in your room so we can arrange for it to be taken care of until our transfer this evening. We’ll meet at 5pm for drinks and a light dinner before heading to the Mysuru airport to fly to Chennai, the next stop on our adventure.

Overnight: The Park Chennai (Deluxe room)

Thursday 10 October (B) (L)

Situated on the Bay of Bengal in East India, Chennai is the capital city of the state Tamil Nadu. Today is a day of exploring, visiting the St George Fort built by the British in 1640, the museum to see ancient bronze sculptures dating back hundreds of years and the city on the way to a private home to enjoy a typical Tamilian lunch with a local family.

After lunch we’ll visit a man famous in Chennai for feeding thousands of parakeets every day. Originally, he started by simply feeding a few birds, but over the years, the numbers have grown dramatically. He will explain how it alls started and we will make a group donation to assist in the purchase of food for the birds. The spectacle of the birds circling as he lays their food out on planks of timber is breathtaking; excellent photo opportunities!

We don’t have plans for dinner but we won’t go hungry in this beautiful city.

Overnight: The Park Chennai

Friday 11 October (B)

This morning we will do a walking tour through some local neighbourhoods. There are two for you to choose from.

The Bazaar trail….the pulse of any city is in its markets and this tour is through one of its bustling precinct, George town. This is an area steeped in history, mythology and folklore with colour, aromas, movements and sounds typical of this part of Chennai.

The Peacock Trail……this is an easy walk through Mylapore, a neighbourhood in the central part of the old city. Within the mundane rituals of daily life, we’ll learn about the hidden stories embedded in the ancient walls.

Lunch is wherever you would like it with the rest of the afternoon free to choose from a list of things to see and do.

The early evening is devoted to unleashing your inner Bollywood at a movie shown at the Sathyam Cinema. Indian movie-houses are very modern however, there are a couple of quaint touches which make going to a movie in India a little different from seeing one in Australia!

After the movie, we’ll find somewhere fabulous for drinks and dinner.

Overnight: The Park Chennai

Saturday 12 October (B) (L)

After breakfast and check-out, we leave Chennai and hit the road for Pondicherry (also known as Puducherry). Located 3-4 hours south of Chennai, also on the Bay of Bengal. Pondicherry was once under French rule and the French influences can still be seen in the buildings, ornamental gardens, boutiques and restaurants.

We’ll arrive in time for a late lunch while the check-in formalities are handled. Our hotel is located in the French Quarter and we will have time this afternoon to roam this precinct and absorb the cultures.

Later we will take bicycle rickshaws to the lighthouse. If you wish to climb the stairs it has a spectacular view. Then we will stroll along the promenade back to our hotel pausing for drinks and dinner along the way.

Overnight: Villa Shanti (Deluxe room)

Sunday 13 October (B)

This morning is yours to enjoy as you wish. We will be on hand to help you decide what to do. A wander through the botanical gardens, a visit to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram (one of the founders of Auroville) or just stroll around the local streets. Pondicherry is a photographers dream and there are lots of little boutiques and cafes waiting to be discovered.

Sri Aurobindo Ashram: Founded in 1926 by Sri Aurobindo and “the Mother” a woman of French descent, this famous spiritual community has about 2000 members. Aurobindo‘s teachings focus on ‘integral yoga’ that sees devotees work in the world, rather than retreat from it.

Botanical Garden: The Botanical Gardens were laid out in 1826 in ornate French style, with pruned trees, beautiful flower beds, gravel-lined paths and fountains. The French introduced many exotic plants from all over the world, many of which thrived. The sprawling 22 acres garden houses more than 1500 species of plants with placards indicating the species, common name and interesting information like the uses of the tree, the amount of oxygen generated and its medicinal value; this could well qualify as one of the best botanical gardens in South India. A mix of endangered and exotic species of plants is spread out all over the place. There are 28 plots dividing the Botanical Garden and each has a separate theme.

We’ll meet up again after lunch and visit Auroville, the International township just outside Pondicherry.

Auroville was built to be a universal town where men and women of all countries can live in peace and progressive harmony irrespective of creed, political persuasion or nationality.

After some time learning about this unique township, we are invited to our friend Marina’s restaurant inside the township. She is from Sweden and has been living in Auroville for 30 years. She raised her family here and now runs her restaurant teaching local women from the surrounding villages the many skills needed to run a restaurant.

No plans tonight, perhaps dinner back at our hotel or at a local restaurant.

Overnight: Villa Shanti

Monday 14 October (B) (D)

This morning we will visit the Sri Aurobindo Ashram paper factory and participate in a class. They specialise in making 100% cotton rag paper by hand. Don’t bring your wallet if you don’t want to be seduced by the beautiful hand made papers as they have a gift shop!

Next, we will visit the Pondicherry Art and Craft Village that was started as a way to sustain and promote indigenous, traditional and contemporary skill sets of the region. These include working with terracotta, wood, painting, ceramics, textiles, paper and glass.

In the late afternoon, we will meet the Head Chef from Maison Perumal who will take us to the local market to select the fresh produce for our interactive cooking session. Naturally, we will enjoy the feast we’ve all prepared which is a sensational way to spend our last evening together.

Overnight: Villa Shanti

Tuesday 15 October 

Pondicherry to Chennai – Departure Day (B) (L)

Today is our last day together and on our way back to Chennai we will visit Mahabalipuram, famous for the shore temple built in 700 CE, the oldest structure in the area.

We will spend some time visiting some of the ancient temples and seeing stone carvings that date back hundreds and hundreds of years. There is a wall done in bas relief where it is said the sculptors practised before starting work on a new sculpture.

We will have lunch together in a nearby restaurant before continuing onto Chennai International Airport for your journey home. Lounge facilities are provided for the next three hours so you can freshen up before your flight.

It has been our pleasure and privilege to share this wonderful journey with you and we thank you for choosing us for your Indian adventure.

Do you have a question?  Drop us a quick line.

travel learn create banner