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Chettinad – the heart of Tamil Nadu

Chettinad is kind of a holiday. Simple life, villages, small markets and great food. Chettinad cuisine is considered one of the finest in India, even tough it is not as well known as the Hyderabadi-, or North Indian cuisine. Fact is that the use of spices is nowhere as complex as here. Thats why we decided to put a big table into the kitchen so you can chat with the chefs directly, while enjoying your lunch. Just make sure you stay at Visalam.

Being here is taking a cycle and ride trough the quite village lanes, to visit small local handicrafts, where they show you how a Sari is woven, or at another place how floor tiles are made. Having a stroll trough the weekly market is another really happy experience. Chitchat with the banana seller and marvel at the variety of veggies at offer. Of course even here in Chettinad there is no escape from Shiva, but why would you, after all, he has so many forms. Here in the villages, he is worshipped at Ayyanar the protector of the fields. He rides a horse and not his Nandi bull as usual. And his temples are really worth a visit. The shrines are simple, and the entrance is kind of cute. Lines of funnily grinning terra cotta horses line the way to the shrine. They are offered by the communities each year as a thank you for a good harvest.

And of course if you come to stay with us at Visalam, we make sure that your experiences and excursions are guided by our local story tellers, because how else would you get that authentic flavour you are looking for?

In Chettinad stay at: http://www.cghearth.com/visalam

Mamallapuram

Our journey starts at Mamallapuram, a small and town right by the bay of Bengal. The are sandy beaches where you can wiggle your toes into the sand and take a swim and inhale the fresh smell of the sea. What better place to start a tour? The small coastal city has however more to offer. There are remnants of temples and kingdoms hewn out of granite rocks reflecting the wealth and riches of centuries of culture and trade. Here you will stand in front of the massive granite relief, depicting the arrival of the Ganges. One of the oldest mythological stories where the Goddess Ganges (the river) brings wealth to a rain starved land. Its a tribute to water, the nourisher of all things.

The five rathas, five temples (the elements, fire, water, earth, light and ether) have been carved out of single rocks to form a chariot. The temples are said to be dedicated the the 5 Pandava brothers, the hero’s of the epic Mahabharata, where they symbolise righteousness in various aspects, much like the attributes of the elements.

The shore temple once submerged has been excavated some years ago. It stand within a fortress of stone, shielding it from the waves of the Bay of Bengal. Rows of Bulls (Nandi the mount of Shiva) decorate the complex.

If you walk or drive between the monuments, make sure to stop at the numerous stone carvers along the road. Sure they use today more modern means to cut trough granite, yet most of the finer works are accomplished like millennia ago. Even the subjects of their workmanship hasn’t changed, Idols of Shiva, Ganesha and other gods are in high demand and created in all shapes and sizes.