South India - A Living Heritage


namaste
Namaste! - We welcome you with folded hands

Day 01: Arrival / Chennai

When we arrived in the evening, the representatives welcomed us and helped us to our car. The representative of the hotel gives us important documents and briefs us about the tour whilst the room keys and check in is being organized. Welcome to the nation of diversity and color, India or as any Indian would say 'atithi devo bhava'. We thank you for giving us a chance to help you.

Overnight at Hotel



Day 02: Chennai

Today, we are visiting one of the largest cities in India-Madras, one of the capitals of the southern states of Tamil Nadu. Tamilians being superior to the hybridized culture of North India are proud habitants of their rich fruitful culture. Fort St George, one of the houses of the state secretariat and legislative assemblies was built by the British in 1653. The Fort, since it was built by the British, has interesting collections of memorabilia from the British Kingdom. St Mary’s church built in 1678-1680, is one of the oldest surviving English Churches in India. The high court built with red sandstone has a fascinating archaeological section along with a gallery made of bronze. The court went to have an assortment of fascinating collections of all the bug and old south Indian dynasties. The section of bronze has the perfect assortment of the chola bronze art. The high court, the largest judicial building in the world after the court of England was built in Indo- Sracenic style. One of the temples built in Chennai is an ancient Shiva temple designed in the typical Dravidian style is the Kapaleshwar temple. Close to the Kapaleshwar temple, the San Thome Cathedral, a Roman Catholic Church built in 1504 believed to have the relics of St Thomas the Apostle.


Day 03: Chennai / Mahabalipuram (70 Kms)

  • ::  Morning we will drive to Mahabalipuram
  • ::  Upon arrival check into your hotel Ideal Beach Resort
  • ::  Rest of the day is at leisure for your independent activities
  • Overnight at Hotel

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    Day 04: Mahabalipuram

    We are going ahead with a complete tour of Mahabalipuram, one of the most popular cities famous for its shoreline temples. The sculptures crafted are not about ancient myth but about the contemporary everyday life like women milking cows, pompous dignitaries and young girls priming and posing in street corners or swinging their hips in artful come-ons. Mahabalipuram is one of the easiest laid back villages that include 2 streets and is located at the foot of low lying boulder strewn hills that include some of the most interesting temples and rock cut carvings. It consists of an amazing mixture of beaches, seafood and interesting relics of the old Indian Kingdom.

    Overnight at Hotel



    Day 05: Mahabalipuram / Kanchipuram / Pondicherry (187 Kms) (03 Hrs Drive)

    After a lazy breakfast, we drive to Pondicherry, en route to Kanchipuram. Kanchipuram, being famous for its temples and silks, is the holy city and the capital of the Pallava dynasty belonging to the 7th and 9th centuries AD. The temples were created between the 8th and 17th century. The earliest temples created from golden sandstone are a lot more pleasing that the new buildings created in the color of a flock of ring necked parakeets. The “Madras cotton” is a workshop where the men sit at a loom and weave fabrics. Silk weaving takes place on a bigger scale that the simple cotton weaving in this city with cotton workshops. With a lot of time on our hands, we can visit a factory that the entire process of spinning, dyeing and weaving takes place. Every wedding silk saree that is made to order is heavily interwoven with gold thread. After our visit to the factory, we are driving down to Pondicherry. We arrive at the Hotel De Lorient.

    Overnight at Hotel

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    Day 06: Pondicherry

    After a lazy comfortable breakfast, we move on to take a tour of the city. Some of the major attractions of the city are the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. It is an ashram where Sri Aurobindo and his mother lived for most of their lives. The Museum at Pondicherry is one of the homes for a lot of the classic collections of architecture and sculpture. Pondicherry is a country with a lot of beaches along with the exclusive and ancient monuments. A lot of the other classic sites to see are the Bharti and Bharthidasan Memorial museums and the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. After the British, the French went on to secure a strong foothold and were successful in the year 1954. The town has its roots of being a French provincial town like any other city that has libraries, epicerie, Hotel de Ville, a memorial for all the Franco-Indians killed in the war and a sculpture of Joan of Arc. The houses are spread out all over southern France and have white numbers painted against a blue ground. Every street on the road has been painted in white against a blue background like for instance the rue St Louis and rue de la Caserne. Walking down every street in Pondicherry, one can hear the sweet sounds of French being spoken.

    Overnight at Hotel



    Day 07: Pondicherry / Chidambram / Darasuran / Kumbakonam / Thanjavur (190 Kms) (04 Hrs Drive)

    In the morning, we shall drive down to Thanjavur and will visit Chidambaram Darasuran, Darasuran, and Kumbakonam on the way. Chidambaram is situated between two rivers that have 40 acres of land. It is one of the most ancient and sensual temples of the South. Shiva Natrala or the Dancing Shiva, as he’s called, is made to stand in his cosmic dance pose in a golden rooted sanctorum. The temples are 108 illustrations of Bharat Natya Shastra. The secret of Chidambaram lies hidden behind Akashi Lingam’s veil. The drive continues to Darasuran. Darasuran, a small town in Kumbakonam is popularly known for the Airavateshwar Temple which was created by a chola king in the 12th century BC. The temple is used as a warehouse for all the art and architecture. The vimana is about 85 feet high and the Mandapam was created in the form of a large chariot drawn by horses. The temple does have a few classic stone carvings. The main Goodness’s consort Perilya Nayaki Amman temple is located right next to Airavateshwarar temple. After our visit to all the temples, we continue our drive to Tanjur. With our arrival at Tanjur, We check into our hotel.

    Overnight at Ideal River View Resort (River View Room)

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    Day 08: Thanjavur / Trichy (60 Kms)

    In the morning we head out on a tour of the Thanjavur Palace. It’s a place with huge halls, spacious corridors, observation and arsenal towers and a courtyard. The palace has sections that are in ruins and the work to restore it has been taken up. The palace shelters a library, museum and an art gallery. The royal museum portrays a number of items the kings used to rule the place in the past. The catholic assortments of the classic memorabilia has always amazed and astounded every tourists visiting. Historical mythological things like the royal cloths, the hunting weapons, the head gears and everything that used in the olden days will always catch a tourist’s attention. The rulers always held meetings in one of the Durbar halls. They were in good shape even though they weren’t renovated. The Nayak hall is one of the many palaces that have always been used by the Art Gallery. The gallery has always had the perfect assortments of artifacts from the Chola Dynasty in the 8th and 9th century. The height of craftsmanship was always reflected upon the bronze and granite statues. The bell tower that was once under restoration has been brought out differently amongst the other structures that were also renovation. It’s always pleasant going up the tower to take a good look at the surrounding area. The Saraswathi Mahal Library has had a fantastic collection of manuscripts on palm leaves and paper. The Library is not open to the public, but on the other hand, tourists can always take a tour of the museum and read through the Ramayana written on a leaf or a series of explicit prints of prisoners. Tanjore is another place we’re going to see. The Brihadeshwara of the chola temple has been capped by a monolithic cupola that was crafted from a single block of granite that weighs about 80 tons which was taken up to the top with a 6 km long ramp which was once used by the Egyptians for crafting pyramids. We will also take a tour of the Palace and its Art Gallery that consists of a number of granite and bronze statues that belonged to the Chola Period. Continuing on our tour, we drive to Trichy and check into the Grand Gardenia.

    Overnight at Hotel



    Day 09: Trichy / Madurai (140 Kms) (03 Hrs Drive)

    We are on our morning tour of the Rockford temple. The 83m high Rock Fort is the only outcrop in the otherwise flat land of the city. The rock is one of the oldest in the world-approximately 3.800 million years, which makes it as old as the rocks of Greenland and older than the Himalayas. The sheer abruptness of its rise is a thrill in itself. The actual centre of attraction is not the fort itself, of which very little remains, but the temple at the summit that has been carved out the rocks that lead to the inscriptions dating back to the 3rd century B.C at the top. Nothing remains of the ramparts but the Main Guard Gate which is the only thing still intact. The fort played an important part during the Carnatic wars and according to an inscription, it contributed to laying the foundations of the British Empire in India. At the top of the rocks, a temple dedicated to Lord Vinayaka called Uchipillaiyar Koil sits there. People have always enjoyed a panoramic view of the Tiruchirappalli from there. A flight of steps leads to the Mathrubutheswarar of Thayumanaswami temple, dedicated to Lord Siva where the lingam is a projection of the rock itself. The 2 Pallava cave temples, situated beneath the Siva Temple have amazing sculptures from the 6th and 7th centuries. At the foot of the Rock Fort are a tank and a pavilion which are used during the float festival of the temples. Near the tank, there’s a house where Robert Clive lived when he was in Tiruchirappalli and there is an 18th century Church built by Reverend Schwartz of Denmark. The temple elephant in rock fort temple collects donations, giving a blessing and hands over the money to his “boss”. In the afternoon, we ride to Tirumayam, which is one of the 108 Divya Desams. Tirumayam has two cave temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva, which are visited by large number of devotees. Mahendravarman and Narasimhavarman Pallava built the cave temples and they lie adjacent to each other. Later, we will drive to Madurai upon our arrival; we check in to the Hotel Heritage, Madurai Madurai is one of the oldest cities of southern India. It has been a center of pilgrimage, for centuries. The Meenakshi temple, the main architectural attraction here, is an excellent example of Dravidian architecture, with gopurams or multi pillared halls, covered from top to bottom, in a profusion of multicolored images of gods, goddesses, animals and mythical figures. Afternoon we will walk along the main street leading to the temple. The well-organized confusion caused by pilgrims in traditional clothes, pavement shops of all shades, holy men in robes of different colours etc add an unmistakable colour and atmosphere to this fascinating Temple City. Evening we will witness Bed Chamber Ceremony at Meenakshi temple.

    Overnight at Hotel

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    Day 10: Madurai / Cardamom House (85 Kms) (01 Hrs Drive)

    Morning we will take a tour of Madurai, one of the oldest cities of southern India. It has been the center of pilgrimage for centuries. The Meenakshi temple, the main architectural attraction here, is an excellent example of Dravidian architecture, with gopurams or multi pillared halls, covered from top to bottom, in a profusion of multicolored images of Gods, Goddesses, animals and mythical figures. In afternoon, we will visit the Tirumala Nayak Palace - A gracious building in the Indo saracenic style, famous for the Stucco work on its domes & arches. Also visit the Alagar Hills and Tirupara Kundran Rock temple. Later, we will drive to Cardamom House, situated in stunningly beautiful surroundings on a hillside of the Western Ghats over-looking a monsoon dependent 400-acre lake. Cardamom House is owned and managed by Dr. Chris Lucas, a retired English physician, ably assisted by 6 Indian staff. All rooms have either twin or separate double-bedded accommodation, face south, and have modern western style bathroom facilities en-suite with solar heated hot water. The water comes from deep bore wells and is potages. With just two guests to each staff member we can assure that you will, be personally looked after and "spoiled rotten" during your stay. The meals are prepared using only the freshest produce purchased daily from the local markets and the house takes great pride in the variety of food that they serve. Besides experiencing a great, traditional accommodation in stunning natural settings, we also want you to experience a typical back of beyond unhurried Athoor village that has remained frozen in time. We suggest that you simply stroll through the village at your own pace, absorbing the atmosphere and watching as the rural life unfolds. On the track you will pass a Hindu Temple situated under a Banyan Tree, Continuing your stroll you will pass Banana Plantations, fields of Chili and Groundnuts, and of course hundreds upon hundreds of Coconut Trees. The villager’s who’s Way of life is dependent on agriculture, are very friendly and will welcome you. Some of the Cardamom House staff either hail from, or are living in Athoor and will ensure that they are there to help you, introduce you to people and help with the complex, difficult Tamil; Athoor is truly an unspoiled Indian Village waiting to be discovered.

    Overnight at Hotel



    Day 11: Cardamom House / Periyar (200 Kms) (04 Hrs Drive)

    In the morning, we will drive to Periyar through the scenically vibrant valley of the Cardamom Hills of the Western Ghats. The Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary at Thekkady, Kerala is one of the 16 Project Tiger Reserves in India. About a century ago, a British engineer, Col. J. Penn ycuick, chalked out a plan to dam the Periyar River, subsequently, a dam was constructed in 1895. This resulted in the adjoining forests being granted protection, by the Maharaja of Travancore. The 55 sq km reservoir and the surrounding forests, protect the animals from within. Today, Periyar is undeniably, one of the most impressive wildlife sanctuaries in the world. Upon arrival, we check into the Cardamom County. The spice plantation in Periyar is one of the major spice plantations in Kerala. The spice plantations in Kerala are captivating farms to wander in, since there are a number of spices being cultivated at different sections of each plantation. The spice plantation in Periyar is a prime attraction of this beautiful land. Though sprawling tea estates cover much of the landscape of Periyar, plantations of cardamom, rubber, vanilla and coffee are also in plenty. We have the option for nature walks, bird watching, taste the various spices and breathe in the fragrant air while exploring the spice plantation in Periyar. Pick up a few packets of the tea and spices grown here that make for a good buy. There are various kinds of spices cultivated in Periyar. The most abundantly found spice in Periyar is pepper. However, there is a variety of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, ginger, turmeric and curry leaves on the slanting slopes of the spice plantation in Periyar. We will also visit the Sahyadri Organic tea factory in Peer made, a recent venture of the PDS. There are specially designed vantage points for you to view this factory housed in a white-washed building.

    Overnight at Hotel

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    Day 12: Periyar

    Following breakfast this morning we will take a tour of the forest. The birdlife comprises of darters, cormorants, kingfishers, great hornbills (the great Malabar hornbill) and racket-tailed drogues’. The reptilian population boasts of monitor lizards that can be spotted basking in the sun, on the rocks along the lakeshore, especially in the cooler months. Pythons, king cobras, flying lizards, flying squirrels, flying snakes and to top it all, flying frogs are the other inhabitants of this amazing sanctuary. There are a few fascinating tribal villages around the Periyar, primarily the Manan and Oorali tribes. The Manans are ace fishermen, and a few of them still indulge in the traditional, if dangerous, practice of collecting the honey of large and deadly hill bees. The Ooralis build tree dwellings, though not as residences, but watchtowers to keep wild pigs, and elephants from ruining their crops. After the trek, we board rafts made of bamboos for a rafting experience through some of the richest forest tracts of Periyar Tiger Reserve. The rafting is for about three hours and one gets a panoramic view of forest-clad hills reflected on the lake. Animals like elephant, gaur and sambar are sighted keeping close to the edges of the lake. The team hitchhikes back to the boat landing by about 5 pm. An armed guard and guides will accompany us. Tea, snacks and packed lunch will be served on the way.

    Overnight at Hotel



    Day 13: Periyar / Munnar (130 Kms) (03 Hrs Drive)

    After breakfast, we drive to the Munnar through the scenically vibrant valley of the Cardamom Hills of the Western. We would stop a few times to interact with locals as well as walk through the countryside to explore traditional and ethnic lifestyles. It's a journey through extensive tea and spice plantations and for most part of our journey; the air is rendered with the fragrance of tea and spices. Munnar, a hill station on the Western Ghats and with its lakes, reservoirs, forests and tea estates is the Nature-Lovers's Paradise. It is beautifully situated at the confluence of three rivers - the Muthirappuzh, Nallathanni and Kundala. Munnar is a major center of Kerala's tea industry. Upon our arrival, we check into the hotel Tea County. We have two days at leisure to explore the virgin beauty of the place and its several possibilities at our own pace. Anaimudi (2694 m), the highest peak in the southern India, is nearby and the views from here are incredible. Munnar offers some great possibility for nature walks and visits to nearby tribal villages where people, though poor are extremely friendly, charming and hospitable. The ethnic lifestyles, traditional homes and the traditional occupation with ethnic tools and implements provide an incredible experience. The forests that surround Munnar are still rich in wildlife. The hills surrounding Munnar are home for one of the world's rarest mountain goats, Nilgiri tahr. The tropical forests are inhabited by elephants, tigers, deer and gaur (bison) Munnar is a birdwatcher delight with a variety of birds that are supported by the evergreen vegetation of the region. If one seeks a sense of peace, a desire to communicate with nature and most importantly participate in a journey through a living museum, Munnar is the place that seeks to provide all this in a heavenly setting.

    Overnight at Hotel

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    Day 14: Munnar

    Munnar is surrounded by 30 tea gardens; the atmosphere is fragrant with extensive tea and cardamom plantations. The tea estates are situated mostly on the inner slopes of an elevated basin-like plateau. The elevations of the estates vary from about 1220 m to over 1830 m. Some of the tea plantations, at an elevation of over 2135-m, are among the highest in the world. It would be worthwhile to visit some of these tea gardens to witness the plucking of leaves by women who carry conical bamboo baskets on their back and strapped to their forehead by a cloth band. The work on the field is all done by hand and is a fascinating sight. You may also visit the nearby Lockhart Gap, which provides a panoramic view of the valley and plantation down below. The enchanting high range of lakes and streams, the low-flying clouds and the mist-filled valleys cast a magical spell, which lingers long in the memory. You could also visit the Mattupetty dam and lake, Rajamala, the natural habitat of Nilgiri Tahr, a rare mountain goat and the Eravikulam National Park.

    Overnight at Hotel



    Day 15: Munnar / Alleppey / Houseboat

    After breakfast we ride to Alleppey for a houseboat experience through the narrow canals and channels of the backwaters of Kerala. The materials that go into the making of houseboat are all local and Eco-friendly; bamboo poles, coconut fiber ropes, bamboo mats carpets etc. The main wood used is "Anjali". The Houseboat provides all comforts - Beds, a kitchen, western toilets and an upper deck. Traditional lanterns are used as lights. The cuisine is of traditional Kerala flavor along with the local Specialties - delicious fish and prawns. We spend the day Cruising on our boat through remote tribal villages along the tranquil backwaters of Kerala is a superb experience. Sensational in its own silent way, the cruise takes you along snake boat docks, friendly cheering villagers, coir (Jute) making communities, toddy (local spirit) shops, fishing nets pitched for the day's catch, bonded paddy fields and manual canoes of different sizes criss-crossing each other. The experience enables you to reach beautiful untouched areas.

    Overnight aboard Air-Conditioned Houseboat



    Day 16: Houseboat / Kumarakom

    After breakfast, the houseboat traverses through narrow channels and canals and reaches Kumarakom. Upon our arrival, we check into Lemon Tree Vembanad Lake Resort. The rest of the day is at leisure for your independent activities.

    Overnight at Hotel

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    Day 17: Kumarakom

    The day is free for your independent activities. You can also enjoy the optional ayurvedic body massage at the resort. You could also choose to explore the surrounding tribal villages, visit the nearby water bird sanctuary or ride through the narrow backwater channels through back of beyond Kerala.

    Overnight at Hotel



    Day 18: Kumarakom / Mararikulam (40 Kms)

    After breakfast, we will drive to Mararikulam. Upon our arrival, we check into Marari Fishermen Village Beach Resort Rest of the day is at leisure for your independent activities.

    Overnight at Hotel



    Day 19 - 20: Mararikulam

    The Day’s at your leisure to enjoy your exquisite beach resort and the amazing countryside and tribal villages that adjoin the place.

    Overnight at Hotel

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    Day 21: Mararikulam / Cochin (50 Kms)

    Following a leisurely breakfast we will drive down to Cochin. Upon arrival, check into hotel Trident. Kathakali Dance: A special treat awaits us this evening as we proceed to witness the strength and vigor of Kathakali dance drama, as it enacts episodes from great Indian epics. The extremely stylized gestures, the elaborate make-up, the masks and the splendid costumes of these all-male dancers, recreates an incomparable sense of pageantry.

    Overnight at Hotel



    Day 22: Cochin

    After a leisurely breakfast, we proceed on a guided tour of the City. The true character of the city is to be found in the older parts of the Fort Cochin area. It more or less exists as it used to be a 1000 years back, when it was first built. The roads have not been widened because the old haggard buildings, through patchwork repairs over the centuries, still stand on the edges. This part of the city reflects an unusual blend of medieval Portugal, Dutch and English country life grafted on to the tropical Malabar Coast. The fishing community of Cochin is also very interesting. They ancient cantilevered fishing nets called Chinese Fishing Nets. The net is fixed to a pole on the shore. While fishing, the entire net is lowered by a primitive fulcrum mechanism using long bamboo poles. By the same mechanism the pole is lifted along with the catch. We will explore the sights of Photographic as well as cultural interest. We would also visit the 16th century Mattancherry Palace, also known as the Dutch Palace since the Dutch substantially renovated the palace in the 17th century. The double storied quadrangular building surrounds a courtyard containing a Hindu temple. The Central Hall on the first floor was the coronation hall of the Rajas of Cochin; on display are their dresses, turbans and palanquins. The most important feature of this palace, however, is the astonishing murals in the bedchambers and other rooms, which depict scenes from the Ramayana and other religious legends. These murals are undoubtedly some of the most beautiful and extensive anywhere to be seen in India. The unique feature here is the unexpected and isolated Jewish community, whose origins date back to AD 52. They are self-contained and have their own Synagogue. The area around the Synagogue, known, as 'Jew Town' is one of the main centers of spice trade. Scores of small firms huddle together in old dilapidated buildings and the air is filled with the aroma of ginger, cardamom, cumin, turmeric and cloves. The area is very busy. The potters are loading gunny bags of spices on to carts, which keep running up and down the narrow lanes. We would visit Jew Town, in the Mattancherry section and a short walk from the ferry is one street long. Jews used to occupy virtually all the houses on Jew Town Road, where they sold fruits, vegetables and spices or worked as oil pressers or carpenters. The spice markets are still located on the narrow street.

    Overnight at Hotel



    Day 23: Cochin / Ooty (290 Kms) (06 Hrs Drive)

    Following a leisurely breakfast we will drive to Ooty. Upon arrival check into your hotel Taj Savoy Rest of the day is at leisure for your independent activities.

    Overnight at Hotel

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    Day 24: Ooty

    Nestled among some of the most spectacular mountains in Southern India, Ooty is a relic of the British Raj. The town's general appearance is an unlikely combination of Southern England and Australia, with single - storey stone cottages surrounded by trees, fenced flower gardens scattered along leafy, and winding lanes with tall eucalypti stands covering the otherwise barren hilltops. The other main reminders of the British period are the stone Churches and the huge boy's school with its landscaped gardens at the bottom of Ooty's famous Lake There is also the terraced and very English Botanical Gardens, in which the Government House stands on the lower slopes of Doddabetta (2623m), the highest peak in Tamil Nadu. From the top of Doddabeta you can see Connor, Wellington, Coimbatore, Mettupalayam and, on a clear day, as far as Mysore.

    Overnight at Hotel



    Day 25: Ooty / Bangalore (280 Kms) (06 Hrs Drive) Bangalore / Chennai (SG 3416 - 1800 / 1900 Hrs)

    Morning, we will drive to Bangalore airport to connect your flight to Chennai. Upon arriving or entering Chennai, the managers and staff of the hotel Justa welcome and help us with our bags. The “Justa hotel” is one of the most modern hotels that offer everything from exotic food to a swim in the pool.

    Overnight at Hotel



    Day 26: Chennai / Departure

    Transfer to the International airport to connect your flight back home.


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    END OF SERVICES :

    We do hope the flavor of India will remain on your taste buds for all times to come and hopefully would kindle an indelible fondness for the country and her people; Thank you for being our guest, and as we say in India 'Please Come back Soon".

    END OF SERVICES

QUICK INFO


Tour Destination: 26 Days


Type: Culture/Tradition


Destinations Covered: Chennai, Mahabalipuram, Kanchipuram, Pondicherry, Chidambaram, Darasuran, Kumbakonam, Thanjavur, Trichy, Madurai, Cardamom House, Periyar, Munnar, Alleppey, Houseboat, Kumarakom, Mararikulam, Cochin, Ooty

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Incredible South India


Incredible South India


Incredible South India


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