Go on a temple run across Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu
Out of Chennai (72km)
While most people know this busy little town for saris and idlis, the temple architecture here is fascinating. Most of the places of worship were constructed during the Pallava dynasty, from 6th – 8th century BC, so, even if you’re not religious, you’ll get a magical glimpse into the rich history of the region.
Start your day early, before hordes of the faithful overrun the temple complexes. Make your first stop Kailasanatha Temple, the oldest in town, dating back to the 8th century BC. You will spot half-animal deities, characteristic of early Dravidian architecture, along with the 108 dance poses of Shiva in stone, and this is still a functional temple, so you can offer prayers here. Head next to the Vaikunta Perimal Temple for a glimpse of the historic and mythological scenes carved onto the walls. Finish up the day’s run with the Varadaraja Perumal Temple, famed for its marriage hall.
There are a hundred pillars here, all etched with extravagant carvings. Three temples might not seem like much for an entire day’s itinerary but, given the exquisite details, you’re bound to take your time taking it all in. And there will still be more left to see next time.
Fill up on delicious local fare in Jaipur, Rajasthan
Out of Delhi (282km)
The most obvious things to do in Jaipur might be to gawk at the stunning architecture or to shop your heart out, but we encourage you to look beyond the usual. Try the local cuisine; it’s delectable and caters to a wide variety of tastes. Rawat Misthan Bhandar might not have space to sit, but you won’t mind standing while you wolf down pyaaz kachori (deep-fried pastry stuffed with onion, potato and masala) and piping-hot jalebis. Follow up with the lassi at Lassiwala. If you thought the local fare would only include vegetarian options, you couldn’t be further from the truth. Dispel your doubts with the mouthwatering mutton nihari at Islami Kallu Hotel. The meat, cooked for six to 10 hours, simply slides off the bone. If more variety is your thing, head on down to Saba Haveli. The haveli itself is awe-inspiring, and the meal, served on silver thalis in a multitude of katoris, is superbly elaborate. Expect the unexpected in Jaipur; the food is not just delicious, it’s an experience to remember.
Marvel at the past in Balasinor, Gujarat
Out of Ahmedabad (88km)
Royalty and dinosaurs might usually only be associated together in sarcastic jokes, but in Balasinor, a two-hour drive from Ahmedabad, there’s a far more interesting connect. Balasinor hosts the 72-acre Dinosaur Fossil Park. For millions of years, the fossils here lay ignored until they were discovered as recently as in 1981. Even after that, it’s been difficult getting the recognition they deserve. You could explore the park by yourself, but it’s difficult for the inexperienced to differentiate between a regular rock and a fossil (despite the fences around some of the fossils). The best guide to have is the custodian of the park, Aaliya Sultana Babi, princess from the royal family of Balasinor. Not only does she have in-depth knowledge of the ancient secrets buried here but she’ll also discuss dino extinction theories and the research that went into the fossil sites here. One highlight is the pit in which fossils from the Rajasaurus Narmadensis, a predatory species from the late Cretaceous period, were found. It’s not all prehistoric though, the attractions here – you can also experience living with royalty at the Garden Palace Heritage Homestay, home of Balasinor’s royal family. A trip to Balasinor is a journey into the past unlike any other.
Go on a temple run across Kanchipuram, enjoy the local delicacies of Jaipur, and marvel at the past in Balasinor with LPMI’s January 2020 issue. Pick up a copy from your newsstand or click to subscribe via Zinio or Magzter.