Footsteps of Christianity

Footsteps of Christianity

Mumbai - Goa - Bangalore - Mysore - Ooty - Trichur - Kochi - Kottayam - Periyar - Madurai - Thanjavur - Ashram Sachidanand - Chennai - Mahabalipuram

You will be surprised with this fact that India is not a Hindu country, It is the largest secular democratic country in the world. Christians are more than 2.5% of India's population. Christianity in India is as old as it is in Europe. St. Thomas who was disciple of Jesus arrived in Kerala (South India) in 52 AD. He succeeded in converting local Indians to Christianity.

2000 and more years ago , Hindu India opened the doors and welcome to Judaism and Christianity. The followers of Mohammad and Jura stian arrived a little later. The Christian church was established in India almost at the same time as it was in Europe and the protestant came with the British . Both Churches today use Indian languages for their liturgy.

This Christianity Tour is covering some of the popular Christian Places and Churches of India.

Day 01: Mumbai

Arrival in Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, the financial hub of the country. India's most cosmopolitan city, an ancient port and trading centre. This palm - fringed shore of the Arabian Sea was the British Empire's entrance to its `Crown Jewel'. More than 10 million people live in Mumbai. It is the fastest moving, most affluent and most industrialised city in India. Its port is the busiest in the country handling nearly 50% of the country's total foreign trade.You will be met and greeted with a traditional welcome at the airport by our representative and transferred to the hotel.

In the afternoon you visit the catholic "Basilica of our Lady of the Mount" at Bandara and meet the community there. Situated at Hill Road, Bandra is popular during the feast of Mother Mary held in the month of September when people flock to seek favours from Mother Mary. It is one of the most prominent churches in Mumbai.

Day 02: Mumbai - Goa

After breakfast sightseeing of fascinating Mumbai. This afternoon visit the highlights of Mumbai The Kamla Nehru Park where you can have a picturesque view of the city. The Hanging Gardens are so named, as they are located on top of a series of tanks that supply water to Mumbai city. The Malabar Hill favoured for its cool breezes and fine views of the Back Bay, is the expensive residential area with 18th century colonial bungalows, that are now being replaced by apartment blocks. Mani Bhawan a private house where Mahatma Gandhi use to stay when he visited Mumbai. It is now a museum and research library with 20,000 volumes.

The display on the first floor there is a diorama depicting important scenes from Gandhi's life. The display of photos and letters written and received by Gandhi ji and the St. Thomas Cathedral, founded in 1675 AD by Gerald Aungier. Inside you will see a lot of interesting collections, e.g. chairs of King George and Queen Mary (1911). After lunch transfer to the airport for the flight to Goa, the former Portuguese enclave. The Portuguese arrived at Goa in 1510 AD under the guidance of Alfonso de Albuquerque. Their intention was to control the Eastern Spice trade and to spread Christianity. In the seventeenth century they extended their control over Bardez and Salcet during the tenure of their Governor Nuno da Cunha.

In this span of about a thousand years, beginning from 19th cent., the rulers embellished Goa with temples, mosques and churches of lofty dimensions attached with equally large convents, built by the various religious orders who settled down in Goa under royal mandates. The Franciscans were the earliest to arrive Goa, and many other religious orders like the Carmelites, Augustinians, Dominicans and Jesuits followed suit, establishing convents and churches.

After arrival transfer to hotel.

Day 03: Goa

After breakfast you visit some churches and shrines in Old Goa: Sé Cathedral: This is the largest church, measuring 35-36 m on the facade. The main entrance in the facade has Corinthian columns on plinths supporting a pediment containing an inscription in Latin, that in 1562, in the reign of King Dom Sebastiao (AD 1557-1578), this Cathedral was ordered to be erected.

The main altar is dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria. The richly gilded panel shows the martyrdom of the Saint. On either side of the nave is a niche in which are kept the wooden statues of St. Paul and St. Peter.

The Convent and Church of St. Francis of Assisi: The exterior is of the Tuscan Order while the main entrance in Nanuline style. The main altar is Baroque with Corinthian features. One of the chapels once contained the statue of Our Lady of Miracles brought from Jaffna in Sri Lanka. A wooden Statue of St. Francis of Assisi adorns a pedestal bearing the insignia of the Franciscans. Many beautiful large paintings on wood depict scenes from the life of St. Francis of Assisi. The origin of this church can be traced to 1517, when 8 Franciscan friars arrived here.

Basilica of Bom Jesus: The name means "Good Jesus" or "Infant Jesus" to whom it is dedicated. The facade has on the top the letters "IHS" which are the first three letters of Jesus in Greek. The church was commenced in 1594 and competed in 1605. In a chapel with gilded twisted columns and floral decoration of wood, there are kept the sacred relics of the body of St. Francis Xavier. For the afternoon we will try to get an audience with the Archbishop of Goa. His power still plays a special role in the Indian Christianity.

Dinner and overnight at the hotel in Goa.

Day 04: Goa

The whole day is at leisure on the beach. Unforgettable Goa, is a blend of serenity and excitement down a 100 km coastline studded with some of the world's finest beaches. Create you own kind of holiday. Sun bathe in a quiet secluded spot, choose the exhilarating thrills of parasailing, speed boating, water-skiing, wind surfing and deep sea diving. Celebrate with the Goans a feast of its famous cuisine and a spirit of joyous fun, etc.

Day 05: Goa - Bangalore - Mysore

Transfer to the airport for the flight to Bangalore, capital of the Union State of Karnataka, famous as the `Garden City', Bangalore palacewas once a summer resort of the British Raj. Bangalore is one of the most attractive cities in India with its beautiful parks, avenues and impressive buildings. The weather is very pleasant. Today, it is one of India's prosperous thriving commercial and industrial centres, also referred to as the `Silicon Valley' where most of the big electronic and computer companies have their centres also known as "Garden City" of India. After arrival drive to Mysore. En route, excursion to Srirangapattnam, a fortified island site in the Kaveri river, it has been the home to religious reformers and military conquerors. The fort was built under the Vijaynagar kings in 1454. 150 years later the last king handed over authority to the Hindu Wodeyars of Mysore. In the second half of the 18th century it became the capital of Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan from where they ruled southern India before being finally defeated by the British.

Today in ruins, near the northern gate, is the place marked by a simple monument where Tipu Sultan died fighting the British. The fort had triple fortification walls that were destroyed by the British. There is a mosque – Jama Masjid built by Tipu Sultan, it has delicate minarets, and two Hindu temples, Narasimha (17th century) and Gangadharesvara (16 century). a popular place of pilgrimage. The Daria Daulat Bagh a summer palace of Tipu Sultan built in 1784 in its lovely garden. It is an absolute jewel with colorful frescoes of battle scenes between the French, British and Mysore armies, ornamental arches and gilded paintings on the teak walls and ceilings which are full of interesting detail.

The Gumbaz a family mausoleum built by Tipu in remembrance of his father. It houses the tombs of his father, Haider Ali in the centre, that of his wife on the east and Tipu Sultan on the west. Approached through an avenue of cypresses, the ornate white domed Gumbaz contains beautiful ivory-on-wood inlay and Tipu's tiger stripe emblem. Some of his swords and shields are kept.

Finally drive on to your hotel in Mysore.

Mysore, the former capital of the princely state is the second largest city in Karnataka. It is a beautiful city of stately palaces, gardens, parks and museums. Sandalwood and a centre for the manufacture of incense sticks. The city is famous for the scent of jasmine in the spring.

After arrival at Mysore check-in the hotel.

Dinner and overnight at the hotel.

Day 06: Mysore 

After breakfast sightseeing of Mysore, well-known as "Sandalwood City". Mysore is the second most important city of Chamunda hillsKarnataka - the aura of grandeur and royalty still lingers on. Until independence of India it was the seat of the Maharaja of Mysore, a princely state covering much of present day Karnataka. The Maharaja Palace (1857) was once the residence of the Wodeyars, Built in Indo-Saracenic style in grand proportions, with domes, arches and colonnades of carved pillars and shiny marble floors. One of the largest palaces in the country with some art treasures, it is beautifully restored and maintained. The stain glass, wall paintings, ivory inlaid doors and the ornate golden throne (now displayed during Dasara) are all remarkable.

The fabulous collection of jewels, `amazing in its extravagance, is only now rarely on display. The gilded dome towers above the three storeyed palace. It consists of great courtyard, the marriage pavilion, the Durbar hall, armoury, the music and drawing rooms. The palace is a beauty when it is illuminated at night.

The Chamundi Hill has the temple of Durga (Chamundeswari) celebrating her victory over the buffalo god bringing peace to the local people. She became the guardian deity o the Wodeyars. On the road to the top is the giant Nandi Monolith carved in 1659 (4,8m x 7,6m huge bull sculpture).

In the afternoon excursion to Somnathpur to visit the famous Sri Chamakeshwara Temple, built 1260 AD during the heydays of the Hoysala Kings. It is one of the most beautiful and interesting buildings in the world. The walls of the star-shaped temple are literally covered with superb sculptures form the Ramayana, Mahabharatha, Bhaghvata and the life times of Hoysala Kings.

Dinner and overnight at the hotel in Mysore.

Day 07: Mysore - Ooty 

(135 Kms)

Early morning drive to Ooty. The road goes through the wildlife park of Bandipur to Madumallai, where you see an Elephant Camp Bandipur National Park is one of the 6 wildlife parks in Tamil Nadu which is spread over an area of 874 sq km. It was set up in 1931 by the Mysore Maharajah. It has a mixture of subtropical moist and dry deciduous forests (teak and anogeissus) and scrubland in the Nilgiri foothills. The wetter areas support rosewood, sandalwood, silk, cotton and jamun. It is the first park in South India to be chosen for the Project Tiger scheme. You can easily spot gaur, chital (spotted deer), elephant and sambar, tigers and leopards are difficult to spot. A good variety of birdlife inclMysore palaceuding crested hawk and serpent eagles and tiny eared owl. Continuing your drive through beautiful tea, coffee and pepper plantations.

Visit a tea factory before you arrive Ooty. Udhagamandalam - (Ooty), had been inhabited by Toda tribal people, who lived in villages or munds consisting of a handful of huts. Known as `Queen of the Blue Mountain' it is famous for its rolling hills covered in pine and eucalyptus forests and its coffee and tea plantations. Because of its climate, the British developed it as a summer retreat. Before the British the area was inhabited by the Todas, an animist tribe. Ooty lies at an altitude of 2.286m and surrounded by deep jungles and tea plantations.

Upon arrival check-in to the hotel. Afternoon visit the Botanical Garden, that have more than 1000 varieties of plants, shrubs and trees including orchids, ferns, alpine and medicinal plants among beautiful lawns and glass houses. There is a small lake with a 20 million year-old fossil tree trunk by it. The gardens were developed by Maarquis of Tweeddale in 1847, who got a Kew gardener to transform it into an ornamental garden. Furthermore you see the huts of the Toda tribe. The Todas it is supposed that they are the descendants of the Greek soldiers of Alexander's army. They have still maintained their tradition and speak their own language. You have enough time to wander through bazaars and experience the colonial past.

Dinner and overnight at the hotel in Overnight in the Hotel in Ooty.

Day 08: Ooty - Trichur 

(120 Km)

Leave for Trichur. On the west end of the Palakkad gap which runs through the low pass between the Nilgri and the PalBotanical garden Ootyani Hills. The route throgh the ghats is not scenic but it has been the most important link to the peninsular interior since Roman times. It was once the capital of Kochi State, Trichur was captured by the Zamorin of Calicut and then by the Portuguese and theDutch. In the 18th century it fell to Tipu Sultan before Raja Rama Verma, the architect of the town, came to the throne. Today you will see on your way the famous historical place where St. Thomas, the "Doubtful" landed 52 AD in India at the Malabar Coast near Cranga-nore. It was the beginning of Christianity in India, just 78 years after the death of Christ. Overnight at Trichur. Here is an old temple and a zoo with a collection of snakes.

Day 09: Trichur - Kochi 

(66 Km)

After breakfast leave for Kochi, well-known as the "Venice of the Orient". In 1500 AD the Portuguese came here and founded the first European branch in India. Today the Portuguese still alive here. Kochi formerly called Cochin. If Kerala is India's most beautiful state, which many tourists believe, then the lovely port of Kochi is its jewel. It has been hailed as Queen of the Arabian Sea, etc. Some choose to call it simply a museum city for its rich past and colorful present. It is a beautiful all weather harbor, and a grand seascape. The lagoons and wooded House boatislands and its back-waters, vest it with great beauty A city of waterways with a varied history. Notable here is the Jewish population, arriving over 2000 years ago and maintaining a strong community ever since. Hungry for spices, the Portugues, Dutch and British all left their mark on this scenic seaport. Kochi displays a blend of peoples and architecture. It is one place where you can see a Jewish synagogue, Portuguese churches, Dutch architecture, a couple of mosques, Hindu temples and Chinese fishing nets all in one day.

Upon arrival a boat excursion through the back waters, an idyllic experience. Pass through the lagoons watching the waterside local activities of the villagers - coir-making, toddy tapping, fishing, rice growing along the palm lined banks and narrow strips of land that separate the water-ways, and the constant traffic are typical. It also offers the opportunity to see tropical vegetation, bird life and crops. From the boat you see papaya, mangoes, jackfruit and tapioca. a huge branched lagoon system with varied scenery: palm trees, rice paddies, Christian churches, small villages and the villagers itself living close to the waters. May be you can visit a coir factory.

Afternoon free for independent activities.

Dinner and overnight in Kochi.

Day 10: Kochi

Today we see the highlights of God's own country. The city till today influenced by medieval Portugal, Holland and England. St. Francis Church cochinVisit St. Francis Church, built in 1503 by Portuguese Franciscan friars where Vasco da Gama was buried for 14 years before his remains were transferred to Lisbon. His tombstone still stands. Nearby is the Mattancherry Palace or "Dutch Palace". The central hall on the Ist floor was the coronation hall of the rajas of Kochi. Other rooms depict scenes from the Ramayana and Puranic legends connected with Hindu gods. Amazing are the Chinese fishing nets. These cantilevered fishing nets line the entrance to the harbour mouth. You also see the Jew City with the Jewish Synagogue, constructed in 1568, with hand-painted, willow-pattern floor tiles brought from Canton in the middle of 18th century by a Rabbi, who had trading interest in that city.

It is possible to see the great scrolls of the old testament and the copper plates with the privileges granted to the Jewish community by the Kochi rulers.

Afternoon is at leisure.

Dinner and overnight at the hotel.

Day 11: Kochi - Kottayam 

(147 Kms)

Drive to Kottayam the main centre for Christians in Kerala. It is surrounded by some of the most fertile and beautiful scenery in the state, with the hills to its east and backwaters to the west. The foothills of the Ghats are intensively cultivated with cash crops, notably rubber, tea coffee, cardamom and pepper, while the valley bottoms are given over to paddy. There is a Spice and Tea Market. For the local people this is the trading centre for their products, namely spices, rubber, coconut, rice and fiber based products.

In 1908 this picturesque place was already an established centre of the Christians of the Syrian Church. It is one of the oldest orders of the Catholic Christian Church in India. You will see a lot of churches in this area. In the vicinity are the shrines of St. Kuriakose Elias Chavara, the founder of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate and Sister St. Alfansa in Parananganam, who was said holy by the people. You will also visit the Bishop's house.

Overnight at Kottayam.

Day 12: Kottayam - Periyar.

(117 Kms)

After breakfast drive to Periyar National Park The road passes through picturesque plains, tropical evergreen forests, Periyar National Parkrubber and spice plantations, pepper on the low land gives rise to tea and cardamom plantations. Be prepared for a rapid change in temperature. Above 1000 m the air freshens and particularly in winter you will need warm clothing. This unique wildlife sanctuary is about 780 sq. km centered round an artificial lake fed by the Periyar River. This afternoon game viewing is on board boats, which carry you through the jungle along convoluted waterways and afford sightings of elephant, bison, deer and occasionally, tiger. Small animals include black Nilgiri langur, bonnet and lion tailed macaque, Giant and Flying squirrel. There are some 246 species of birds and 112 species of butterfly. There are trees more than 100 years old and over 50m high. All manner of flora and fauna flourish in this tropical habitat, making it one of the premiere reserves of Southern India.

TDinner and overnight in the hotel at Periyar.

Day 13: Periyar - Madurai 

(136 Kms)

Early morning enjoy another boat ride on the Periyar lake through the sanctuary. After breakfast drive to Madurai, the cultural capital of Tamilnadu. Here, the Dravidian culture reached its zenith in art, architecture, palaces and temple buildings. Once the capital of powerful Nayaka kings, a bustling city packed with pilgrims, businessmen, bullock carts and legions of rickshaw pullers. Its narrow overcrowded streets seem to be bursting at the seams with activity. Southern India's oldest center for pilgrimage and learning. Upon arrival check-in to the hotel.

Visit Madurai with the famous Sri Meenakshi Temple, a riotously baroque example of Dravidian architecture whose gopurams are covered from top to bottom with a breathless profusion or multi-coloured images of gods, goddesses, animals and mythical figures. Nothing quite like that exists outside Disneyland. the temple activities last from dawn till dusk and its many shrines attract pilgrims in their thousands from all over India. It is a city within the city and bustles with life.

The main features are the "Hall of 1000 columns" and the "Temple Art Gallery". You can also watch the pilgrims in the bazaar and bathing in the tanks from one of the roofs. The temple is named after the fish-eyed daughter of a Pandyan king. According to the legend she was born with three breasts. Thirumalai Nayak Palace, a palace in Indo-Saracenic style built in 1636, with huge domes and 240 columns rising to 12 m, a beautiful garden and a attached museum. The celestial Pavilion, an arcaded octagonal structure is curiously constructed in brick and mortar without any supporting rafters You also can visit the local silk weavers and Dippakulam tank, where all the major ceremonies of the great temple take place.

After early dinner drive by cycle-rickshahs again to the Meenakshi-Temple to watch the night ceremony, in which Lord Shiva is symbolically carried in a palanquin accompanied by musicians, temple singers and priests to the temple of his consort Parvati. En route, Shiva visits other deities before entering his wife's temple to spend the night with her.

Back to the hotel and overnight.

Day 14: Madurai - Thanjavur 

After breakfast drive to Tanjavur or Tanjore, once an old capital of the mighty Chola kings. Nowadays, Thanjavur isBrideshwara Temple tanjore famous for its mighty Shiva temples, its Chola bronzes in the Sarasvati Palace Museum and furthermore it is one of the most famous centres of pilgrimage for the Christians, as Thanjavur is only some kilometres away from Vailankanni. Our Lady of Good Health, popularly called "Our Lady of Vailankanni" is in the small town of Vailankanni (with 5,000 residents) located on the shores of the Bay of Bengal. It is located 150 miles south of Madras in Tamil Nadu, and 5 miles south of Nagapattinam. Our Lady chose this place to dispense her healing miracles to mankind. A strong oral tradition attests to Our Lady's apparitions at Vailankanni. You will visit the shrine of Vailankanni, which Pope Paul IV had chosen as the most important shrine of Mariam out of 24 worldwide. The bishops concelebrated with the holy father in St. Peters before the decision was made by the Vatican Council II. In the evening spend time with the Bishop of Thanjavur.

Dinner and overnight at the hotel.

Day 15: Thanjavur

Today you will visit some of the projects as planned by the bishop.

Dinner and overnight at the hotel.

Day 16: Thanjavur - Ashram Sachidanand

Another interesting day. You drive to the Ashram of Bede Griffits. He is a Catholic priest who is trying to preach the gospel and its philosophy through the Indian way of life and style. His new name is "Sachidananda" and he calls his place an "Ashram". You will spend the night at his place.

Day 17: Sachidanand - Chennai 

Drive to Chennai via Pondicherry the last French settlement in India till 1954. Despite its invigorating seafront and relaxing atmosphere the town is visited above all for the Sri Aurobindo Ashram which draws visitors from all over the world. Before checking into the hotel you visit Sri Aurobindo Ashram, a spiritual centre representing a synthesis of Yoga and modern science founded by Sri Aurobindo and his chief disciple Mirra Alfassa. Sri Aurobindo Ghosh was an early 20th century Bengali revolutionary and philosopher who struggled for freedom from British colonial power. He started the Ashram to put into practice his ideals of a peaceful community. In this aim he found a lifelong French companion in Mirra Alfassa, who became universally known as the Mother. After his death the Mother continued as the spiritual successor and charismatic figure of Pondicherry. Stroll through the streets whose names still bear the French influence and finally to Auroville, "city of dawn", founded in 1968 and is inhabited by about 1000 people who are from 20 different countries. Late evening arrival at Chennai, check-in to the hotel for overnight.

St. Thomas Church

Day 18: Chennai - Mahabalipuram

After breakfast sightseeing of Chennai the oldest city of the British Raj and the first branch of the East India Company when Francis Day, a factor of the East India Company, decided to locate his trading post on this particular part of the coast in 1639. Today Madras is the fourth largest city of India with a population of about. 5 million people. Also called as "Hollywood of India", about 900 films are produced in Madras per year. You visit Fort St. George, the Cathedral St. Thomas, a Roman Catholic church, where the belongings of the Holy Apostle Thomas are supposed to be. The church was built in 1504. Afternoon proceed to Mahabalipuram. Overnight in a beach hotel.

Day 19: Mahabalipuram

The whole day is at leisure on the beach, or you can the historical sites of the sea-side resort of Mahabalipuram: " City of Seven Pagodas". The ancient Pallava port of Mamallapuram and its 7th century rock-hewn monuments transport yourself to the yesteryears, the mShore templeagnificent rock temples and carvings. Five Rathas (chariots) ceremonial chariots, rock-cut monoliths, named after the 5 Pandavas - heroes of the Mahabharata epic and Draupadi their wife. The largest is Dharmaraja with numerous images including an interesting Shiva – Parvati at the rear. The barrel vaulted Bhim has a roof suggestive of a thatched hut, next to it the dome-shaped ratha Arjuna imitates Dharmaraja.

The Draupadi ratha is the smallest and simplest in the form of a thatched hut the base covered with sand, conceals a lion in front. Nakul-Sahadeva ratha with a free standing elephant nearby. Some of these Rathas are unfinished and in them can be seen the carving technique used to form temples out of living rock. The Shore Temple by the sea surrounded by gardens designed according to descriptions of the original layout from ancient times. Built in sandstone in the 7th century.

Bhagiratha's Penance is a bas- relief (27 to 9m) sculptured on the face of two enormous adjacent rocks, depicts, the penance of Arjuna, myraid characters from the Mahabharata, realistic life-size figures of animals, gods and saints watching the descent of the river goddess Ganga to earth.

Rest of the day is free.

Dinner and overnight stay at hotel.

DDay 20: Mahabalipuram - Chennai

Transfer to Chennai airport to connect flight back home.

End of Services