Tag Archives: Chettinad

Oota Chronicles: Travelling for food

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Chefs are stepping out of their kitchens to travel far and wide in search of authentic flavours, discover ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY

JW Marriott Bengaluru - Coffee Trail with Chef Anthony (19)

When JW Marriott Bengaluru invited us to a Coorg Coffee Trail with award-winning executive chef Anthony En Yuan Huang, we weren’t sure what to expect. “It’s a coffee-themed food festival in Bangalore, after a field trip to Coorg,” we were told enigmatically. And thus, a motley group of writers, foodies and chefs set off for Kodagu. We pulled over at a side road for a pop-up breakfast of JW Marriott’s signature soft-centre chocolate cookies, croissants, cupcakes and sandwiches.

It was just an appetizer for the lunch at Cuisine Papera in Gonikoppal. In a museum-like setting amid old vessels and traditional implements, we tried vonekk yerchi (smoked pork), pork chudals, bemble (bamboo shoot) and pandi curry with akki otti. It wasn’t ideal prep for a berry picking exercise at Tarun Cariappa’s coffee estate at Valnoor but we sluggishly learnt how coffee is grown, harvested and processed, savouring sweet paputtu, mushroom toasties and traditional Kodava hospitality.

JW Marriott Bengaluru - Coffee Trail with Chef Anthony (3)

By evening, we reached The Bungalow 1934, a heritage property run by rallyist Amrith Thimmaiah. With a backdrop of mist-laden hills, Chef Anthony conducted a Master Class on coffee-inspired dishes like Drunken Chicken, marinated with Coorg coffee, green pepper, parangi malu (bird’s eye chili) and a can of beer, staying true to the region. See the video of JW Marriott’s Coorg Coffee Trail.

Back in Bengaluru, we enjoyed a coffee spa and a coffee-themed buffet at JW Kitchen. Coffee-crusted beef tournedos, tiger prawns marinated in Coorg coffee, espresso desserts and coffee-based cocktails; it was a caffeine fix of a different kind. From food festivals, pop-ups to theme restaurants, ‘eat local’ is the new mantra and chefs are moving out of the comfort of their kitchens. They travel miles to ensure their food is zero-mile and locally sourced.

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Westin Hyderabad Mindspace relies on the cultural roots of its chefs for culinary inspiration. At Seasonal Taste, Chef Mukesh Sharma from Gwalior delved into the traditional tastes of Madhya Pradesh to develop a gharana cuisine of royal flavors from Gwalior, Indore and Bhopal – bhutte ki kees (spiced grated corn) and Bhopali gosht korma.

Westin encourages its chefs to regale patrons with unusual offerings like the maharajas of yore – vada burgers and golgappas with guacamole and sol kadhi! At their Frontier fine dine restaurant Kangan, an artisan from the Old City crafts a lac bangle for guests gratis, a wonderful way of keeping both cultural and culinary traditions alive.

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Total Environment roped us in as travel writers for a food research project to open a pan-Karnataka restaurant in Bangalore. With a video crew and two talented chefs in tow, we cooked at homes, iconic hotels, temple kitchens and smoky village huts. After 18 years at UK’s top restaurants, Chef Suresh Venkatramana returned to his roots to rediscover Karnataka’s traditional cuisine.

Self-taught chef and F&B consultant Manjit Singh of Herbs & Spice fame has launched restaurants from Indiranagar to Aizawl. An avid biker, his driving skills and fluency in Kannada made him an asset on our food journeys. He haggled with fisherwomen, bargained at village markets and made Gowda hunter-style sand-baked fish by the river, earning the nickname Manjit Singh ‘Gowda’ or MSG.

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Planning it by circuits – Coorg, Malnad, Coast, North and South Karnataka – the coast was supposed to be one linear trip with stopovers at Mangalore, Udupi, Bhatkal, Gokarna and Karwar. We could not even cross Mangalore in our first attempt, as we were ensnared in a delicious web of sukkas, seafood, goli baje, sajjige-bajjil and Mangalore buns, always referred to in plural even if you ask for one.

We realized there was no such thing as Mangalorean cuisine but Bunt, GSB (Gaud Saraswat Brahmin), Catholic, Jain and Beary cuisines, each a rich representative of various communities. So what’s the food scene in Mangalore, we asked our foodie friend Arun Pandit. “After Ramzaan, cholesterol, after Christmas, cirrhosis, after Ratholsavam (chariot festival), gas…” he summed up the hazards of feasting season and overdose of meat, liquor and asafoetida.

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We stuffed leitão (pigling) with the Britto sisters and chickens with Luna and Lunita, made tindli-moi (cashew-ivy gourd) at Pereira Hotel and savoured fish meals at Narayana and pork meals at a home-style Catholic eatery Mary Bai ‘mai jowan’ (literally ‘mum’s food’). We tried the ‘Gadbad’ ice cream at Diana Restaurant in Udupi, where it was rustled up in a gadibidi (great hurry).

Near Yellapura, we encountered Siddis, descendants of African slaves brought by the Portuguese, and cooked wild ferns like aame soppu, literally ‘turtle greens.’ From being goaded to eat goat balls at a Sauji eatery (good for virility, winked the owner) to waking up before dawn to harvest a nest of fire ants to make chigli chutney in Malnad, we did it all.

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“Hum pet pe kafan baandh ke nikle hain” (We’ve set out with shrouds on our stomachs), was our popular refrain, as we devoured everything from gurudwara langar at Bidar to cycle khova (sold on bicycles) in Bellary. By the time we were done, we clocked 20,000km over two years, covering 25 communities. Virtual strangers opened their homes and hearths to help us document these rare culinary treasures. See the video of our Oota journeys.

After extensive food trials, Karnataka’s culinary heritage was finally showcased at Oota, a Karnataka-themed restaurant in Whitefield. Our travels inspired mixologist Neil Alexander to concoct indigenous cocktails using local ingredients – Mandya Sour with honeycomb infused whiskey and sugarcane juice and Varthur Overflow, using Gokarna’s pink-hued Saneykatta salt.

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In Chennai, ITC Grand Chola’s Chef Varun Mohan researched India’s imperial kitchens for Royal Vega, a pan-Indian vegetarian restaurant with a season-based menu. Avartana serves South Indian dishes with a contemporary twist. For ITC’s new hotel WelcomHotel Coimbatore, Chef Praveen Anand travelled across the Tamil hinterland to research Kongunadu cuisine, stopping at local eateries, parotta joints and homes to understand culinary nuances and techniques. WelcomeCafe Kovai has a small regional showcase of kadai thengai curry (quail in dry coconut and red chilis) and kalakki (soft scrambled egg masala).

Mrs Meenakshi Meyyappan, octogenarian owner of The Bangala in Karaikudi, has dedicated her life to hospitality, showcasing the cuisine of the Nattukottai Chettiars of Tamil Nadu. After years of serving traditional meals on banana leaf at her heritage hotel, she has co-authored The Chettinad Cookbook and The Bangala Table. Even today, Mrs Meyyappan personally fixes the daily menu at The Bangala a day in advance.

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The assimilation of various flavours to form a unique composite cuisine can be best seen in Kochi. Like a UN potluck, the Portuguese introduced coconut milk, the Jews contributed the appam while the Dutch infused culinary influences from their colonies – Indonesian satay to Sumatran rendang (caramelized curry).

CGH’s Eighth Bastion Hotel offers a tantalizing ‘Dutch Route’ at their restaurant East Indies with Dutch Bruder bread and lamprais (Sri Lankan Dutch Burgher dish). Brunton Boatyard’s History Restaurant showcases 32 cuisines of various communities in Fort Kochi – Syrian Christian duck moilee, Anglo Indian cutlet, Jewish chuttulli meen, Ceylonese string hoppers and Railway Mutton Curry.

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For the longest time, Rajasthan’s culinary repertoire was a stereotype of laal maas, dal-bati and gatte ki sabzi. But heritage hotels have revived recipes carefully documented by various thikanas. At Bikaner’s Laxmi Niwas Palace, at a low-lit long table inside Rajat Mahal the Gold Room, we feasted on boti marinated with kachri (wild melon) and red chilis and wild country fowl with warqi paratha.

At Narendra Bhawan, the avant garde residence of Bikaner’s last Maharaja Narendra Singhji, we relished a Bikaneri nashta of mirchi vadas, bajra poori, kesar lassi and pista chaach. The Marwari Lunch at the Queen’s Table in P&C (Pearls & Chiffon) had carefully curated dishes from Bikaner’s royal kitchens – maans ke sule, khargosh kachra and murgh tamatar Nagori, besides the Maharaja’s eclectic European tastes – goat cheese mousse and arrancini biryani.

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One place that takes culinary exploration to another level is Suryagarh near Jaisalmer. At their specialty restaurant Legends of Marwar, host Manvendra Singh regaled us with stories of Marwar’s lesser-known fare from court kitchens and royal hunts. Suryagarh makes great effort to present its food in dramatic outdoor settings.

Waking up before dawn for Breakfast with Peacocks, the never-ending Halwayi breakfast, sundowners, Dinner on the Dunes with a nomadic hunt menu and Jaisalmer grill and curry dinner at The Lake Garden. The starry Thar sky mirrored the twinkle of lamps, Kalbeliyas danced as the smoky aroma of char grilled bater (quail) and khad khargosh (smoked rabbit) mingled with the ballads of kings…

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FACT FILE

Oota Bangalore, Whitefield
Ph 88802 33322
https://www.facebook.com/OotaBangalore/
http://www.windmillscraftworks.com

JW Marriott Bengaluru
Ph 80671 89999
http://www.marriott.com

Westin Hyderabad Mindspace, Hi-Tech City
Ph 040 67676767
http://www.westinhyderabadmindspace.com/

WelcomHotel Coimbatore
Ph 042 22226555
http://www.itchotels.in

The Bangala Chettinad, Karaikudi
Ph 044 24934851, 94431 83021
http://www.thebangala.com

Eighth Bastion/Brunton Boatyard, Fort Kochi
Ph 0484 4261711
http://www.cghearth.com

Narendra Bhawan, Bikaner
Ph 07827151151, 0151-2252500
http://www.narendrabhawan.com

Suryagarh, Jaisalmer
Ph 02992 269269
http://www.suryagarh.com

JW Marriott Bengaluru - Coffee Trail with Chef Anthony (18)

For more food journeys, follow
@red_scarab, @oota_bangalore, @chefmanjit and @chefanthonyhuang on Instagram
@anuragamuffin, @priyaganapathy and @chefmanjit on Twitter

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared as the cover story in Indulge, the supplement of The New Indian Express newspaper on 9 March 2018.

 

Madurai: Oracular Spectacular

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ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY visit Madurai to see the temple town’s round-the-clock machinery of piety and commerce

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At 4am, a metal gate creaks open and a woman washes the entrance to her home, swiftly drawing an intricate kollam (floral design). A vendor unloads baskets of fresh malli poo (jasmine), soon to be threaded into elaborate garlands for temple rituals, weddings or hair ornaments. In another street, the telltale aroma of sambar and freshly brewed coffee signals breakfast as trays of steaming idlis are deftly removed. Elsewhere, the unstoppable clatter of looms working through the night has produced reams of Sungundi saris. Madurai may be no New York but it certainly is Thoonga Nagaram, the city that never sleeps.

In mythology, Madurai was once Kadambavanam, the forest where Lord Indra atoned for the sin of slaying the pious demon Virudran (Vritra). Unable to complete his ritual with the right number of flowers, Indra prayed fervently beside a lake where a golden lotus magically bloomed. The famous Madurai Meenakshi Temple symbolizes this legend. The lingam is supposedly the one that Indra prayed to and the Potramarai (Golden Lotus) tank is the sacred lake. The golden spire over the sanctum sanctorum is called Indra Vimanam and Ashta Airavat (eight forms of Indra’s famous mount) guard Shiva’s shrine. On Chaitra Purnima, Indra allegedly visits the temple to perform puja.

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It is said that when the city was being founded, Lord Shiva appeared and danced with joy, drizzling nectar (madhuram) from his matted locks as blessing. Hence the town was named Madurai. Under the Pandyas and Madurai Nayakas, Madurai flourished as a cultural capital, hosting the last Tamil Sangam, a literary conclave that produced the Tamil epic Silappathikaaram. When Greek envoy Megasthenes visited India in 3rd Century BC, he hailed Madurai as Athens of the East.

Temple of the Fish-eyed Goddess

While walking the busy streets of Tamil Nadu’s third largest city, it’s hard to discern that Madurai radiates around the iconic temple in concentric rectangles that symbolize the cosmos. Streets bear names of Tamil months – Adi, Chitare, Avani Mula, Masi and Veli. And wherever you may be, the rainbow-hued temple towers soaring 150ft skywards draw you in. As we entered the 16-acre complex, it was like breaching a portal to some Spiritual Wonderland – musical pillars, gilded domes, divine sculptures, devotees heaping ash over the Ganesha idol of Vibhuthi Pullaiyar, scenes portraying Shiva’s Thiruvilayadal (64 miracles) and murals depicting his marriage to Meenakshi.

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Customarily, we worshipped the bejeweled emerald deity of Goddess Meenakshi first before Lord Sundareshwarar. ‘That’s why in Madurai, women are superior to males, unlike Tanjore’, joked our guide. ‘In the days of Sangam literature, poets and pundits would consecrate their works to the temple by throwing their manuscripts into the Pottramarai tank. If they sank, they weren’t considered good enough, if they floated, they had passed muster.’ The 2-hr tour ended at the Temple Art Museum inside the 1000-pillared Ayiramkal Mandapam, which incidentally has only 984!

Thirumalai Nayaka’s legacy

From the third longest temple corridor in Tamil Nadu, we found ourselves at one of South India’s largest man-made temple tanks. The 1100ft by 950ft Mariamman Theppakulam was excavated by King Thirumalai Nayaka to make bricks for the construction of his palace and later converted into a stepped tank fed by the Vaigai River through underground channels. As part of his birthday celebrations, the king initiated the Float Festival in 17th century where Madurai’s presiding deities were given a ride on a decorated theppa (raft) around the kulam (tank).

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Built in 1636, the Thirumalai Nayaka Palace was sadly only a fourth of its original size, demolished by the king’s grandson Chokkanatha Nayaka who transplanted some portions to his new capital Trichy. The Swargavilasa or Celestial Pavilion was the only surviving relic. A massive open courtyard seemed to frame the sky as 13m high pillars lined the Indo-Saracenic building. The ceiling was rendered with floral designs like flying carpets hovering above. A golden throne marked the Durbar Hall while the adjoining hall Nataka Sala was where the king was entertained.

Opposite the palace, shops sold Madurai’s famous signature drink Jigar Thanda (Soul Coolant), a curious blend of chilled reduced milk, badam milk, nannari sherbet (sarsaparilla extract), kalpasi (China grass), sago, Boost (malt-based chocolate drink) and ice cream. A regular patron explained it was perfect for Madurai’s hot climate.

After a brief stop at St. Mary’s Cathedral, one of the oldest Roman Catholic churches in the region, we crossed the dry Vaigai River to reach the Gandhi Memorial Museum, one of the seven museums in the country dedicated to the Mahatma. It was during his second visit to Madurai in 1921, that Gandhiji adopted his trademark loincloth to express his compassion towards the ill-clad peasants in the countryside. His 1934 visit spurred the ‘Temple Entry Movement’ for harijans (considered untouchables). Only after Vaidyanath Iyer opened the doors of the Madurai temple to all in 1939, did Gandhiji step inside the shrine in 1946!

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Set in the beautiful Tamukkum Summer Palace of Nayaka queen Rani Mangammal, the museum showcased Gandhiji’s life through rare images, quotes, murals and letters. The Hall of Relics and Replicas contained 14 original artefacts used by Mahatma Gandhi including a shawl, spectacles, yarn and the bloodstained cloth worn by him when he was assassinated.

Beyond Madurai

Madurai was also home to two of the six Aru Padai Veedu or Sacred Abodes of Lord Murugan. We climbed the hilly cave shrine of Subramanya Swamy at Tirupparankundram to the chants of “Vetrivel Muruganukku Arohara” (Hail to the Lance-wielding Lord). Women hurled butterballs to cool down the fierce image of Kali while others fed fish in the 11 teerthams (ponds). An hour’s drive away was Pazhamudhir Cholai, where Lord Subramanya had tested the wits of saint Avayya as a young boy. At the foothills stood the Azhagar Kovil temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu as Sundarajar or Azhagar, the brother of Meenakshi who solemnized her marriage to Lord Shiva.

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What made all the hectic sightseeing worthwhile was returning to a 17-acre oasis called Heritage Madurai. Once a club for British managers of Madura Coats and today a heritage hotel, a small Chettinad village has been recreated in its old drive-in theatre where garland making, pottery and weaving were taught to guests. But we were off for the real deal. Chettinad was just 80km away and within a few hours we were rolling through a dusty stark landscape into a fantasy world of 100-room mansions and Chettinad cuisine.

From Aayiram Jaanal veedu or House of 1000 Windows in Karaikudi to MAM Ramaswamy’s Chettinad Palace in the heritage village of Kanadukathan, each building was a masterpiece. From the Art Deco style of Visalam, the Bangala’s colonial touch, the French minimalism of Saratha Vilas to the opulence of Chidambara Vilas near Tirumayam Fort; staying in these heritage hotels was the best way to experience true Chettiar hospitality.

Blending Burmese Teak, Italian Marble, Belgian chandeliers, English crockery and Japanese ceramic tiles with an Indian ethos, the enterprising Natukottai Chettiars had transformed a landlocked region into something unparalleled. Here, caretakers proudly showed off meter long keys and served cuisine livened up by rabbit chukka, sura puttu (shark mince) and kaada (quail) fry while Hindu deities, Victorian ladies and British soldiers stared down from the walls.

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Back at Madurai, the lofty spires of the city’s temples broke the monotony of the flat landscape from our perch at Taj Gateway atop Pasumalai Hill. Madurai’s strategic position in the Tamil heartland made it an excellent gateway for more journeys. The road continued from Chettinad to Trichy via the cave shrines of Narthamalai and Sittanavasal with exquisite frescos. The locksmith town of Dindigul, Haider Ali’s stronghold famous for its historic fort and delicious biryani, the picturesque Kamarajar Valley and the misty cool climes of Kodaikanal, a colonial escape from the heat and dust of Madurai lured visitors north. Meanwhile in the golden light of dusk, temple bells rang out, muezzins called and the city continued its round-the-clock shift as we surrendered ourselves to its old-world charm.

FACT FILE

At a Glance
Easily the cultural capital of Tamil Nadu, Madurai is a temple town of palaces and museums. Located on the banks of the Vaigai and dotted with shops, eateries and shrines, it is centered around the Meenakshi Sundareshwarar Temple. Bearing imprints of the Cholas, Pandyas, Telugu Nayakas, Nawabs of Arcot and the British, it is at its colourful best during festivals when temple prakaarams (outer precincts) and wide streets come alive with processions. Summers can be sweltering, so time your visit accordingly.

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Things to Do

Sound & Light Show – The quadrangle of the Thirumala Nayaka Palace in Madurai serves as a seating area for the daily Sound and Light show narrating the glorious saga of the palace. Timings: 6:45pm-7:35pm Entry: Rs.50 Adults, Rs.25 Child (5-12yr)

Athangudi tile manufacture – Visit a local tile factory in the small village of Athangudi to watch artisans hand cast tiles using local sand, gravel, cement and some paint. The typical poo kallu or floral stones come in dark earthy hues with geometric, floral designs.

When to Go
Madurai is good to visit between September and March, when temperatures are cooler. During the Chithirai festival in Apr-May, witness Thiru Kalyanam or the grand reenactment of Meenakshi’s marriage to Lord Sundareswar when Lord Vishnu, her brother, is taken in a procession from Azhagar Kovil on a golden horse chariot to attend the rituals.

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Getting there
By Air: Madurai Airport, 12km south of the city, is connected by daily flights to Chennai and Bangalore though the nearest international airport is Trichy (134km northeast), a 2.5hr drive on NH-45B.
By Road: NH-7 connects Madurai to Tirunelveli (154km south, 2hr 40m) and Kanyakumari (245km, 4hrs), NH-45B connects it to Thoothukudi (142km southeast, 2.5hrs) and NH-49 to Munnar (156km west, 3 hrs). Karaikudi is 80km east on NH-210.

Getting Around
The Vaigai River diagonally cuts across Madurai and runs parallel to NH-85. Being a large congested city, Madurai has several bus stands. Arapalayam (4km north of railway station) on Puttuthoppu Road has north and westbound buses to Theni, Salem, Dindigul and Kodaikanal. The new Madurai Integrated Bus Terminus (MIBT) at Mattu Thavani (t0452 4219938) on Kurivikaran Road connects destinations to the north and east. Periyar Bus Stand (200m from railway station) has buses for the airport and Alagarkoil whereas Palanganatham has southbound buses for Tirunelveli, Nagercoil and Kanyakumari. It’s best to engage an auto rickshaw or a cab to cover local sights. Thirumalai Nayaka Palace and St Mary’s Cathedral are 1.5km south-east of the temple and Teppakulam 4km away on NH-49. Gandhi Memorial and the Government Museum are north of the Vaigai on Alagar Kovil Road en-route to Pazhamudircholai. Thirupparankundram is 8km south-west on Thirumangalam road.

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Eat
For classic South Indian vegetarian fare, eat at Meenakshi Bhavan (t0452 4391588) on Collector Office Road near Anna Bus Stand, New Arya Bhavan (t0452 3299104) or Murugan Idli Shop (t0452 2341379) on West Masi Street. The iconic shop opened in 1966 and their trademark soft idlis are served with 4 chutneys besides dosas, uthappams and other tiffin items. To whet your carnivorous pangs, head straight to Anjappar Chettinad at Hotel Annamalai International on 120 Feet Road.

For biryani lovers, there’s no better place than Kalyana Biriyani (t9894145555) on Nethaji Road or Sri Velu Dindigul Biryani (t0452 4510010) on Tamil Sangam Road. In Karaikudi, Saffron at Hotel Subhalakshmi Palace dishes out good veg fare while Friend’s Garden Restaurant and ARC are local eateries serving Chettinad staples like kada fry, rabbit chukka and non veg meals. For fine dining, head to Taj Gateway or Heritage Madurai.

Stay

MADURAI

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Heritage Madurai
11, Melakkal Main Road, Kochadai, Madurai 625016 t0452 2385455, 3244185
www.heritagemadurai.com Tariff Rs.6,400-10,000 35 luxury villas, 37 deluxe rooms
Voted the Best Heritage Hotel-South India in 2011, Heritage Madurai was renovated by architect Geoffrey Bawa on the condition that all materials used must come from a 30km radius around Madurai. The granite floor is from an old mill, brass temple lamps have been reincarnated as light fixtures while the restaurant is landscaped around a 200-year-old banyan tree lit by a British warship searchlight. Spacious villas come with plunge pools whereas the swimming pool is inspired by the Teppakulam Tank. Enjoy Ayurvedic and Thai massages at Svasti Spa and relish South Indian and Sri Lankan cuisine.

The Gateway Hotel
40 TPK Road, Pasumalai Hills, Madurai 625004 t0452 2371601
www.thegatewayhotels.com Tariff Rs.5,500-8,000 63 rooms
Contoured around the Pasumalai Hills near Thirupparankunram, the palatial bungalow was built by William Harvey in the 1890s and served as the official residence of the MDs of Harvey Mills (later Madura Mills). Today, the heritage hotel retains its colonial flavour with period rooms, wooden floors and deluxe cottages amidst landscaped gardens. The restaurant, aptly called View, overlooks Madurai while Harvey’s Lounge bar is a great place to escape the city’s bustle.

GRT Regency
38 Madakkulam Main Road (TPK Road), NH7, Palanganatham Signal Junction, Madurai 625003 t0452 237 1155 www.grtregency.com Tariff Rs.4,750-5,750 57 rooms
The swanky city hotel by GRT, near Palanganatham Bus Stand in the southern part of town, comes with a multi-gym, swimming pool, boutique, bar and Ayush Ayurvedic therapy center offering authentic Kerala oil massages. Aaharam serves elaborate multi-cuisine buffets for breakfast and lunch and a la carte dinner. Free wi-fi is a bonus.

Hotel Sangam
Alagarkoil Road, Madurai 625002 t0452 4244555, 2537531 www.sangamhotels.com Tariff Rs.4,000-5,500 60 rooms
A decent hotel with a bar, pool, shopping arcade and a restaurant that whips up excellent Indian, Continental and Chinese with classical performances, veena recitals and folk dances.

CHETTINAD

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Chidambara Vilas
TSK House, Ramachandrapuram, Kadiapatti, Off Tirumayam Fort Ph 0433 3267070, 9843348531 E chidambaravilas@hotelsangam.com www.chidambaravilas.com 24 heritage rooms
If you’re in the mood for extravagance try Chettinad’s most luxurious heritage hotel. Chidambara Vilas is the century-old home of TS Krishnappa Chettiar. An exquisite doorway leads to inner courtyards lined by teak, rosewood and granite pillars. Enjoy rooftop views, a swimming pool, spa and cultural performances while relishing Chettinad meals on banana leaf in a renovated Bomma kottai (Hall of Dolls).

The Bangala
Devakottai Road, Senjai, Karaikudi 630001 Ph 04565-220221, 250221 E thebangala@gmail.com www.thebangala.com Tariff Rs.5,650-6,350 (breakfast Rs.300, meals Rs.600) 25 rooms
A colonial family home run by Mrs. Meyyappan, the Bangala hosted lavish tea parties and tennis tournaments in the 1900s. Sir Athur Hope, the Governor of Madras, visited in the 1940s and all the furniture, cutlery and crockery used by him are still in circulation. Rooms overlook a central garden with a swimming pool and spa. Excellent Chettinad meals, cooking demos, kitchen tours and local sightseeing enrich your stay.

CGH Visalam
LF Road, Kanadukathan 630103 Ph 04565 273301, 273354 E visalam@cghearth.com www.cghearth.com 15 rooms
An Art Deco home renovated and infused with CGH Earth’s philosophy, Visalam is a step back in time with large brass urns, sepia tinted photos and period furniture. Three dining areas for different meals lend a bit of variety. Relax by the pool, browse the library or learn about spices at the interactive kitchen, with bullock cart rides and nadaswaram recitals organized on request.

Chettinadu Mansion
S.A.R.M. House, Behind Raja’s Palace, T.K.R. Street, Kanadukathan Ph 04565 273080, 94434 95598 E info@deshadan.com www.chettinadumansion.com Tariff Rs.5,000 (meals Rs.600) 12 rooms
Run by the affable Mr. Chandramouli, the 40,000 sq ft mansion was built over a century ago by S.A.Rm.Ramaswamy Chettiar. Its succession of courtyards with bright pillars, balconies and 100 rooms are a delight, as is dining in the lavishly decorated hall.

Saratha Vilas
832, Main Road, Kothamangalam 630105 Ph 98842 03175, 98849 36158 E sarathavilas@hotmail.com www.sarathavilas.com Tariff Rs.5,200-5,600 8 rooms Restored by French architects Michel Adment & Bernard Dragon who fell in love with Chettinad, Saratha Vilas is a Tamil home stripped of its showy past and replaced by a muted French sensibility. Old sakarapattis (sugar granaries) adorn the rooms and idli grindstones serve as sinks. Enjoy Franco-Tamil cuisine, Ayurvedic massages or relax in the garden.

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KAMARAJ VALLEY

Cardamom House
Athoor Village, Via Sembatti, Dindigul District 624701 t0451 2556765, 9360691793 www.cardamomhouse.com Tariff Rs.3,300-5,500 6 rooms
A charming eco farm run by a retired British physician, its rooms are named after Indian herbs and spices. A fixed menu (Rs.1,200/person) caters primarily to a European palate, with meals served at Four Winds, a nature-cooled area and sundowners on the terrace.

Lakeside Resort
Kamarajar Lake, Athoor Village, Dindigul District 624701 t0451 3202817, 9894563935 www.lakeside.co.in Tariff Rs.2,500-3,950 9 rooms
Run by English couple Peter and Dorinda Balchin, the resort offers five stone cottages, four en-suite twin bedrooms in the main house and a swimming pool. Meals (Rs.940/person) are served at the lake-view verandah or the large rooftop.

Double Dutch Resort
Holland House, Athoor, Dindigul District 624701 t0454 3294499, 0451 2556763, 9443828742 www.doubledutchresort.com Tariff Rs.1,750-2,400 6 rooms
Located on the spurs of Palani Hills bordered by Kamarajar Lake this Dutch run resort is spread over 8-acres. Food is a mix of Indian, European, Indonesian and Mexican cuisine (Rs.900/person), enriched with farm fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs, milk, cheese and curd, besides homemade jams, bread and Dutch coffee.

Wild Rock
Kannivadi Hills, Sadayandi Kovil Road, Athoor Village, Dindigul District 624701
t0451 2471572, 2470454 www.wildrock.asia Tariff Rs.4,000-6,000 5 rooms
Built in local granite, stone and marble, the country house comes with a swimming pool overlooking the lake. A restaurant, barbeque counter and fruit and salad kiosk serve delicious Indian fare (Rs.950/person). Adventure sports, trekking and farm visits are organized.

Tamara Resort
Perumal Kovil Pathy, Karunya PO, Coimbatore 641101 t0422 2615779/442, 6560111 www.tamararesorts.com Tariff 3,800-6,000 8 tents
An Aitken Spence Hotel, Tamara is a boutique resort 30km from Coimbatore and 25km from Siruvani. Eight luxurious tents stand against a stunning backdrop of the Western Ghats. There’s pool table–cum–recreation facilities, kids play area, multi cuisine restaurant and Internet access within the comfort of your tent.

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared in the Sep-Nov 2012 issue of Time Out Explorer magazine.

Holiday on a Banana Leaf: Best Places to Stay in Tamil Nadu

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One of the most popular tourist circuits in the country, Tamil Nadu has witnessed the impact of several cultures across centuries. Besides the royal stamp of the Pallavas, Cholas and Pandyas whose bustling seaports lured colonial powers like the Portuguese, Dutch, Danish, British and French, Tamil Nadu also bears the imprint of Roman and Armenian trade. Dotting the entire state are grand monuments, imperial forts, pristine beaches with soft sands, traditional temple towns, mist-covered hill stations and lush green paddy fields. The diversity of accommodation options would woo any traveller to overstay – from heritage hotels to boutique five star luxury, palatial mansions in Chettinad to French villas in Pondicherry, eco-friendly resorts on the Coromandel Coast to British clubs and bungalows in the hills… Here’s a selection of some amazing places to stay.

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Around Chennai: Vivanta by Taj Fisherman’s Cove
Though Chennai has its share of 5-star hotels, perhaps the best place to stay is far from the mob, 36 km south at Covelong. Fisherman’s Cove is a luxurious beachfront hotel near the serene Muttukadu backwaters off the East Coast Road. Built on the ramparts of an old 18th century Dutch fort and spread over 22 acres, the resort’s plush rooms, beachfront cottages and Scandinavian villas offer splendid views of the sea. Wade in 10,000 sq ft of crystal clear waters in the hotel’s Infinity pool with its luxurious plunge bar Sun Burst. Dine on exotic Seafood, Med and Continental fare at the three restaurants – Bay View, Upper Deck, Seagull while the signature Jiva Spa adds to the other sensual pleasures of the cove. It’s also a great base to visit nearby attractions like DakshinaChitra and Madras Crocodile Bank.

Covelong Beach, Kanchipuram District 603112
t 044 67413333
www.vivantabytaj.com
Tariff Rs.8,400-11,900

Also check out: Hilton, Le Meridien, Sheraton, Marriott, Trident, Radisson, GRT Grand and The Park aresome of the biggest names in 5-star hospitality, though Taj Connemara, Chennai’s only heritage hotel, is the top pick.

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Mamallapuram: Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay
The maritime capital of the Pallavas, Mamallapuram was known in antiquity as The Town of Seven Pagodas after the seven Shore Temples that once dotted its coast. Today, only one remains and the best way to see it is not from land, but from sea, like the ancient mariners did. Boat rides to the Shore Temple are the signature activity at Temple Bay, besides a range of water sports. Set in a 46-acre oasis along a spotless waterfront, the resort has a wide choice of stay options. Exclusive pool villas come with private plunge pools while elegant chalets, villas and bungalows face the bay, the garden or the meandering swimming pool, one of the largest in south Asia. Sumptuous platters, grills and pastas await you at The Wharf, the seaside specialty restaurant (rated among Asia’s best) and Water’s Edge café a 24×7 multi-cuisine restaurant. A fitness centre, a 9-hole putting course and an uber cool spa make it the perfect setting for pleasure-seekers.

57 Covelong Road, Kanchipuram Dist, Mamallapuram 603104
Ph 044 27443636
www.radissonblu.com  
Tariff Rs.6,250-11,250

Also check out: Indeco Mahabalipuram near Shore Temple, a hotel housed in a museum on an 1820’s British camping site or the psychedelic guesthouses and lodges with rooftop cafes on Ottavadai Street, a favourite backpackers hangout.

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Pondicherry: Maison Perumal
With wide rues (streets) named after French governors lined by tall villas washed in yellow and white, Pondicherry has an archetypal colonial air about it. Yet, most travellers tend to miss Pondy’s other charms. Located in a quiet part of the Tamil Quarter is Maison Perumal, an extraordinary double-storeyed Chettiar bungalow. In keeping to its theme of homely hospitality, the renovated rooms are left unnumbered and the restaurant is sans a name. The friendly staff smile and clarify, “When you visit a friend’s place, does the guestroom or kitchen have a number or name?” Mellow lights, a smattering of antiques and furniture, sepia photographs and posters add to the old world charm. Large urali (metal cauldrons) with fronds and ferns pretty up the two sunlit courtyards while a band of geometric coloured stained glass bordering the balcony livens the interiors. After delicious seafood platters and eclectic Franco Tamil cuisine, the soft inviting bed beckons…need one ask for more?  

58, Perumal Koil Street, Pondicherry 605001
Ph 0413 2227519, 9442127519
www.cghearth.com  
Tariff Rs.6,790

Also check out: Other heritage stays and boutique addresses like Calve, Hotel de l’Orient, Le Dupleix, Villa Helena, Hotel de Pondicherry, Gratitude offer the characteristic trappings of French colonial comfort.

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ECR (East Coast Road): The Dune Eco-village Resort & Spa
Imagine a sprawling 35-acre area sprinkled with villas and rooms hidden from public view, gourmet restaurants dishing out fusion food, an exotic designer spa offering wat-su (water shiatsu treatment) and 700m of seafront just for you. Sounds as implausible as the desert planet of Arrakis in Frank Herbert’s Dune saga? Well, The Dune eco-hotel is as surreal as its literary inspiration. Bearing the creative stamp of architects Dimitri Klein and Neils Schonfelder, each room is radically different in design using recycled materials from local homes and palaces, besides a ship breaking yard! Dimitri confesses “It was a mistake that evolved into a hotel”! Organic linen, recycled wine bottles for water, CFL lamps, solar heating, cycles for guests and an in-house organic farm have ensured that the resort’s carbon footprint is 75% less than the industry standard. No surprise why it was voted as one of the 5 Best Ecological Hotels in the world (Geo), the Best Spa Destination (Harper Bazaar) and the Best Luxury Resort in 2011 (The Hindu-NDTV Lifestyle Award). Shop at Artyzan, a vocational academy cum design studio, for handmade local crafts.

Eco Beach Village, Pudhukuppam, Keelputhupet (via Pondy University) 605014
Ph 0413 2655751, 3244040, 9364455440
www.thedunehotel.com   
Tariff Rs.5,500-17,950

Also check out: Ocean Spray, Mango Hill and Ashok Resort off the ECR are great places to explore Auroville nearby

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Tranquebar: The Bungalow on the Beach
At dawn, in the erstwhile Danish outpost of Tranquebar, the old Dansborg Fort on the beach is cast into gold by the awakening sun; on the gilded sea, silhouettes of fishermen set sail for the days’ catch past the 12th Century Masilamani Nathar Temple. Such picture postcard images are what you wake up to at Neemrana’s heritage property, The Bungalow on the Beach, once the British Collector’s Office. Built on two levels with a runaround verandah offering views of the garden and the sea, the bungalow’s eight spacious rooms are named after Danish ships that docked at Tranquebar – Prince Christian, Crown Prince of Denmark, Queen Anna Sophia, Countess Moltke, Christianus Septimus. Parquet flooring, period furniture and collectibles, blue and white china and a trellised garden by the pool imbue the place with old world allure. An INTACH walk around the quaint town takes you to a Danish cemetery, Zion Church, New Jerusalem Church and The Governor’s bungalow, all built in the 1700s. 

24 King Street, Tharangambadi 609313, District Nagapattinam
t 04364 288065, 289034-36, 9750816034
www.neemranahotels.com
Tariff Rs.4,000-6,000

Also check out: Neemrana also runs a B&B facility in the Danish-Tamil style Gate House and the vernacular Nayak House, a Tamil sea-facing home with 4 rooms, which includes a Tower Room (the loftiest in town), ideal for honeymooners.

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Madurai: Heritage Madurai
The graceful peacock origami towel painstakingly embellished with tiny flower petals in the room defines Heritage Madurai’s idea of hospitality – god is in the details. Plush rooms, a sagely 200-year old banyan tree and a 17-acre shaded enclave diffuse the reality of being in a hectic temple town. Conceptualized by Geoffrey Bawa around the original British Clubhouse, the architecture illustrates his design philosophy of ‘tropical modernism’ and creating spaces that seamlessly blend the outside with the inside. The resort’s 72 rooms include 35 villas with sundecks and private plunge pools. Antique lamps and lanterns have been cleverly transformed into modern light fittings. Dine at Banyan Tree restaurant overlooking its namesake as chefs rustle up traditional Tamil, multi-cuisine and Sri Lankan fare. Indulge in the wellness spa offering traditional Ayurvedic therapies and western aroma massages. Swim in the Olympic-sized pool styled after Madurai’s famous temple tank Theppakulam. After the customary visit to Madurai Meenakshi Temple and Tirumala Nayaka Palace, drop by at the Gandhi Museum.

Heritage Madurai, 11 Melakkal Main Road, Kochadai, Madurai 625 016
Ph 0452 2385455, 3244185
www.heritagemadurai.com
Tariff Rs.6,400-10,000

Also check out: GRT Regency inthe heart of town and Taj Gateway a colonial retreatperched atop Pasumalai hill on the outskirts

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Kumbakonam: Mantra Veppathur
A welcome drink of panakam (jaggery and ginger), a relaxing foot massage and a gong sounded to mark your arrival, get ready for a traditional holiday at Mantra Veppathur. Situated in a coconut grove between the Cauvery and Veezhacholan rivers, the eco-resort has agraharam-style cottages called Mantra Ilam or Paniyar Ilam, decorated with Kanjeevaram silks and Thaliyatti bommai (Tanjore dolls). Wake up to the call of peacocks, dine on sattvik (veg) cuisine at Annaprasanna, take a plunge in the Infinity swimming pool and get an Ayurvedic massage at the Punarjenma spa. Traditional games like daayam (dice), palaanguri (cowrie), parama padam (snakes and ladders) add an authentic rural touch. In the evening, sip freshly brewed Kumbakonam coffee at the Mantra Chai Kadai, enjoy pastoral life on bullock cart rides, visit silk-weaving units or witness cultural performances at Mantra Kalairangam, the open-air theatre. And of course, don’t miss the grand Chola temples at Thanjavur, Kumbakonam, Darasuram and Gangaikondacholapuram.

No.1 Bagavathapuram Main Road Extn, 536/537A Sri Sailapathipuram Village, Veppathur 612 103, Kumbakonam, Thanjavur District.
T 0435 2462261, 2460141
www.mantraveppathur.com
Tariff Rs.7,000-12,000

Also check out: The riverside heritage property Paradise Resort and Indeco Swamimalai, an ethnic 1896 Tanjore village resort, India’s only winner of the Global Eco Tourism Award

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Chettinad: Chidambara Vilas
Chettinad’s latest heritage hotel is easily the final word in opulence. Earlier the mansion of TS Krishnappa Chettiar, Chidambara Vilas was built over a century ago at the cost of Rs.7 lakh! As you enter through the gate bearing the owner’s insignia, an ornately carved doorway makes you stop in your tracks. The profusion of carving, the pillars made of teak, rosewood and granite and the string of courtyards leave you in a whirl. Meticulously restored by the Sangam group, the resort’s 24 heritage rooms overlook a beautiful pool. The terrace offers a magnificent view of the region’s typical architectural landscape with endless rows of tiled roofs. The Bomma kottai (Hall of Dolls), renovated into a restaurant, serves authentic Chettinad fare on banana leaf. The only problem is, with so much pampering, you might not even stir out to see the Tirumayam Fort nearby.

TSK House, Ramachandrapuram, Kadiapatti, Pudukkottai Dist.
Ph 0433 3267070, 9843348531
www.chidambaravilas.com
Tariff Rs.12,000-15,000

Also check out: The other beautiful mansion hotels, Visalam, The Bangala, Chettinadu Mansion and Saratha Vilas, are located further south around Karaikudi and the heritage town of Kanadukathan

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Nilgiris: The Kurumba Village Resort
Cut away from the clamour of Ooty and Coonoor, Kurumba Village is located in a quiet forest patch between the 4th and 5th hairpin bends on the Mettupalayam-Coonoor road. Named after one of the five ancient tribes of the Nilgiris, its tribal-styled cottages in earthy tones, thatch-work roofs and Kurumba artefacts are a tribute to the ingenious forest dwellers. French windows offer an unhindered view of the Nilgiri hills while the balcony overlooks a British spice plantation of nutmeg, cloves, pepper and lofty trees of jackfruit and rosewood. Treetops, afire with the Flame of the Forest, attract sunbirds and flowerpeckers and one can spend hours watching the dance of wings. The large thatched dining area, where delicious meals are served, is an ideal perch above a murmuring brook. Go on a walking tour of the spice plantation, luxuriate in the stunning pool or hop on to the mountain railway for a leisurely ride up the hills.

Ooty Mettupalayam Road, Hill Grove Post, Kurumbadi 643102, The Nilgiris
Ph 0423 2103002-4, 2237222, 9443998886
www.kurumbavillageresort.com
Tariff Rs.8,500-13,000

Also check out: Heritage bungalows like Fernhills Palace, an organic cheese-making farmstay Acres Wild or the plush Destiny Farm, which also runs unique concept hotels like King’s Cliff and Sherlock

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Yercaud: Indeco Lake Forest Hotel
Half-hidden by tall trees dressed in pepper vines in a wooded corner near Yercaud Lake, this delightful resort was once the Eastlyne Farm Coffee Estate. Rosar Villa, the charming bungalow built in the 1800s overlooking the lobby and restaurant, is named after its former Portuguese owner Henrietta Charlotte Rosario, who resided here during the British days. Like all Indeco Hotels, the resort bears the signature of its chairman Steve Borgia – a front lobby that doubles up as a museum, adorned with carefully documented rare memorabilia.  A friendly chef and attentive staff make dining at the restaurant or in the sun-dappled courtyard, a pleasure. The Eastlyne Garden and Wood House suites give panoramic vistas of the Shevaroy Hills. Besides nature walks, Lake Forest is a great base to explore Yercaud’s main sights – the lake, Shevaroyan Temple, Botanical Garden and lookouts like Pagoda viewpoint, Lady’s Seat and Gent’s Seat.

Near Anna Park, Ondikadai Post, Yercaud 636 602, Salem District
Ph 04281 223217/8, 9444001438
www.yercaud.indecohotels.com
Tariff Rs.4,000-10,000

Also check out: GRT Nature Trails SkyRocca Yercaud, an extravagant resort contoured against the mountains and The Grange Resort, the first camping place of the British with facilities for off-road adventure.

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared in the November, 2011 issue of JetWings magazine.  

Home is where the art is: India’s Top 10 Homestay regions

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1. Ecosphere Homestays, Spiti

A community-driven initiative led by Ishita Khanna (voted MTV Youth Icon in 2008), Ecosphere Spiti takes you to some of the loftiest homestays in India. On the Spiti Left Bank trek, visit the high-altitude villages of Langza, Komik (Asia’s highest inhabited village), Demul, Lhalung and Dhankar (the erstwhile capital of Spiti), as you stay in traditional mud-brick homes overlooking snowy peaks of the Trans Himalayas. Discover ancient fossils and remote Buddhist monasteries, go on yak safaris and enjoy the rejuvenative powers of chirku (Sea-buckthorn).

Contact Ishita/Sunil, Chhering Norbu
Ecosphere Office, Old Bazaar, Kaza
Ph 01906-222652
M 98994 92417, 94182 07750, 94184 39294, 98730 98017
E info@spitiecosphere.com
Web www.www.spitiecosphere.com

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2. Culture Aangan, Konkan

Experience the magic of the monsoon in the lush hinterland of Maharashtra’s Konkan region. Founded by philanthropist Rashmi Sawant, Culture Aangan promotes ethnic farm stays across Sindhudurg and Sawantwadi, combining eco-holidays and rustic experiences. Visit the Pinguli Tribal Arts Complex, relish typical Malvani fare and unearth vibrant lacquer craft and Ganjifa Art, with pristine beaches never too far away.

Nandan Farms, Sawantwadi
Hosts: Amrutha & Ashish Padgaonkar
M 94223 74277
E amrutapadgaonkar@yahoo.in 

Dwarka Farmhouse, Sawantwadi
Hosts: Soni & Dilip Aklekar
Ph 02363-266267, 98694 10626, 94225 41168
E dilipaklekar@yahoo.co.in

Pitruchaya Homestays, Sindhudurg
Hosts: Vijay & Vaishali Loke
M 98699 81393, 97645 93947
E sindhudurg@rtne.co.in

Shreeyog Paryatan, Oras
Hosts: Shubhada & Shashikant Kadam
M 94224 34893

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3. Malabar

While Wayanad and Southern Kerala have witnessed a tourism explosion, the quiet northern coast of Malabar from Kasaragod to Palakkad has been largely overlooked. Stay in tharavadu houses (ancestral clan homes), witness Theyyam performances (India’s oldest ritualistic temple art form), visit stunning sea forts and savour Moplah cuisine as you explore India’s historic Spice Coast. Key attractions include the 4 km long drive-in beach Muzhappilangad and the maidan in Thalassery where cricket was played for the first time in India.

Gitanjali Heritage, Bekal
Host: Mr Jaganath
Ph 0467-223 4159, 94474 69747           
E jaganathc@rediffmail.com
Web www.gitanjaliheritage.com
Tariff Rs.3,500

Chandralayam, Bekal
Host: Mr. Krishnan
Ph 0467-2236456, 94467 72414
E contact@chandralayam.com
Web www.chandralayam.com  

Kannur Beach House, Thottada
Ph 0497–2836530, 2708360
M 98471 84535, 98471 86330
E info@kannurbeachhouse.com 
Tariff Rs.2,500

Costa Malabari, Kannur
Ph 0484–237 1761
E touristdesk@satyam.net.in
Web www.costamalabari.com
Tariff Rs.2,000

Ayisha Manzil, Thalassery
Hosts: CP & Faiza Moosa
Ph 0490–2341590, 98470 02340
E cpmoosa@rediffmail.com, ayishamanzil@rediffmail.com
Tariff Rs 9,000

Olappamanna Mana, Vellinezhi
Hosts: ON Damodaran & P Sreedevi
Ph 0466 2285383, 9895081821
E olappamannadamodaran@gmail.com
Web www.olappamannamana.com
Tariff Rs.4,700-6,000

Kandath Tharavad, Palakkad
Host: Mr. Bhagwaldas
Ph 04922 284124, 321231, 93499 04124
E tharavad15@yahoo.com
Web www.tharavad.info
Tariff Rs.4,000-6,000

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4. Coorg

From ain-maneys (ancestral homes) to colonial plantation bungalows and riverside retreats to bamboo cottages, Karnataka’s hill district of Coorg teems with homestay options. Most homes overlook manicured lawns bursting with poinsettias surrounded by picturesque coffee estates where cardamom and pepper grow under the shade of rainforest trees. Trace the journey of coffee from berry to cup, sip homemade wines and enjoy signature Kodava dishes like pandi (pork) curry and bemble (bamboo shoot).

Gowri Nivas, Madikeri
Hosts: Bopanna & Muthu
Ph 08272–228597, 94481 93822, 94484 93833
E gowrinivas@gmail.com

School Estate, Siddapur
Hosts: Rani & KK Aiyapa
Ph 08274–258 358, 94486 47559
E school1@sancharnet.in
Tariff Rs.4,800-8,050

Palace Estate, Kakkabe
Hosts: Apparanda Prakash & Poovanna
Ph 08272–238446, 98804 47702
E info@palaceestate.co.in
Tariff Rs.1,200-2,000

Kabbe Holidays, Chelavara
Hosts: Vidya & Dilip Chengappa
Ph 08272-200658, 98454 46652, 94489 76460
E dilip@kabbeholidays.com
Tariff Rs.2,000-3,800

Polaycad Bungalow, Ammathi
Hosts: Mallige & Robin Cariappa
Ph 08274–252240, 94486 06066
E polaycad@hotmail.com

Spring Dale Plantations, Kadanga
Hosts: Urvashi & Dr Sunil Muddaiah
Ph 08274-269 430, 98459 89898
E contact@springdalecoorg.com 
Tariff Rs.5,000

Bamboo Loft, Dubare
Hosts: Kodanda Ashish & Savitha
Ph 08276–267 800, 98458 48224
Tariff Rs 2,000

Kalmane, Nagarahole
Hosts: Maya & Prabhu Uthaya
Ph 08274–244 659, 94484 69659, 99001 69659
Tariff Rs.3,500

5. Goa

The Portuguese ruled Goa for 450 years (1510 to 1961) and there’s no better place to see its imprint than Goa’s heritage homestays. Renovated Portuguese style houses, complete with entrada (foyer), sala (living room), balcao (balcony) and period furniture transport you to a different era. Walk the Latin Quarter of Fontainhas, relish Goan cuisine, dwell in the stillness of centuries-old churches, explore a rich hinterland criss-crossed by rivers and a 131 km coastline always at arm’s length.

Arco Iris, Curtorim
Hosts: Bennita & Ganesh
Ph 0832 2786800, 96049 64482
E beni@arcoiris.in, bennitaganesh@yahoo.com
Tariff Rs.3,500-7,000

Stain Glass Cottage, Colva
Hosts: Sharon & Rajesh Arab
Ph 0832-278 0249, 96043 59382
E info@stainglasscottage.com
Tariff Rs.4,000-4,500

Capella, Parra
Hosts: Jamshed & Ayesha Madon
M 99234 59488
E info@capellagoa.com
Tariff Rs.6,000

Siolim House, Siolim
Ph 0832 2272 138/941, 98225 84560
E info@siolimhouse.com
Tariff Rs.4,500-11,000

Vivenda Gomes Pereira, Panjim
Host: Antonio Gomes
Tariff: Rs.6,500

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6. Chettinad

Chettinad is a land-locked quarter of the enterprising Chettiars, a Tamil trading community who went to the Far East for business and returned to build grand mansions with their fortune. Extending over thousands of square feet with several inner courtyards, the front and back of these massive homes often open out to different streets. Procuring the best from across the world, Chettinad homes lavishly use Burmese Teak Wood, Italian Marble, Belgian chandeliers and English Steel. Besides the architectural treat, feast on specialties like Chicken Chettinad, kaada (quail) fry, nandu (crab) masala, rabbit and pigeon.

Chettinadu Mansion, Kanadukathan
Host: Mr. Chandramouli
Ph 04565 273080, 94434 95598
E info@deshadan.com 
Web www.chettinadumansion.com
Tariff Rs.5,000

The Bangala, Karaikudi
Host: Mrs. Meyyappan
Ph 04565-220221
E thebangala@gmail.com
Tariff Rs.4,700-5,650

Saratha Vilas, Kothamangalam
Hosts: Michel Adment & Bernard Dragon
M 98842 03175, 98849 36158
E sarathavilas@hotmail.com
Tariff Rs.5,200-5,600

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7. North East

Whether it’s the comfort of a Lepcha home in Sikkim, a Khasi-run homestay in Meghalaya, an Angami village-stay in Nagaland or a colonial tea-bungalow in Assam, the sheer diversity of cuisine and culture in the less-explored North East, is mind-blowing. Bathe in waterfalls, get a fish spa in natural rock pools, trek to the amazing Living Root Bridges of Meghalaya, interact with tribes, go on birding walks to spot endemic species and embrace nature in its purest form.

Cherrapunjee Holiday Resort, Laitkynsew
Hosts: Denis & Carmela Rayen
Ph 03637-244218/9, 94361 15925, 96153 38500, 98630 79856
E cherrapunjee@hotmail.com
W www.cherrapunjee.com

Rosaville, Shillong
Host: Mrs. Topoti Bauri
Ph 94361 10180 ‎
Tariff Rs.2,000-3,500

Prabhakar Homestay, Guwahati
Ph 0361-2650053, 94350 33221, 94350 33222
E bookings@prabhakar-homestay.com
Tariff Rs.4,500-6,000

Meru’s homestay, Khonoma (Nagaland)
Hosts: Khrieni & Megongui Meru
Ph 0370-234 0061

Mayal Lyang, Sikkim
Hosts: Gyatso & Samsay Lepcha
Ph 9434446088
E gyatso@mayallyang.com
Tariff Rs.3,800

Yangsum Farm, Sikkim
Hosts: Thendup Tashi & Pema Chuki Bhutia
Ph 03595-245322, 94341 79029
E yangsumfarm@yahoo.com
Tariff: Rs.6,250

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8. Rajasthan

Get a taste of true-blue royalty in Rajasthan’s family-run heritage hotels, homes and havelis. From authentic lal maas (red meat) to simple dal baati churma on a platter, from lofty forts to exquisitely carved Jain temples, from tie-dye clothes to embroidered jootis (footwear), from elephant rides to desert camel safaris, from Kalbeliya dancers to Manganiyar musicians, the colourful Desert State is a heady blend of Rajput valour and legendary hospitality.

Giri Sadan Homestay, Jaipur
Host: Capt SK Singh
Ph 0141 2371385, 2364191, 98292 92008, 94133 37387
E reservation@girisadanhomestay.com
Tariff Rs.2,400-3,700

Jai Vilas, Jaipur
Host: Jaideep Singh
Ph 0141-2710781, 95874 10880
E joybana@gmail.com 
Web www.jaivilas.com  

Devra Homestay, Udaipur
Hosts: Major Durga Das & Jyoti Jasol
Ph 0294 2431049
E info@devraudaipur.in

Nachana Haveli, Jaisalmer
Hosts: Vikramaditya & Meghna Singh
Ph 02992 252110
E nachana_haveli@yahoo.com

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9. Uttarakhand

In this fabled Devbhoomi or ‘Land of the Gods’ there are many ways to experience divinity – sunrise on the snowy peaks of the Great Himalayan Range, the blaze of a rhododendron forest in full bloom or the rustic charm of Kumaoni villages. Venture into the wildlife preserves of Binsar and Corbett, go birding at Nainital and Pangot, explore India’s own Lake District, amble through the fruit orchards of Almora and Ranikhet while you uncover Jim Corbett’s legacy on his Maneater Trails.

The Homestead, Corbett
Hosts: Bunny & Amu Puri
Ph 05947-282128, 9927082128, 9837782328
Tariff Rs.5,000-8,000

Valley View Villa, Ranikhet
Host: Sabrina Singh
Ph 05966-240266, 94120 93826
E sabjyas@gmail.com

The Cottage Jeolikot
Host: Bhuvan Kumari
Ph 05942-224013, 94111 07313 
E bhuvan_kumari@yahoo.com
Tariff Rs.3,800-5,500

Emily Lodge, Nainital
Hosts: Siddharth & Neha
Ph 05942-235857, 99170 21129, 94111 96907
Web www.emilylodgenainital.in  
Tariff Rs.4,500-6,500

Emerald Trail, Bhimtal
Hosts: Sumith & Leena Dutta
M 98339 49954
E emeraldtrail.bhimtal@gmail.com
Web www.emeraldtrail.in
Tariff Rs.3,800-5,000

Gaunap Village Stay, Binsar
Host: Sunder Singh Bora
M 94105 90980, 98495 14854
E info@idyllichavenindia.com

Bob’s Place, Nathuakhan
Hosts: Bob & Poonam
Ph 05942-285510, 98110 34861
E holidays@welcomheritagehotels.com

10. Himachal Pradesh

High in the hills crowned by clouds are castles, royal residences and plantation bungalows converted into exotic holiday retreats. Sip fine tea and marvel at Kangra’s miniature paintings, grasp the nuances of Tibetan Buddhism at Dharamsala, visit unusual shrines of Manu, Hidimba Devi and Bijli Mahadev and buy locally hand-crafted scarves, shawls and Himachali topis, besides HPMC’s wide range of horticultural products like juices and jams.

Tara Villa, Palampur
Hosts: Pavi & Reeta Sarin
Ph 01894-231217/18, 98162 31177, 98160 31177, 98164 00007
E info@taravilla.in
Tariff Rs.2,500-3,500

Manali Meadows, Manali
Hosts: Sunita & Sanjay Dutta
Ph 01902-257555, 93189 33044, 93189 33055
E info@homestaymanali.com, sunjaydutta@gmail.com
Tariff Rs.2,000

Jandev Castle, Ghorna (Shimla)
Host: Kr. Anirudh Singh Jandev
Ph 0177-2811861, 9418136456
E jandevcastle@gmail.com
Tariff Rs.3,650

Clouds End Villa, Dharamsala
Host: Raghveer Singh
Ph 01892–224904, 222109, 94183 26200
E sales@cloudsendvilla.com
Tariff Rs.3,000-5,000

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared in the July, 2011 issue of JetWings magazine.