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South Indian Threads Tour

Price

£3750

per person
Based on two people travelling together. Includes all workshops and most meals.

Exploring South India’s Rich Textile Heritage

Spanning three states blessed with diverse scenery, cultures, textiles and traditions, our South Indian Threads tour will give you a taste of authentic Indian life and culture as well as introducing you to a wealth of textiles and decorative techniques that are a feast for the senses.

Discover tropical forests and backwaters, historic Portuguese ports, sculpted mountain tea gardens, secluded beaches, bustling towns and cities, rural villages unchanged in centuries and spectacular historic temples and palaces. This tour is designed to give you a dazzling snapshot of this undiscovered part of South India and its highly skilled textile artisans.

On this tour you’ll experience authentic Kerala and be welcomed by her friendly, hospitable people.

Itinerary

Thursday 2nd February

Welcome on arrival at Kochi International Airport and transfer to your hotel for a three night stay in historic Fort Kochi. Kerala enjoys a tropical climate, with temperatures around 32C in January.

After a late breakfast and introduction to the tour, the rest of the day is free to rest, acclimatise and to explore the atmospheric old streets of Fort Kochi.

The glorious faded architecture is evidence of the various European trading nations who occupied Kochi in the 17th and 18th centuries. The trading port of Cochin remains a spice hub, with aromas of ginger, cardamon and cinnamon drifting out of the ancient warehouses by the harbour. There’s so much to discover here

In the evening, we invite you to an inclusive welcome dinner at one of Fort Kochi’s excellent waterfront restaurants.

Friday 3rd February

Our first textile expedition takes you by ferry from Fort Kochi to Vypin Island followed by an hour’s drive to a Gandhian Khadi weaving centre and hand-loom weaving co-operatives. This area was once the home of the weavers to the Rajah of Cochin, now providing an income for a small community of artisans. A knowledgable handloom expert who is working with the weavers to revitalise the local handloom industry, will be your guide for the day. An inclusive Keralan lunch is provided

In the afternoon there is an opportunity to buy Khadi and handloom fabric to use in your natural dyeing and block printing workshops later in the tour.

Return to Fort Kochi for dinner at a recommended restaurant.

Saturday 4th February

Today we offer you a choice of activities. Explore more of Fort Kochi and its fascinating history, and culture or take an optional rice boat  trip on the serene local backwaters south of Cochin. Float silently through the lush vegetation of the lagoons in a sustainable, motorless rice boat, and enjoy a delicious Keralan style lunch.

In the evening discover the colour and skill of Kathakali Theatre with its intricate makeup, flamboyant costumes and subtle gestures, followed by dinner at your hotel.

Sunday 5th February

Experience a wonderfully scenic drive up into the mountains of the Western Ghats to the old British hill station and tea-growing centre of Munnar. Your hotel for three nights is set in the contoured greenery of the tea gardens. Enjoy an evening walk around the surrounding tea and spice gardens with a knowledgeable guide before dinner.

Monday 6th February

The first day of your two day workshop with Aranya Natural at the natural dyeing and printing workshops of SRISHTI. Using natural dyes they create beautiful textiles and garments with decorative techniques such as wax resist block printing, clamp and tie dyeing.   Try your hand at some of these skills and learn some of the techniques of natural dyeing in our hands-on workshop. At the end of the day you’ll be able to browse bustling Munnar town bazaar where spices, teas and much more are sold, before enjoying dinner at our favourite Keralan canteen style restaurant.

Tuesday 7th February

Complete your creative natural dyeing projects at Aranya Natural today and share your results with the group. There will be a chance for you to ask any further questions with our host before a visit to their extensively stocked on site store. An inclusive dinner will be provided at your hotel this evening ready for an early start in the morning.

Wednesday 8th February

A travel day through the most diverse and stunning scenery so far. Winding up through Munnar’s sculptural tea gardens into the mountains that divide Kerala and Tamil Nadu we’ll stop en route at Maryoor in the midst of the sandalwood forests of Kerala. Here you can buy authentic sandalwood oil and other sandalwood products. The scenic drive continues through the Chinnar Wildlife and Adimali Tiger Reserves and down into Tamil Nadu with the possibility of spotting some wildlife, if you are lucky! Late afternoon takes you to your hotel resort in Pollachi, for a one night stay.

Thursday 9th February

Our visit to Ethicus tells the story of organic cotton from seed to sari.  Beginning with a visit to the on-site farm to understand how organic cotton is grown, processed, and spun in the nearby spinning mill. After a buffet lunch we’ll be able to watch the yarn being hand woven by the centre’s weavers into beautiful sarees in stunning colours and designs. This ethical and sustainable company are now teaming up with artisans that specialise in regional forms of hand decoration in other states of India, creating sumptuous effects.

Visit the studio’s showroom to see if you can resist buying one of their dazzling pieces. Travel mid afternoon to our hotel, Eco Garden Resort for a two night stay, where Ayurvedic massage is available. Enjoy an inclusive dinner at the resort.

Friday 10th February

Today you’ll experience A Day With The Masters at the Kerala Kalamandalam, school of traditional performing arts, to gain insights into the fascinating eight to ten year training that the students undergo to learn Kathakali theatre performance, Bharatnatyam classical dance, Kathakali make up, and other Keralan performance skills and to admire the intricate and elaborate Kathakali costumes in the school’s gallery. The afternoon continues with a visit to a famous traditional Keralan weaving village to see how the weavers create the iconic unbleached cotton Kerala sari with its traditional gold borders worn for many temple festivals, ceremonies and weddings.  Families here have been weaving this particular form of sari and men’s dhoti for hundreds of years. We return to Eco Garden Resort for dinner.

Saturday 11th February

Travel North to a  remote and unspoilt beach resort for four nights. From here you’ll be able to explore the rich cotton weaving heritage of the Kannur area and have time to unwind. On the way, we’ll call in at Sargaalaya Craft Village, where artisans from all over India sell beautiful handmade craft items and hand woven textiles. An authentic Keralan ‘meal’, or thali, is included for lunch.

During your stay in Kannur experience the extraordinary and unique ceremony known as Theyyam.  A pre Hindu ritual that involves members of a  caste of performers actually becoming the local gods. In a trance like state, they give their blessing to the village for the year ahead accompanied by drumming, dancing and often fire. To witness a Theyyam, you should be willing to rise at around 3.30am to travel to a nearby village to witness the climax of the ceremony. It is absolutely unmissable!

Sunday 12th February

A free day to relax and explore miles of unspoilt beaches. Enjoy a head massage or reflexology session at the resort or book a full body Ayurvedic massage nearby. Watch the sun set over the Arabian sea followed by an inclusive dinner.

Monday 13th February

This morning explore the Kannur heritage of handloom weaving at a thriving co-operative handloom workshop. The warping, winding, dyeing and weaving processes will all be explained to you as you tour the workshops. After Lunch at a nearby restaurant, explore the bustling old market area of Kannur and do a shop-hop to visit the best fabric and clothing outlets in Kannur including Khadi suppliers. Travel back to your stunning beach resort for another sunset stroll and inclusive beachside dinner.

Tuesday 14th February

Travel to nearby Thalassery to discover traditional local products and how they’re made. The historic trading port of Thalassery, or Tellicherry, is famous for black pepper and other spices that have been exported to Europe from here since the 17th Century.  We’ll have a chance to see behind the scenes at a copra mill where coconut oil is made in the traditional way and watch the marvellous speed and skill of the women hand rolling tiny beedi cigarettes nearby.

Enjoy a traditional lunch at a restaurant famous for its Biryani, which is one of the town’s specialities. Thalassery is also known as the home of British style cakes, in India. Sample Mambali’s traditional Rich Tea and Malted Milk biscuits from a Raj era recipe and buy Ayurvedic oils, herbs, beauty products and spices of every kind at two venerable old shops in the town.

Alternatively, enjoy a day at leisure at our idyllic beachside resort.

Wednesday 15th February

Today we journey over the mountains that divide Kerala from Karnataka, taking us on to the next stage of our exciting textile adventure to the city of Mysore.  This city of the plateau enjoys a less tropical climate than Kerala with pleasant temperatures around 30F in February. For centuries a city of the Wodeyar dynasty of Maharajahs, Mysore retains the unspoilt charm of a bygone age as many of the buildings have survived and give the city a flavour of its majestic past.

After checking in at our hotel, the rest of the afternoon is at leisure for you to browse the vibrant and colourful Devaraja flower and spice market and to discover the many silk sari and fabric stores in the city centre. Dinner is at a recommended restaurant.

Thursday 16th February

Travel one hour to the atmospheric and sacred temple town of Melkote. for a one day spinning taster workshop using a box charkha of the kind that Gandhi used daily as he travelled India and the world promoting ‘swaraj’ or self-governance for India. We’ll be based at a Gandhian weaving centre just outside the village where they produce naturally dyed khadi cloth and promote a sustainable and self-sufficient community lifestyle for their community,  using local materials wherever possible.  Watch the weavers at work in the centre and visit their small khadi shop in Melkote. In the late afternoon explore the exquisitely carved Hoysala temple buildings scattered around the village and climb the steps to the Yoga-Narasimha hill temple overlooking the town, with its ornate gopura and fabulous views, accessible only on foot. A simple vegetarian lunch at the centre is included.

Return to Mysore for dinner.

Friday 17th February

Travel an hour to meet the spinners who spin the cotton yarn that the weavers use to create Khadi in Melkote. This once thriving Gandhian village industries centre employs local Amber charkha spinners and trains weavers top produce simple Khadi cotton items. Recent exciting developments there means that the centre is in the process of being renovated and a new Gandhian style visitor centre and museum is being built with Government backing. There’s always a very warm welcome for visitors here.  On the way, explore the temple town of Nanjangud with it’s ornate temple and bustling bazaar area full of rural Karnataka life. Our guide for the day is local to the area and full of knowledge about the culture and way of life here.

Saturday 18th February

A free day to explore more of Mysore’s many sights. Top attractions include the Chamundiswari Temple  at the top  of Chamundi Hill. Make an offering to the great bull god Nandi half-way up the 1000 steps. Take a tour of the Maharajah of Mysore’s opulent 19th Century palace, built in the exuberant Indo-Saracenic style. We will be happy to organise an auto rickshaw tour of the city with one of Fare’s Fair trusted auto rickshaw drivers if you wanted to see Mysore in authentic style.

 

Optional Excursion: Rise early to take a fascinating cycle tour of historic Srirangapatna.   This island in the sacred river Cauvery was once used by Mughal ruler Tipu Sultan as his headquarters in Mysore in the 18th century.  The tour is guided by MyCycle Tours leader Stephen, an English resident of Mysore with fascinating insider knowledge of the city. He will take you leisurely around an eclectic route that shows all sides of life on the island. Enjoy a shady riverside lunch at the end of the tour.

Sunday 19th February

A scenic travel day from Mysore, through the paddy fields and sugar cane of rural Karnataka to Bangalore, our last stop on the tour. On the way experience the bustle of the non-stop silk cocoon auction mart in Ramnagar, where silkworm  breeders from all over the area converge to sell their silk cocoons ready for reeling and spinning.

Dinner will be at our hotel in Bangalore.

Monday 20th February

Today you can try your hand at block printing in our full day workshop at Tharangini creative printing studios in a beautifully lush and green district of Bangalore. If you bought khadi fabric in Chendamangalam or Kannur, you will now be able to block print onto it, or onto fabric provided by Tharangini.  Our expert artisan instructor will start the day with some background to the history of the studios and its’ collection of over 4,000 historic and modern wood blocks! We’ll learn about the creative processes involved in block printing and discharge printing. This is followed by a technical demonstration and then it’s over to you to experiment with your choice from the huge library of blocks available.

Tuesday 21st February

The end of our South Indian Threads Tour. We hope you enjoyed your textile journey with us. We are so happy that you chose to travel with us and allowed us the privilege of introducing you to the quiet joys of textiles in South India. Thank you for your contribution to raising the value of hand made fabrics in India by joining us in our adventures.

An inclusive mini bus transfer to Bengalaru International Airport is available for those who are returning home today.  We look forward to welcoming you all back soon for another exciting Textile Travels experience. Namaste.

Accommodation

Highlights

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