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Cultural South India & Srilanka Highlights


Duration of Trip -::- 21 Days
Key Places covered -::- Chennai, Kanchipuram, Mahabalipuram, Pondicherry, Tanjore, Tanjore, Trichy, Tanjore, Colombo

Day 01 : Chennai (Madras)
Our Office representative will meet and assist you upon your arrival at the Chennai airport & transfer to the Hotel.

In the afternoon, proceed for city tour of Chennai visiting Museum (Closed on Fridays and holidays). Drive through the flower and fruit market, High Court, Fort Museum, Marina Beach, San Thome Cathedral and Snake Park.

Relax in the evening.
Overnight will be at Chennai.

Ekambareshwara Temple, Kanchipuram TourDay 02 : Chennai - Kanchipuram - Mahabalipuram
By Road 76 km in 2 hr
Breakfast will be at hotel.
Proceed for Kanchipuram by surface. En-route visit a few important temples and reach by afternoon.

Kanchipuram: Kanchipuram is a small rural town about 75 km from Chennai (Madras) in the state of Tamilnadu. It also serves as the districthead quarters for the Chengalpattu district. Its economy is entirely dependent on tourism and the wellestablished handloom industry. Silk sarees manufactured here are one of the best in the entire world. Is one of the India’s seven sacred cities it was the historical Capital of the Pal lavas. This city is also a world renowned for the gorgeous hand woven silk. Saris of myriad rich colors, noted for their shine, finish and matchless beauty. The Exquisite silk saris are woven from the pure mulberry silk in contrasting colors and have an enviable reputation for lustre, durability and finish.

Enjoy the sightseeing of major temples.

Vaikuntha Perumal Temple: this is the one of the important Vishnu

KailasanathaTemple: built in the 8th century this temple is noted for architecture and Sculptures. There are 58 small shrines are situated around the main shrine as well as the Compound wall paintings of fresco style adorn the inner walls of the shrines.

EkambareswaraTemple: another ancient temple of the city dedicated to Siva. The 57 meters high Rajagopuram {tower} is one of the tallest in south India. The 2500-year-old mango tree inside the temple has 4 branches each yields different varieties of mangoes. This temple has five spacious corridors {prakkaram} and a thousand pillar halls.

VaradharajaTemple: is massive and impressive edifice. The hundred-pillar hall Erected during the vijayanagara period in this temple is noted for its exquisite sculptures. The ornamental rings carved out of a single stone in a chain at the four corners are special Features of the hall.

Kamashi Amman Temples: this is one of the three holy places of sakthi worship in India the other tow are Madurai and Varanasi.

Proceed to Mahabalipuram and check in at hotel.Ekambareshwara Temple, Kanchipuram Tour
A few miles south of Chennai, at Mahabalipuram, on the sandy shores of the Bay of Bengal, a beautiful group of rock-cut monuments evokes the past. Seventh-century carvings of the Pallava dynasty include a series of freestanding boulders carved to resemble small temples and animals.Rock - cut caves and a masterful stone bas-relief are nearby. The 'Penance of Arjuna' relief, cut on twohuge rocks, shows scores of figures of deities, people and animals including, according to oneinterpretation, the emaciated figure of Arjuna, the great warrior of the Mahabharata, standing on one leg and doing penance, praying to Lord Shiva for the strength to destroy his enemies. Sadhus of today perform this exact act of sacrificial devotion. On the adjacent beach stands one of South India's oldest temples, the Shore Temple, its foundations washed for twelve centuries by the frothy sea.   

Check in at the hotel and enjoy stay at a beach resort.
Overnight will be at Mahabalipuram.

Cultural South India Detailed Itinerary

Day 03 : Mahabalipuram - Pondicherry
By Road 112 km in 03 hr
Enjoy breakfast at the resort.
Enjoy visit to the following places:   

CAVES: There are nine rock-cut temples. The Mahishasuramardhini cave, depicting the goddess fighting a demon on one side and Lord Vishnu's cosmic sleep on the other, is a particularly remarkable one.

KRISHNA MANDAPAM: A bas-relief, notable for its realistic representation. The panel relates to one of the stories of Lord Krishna.

ARJUNA’S PENANCE: This is the world's largest bas relief measuring 27m X 9m. This huge whale-backed rock contains figures of gods, demigods, men, beasts, birds and almost all of the entire creation. And, this is easily the pride of Mamallapuram.

THE FIVE RATHAS: There are the five monolithic temples, each created in a different style. They are also known as the Pancha Pandava Rathas - and four out of the five rathas are supposed to have been carved out of a single rock.

Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram Tour & TravelTHE SHORE TEMPLE: This is one of the oldest temples. Unique about this temple is the fact that it houses shrines for both Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. This belongs to theearly 8th century AD and it is a classic example of the first phase of structural temples

Drive to Pondicherry which carries a strong whiff of the French presence in India. This erstwhile French colony on the east coast of South India merged with the rest of the country in 1954. Legend says that Pondicherry is the place where St. Agasthaya settled down.

French dreams of an Indian Empire began and ended in Pondicherry. But in the scattered territories of the Union Territory of Pondicherry there remains what little there is left of the French influence in India and that makes the territory, especially its headquarters, Pondicherry, unique, something quite different from the rest of India.

Enjoy the old world town in the evening.
Overnight stay will be at the heritage hotel. 

Day 04: Pondicherry - Tanjore
By Road 160 km in 04hr
Breakfast will be at the hotel.
Drive to visit the Aurobindo Ashram.

Aurobindo Ashram is also known as “the city of dawn”. The place is 10 km north of Pondicherry. This ashram promotes Shri Aurbindo's ideas in bringing about a synthesis of Yoga and modern science, so as to unite the spirit and matter. Auroville - a unique experiment in international living and in creating a new environment where men and women of all nationalities live together in harmony.

Later on proceed to Tanjore also known as Thanjavur (The rice bowl of TAMIL NADU) Proceed for sight seeing of Tanjore. Visit the famous Chola Temple of Brihadeeshwara - A WORLD HERITAGE MONUMENT. Its bronze and handicrafts make Tanjore one of the highlights of the tour to South India. The majesty of the palaces and art gallery attached to the temple is really awe-inspiring. It is also famous for the silk.
Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram Tour & Travel
Stay overnight at Tanjore.

Day 05 : Tanjore - Trichy - Tanjore
By Road 54 km in 1 hour
Proceed to Trichy after breakfast.

Visit the ancient temples dedicated to Lord Ganapathi, 434 steps cut out into the rock side and interspersed with shrines, lead to the temple. Visit SRIRANGAM, a massive temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu sprawled on a Island in CAUVERY RIVER which contains within its walls a Bazaar (TRADITIONAL MARKET OF INDIA) as well. Gaze up at the twenty-one magnificent towers of the temple surrounded by seven walls.

Overnight stay will be at Tanjore.
 
Day 06 : Tanjore - Madurai
By Road 133 km in 3 hr
Breakfast will be at hotel.

Drive to Madurai by surface and en route visit Karaikudi (Chettinad). This area is famous for the beautifully architectured houses and walking the streets feels like being in an open air art gallery.
Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram Tour & Travel
One of South India's great temple towns, Madurai is synonymous with the celebrated Meenakshi Temple. Situated on the banks of river Vaigai, Madurai has a rich cultural heritage passed on from the great Tamil era more than 2500 years old. Madurai was an important cultural and commercial centre even as early as 550 AD It was the Capital city for the great Pandyas kings.

Madurai’s Main attraction is the Famous Sri Meenakshi Amman temple a riotously baroque example of Dravidian architecture with Gopurams carved from top to bottom in a breathtaking profusion of multicolored images of Gods. Tamil & Greek documents record the existence of Madurai from the 4th Century BC. The city was known to the Greeks through Magathenes who was their ambassador to the court of Chandraguptha Mauriya. This city was popular in trade especially in spices. It was also the site the Sangam the academy of the Tamil Poets. And Madurai is the centre of all the cities and Madurai is famous for the cotton Sungudi Saris.

Check into the hotel by evening. Relax at the hotel.
Overnight will be at Madurai.

Day 07 : Madurai
Breakfast will be at hotel.
Enjoy sightseeing tour of the city.

Sri Meenakshi Amman temple: dated back to 2000 Years back and designed in 1560 by Vishwanatha Nayaka and built during the reign of Tirumalai Nayaka. The Temple occupies an area of six hectares. There are 12 temple towers (Gopurams). The outer towers are the landmarks of Madurai.

Thousand Pillar Museum: Located inside the temple and has a variety of collections.
Gandhi Museum: The Gandhi Memorial Museum is one of the distinct places to be visited in Madurai. This Museum is one of the rare living memorials of "The Father of India". The Museum is set in relaxing grounds and has a clear historical account of India’s struggle for Independence.

The Vishnu Temple: There is a Vishnu Shrine called Kudal Algar (Kudal is the former names this town) and it is said that Lord Vishnu came down to this place to give away Meenakshi to God Sundareshwara.  The vimana or the tower of the god in the temple is of a very fine workmanship and is known as the Ashtanga Vimana. The Marriage of the Meenakshi is to have been celebrated on the day of Panguni Uttram generally occurring on the Full moon day of the month of Panguni (March - April). And is a very important Event in this place.

Thirumalai Nayak Palace, Madurai TravelThirumalai Nayak Palace: This Palace was built in 1636 by King Thirumalai Nayak with the help of an Italian Architect. The building we see today was the main Palace where the King lived. The original PalaceComplex was four times bigger than the present structure. This palace consisted mainly of two parts, namely Swargavilasa and Rangavilasa.  In these two parts, there are royal residence, theatre, shrine, apartments, armoury, palanquin place, royal bandstand, quarters, pond and garden. King Thirumalai Nayak celebrated festivals like Sceptre festival, Navarathri, Chithirai festival, Masi festival and the Float festival. He conducted daily dance and music performances in the palace. This palace was destroyed by his grandson Chokkanatha Nayak and the valuables were transferred to other places. During the British rule, in 1822, Lord Napier made several renovation works. Then the palace was utilized to house some officials of the judiciary and district administration. After independence, this palace was declared as a national monument and is now under the care of the Tamilnadu Archaeological Department.

Thirupparankundram: located south of Madurai at a distance of 11 Km is the celebrated cave to lord Subramaniya (Lord Siva’s son) he is said to have married Devayana daughter of Indra, in this place and performed several of his miracles. 8th Century Pandyas Rock cut Cave is also here and can be visited.

Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam: Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam is a huge temple tank about 5 km east of the Meenakshi temple. The mandapam in the centre has an idol of Vigneshwara (Vinayaka). It is said to have been found when the earth was being dug out from here to build the Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal. So, the place attained sanctity and was converted into a teppakulam (tank). This enormous temple tank is fed by water brought from the Vagai through an ingenious system of underground Channels. King Thirumalai Nayak born in 'Poosa' Star so in commemorating the birth of the king “ Float Festival” is conducted in Tamil Month 'Thai' (Jan/Feb) in the tank in a colorful way, which attracts thousands of tourists.

Watch the evening AARTI at Meenakshi Temple - THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE TOUR.
Overnight stay will be at Madurai.
Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary
Day 11 : Munnar - Kumarakom
By Road 140 km in 4 hr
 Early morning proceed to Kumarakom. Reach and visit the Bird Sanctuary. Proceed to the Vembanand Lake.

The backwaters of Kerala are a unique product of Kerala and are found nowhere else in the world. Backwaters are a network of lakes, canals and estuaries and deltas of forty-four rivers that drain into the Arabian Sea. The backwaters of Kerala are a self supporting Eco-system teeming with aquatic life. The canals connect the villages together and are still used for local transport. Over 900 km of this labyrinthine water world is navigable.

Check into a traditional houseboat of Kerala Style and go on a leisurely backwater cruise along the lake on a thatched houseboat. The houseboat with all modern comforts lets you discover the countryside at your own pace. You will have lunch, dinner and breakfast in the Houseboat. A ride on the houseboat is a fabulous way to explore the fascinating beauty of the backwaters.

Cruise through the backwaters to Alleppey. Overnight will be at Houseboat.

Day 12 : Alleppey
Disembark the boat at the reception of the backwater resort at Alleppey. 

Alappuzha is famous for its boat races, houseboats, coir products, fish and lakes. Alappuzha remains prominent on the tourist trial of Kerala as one of the major centres for backwater boat trips. "Kuttanad" in Alappuzha is one of few places in the world where farming is done below sea level. Kuttanad is a land of lush paddy fields and is called the 'Rice Bowl' of Kerala. Kuttanad stretches for 75 Km sandwiched between the sea and the hills.

Check in at the resort. This resort is one of the finest one in Alleppey Here you can enjoy the lively villages and backwaters.

Overnight will be at Alleppy.
Houseboat, Alleppey
Day 13 : Alleppey - Cochin
By Road 56 km / 1 hr
After breakfast proceed to Kochi (Cochin).

The eventful history of this city began when a major flood in AD 1341 threw open the estuary at Kochi, till then a land locked region, turning it into one of the finest natural harbors in the world. Kochi thus became a haven for seafaring visitors from all over the world and became the first European town-ship in India when the Portuguese settled here in the 15th century.

The Dutch wrested Fort Kochi from the Portuguese in AD 1663 and later in the last phase of the colonial saga, the British took over, the town in 1795. During 1660's, Fort Kochi peaked in stature as a prime commercial centre and its fame spread far and wide - variously as a rich trade centre, a major military base, a vibrant cultural hub, a great ship building centre, a centre for Christianity and so on. Today, centuries later, the city is home to nearly thirteen communities.

Enjoy the KATHAKALI DANCE PRESENTATION in the evening. Over night stay at hotel.

Day 14 : Cochin
Breakfast will be at hotel.
Proceed for a sightseeing tour of the city. Visit the following:

Jewish Synagogue, Cochin VacationOld Cochin area - this is one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world. The Jewish community traces its history to nearly 2000 years ago. In 1948 the community numbered 2500 and today there are fewer that 30 people. The community is still centered round JEWTOWN where you will visit its crown Jewel, the Paradesi Synagogue. Built in 1568 and reconstructed after a Portugese bombardment in 1662, the synagogue is distinguished by its tile roof and bell tower. The small synagogue is also known for its hand-painted, willow-patterned, blue and white Chinese floor tiles, and the many brass and crystal lamps that hang from the ceiling. Later visit the interesting International Pepper Exchange, also located in Jewtown.

Chinese fishing nets - The Chinese fishing nets erected on teak woodand bamboo poles work on the principle of balance. Records say they were first set up here between AD 1350 and 1450. Vasco Da Gama Square, the narrow promenade that parallels the beach, is the best place to watch the nets being lowered and pulled out of the sea. Learn the operation of the interesting Chinese fishing nets erected on teak wood and bamboo poles which work on the principle of balance.

The other important places are the Vasco Da Gama Square, Santa Cruz Basilica, St. Francis Church, VOC Gate, Bastion Bungalow, Mattancherry Palace, etc. Records say they were first set up here between AD 1350 and 1450.

In the early evening proceed for a private harbor cruise. Enjoy watching the dolphins, the fishing island and the Bolghatty Palace. Cruise till the mouth of the sea and enjoy the sunset.

Return to the hotel and enjoy a seafood dinner. Overnight will be at Cochin.

Day 15 : Cochin - Bangalore
By morning flight
Bangalore - Colombo:
By connecting flight
Colombo - Sigriya

By Road
75 km in 1 & ½ hr

After breakfast proceed to the airport for the flight to Bangalore.
Reach and take connecting flight to Colombo.
Arrive at Colombo. Meet & assist on arrival and proceed to Sigiriya.

Overnight will be at Sigiriya.

Exterior Hptel SigiriyaDay 16 : Sigiriya & around:
Enjoy the breakfast at hotel.
Visit the Sigiriya rock fortress.

SIGIRIYA - Sigiriya, a city, palace and garden complex centering a 200 metre high rock is a glowing tribute to the vision of King Kashyapa who created this 'Palace in the Sky' in the 5th century AD. In a sheltered pocket of the giant rock are the celebrated paintings of 5th century AD. These are the few that are remaining from around 500 paintings that once covered the rock surface. Meticulously planned water gardens at the foot of the rock are the earliest such gardens found in Asia.

Enjoy the city sightseeing and evening will be at the hotel.

Overnight will be at Sigriya.

Day 17 : Sigriya - Dambulla - Kandy
By Road 150 km in 4 hr
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel.

Proceed to Kandy en route visit the cave Tample Dambulla.

Dambulla Rock Temple is a magnificent gallery of Buddha images and wall and ceiling paintings not seen anywhere else in the Island. It is a complex of five cave temples with its origin going back to the Anuradhapura period (1st century BC). However due to additions and restorations done by various rulers over the past two thousand years what now remains are mostly the works of the Kandyan period (18th century).

Proceed to Kandy after lunch.

In the evening visit the Temple of Tooth Relic.

Dinner will be along with a cultural KANDYAN dance performance.

Overnight will be at Kandy.

Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, Kandy HolidaysDay 18 : Kandy - Pinnawala - Colombo
By Road 150 km in 4 hr
Enjoy breakfast and then proceed on a city tour of Kandy

KANDY After breakfast leave for Peradeniya Botanical Gardens.The garden was built as a pleasure garden and was expanded by the British. It is 147 acres in extent and has a amazing variety of trees, flowers and plants. This garden is easily one of the best of its kind in the world.

Visit the University of Peradeniya, laid out near the banks of the Mahaweli River. This is the longest river in Sri Lanka.
Proceed to Colombo en route visit to Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage

PINNAWELA - Leave for Pinnawela, visit the Elephant orphanage located on the banks of the Maha Oya. This orphanage is for young elephants found Abandoned by their parents having fallen into pits ravines etc., and lost from their natural habitat. It is most interesting to visit at feeding or bathing time.

Proceed to Colombo after lunch. Check in at hotel.

The capital city is spread along the shore of the Indian Ocean for some miles, where business and commerce begin and end. The Cinnamon Gardens and Pettah are Colombo’s busiest and most traditional Bazaar area. Visits to the Hindu temple with elaborate stone carvings, the Dutch Church at Wolfendhal dating back to 1749, the historic Devatgahaha mosque and the Gangarama Temple give a good cultural feel about the country. While the city holds less obvious interest than many other parts of the island. Its still a colorful enough place and worth a visit to see what makes Sri Lanka tick.     

Overnight will be at Colombo.

Day 19 : Colombo - Mumbai
By Flight
Gateway of India, MumbaiBreakfast will be at hotel.
Enjoy the day sightseeing the city.

Visit the Hindu temple with elaborate stone carvings, the Dutch Church at Wolfendhal dating back to 1749, the historic Devatgahaha Mosque, Gangarama Temple and the house of Fashion for value for money ready -made garments.

Shop for ceramics or visit the Lanka Ceramic center.
Proceed to the airport for the flight to Mumbai.

Its young, its lively and a confluence of varied cultural currents and cross currents have given Mumbai a unique position of the most multi-ethnic city of India. The capital city of Maharashtra State formerly known as Bombay lies in the southwestern part of India and occupies a peninsular site originally composed of seven islets lying off the KONKAN COAST of western India. Oozing with the cocksure self-confidence of a maverick moneymaker and "Bindass" (carefree) attitude, Mumbai is also country's financial and commercial hub and has a principal port on the Arabian Sea.

Yet, there's another face of Mumbai too that is of the most densely populated cities in the world. Mumbai is located on a site of ancient settlement and took its name from the local Goddess "Mumba" - a form of Parvati, the consort of Shiva, one of the principal Gods of Hinduism - whose temple once stood in what is now the southeastern section of the Mumbai city.

Overnight will be at Mumbai.

Day 20 : Mumbai
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel.
Start a sightseeing tour of Mumbai visiting the following:

Mumbai Fort : The area north of Colaba is known as Mumbai Fort, since the old British fort was once located here. There are a lot of impressive buildings from Mumbai's golden period here. St. John's church, dedicated to the soldiers, who laid down their lives in the Sindh campaign of 1838, and the first Afghan war of 1843, is also worth a visit.

Marine Drive in Mumbai: Marine Drive located in the central Mumbai, built in the 1920s and 30s on land reclaimed from the sea, is Mumbai's most famous thoroughfare. It is also referred to as the Queen's Necklace because of the dramatic line of street lamps lit up at night. Recently it has come to known as Netaji Subhashchandra Bose Road with Nariman Point on one end to Babulnath, at the foot of Walkeshwar on the other.

Gateway of India: Mumbai's principal landmark, the Gateway of India is a huge archway on the water's edge at Apollo Bunder. It is the starting point for most tourists who want to explore the city. This famous monument was built to commemorate the visit of the first ever British Monarch, King George V and Queen Mary in 1911.

Flora Fountain/ Hutama Chowk: This fountain situated in the heart of the city was erected in 1869 in honour of a British Governor of Bombay. Sir Brtle Frere. Flora Fountain marks a junction of five streets and known as the 'Picadilly Circus 'of Mumbai, which is decorated at its four corners with mythological figures, the Fountain is a structure in dull stone with a figure the Roman Goddess of flowers, at the top.

Victoria Terminus, Mumbai TripVictoria Terminus/Western Railway Station: At the site of the Koli's original temple to Mumba Devi now stands Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus - one of Mumbai's most prominent buildings and architecturally one of the finest stations in the world. It is built in a style that combines Gothic and Indian influences. It was completed in 1885. Designed by F.W. Stevens the building commenced in 1878. This Italian gothic Building has a frontage of over 15,00 feet. The administrative offices form three sides of a rectangle enclosing an ornamental garden, the entrance gate guarded by a massive stone Lion and Tiger. The most prominent feature of this building is the high 160 feet dome crowning the centre. On top of the giant dome is a figure of a women with a torch held aloft to symbolise progress.

Mumbai High court: An attractive building in early English Gothic style, situated next to the Oval Ground is well worth a visit for its impressive architecture. Statues representing Justice and Mercy surmount the Central structure.

Rajabai Clock tower: Rajabai Clock tower, situated at the gardens of the Bombay University building rises above the portion of the library section. Consisting of five elaborately decorated storeys the tower is 280ft.in height. The top of the cupola is ornamented with sixteen statues depicting various Indian castes.
 
HangingGardens in Mumbai:
Also known as Pherozeshah Mehta Gardens, the Hanging Gardens were built in 1880 and renovated in 1921. These gardens are popularly known as Hanging Gardens, because of their location on the slope of a hill. The terrace garden looks south from Malabar Hill towards Colaba, and affords a panoramic view of the city or a breathtaking sunset. It is built over three reservoirs, which store 30 million gallons of water pumped here for cleaning before being supplied to the town.
Explore the COLABA area and visit one of the museums.
In the evening spend time at a local beach enjoying the culture.

ChowpattyBeach:Chowpatty beach situated at the end of Marine Drive has a moderate expanse of sand and is the only beach in the central part of Mumbai. One can witnesses many Hindu religious ceremonies taking place at Chowpatty like the Annual Thread-Tying Ceremony initiating young boys into the Brahmin caste, 'Nariel Purnima' towards the end of the monsoons and 'Ganesh Chaturthi' immersions.

Overnight will be at Mumbai.

Day 21 : Mumbai - Home

Enjoy breakfast at the hotel.Elephanta Caves, Mumbai
Take the ferry to ELEPHANTA CAVES.

The Elephanta Island is the site of the magnificent Elephanta caves, containing beautiful carvings, sculptures, and a temple to the Hindu God, Lord Shiva. These caves are located at a distance of 11 km from Mumbai andare now designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The island of Elephanta, being a commercial, military and religions centre for centuries has traces of early Buddhist culture.

The Elephanta caves are thought to date back to the Silhara kings belonging to the period between 9th - 12th centuries. With the Brahminical resurgence during the reign of Gupta dynasty in 3rd century AD, these great cave dedicated to Lord Shiva exploded into existence at Elephanta. Legends and history suggest that the great warrior prince of Chalukya dynasty Pulkesin ll raised the shrine to celebrate his victory. Some historians also suggest that these caves were built by the Kalchuri King Krishnaraja in 6th century AD.

As the worship of the figure of the Buddha began to be encouraged with rise of the Mahayana sect of Buddhism, a shrine was introduced to house Buddha's image, replacing the cells at the centre of the back wall. The Monasteries of Ajanta lead us directly to Elephanta.

Return in the afternoon, freshen up and proceed to the airport by evening for flight to onward destination with the sweet memories of the Deccan India and Sri Lanka.

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