This article is third of the seven part series – ‘Luxury trains of India’
About the Golden Chariot – Following the footsteps of the success of Palace on Wheels, the Karnataka State Tourism drafted its own plan of a luxury train in 2002. The Golden Chariot officially did its first journey from Bangalore to Goa in 2008. The main aim of the Government of Karnataka is to showcase the royal heritage of the kingdoms like Wodeyar, Vijayanagara, Banavasi, Hoysala, Chalukya and many more. Each coach of the Golden Chariot is named after an ancient kingdom of Karnataka.
The emblem of Golden Chariot is the mythological animal from Hindu scriptures called ‘Gandaberunda’, which is also the national emblem of Karnataka state government. Gandaberunda has the body of a Lion and head of an Elephant. It was first used as a sign on the coins of Vijayanagara mints almost 500 years ago.
The 44 cabins of Golden Chariot are designed as per the heritage of erstwhile dynasties of Karnataka. They depict Mysore and Hoysala style of architecture. The two in house restaurant cars Ruchi and Nala are named after Indian scriptures. The interiors of restaurant cars are inspired by Hampi and Halebid architecture of Karnataka.
Journeys of the Golden Chariot –
The Golden Chariot runs on two different historic routes of the kingdoms of Karnataka –
- Pride of the South: Bangalore – Kabini – Mysore – Shravanabelagola – Belur – Halebeedu – Hampi – Badami – Pattadakal – Goa
Kabini once used to be the hunting retreat of the kings of Mysore, but now it serves as the place for wildlife enthusiasts thus preserving its biodiversity. Mysore is home to the art of sandalwood carving, incense and silk industry along with its palaces of Tipu Sultan. Shravanabelagola and its surrounding towns of Belur and Hassan are home to world heritage sites with Asia’s tallest monolith. The ancient Chalukya capital city of Badami is home to four ancient rock cut caves with carved pillars, sculptures and figures. Pattadakal is perhaps the only place with earliest examples of Dravidian and Nagara architecture in India. End the trip in Goa, the beach heaven of India with its carefree spirit, relaxed vibes and medieval Portuguese architecture.
- Southern Splendor: Bangalore – Chennai – Mamallapuram – Puducherry – Tanjavur – Madurai – Kanyakumari – Thiruvananthapuram – Kovalam – Alleppey – Kochi
Spend a day in Chennai, the fourth largest city of India and home of bronze craftsmanship. Few kilometers away from Chennai is Mamallapuram, which still holds its tradition of stone carving on granite. Puducherry (formerly called Pondicherry) was ruled by the French till 1960s. The streets still have their french names and you may often smell fragrance of Cinnamon and Garlic from various bakeries of Puducherry.
Tanjavur still has almost 90 temples that have survived over centuries. Most notable among them is the ‘Brihadishwara Temple’ of Chola empire. Madurai was once famous for its silk, spices and pearls. Its kings of Pandyan dynasty built the mighty Meenakshi-Sundareshwar temple due to the lucrative trade of their time. Kanyakumari is the meeting point of Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean. Short distance away from Kanyakumari is Kovalam, the beach village with coconut palms and sea food. Kochi and Alleppey is home to numerous houseboats in its backwaters, Chinese fish nets, Synagogue and Portuguese Palace.
Cost – The cost of two routes is different. ‘The pride of the south’ costs $545 per night, and ‘Southern Splendor’ costs $627 per night.
Basic Information –
Featured Image: Golden Chariot | Image source: Facebook/the-maharaja-trains
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About the author:
Gaurav Bhatnagar is a Software Engineer turned professional Travel Writer, Photographer, and Public Speaker on Responsible Travel @ The Spunky Traveler. Published in National Geographic Traveller, The Hindu, Travel Secrets and Huffington Post. Director at The Folk Tales, a company specializing in Responsible Rural Travel in India