Golden Chariot Express–Explore The South In Style

Golden Chariot Express–Explore The South In Style - Sakshi Post

By Ravi Valluri

Indian Railways (IR) is the lifeline of the nation, playing a singular role in facilitating a balanced and inclusive socio-economic development of the country. IR are gargantuan organisation, acting as a truss and moor in a diverse and varied country like ours.

With more than 66,000kms of network, the organisation transports over 23 million passengers every day single day, apart from carrying 3 million tons of cargo over a staggering 23,000kms crisscrossing the swathes of the land.

Certainly the tourist map of India would be patchy without IR fostering and nurturing tourism in the country. Espousing tourism has been uppermost on the agenda of the Rail Bhavan mandarins. Luxury trains have been providing customised services in the shape of modish and decorous tourist trains along with specialised facilities on board and at stations of tourist gravity.

The fabled Golden Chariot Express is a luxury tourist train which concatenates the states south of the Vindhyas. This was a path breaking move by IR as hitherto the seminal centrepieces of tourism planning in India centred on the Jaipur, Agra and Bharatpur sector, the Himalayas and a few hill stations like Udhagamandalam and Kodaikanal thrown in for good measure. And yes, the beaches of Goa beckoned people from across the globe.

The Golden Chariot Express rediscovers the history, pomp and grandeur of the states of Karnataka, Goa, Kerala & Tamil Nadu as well as Pondicherry. Travellers have a choice of two iterinaries to pick from.

Only a miniscule of people are aware that the train is christened after the iconic Stone Chariot in the Vitthala Temple at Hampi. Hampi was the centrepiece of the legendary and formidable Vijayanagara Empire and produced exalted emperors like Krishnadevaraya, Harihara and Bukka.

The 19 coaches on the train are coloured purple and gold, and captivatingly sport the logo of a mythical animal with the head of an elephant and body of a lion.

The Golden Chariot operates between the months of October–March when the weather in the south is salubrious. It chugs out of Bangalore every Monday and had its maiden commercial run on 10 March, 2008. The train is run by the Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation (KSTDC) in alliance with The Maple Group which has been tasked with the hospitality services on the train. The Memorandum of Understanding between the State Tourism Board and the Indian Railways was inked in 2002.

Soon the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) was hypothecated the task of giving shape to this train. Around 900 layouts were prepared by a plethora of engineers before the design was frozen.

Architect Kusum Pendse along with 200 carpenters worked arduously to complete the designs of these railway coaches. The process bore fruit after a period of four months. The sweat, toil and imagination emanated on 23 January, 2008 and the Golden Chariot Express was unveiled on the tracks veneered in classic colours of purple and gold, symbolic of the elegance and commemorating the golden jubilee celebrations of Karnataka. Former President of India, Pratibha Devisingh Patil unveiled the train at Yeshwanthpur Railway Station, Bangalore. All those connected with this imaginative project heaved a sigh of relief on 10 March, 2008, when The Golden Chariot chugged out on its maiden commercial journey from Bangalore to Goa.

This propertied and opulent train was feted with the title of “Asia's Leading Luxury Train” at World Travel Awards in 2013.

The Golden Chariot provides accommodation in 44 cabins spread over 19 coaches which are named after the fabled dynasties that ruled the region: Kadamba, Hoysala, Rashtrakuta, Ganga, Chalukya, Bahamani, Adil Shahi, Sangama, Satavahana, Yadukula and Vijayanagara.

This upmarket train has two restaurants, a lounge bar, a conference hall and a gym besides spa facilities. Onboard internet connectivity is offered via a USB-stick, and satellite antennae providing live television service in all the cabins.

The Golden Chariot offers 2 itineraries to prospective tourists, baptised as the “Pride of the South” and “Splendour of the South”.

Pride of the South

Pride of the South tour provides a 7 night and 8 days itinerary during which several tourist places in Karnataka are covered. The destinations covered include Bengaluru (the Silicon City on the first day, also known for the Cubbon Park and The Art of Living Centre), followed by the historic city of Mysore (famed for talismanic Dussera festival and Chamundeswari Temple). Visitors are thereafter exposed to the ferocious tigers gnarling in their natural habitat at a tiger sanctuary at the Nagerhole National Park, followed by Hassan (known for the Hasanamba Temple), Belur (which is the epicentre of Hoysala architecture) and Halebidu (which hosts the Hoysalasewara Temple, the Kedarareswara Temple and a few Jain Temples). On day five places of historical importance in Karnataka like Aihole, Pattadakal and Badami are discovered. The final day is reserved for the wondrous beaches, churches and forts of Goa and the opulent train chugs back to base camp at Bangalore.

Splendour of the South

The “Splendour of the South” tour traverses tourist places across three South Indian states. During this 7 nights and 8 days itinerary, various tourist and religious places of interests in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Pondicherry are explored.

The journey spans Bangalore, Chennai, Pondicherry (where Sri Aurobindo attained enlightenment and is famous for the Aurobindo Ashram apart from French settlements of the yore), the majestic Brihadeswara Temple at Thanjavur, followed by the venerable Madurai Meenakshi Temple, the pristine , undiscovered beaches of Thiruvananthapuram, Alleppey (exemplary for its boat rides in the backwaters of Kerala) and finally Kochi, the original melting pot of Jewish, Hindu, Christian and Islamic religions and ethos. The pilgrimage ends back at Bangalore.

The twin legs of this amazing journey have remarkable heterogeneity to offer. One recalls the polymath French novelist Gustav Flaubert, who was to write, “Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” So grab your chance!

Also Read: All Railway Lines To Be Electrified: Massive Rs 35,000 Cr Plan

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