|by John Rambow||Art + Culture, India, Chennai||1|
A few weeks ago, I took part in a Trip Coach chat about India. There were lots more questions than there was time to answer, so I thought I'd take a stab at a couple more.
Alexandria, Va.: My husband and I are planning a trip to India and would like to plan our itinerary around the the cultural activities and events that interest us most. We love traditional Indian dance for its expression and beautiful costumes. We are interested in attending public performances while on our trip. Are you aware of any that we might attend?
One biggie that comes to mind is the Madras (modern-day Chennai) Music Season, held for five weeks in December and incorporating many dance and theater performances as well as music concerts. If you hit the city during that time, you'll be spoilt for choice, especially if you're aren't set on seeing any performances in particular.
In addition, most big cities are likely to have traditional dance performances at many times of the year—check the listings in the local editions of the English-language Hindu and the Times of India. (Although both papers have websites, the newspaper editions are easier to navigate for this info.) If you happen to be passing through Mumbai, then be sure to get a copy of the local Time Out for thorough listings in that city.
Ft. Myers, Fla.: Please list the top ten destinations off the beaten path.
Everyone's list is going to be different. None of the following places are obscure (they're certainly in most travel guides), but they definitely aren't on every tourist's radar. So here goes: the ruins of Hampi, visited by lots of backpackers but not a lot of others, given the fact that it's as astonishing and beautiful as the Taj Mahal (but quite different); the twin temple towns of Halebid and Belur, in Karnataka; the northeastern state of Assam, which I never made it to but wish I had; the Ajanta caves, south of Mumbai (ditto); the coffee plantations of Coorg (a.k.a. Kodagu); inland portions of Goa; the Leh Palace, in the far north state of Jammu and Kashmir; Hyderabad, known for its I.T. businesses but with an amazing Muslim fort outside of town and lots of interesting Raj-era buildings in the city; the Buddhist stoneworks at Sarnath; the coastal town of Mangalore; Bhubaneshwar and other temple towns of Orissa, and Sikkim in the Himalayas, once its own kingdom.