January - March 2009



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The Deccan Odyssey

By Subhasish Chakraborty

Travellers from the West are increasingly opting for luxury train travel to discover India’s enormous geographical and cultural variety and diversity - best explored on the ground level than at rarefied heights of 30,000 plus feet high onboard airlines.

Recently a team of 20 archaeologists from France was on a fortnight’s visit to India to attend an international seminar at the township of Kalyani in the state of West Bengal and thereafter proceeded to the city of Mumbai for a "Workshop on Archaeology" conducted by the University of Mumbai. I was entrusted with the task of guiding the group during their stay in India.

The French have a sentimental attachment to the city of Chandannagore in West Bengal, which once used to be the headquarters of the colonial French rulers. After doing the rounds of the French City of Chandannagore, it was time to depart for Mumbai where prior arrangements had been made for their accommodation at the fabulous Taj Mahal Palace & Towers. And as a token of affection to the French guests, the Department of Tourism, Government of Maharashtra offered the entire group a complimentary weeklong train journey aboard the luxury Deccan Odyssey.

The state of Maharashtra is one of the largest in India both in terms of population and area. Its booming capital – Mumbai, makes it not only one of the most important states economically but also a major arrival point for overseas visitors. Most of the state stands on the high Deccan plateau and historically this was the main centre for the Maratha Empire, which defied the mighty Mughals for a long time under the leadership of Shivaji.

Given the highly priced tour package, it wasn’t surprising to see that the majority of guests aboard the Deccan Odyssey were foreigners from the West with the odd NRIs to rediscover their native country, which they may have left long back.

As the train chugged off from the Chatrapatti Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai, the quintessential whistle blew its final salutation to all that was royal and grand about the state of Maharashtra. The train has 21 luxury coaches, of which 11 offer exclusive royal indulgences associated with the erstwhile Indian royalty. Apart from guest coaches, the train also had a coach dedicated for conferencing and two coaches that served as royal restaurants. The Spa coach was meant for those inclined to rejuvenate their senses with the most relaxing of natural therapies.

Read the complete story in

The South Asian Life & Times



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