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Celebrating India…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Namaste!  - We welcome you with folded hands

 

Day 01: Arrival / Delhi

Late night arrival. Meeting and assistance upon arrival as our representatives welcome you and escort you to your car.

Whilst the room keys and check-in is organized, our representative would introduce the tour to you and hand over the documents to you.

Welcome to India, or as we say ‘atithi devo bhava’ (the guest is an incarnation of God). Thank you for giving us the opportunity to serve you!

Overnight at The Connaught – a 4* Downtown Hotel (Standard Room)

Day 02: Delhi

Following a leisurely breakfast, we proceed on a guided tour of New Delhi, Visiting such sights as Bahai Temple, Humayun’s Tomb (1586), the Qutab Minar 72 meters high and one of the most perfect towers in the Persian world.  The Iron Pillar which has survived the vagaries of weather for over 1500 years.  Continue with a drive through Embassy area, the Government buildings (1921-1930) and Connaught Place, the heart and main shopping district of the capital.

Afternoon, we cross the city and enter into the walled gates of the Old Delhi. The capital of Muslim India between the 17th and 19th centuries, Old Delhi seems somewhat anachronistic as compared to New Delhi. It draws one through congested roads and lanes, interesting mosques, Qutab Minar, Delhimonuments and forts relating to its chequered history. Our tour includes visits to the Jamma Mosque (1650) and drive through the fabled area of Chandni Chowk (aptly translates to Moonlight Square) where the throngs of shoppers and vendors meet in the oldest area of Delhi, on to the Red Fort (1639-1648 built by Shah Jehan the builder of the Taj Mahal in Agra) to view the inlaid and carved Royal Chambers, on to Raj Ghat and nearby ghats where the founder of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi and thereafter Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi were cremated. 

Home Visit & A Welcome Dinner with an Indian Family: This evening, we would visit an Indian family for an Indian home experience in India. The evening is designed to give you a ‘feel’ and insight into Indian family life as well as experience typical Indian hospitality and home made Indian food.

Overnight at The Connaught – a 4* Downtown Hotel (Standard Room)

Day 03: Delhi / Jaipur (270 Kms)

After breakfast we will drive to Jaipur along one of the India’s finest freeways

Upon arrival check into the Mandawa Haveli which is located in the heart of Jaipur City. The hotel combines old world charm with the best of present day facilities. The rooms are well-appointed with intricately carved wooden beds; historic photographs and king-sized royal portraits. There are pleasant courtyards, lawns and terraces with a view of the splendid Nahargarh Fort. It has a beautiful dining hall overlooking one of the terraces.

Rest of the day is at leisure to explore the unending shopping options of Jaipur along with our Guide. An essential starting point for Rajasthan craftwork is block making and block printing and we will be exploring the process from start to finish in some of the popular stores here. The opportunity also exists here to tailor make outfits to your design and size.

We also explore one of the chief attractions of Jaipur - its jewelry, which offers a variety that ranges from chunky tribal jewelry to enameled gold to modern diamond jewelry. Kundan (art of stone setting) and enamel jewelry has been a specialty of Rajasthan, particularly that of Jaipur. The stones are embossed into decorative shapes & patterns and embellished with delicate enamel ornamentation in the champeve (raised field) technique. Jaipur is well known for its gold and silver enameling. Colorful bangles made of lac and set with semiprecious stones make an inexpensive buy. The craftsmen take great pains to embed the hundreds of stones into the lac. The skilled gem-cutters of Jaipur carve enchanting little animals and birds from rock, crystal, jade, smoky topaz and amethyst. Intaglio beads & buttons and crystal scent bottles are also available.

Overnight at Mandawa Haveli – a Heritage Hotel (Deluxe Room)

Day 04: Jaipur

This morning we visit Amber Fort, the former capital of the royal Jaipurs. Few fail to be moved by the dramatic Rajput grandeur of this hilltop fortress-palace 11 km north of Jaipur. Set on the dry wrinkled Aravali Hills, and surrounded by fortified battlements, the palace straddles two sepia-hued tundra hills overlooking Maota Lake, and its sprawling crenellated walls lattice the surrounding hills.

 

We will ride up to this hilltop palace on a caparisoned, painted elephant, passing through the ancient main gate where Maharajas of Jaipur have entered for four hundred years. Our guide will elaborate on the history of this architectural masterpiece with its mirror-studded alcoves, dazzling mosaics and water-cooled swings that delight today’s visitors as they did their former royal residents.

We shall visit the Hawa Mahal or Palace of the Winds, a five-storied structure of pink sandstone with semi-octagonal and delicately honeycombed windows overlooking the main street of the old city. It was built in 1799 so that veiled royal women could peer down unseen by the world through its 593 stone screens.

Later, we proceed on a tour Of the City Palace & Observatory. The City Palace in the heart of the old city is a blend of Rajasthani and Mughal architecture. The centre of the palace is a seven-storied building called Chandra Palace, with fine vies over the gardens and the city. The palace lies in the heart of the city and occupies the whole central grid. The fortified wall has seven gates and was built for protection from invading armies and animals that lived in jungles, which surrounded the wall that time. Next, we visit the Solar Observatory - an astronomical treasure house, with solar device that give accurate predictions till date.

Overnight at Mandawa Haveli – a Heritage Hotel (Deluxe Room)

Day 05: Jaipur / Fatehpur Sikri / Agra (245 Kms)

Following a leisurely breakfast we drive to Agra stopping at deserted Capital City of Fatehpur Sikri. This abandoned capital of the Mughals is a perfectly preserved city at the height of the empire’s splendour. The city divided into religious and secular parts has interesting well-sculpted buildings. From here we will continue our drive to Agra

Upon arrival check into hotel Howard Park Plaza

Rest of the day is at leisure for your independent activities car & driver at leisure for your independent activities
 
Overnight at Howard Park Plaza (Standard Room)

Day 06: Agra / Varanasi (Poorva Express – 2000 / 0500* Hrs)

Agra is the city of the Taj Mahal, perhaps the most photographed monument in the world. However, there is a degree of enigma about the Taj. Once you hear about a building so much and once you see so many pictures of a building your expectations are real high; and this is the enigma about the Taj Mahal. No matter how many pictures you have seen or no matter how high your expectations are the Taj never lets you down - the unparalleled glory and beauty of the building surpasses beyond all human imaginations. At sunrise we visit one of the greatest sights of one’s lifetime - Taj Mahal. Before departure for the monument we shall be served tea/coffee and cookies so that our eyes open real wide to behold this breathtaking sight. A dawn visit to the fabled Taj Mahal to witness the magical effects caused by the reflections of the changing colours of the rising Sun on this brilliant white marble building. Later we return back to our hotel for breakfast.

Afternoon, we ride to the massive Agra Fort. The elegant buildings inside reflect an interesting synthesis of Hindu and Central Asian architectural styles. Built by Emperor Akbar, the maze of the courtyards, mosques & private chambers of the fort echo the story of the Mughal Empire. The Moti Masjid & other magnificent buildings reflect the skill of the ancient Indian architects.

Later transfer to the train station to board a train to Varanasi

Overnight: First Class Air Conditioned Sleeper Accommodation 

Day 07: Arrival / Varanasi

Meeting and assistance upon arrival and transfer to your Rashmi Guest house

(Though Check – in time is 12 Noon, every effort would be made to ensure an as early as possible check-in)

Varanasi is quite possibly the world’s oldest living city. Religious artifacts link it to the sixth century B.C. Said to be founded by Shiva, Varanasi’s Vedic affiliation goes back to the beginning of time. It is also a city of many names. The present name, Varanasi (derived from the names of two nearby rivers) is mentioned in the Mahabharata. The ancient name is Kashi, the City of Light. To the devout it is also called Kashika, the shining one, referring to the light of Shiva. Many others prefer the anglicized Benares. Revered by Hindus, Buddhists and Jain alike, Varanasi is considered the holiest city in all of India. It is presided over by Shiva in his manifestation as Vishwanatha, Lord of the Universe. Buddha delivered a sermon in nearby Sarnath and Mahavira, the founder of Jainism, lived in Varanasi. As a result, more Indians will make a pilgrimage to Varanasi in their lifetime than any other place.

After wash & change we will visit temples and the Hindu University at Benares. First stop would be the Bharat Mata (temple of Mother India). Inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi, it features a huge marble map of India on the ground floor. Next up, the Durga Temple. Known for its bright red color and the playful, if sometimes aggressive, monkeys that run amok there, the Durga Temple is one of the most imposing architectural monuments in Varanasi.

The university, which occupies a large piece of land at the southern end of town, is also home to the New Vishwanatha Temple. The New Temple is modern in design and open to Hindus and non-Hindus alike. Surrounded by palm trees, it is a splendid white marble structure that shines in the afternoon sun against a pale blue sky. Inside, the temple is spacious and airy. The interior walls are covered with Vedic art above inscriptions from the Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads. In the center of the first floor is the Shiva linga.

Afternoon we take a short trip to the Buddhist city of Sarnath .It is here that the Buddha preached his first sermons after attaining enlightenment.

Evening, we visit the ghats of Varanasi to witness the performance of Ganges Aarti. We enjoy a special evening cruise on the Ganges. See the Hindu devotees performing the "Puja" with lighted lamps. The view is very mesmerizing and the ambience is spectacular in the backdrop of the beating of cymbals and bells as well as the incessant chantings. Later return to the hotel

Overnight at Rashmi Guest House (Deluxe River Facing Room)

Day 08: Varanasi / / Delhi (IT 603 – 1445 / 1600 Hrs)
Delhi / Chennai (IT 234 – 2055 / 2325 Hrs)

At dawn we visit the sacred Ganges for a boat ride. Every morning at dawn hundreds of worshippers can be seen bathing in the sacred waters. The great river banks are lined with an endless chain of stone steps—the ghats—that stretch from one end of the city to the other. The Ghats form an impressive part of the religious landscape of the city. Proceeding downstream at a leisurely pace, you would be pointed out the significant temples and buildings as well as the changing architectural style. Life and death go hand in hand in Varanasi. While young people seek prosperity and protection from harmful influences, the older generation comes to Varanasi to cleanse their souls in the forgiving waters in preparation for their ultimate dissolution. Believing that anyone who dies in the river of life in Varanasi gains freedom from the cycle of birth and death, the City of Light has become a haven for the sick and aged waiting out their final days. The smoke that billows from the crematoriums on the edge of the river gives testimony to their final release from life’s earthly confines. We would dock our boat at Manikarnika (Cremation) Ghat. On any given day, anywhere from a few dozen to a few hundred corpses are cremated here; the ghat is assiduous with activity as the cremated bodies threw up smoke and fire.

Following the boat ride we set off on foot to explore the inner city. Through a twisted maze of narrow alleys, home to numerous shrines and pilgrim shops, we walk back a few centuries. Life here has stood still for years. The homes, the shops and even the cattle have not changed over the centuries. It is a brilliant nostalgic experience of timelessness!

Afternoon transfer to the airport to board your flight to Chennai via Delhi

Meeting & assistance upon arrival & transfer to hotel Radha Park Inn

Overnight at Radha Park Inn (Superior Room)

Day 09: Chennai / Mahabalipuram / Kanchipuram / Chennai
Chennai / Madurai (9W 3519 – 1905 / 2025 Hrs)

Following a leisurely breakfast, we will have an excursion of Mahabalipuram and Kanchipuram

Kanchipuram is a Hindu Holy City and capital of the Pallava dynasty from the 7th to 9th centuries AD, is renowned for temples and silk, and you will see plenty of both. The temples range in date from the 8th to the 17th century. The latest building was impressive in its size, the height of its gopuram, the intricacy of its carvings and wealth of colour, but, the earliest temples, of golden sandstone, are more aesthetically pleasing, the only colour provided is by a flock of ring-necked parakeets.

Across the road is a workshop where men sit at a loom, weaving fabrics that you will recognise  immediately as "Madras cotton". However, Silk-weaving takes place on a grander scale than the cotton-weaving in this town dotted with cottage workshops. You could visit a factory where all the processes of spinning, dyeing and weaving take place. Of special note would be exquisite wedding saris made to order - the silk is heavily interwoven with gold thread. The sari and blouse are woven together so as to ensure a perfect match. From here we continue our ride to Mahabalipuram.

Mahabalipuram is famous for its shore temples. The sculpture here is particularly interesting because, instead of Gods & Goddesses, the sculpture shows scenes from contemporary day to day life - women milking cows, pompous dignitaries, young girls priming and posing in street corners or swinging their hips in artful come-ons. Mahabalipuram is an easy going village of essentially two streets and positioned at the foot of low lying boulder strewn hill where most of the fascinating temples and the rock cut carvings are to be found. It affords a wonderful combination of an excellent beach, good seafood and the fascinating remains of an ancient Indian Kingdom.

Evening, we will return to Chennai & transfer to airport to board your flight to Madurai

Meeting and assistance upon arrival and transfer to check the Hotel Sangam

Overnight at Hotel Sangam (Standard Room)

Day 10: Madurai / Periyar

Madurai is one of the oldest cities of southern India. It has been a center of pilgrimage, for centuries. The Meenakshi temple, the main architectural attraction here, is an excellent example of Dravidian architecture, with gopurams or multi pillared halls, covered from top to bottom, in a profusion of multicolored images of gods, goddesses, animals and mythical figures.

However, besides the temple, our tour includes a walk along the main street leading to the temple. The well-organized confusion caused by pilgrims in traditional clothes, pavement shops of all shades, holy men in robes of different colours etc add an unmistakable colour and atmosphere to this fascinating Temple City.

Later, we will drive to Periyar through the scenically vibrant valley of the Cardamom Hills of the Western Ghats. The Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary at Thekkady in Kerala, is one of the 16 Project Tiger Reserves in India. About a century ago, a British engineer, Col. J. Penn  ycuick, chalked out a plan to dam the Periyar River, subsequently, a dam was constructed in 1895. This resulted in the adjoining forests being granted protection, by the Maharaja of Travancore. The 55 sq km reservoir and the surrounding forests, provide protection to the animals within. Today, Periyar is undeniably, one of the most impressive wildlife sanctuaries in the world.

Upon arrival check into hotel Cardamom County.

This evening, we will enjoy a boat ride along the lake into the more inner areas of the reserve. There is probably no sanctuary in the world where elephant behavior can be watched in such absolute comfort and safety.  The total popula­tion is about 800. From the lake we can get as close as 20 meters to watch placid groups feeding, bathing and mud slinging. We end this adventurous day at our hotel, turning in for the night matching the tranquil pace of the forest around us.

Overnight at Cardamom County

Day 11: Periyar

Following breakfast this morning we would take a short trek inside the forest. The birdlife comprises of darters, cormorants, kingfishers, great hornbills (the great Malabar hornbill) and racket-tailed drongoes.  The reptilian population boasts of monitor lizards that can be spotted basking in the sun, on the rocks along the lakeshore, especially in the cooler months. Pythons, king cobras, flying lizards, flying squirrels, flying snakes and to top it all, flying frogs are the other inhabitants of this amazing sanctuary.

There are a few fascinating tribal villages around the Periyar, primarily the Manan and Oorali tribes. The Mana ns are ace fishermen, and a few of them still indulge in the traditional, if dangerous, practice of collecting the honey of large and deadly hill bees. The Ooralis build tree dwellings, though not as residences, but watchtowers to keep wild pigs, and elephants from ruining their crops.

After the trek, we board rafts made of bamboos for a rafting experience through some of the richest forest tracts of Periyar Tiger Reserve. The rafting is for about three hours and one gets a panoramic view of forest-clad hills reflected on the lake. Animals like elephant, gaur and sambar are sighted keeping close to the edges of the lake.

The team hitchhikes back to the boat landing by about 5 pm. An armed guard and guides will accompany us. Tea, snacks and packed lunch will be served Enroute

Overnight at Cardamom County
Day 12: Periyar / Alleppey / Houseboat

After breakfast we ride to Alleppey for a houseboat experience through the narrow canals and channels of the backwaters of Kerala.

The materials that go into the making of houseboat are all local and Eco-friendly; bamboo poles, coconut fiber ropes, bamboo mats carpets etc. The main wood used is "Anjali". The Houseboat provides all comforts - Beds, a kitchen, western toilets and an upper deck. Traditional lanterns are used as lights. The cuisine is of traditional Kerala flavour along with the local Specialities - delicious fish and prawns.

We spend the day Cruising on our boat through remote tribal villages along the tranquil backwaters of Kerala is a superb experience. Sensational in its own silent way, the cruise takes you along snake boat docks, friendly cheering villagers, coir (Jute) making communities, toddy (local spirit) shops, fishing nets pitched for the day's catch, bunded paddy fields and manual canoes of different sizes criss-crossing each other. The experience enables you to reach beautiful untouched areas.

Overnight aboard Houseboat

Day 13: Houseboat / Alleppey / Cochin

We disembark at the boat jetty and drive to the Cochin

Upon arrival check in to hotel Casino, a fascinating 4*hotel replete with character. The sea food restaurant here is a tremendous place in case you are fond of eating fish. The restaurant is open sided and the manager walks up to you with a cart of fish (dead, mercifully !).  You make the pick and he cooks. The food here would be WOW stuff!. Cooked in typical Kerala style and marinated with coconut and mild herbs, the food leaves a refreshing tingle on your taste buds!

After rest & relaxation we proceed on a guided tour of the City. The true character of the city is to be found in the older parts of the Fort Cochin area. It more or less exists as it used to be a 1000 years back, when it was first built. The roads have not been widened because the old haggard buildings, through patchwork repairs over the centuries, still stand on the edges. This part of the city reflects an unusual blend of medieval Portugal, Dutch and English country life grafted on to the tropical Malabar Coast.  The fishing community of Cochin is also very interesting. They ancient cantilevered fishing nets called Chinese Fishing Nets. The net is fixed to a pole on the shore. While fishing, the entire net is lowered by a chinese fishing nets, fort kochi, cochin, kerala tourismprimitive fulcrum mechanism using long bamboo poles. By the same mechanism the pole is lifted along with the catch. We will explore the sights of Photographic as well as cultural interest. We would also visit the 16th century Mattancherry Palace, also known as the Dutch Palace since the Dutch substantially renovated the palace in the 17th century. The double storied quadrangular building surrounds a courtyard containing a Hindu temple. The Central Hall on the first floor was the coronation hall of the Rajas of Cochin; on display are their dresses, turbans and palanquins. The most important feature of this palace, however, is the astonishing murals in the bedchambers and other rooms, which depict scenes from the Ramayana and other religious legends. These murals are undoubtedly some of the most beautiful and extensive anywhere to be seen in India. The unique feature here is the unexpected and isolated Jewish community, whose origins date back to AD 52. They are self-contained and have there own Synagogue. 

Kathakali Dancer, IndiaThe area around the Synagogue, known, as ‘Jew Town’ is one of the main centres of spice trade. Scores of small firms huddle together in old dilapidated buildings and the air is filled with the aroma of ginger, cardamom, cumin, turmeric and cloves. The area is very busy. The potters are loading gunny bags of spices on to carts, which keep running up and down the narrow lanes. We would visit Jew Town, in the Mattancherry section and a short walk from the ferry, is one street long. Jews used to occupy virtually all the houses on Jew Town Road, where they sold fruits, vegetables and spices or worked as oil pressers or carpenters. The spice markets are still located on the narrow street.

Kathakali Dance:
A special treat awaits us this evening as we proceed to witness the strength and vigor of Kathakali dance drama, as it enacts episodes from great Indian epics. The extremely stylized gestures, the elaborate make-up, the masks and the splendid costumes of these all-male dancers, recreates an incomparable sense of pageantry.

Overnight at Hotel Casino (Standard Room)

Day 14: Cochin / Departure

Transfer to airport to board your flight back home

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