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India: A Sacred & Spiritual Journey


India is a country where religion is ever-present and a vital part of everyday life. Not only is it present in the architecture, sculptures and paintings of its great monuments, but you are also immersed in its influence just by experiencing the hustle bustle of daily street life.

All of the world's major religions are represented in this vast, mystical nation: Hinduism, Sikkism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity and Judaism as well as some fascinating smaller communities of Jains and Parsis. It is from this long spiritual history where such modern-day western obsessions with spirituality and yoga were born. We will explore all these concepts on our tour and, in doing so, our own spirituality and a deeper appreciation of all religions will be rejuvenated!


 

Day 1

Fly North America to Delhi

Day 2

Arrive Delhi

Namaste & welcome to India! You will arrive at New Delhi's International Airport. Following customs, immigration formalities and baggage collection, a Goway representative will meet you as you exit the arrivals terminal building after which you will be transferred to your hotel. New Delhi, the capital and the third largest city of India is a fusion of the ancient and the modern. Standing along the West End of Gangetic Plain, the capital city, Delhi, unwinds a picture rich with culture, architecture and human diversity, deep in history, monuments, museums, galleries, gardens and exotic shows.

Comprising of two contrasting yet harmonious parts, the Old Delhi and New Delhi, the city is a travel hub of Northern India.Narrating the city's Mughal past, Old Delhi, takes you through the labyrinthine streets passing through formidable mosques, monuments and forts. You will also discover lively and colorful bazaars that boast to cater all sorts of good and items at mind-blowing prices amidst a barely controlled chaotic ambience. The imperial city of New Delhi displays the finely curved architecture of British Raj. It generates a mesmerizing charm reflecting well-composed and spacious streets under the shade of beautifully lined avenues of trees and tall and imposing government buildings. D

Overnight: Vikram Hotel

Day 3

Delhi - Full Day City Tour

After breakfast this morning, we join our guide for a fascinating tour of Delhi earlier known as Shah Jahanabad. Our tour begins with a visit to the great Jama Masjid, the principal mosque of Old Delhi, built in 1656 AD by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. We will be permitted to view a prayer service to gain a deeper insight into Islam.

From Jama Masjid, we head to Laxmi Narayan Temple (also called the Birla Mandir) built in honour of the Hindu goddess of wealth, Laxmi, and of her consort, Lord Vishnu - the Preserver in the Trimurti. At the temple the Priest will conduct a special Prayer Ceremony for us. Later we visit Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, the most prominent Sikh house of worship which is instantly recognizable by its stunning golden dome.

We take time to visit the community kitchen and interact with the volunteers before stopping to view one of Delhi's largest Roman Catholic Churchs, St.Cathedral, built in a bold, elegant design in the Lutyens tradition with an Italianate south front enriched by an oval mosaic cartouche of St. Francis from 1930-1934.

After lunch at a local restaurant, we drive to Shanti Stupa which was established by the Shanti Stupa Society to build the Vishwa Shanti Stupa (World Peace Pagoda) in the Indraprastha Park.

Our final visit today is to the Akshardham temple which brilliantly showcases the essence of India's ancient architecture, traditions and timeless spiritual messages. Akshardham complex was built in only five years through the blessings of HDH Pramukh Swami Maharaj of the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) and the colossal devotional efforts of 11,000 artisans and BAPS volunteers. The complex was inaugurated on 6 November, 2005. BL

Overnight: Vikram Hotel

Day 4

Delhi to Ajmer by Shatabdi Express Train/drive to Puskhar

Morning transfer to New Delhi railway station to catch the 6:05am Ajmer Shatabdi Express for Ajmer arriving at 1:00pm. On arrival, we visit Dargah made famous by Sufi Hazrat Mu'inuddin Chishti, the founder of the Chishti Sufi order, before taking a short transfer to Pushkar and our hotel. BD

Overnight: Jagat Niwas Palace Hotel

Day 5

Drive Pushkar to Jaipur

This morning we visit the shore of Pushkar Lake which has five principal temples plus many smaller temples as well as 52 ghats where pilgrims descend to the lake to bathe in its sacred waters. One of the primary temples is a 14th century temple dedicated to Brahma, the Hindu god of creation. After lunch in Pushkar, we drive to the 'Pink City' of Jaipur.

Jaipur is the capital city and the natural gateway to the exotic Rajasthan. It a bustling capital city and a business centre with all the trappings of a modern metropolis but yet flavoured strongly with an age-old charm that never fails to surprise a traveller. The old Jaipur painted in Pink can grip any visitor with admiration. Stunning backdrops of ancient forts Nahargarh, Amer, Jagarh and Moti Dungri are dramatic testimonials of the bygone era and a reminder of their lingering romance. BL

Overnight: Ramada Plaza

Day 6

Jaipur

Our morning session of Yoga exercise, the traditional physical and mental disciplines originating in India, will prepare us for the cheerful chaos of Jaipur! With its rich & colourful past, resplendent with tales of velour & bravery, Jaipur is now one of the most important heritage cities in India. The city was founded in the year 1728 by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, the ruler of Amber. It remains the only city in the world symbolizing the nine divisions of the universe, through nine rectangular sectors.

Our first stop is an excursion to Amber Fort, situated just outside the city perched on top of a hill. From the Fort we head to the City Palace in the heart of Jaipur, known for its blend of Rajasthani and Mughal architecture. We also take time to the visit the famous Hawa Mahal or the Palace of Winds constructed for the royal ladies to watch the royal processions without being seen. Jaipur is also famous for its crafts and Indian artifacts and you will have plenty of time to barter in all the shops and stalls that line the city streets.

Later this afternoon, we will be able to relax and rejuvenate with another Yoga session at our hotel before enjoying a delicious dinner. BD

Overnight: Ramada Plaza

Day 7

Drive Jaipur to Agra Via Fatehpur Sikri

We leave Jaipur this morning for our journey to Agra. Enroute, we stop to visit Fatehpur Sikri known as the Ghost Capital and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Fatehpur Sikri, situated 26 miles west of Agra, was built on the orders of the Mughal Emperor Akbar and was the political capital under his reign from 1571-1585 when it was abandoned due to lack of water.

While Akbar himself was illiterate, he took a keen interest in literature, architecture, and the arts. He is also reputed to be a very tolerant ruler, and the buildings at Fatehpur Sikri blended both Islamic and Hindu elements in their architectural style. One of the buildings even reflects the new syncretistic faith founded by Akbar, Din-e-ilahi, which though very short-lived, remains a matter of controversy. We arrive late afternoon into Agra. This evening we'll enjoy a 6 dimension Movie on India - India in Motion – at Adlabs, Agra. BD

Overnight: Mansingh Hotel

Day 8

Agra

Agra, beautifully situated on the banks of river Yamuna, achieved prominence as the capital of the Mughal Emperors from the year 1526 to 1628. It remains a major tourist destination because of its many splendid Mughal-era monuments, most notably the Taj Mahal & Agra Fort, both UNESCO World Heritage sites. Our day is spent visiting the Taj Mahal, the famous monument to love as well as exploring the historic Agra Fort.

Overnight: Mansingh Hotel

Day 9

Agra to Jhansi by Shatabdi Express Train/road to Khajuraho

After breakfast this morning, we transfer to the Agra Railway Station to catch the Bhopal Shatabdi Express at 8:30am for Jhansi. We arrive Jhansi at 11:00 am and board our coach for the journey to Khajuraho. En route we will visit Orcha whose 16th century Hindu rulers managed to stay on friendly terms with the Mughals allowing them to build spectacular palaces and temples.

After visiting the Orcha Temples, we continue on to Khajuraho. Situated in the heart of central India, in the state of Madhya Pradesh, Khajuraho is a fascinating village with a quaint rural ambience and a rich cultural heritage. The fascinating Hindu temples of Khajuraho, India's unique gift of love to the world, present the expression of a highly matured civilization. BL

Overnight: Ramada Hotel

Day 10

Fly Khajuraho To Varanasi

After breakfast, we begin our sightseeing of Khajuraho. The city was once the original capital of the Chandela Rajputs, a Hindu dynasty that ruled this part of India from the 10th to the 12th centuries. The Khajuraho temples were built over a span of a hundred years, from 950 to 1050. The uniqueness of the Khajuraho Temples lies in their architecture – constructed with spiral superstructures adhering to a northern Indian Shikhara Temple style and often to a Panchayatana plan or layout.

A few of the temples are dedicated to the Jain pantheon and the rest to Hindu deities – to the God's Trio, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, and various Devi forms, such as the Devi Jagadambi temple. Many are famous for their celebration of the erotic state of being. Our expert guide will be able to give us an in-depth look at these temples.

This afternoon we transfer to the airport for our flight to India's holiest city, Varanasi, also known as Banaras or Kashi, the "city of light." For centuries, thousands of pilgrims have made their way to the city to walk down the "ghats" or steps to the banks of the sacred Ganges River.

On arrival, our first stop is in Sarnath (Buddhist Stupa) to visit the deer park where Gautama Buddha first taught the Dharma, and where the Buddhist Sangha came into existence through the enlightenment of Kondanna. Sarnath is located 13 kilometers north-east of Varanasi, in Uttar Pradesh, India.

At dusk, we witness the holy ceremony of 'aarti' (hyms and prayers) on the banks of the Ganga and view the sight of hundreds of lighted lamps flowing on the waters – a sight one will not forget. BD

Overnight: Ramada Hotel

Day 11

Varanasi

We start our day with an early morning boat ride on the sacred River Ganges to see the cremation Ghats and witness the living traditions of one of the world's oldest and important religions. At sunrise the sight unfolds before us, thousands of faithful come daily to the banks to bathe and pray while in the background, temples and palaces rise in tiers from the water's edge.

After the boat ride, we visit the Golden Temple and walk through the narrow lanes of Varanasi. We will enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before heading to Benares Hindu University, an internationally reputed temple of learning in Varanasi. This creative and innovative university was founded by the great nationalist leader, Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya in 1916. It played a stellar role in the independence movement and has developed into the greatest center of learning in India. It has produced many great freedom fighters and builders of modern India and has contributed immensely to the progress of the nation through a large number of renowned scholars, artists, scientists and technologists who have graced its portals. Here will meet some of the students and faculty and a short lecture on the Hindu Religion. BL

Overnight: Ramada Hotel

Day 12

Fly Varansi To Delhi

We transfer to the airport this morning for our flight back to Delhi where we will be met and transferred to our hotel. The remainder of the day is at leisure to explore the city on your own. BD

Overnight: Vikram Hotel

Day 13

Delhi to Amritsar by Swarna Shatabdi Express Train

Our morning transfer takes us to the New Delhi railway station to catch the Swarna Shatabdi Express at 7:20 am bound for the holy city of Amritsar. On arrival at 1:25pm we are met and transferred to our hotel.

This evening we visit the Wagha Border, the only road border crossing between India and Pakistan. It lies on the Grand Trunk Road between the cities of Amritsar, India and Lahore, Pakistan. The border is a ceremonial border where each evening there is a ceremony called 'lowering of the flags.' At that time there is very energetic and thrilling parade done by Border Security Force (B.S.F) India and Pakistan Rangers soldiers. It may seem slightly aggressive to foreigners, but it really is just entertainment for the crowds from both sides. Border officers from the two countries sometimes walk over to the offices on the other side for day to day affairs. BD

Overnight: Ritz Hotel

Day 14

Amritsar

This morning we visit the famous Golden Temple – culturally the most significant shrine of the Sikhs and one of the oldest Sikh Gurudwara. Here we will learn more about Sikh beliefs and traditions. The Sikh Religion was an attempt by its first guru (teacher) Nanak to merge the principles of Hinduism and Islam in 1469. One of Nanak's successors founded the Khalsa, a committed and baptised group of both men and women. Male members of the Khalsa wear a turban and keep five K's: Kesha (uncut hair and beard), kangha (comb for their hair), kara (steel bracelet), kacha (soldier's shorts) and kirpan (daggar).

We will also visit Jallianwala Bagh which was the place where more than 2000 people were brutally killed in April, 1919 by the police commanded by General Dyer. On the memory of those innocent freedom fighters many people visit the place daily and feel the greatness of those souls. We will see the marks of bullets still visible in the walls and a well where many people jumped to escape to tell the horrifying tale of that time.

Our final visit today is to the Durgiana Temple. Dedicated to the Goddess Durga, it is a notable pilgrimage site for North Indian Hindus. BL

Overnight: Ritz Hotel

Day 15

Drive Amritsar to Dharamsala

We board our coach this morning for the drive up the mountains to Dharamsala, a popular hill station as well as the spiritual abode of the Dalai Lama in Himachal Pradesh. It is divided into two parts: Dharamsala being the lower section is three km away from its higher section, McLeodganj, which is 500 m above, a Hill Station in Himachal Pradesh. BD

Overnight: Surya Resort

Day 16

Dharamsala

We spend the day visiting McLeodganj. Take time to relax and absorb the awe-inspiring beauty and tranquility of this region. Our spirits will be lifted.  BD

Overnight: Surya Resort

Day 17

Dharmsala to Chakki Bank Railway to Delhi

Our morning is at leisure before transferring to the Chakki Bank Railway Station to catch the overnight train to Delhi. BL

Overnight: First Class Berth

Day 18

Arrive Delhi

Fly Delhi to North America. On arrival in Delhi, we transfer to our hotel for the day. This evening we transfer to the airport to connect with our flights home or to our onward tour extension to Rishikesh or Goa.

Dayrooms: Vikram Hotel

Day 19

Arrive North America


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