Down the Ganges
Day 1 Delhi
Arrive in Delhi at any time, there are no planned activities till the late afternoon, so check into to the hotel (check-in time is 12.00 midday) and enjoy the city. At 14.00pm we will have a group meeting where you will meet your fellow group members (Check the notice board in hotel lobby to confirm time) to go over the details of your trip. This will be followed by a short orientation to Connaught Place by metro and a walk to India Gate. Check the notice board to see where the group meeting will be held. New Delhi, the capital of India is one of the most historic capitals in the world and three of its monuments- the Qutab Minar, Red Fort and Humayun's Tomb - have been declared World Heritage Sites. It offers a multitude of interesting places and attractions to the visitor, so much so that it becomes difficult to decide from where to begin exploring the city. In Old Delhi, there are attractions like mosques, forts, markets and other monuments depicting India's Muslim history. New Delhi, on the other hand, is a modern city designed by Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker. Tree covered wide streets with many roundabouts are notable in New Delhi. Home to many government buildings and embassies, as well as Rashtrapati Bhawan, the one-time imperial residence of the British viceroys; India Gate, a memorial raised in honor of the Indian soldiers martyred during the Afghan war. Further out in the southern suburbs you will discover more history including Humayun's Tomb, said to be the forerunner of the Taj Mahal at Agra; the Purana Quila, built by Humayun, with later-day modifications by Sher Shah Suri; Qutab Minar, built by Qutb-ud-din Aybak of the Slave Dynasty; and the incredible lotus-shaped Bahá'í House of Worship. There are a number of outstanding museums worth visiting including the Craft Museum, National Gallery and Birla House (Ghandi Smirti) and Indira Gandhi Memorial Museum. (Note many museums are closed on Monday). There are so many options for dining, from age-old eateries in the by lanes of the Old Walled City to glitzy, specialty restaurants in five-star hotels, Delhi is a movable feast. Restaurants and bars cater to all tastes and budgets. The best of Mughlai cuisine can be enjoyed at Karims, (both in Jama Masjid and Nizamuddin) where recipes, dating from the times o the Mughals have been the closely guarded secret of generations of chefs. The finest Frontier cuisine is available at the Bukhara, recently voted as the best Indian restaurant in the world!! And at the other end of the scale there are the many popular roadside eateries where kebabs, naan and rotis (Indian breads) and dosa (South Indian pancakes) are the order of the day. A delightful outlet offering a range of Indian cuisines are the food stalls at Dilli Haat. Here, the cuisine of different states is made available. Set in the midst of a spacious crafts bazaar these cafes are a very pleasant place to enjoy food.
Days 2-4 Rishikesh/Haridwar
Rishikesh is a holy city for Hindus located in the foothills of the Himalaya in northern India. Legend states that Lord Rama did penance here for killing Ravana, the demon king of Lanka. It is also known as the gateway to the Himalayas and is located around 25 kilometers away from another holy city, Haridwar. Rishikesh is the starting point for traveling to the sites that form the Char Dham pilgrimage — Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri. The sacred river Ganga flows through Rishikesh. In fact, at Rishikesh, it leaves the mighty Himalayas and enters into the northern plains. With Several temples, ancient as well as new, along the banks of the Ganges, the city attracts thousands of pilgrims and tourists each year, from within India, as well as from other countries. Rishikesh, is also known as "the world-capital of Yoga", has numerous yoga centres scatterred in its surroundings. The place is also the best destination for white water rafting in India, as it offers medium to rough rapids in the course of river Ganges. The stretch between Shivpuri and Rishikes is considered as the rafting capital of the country with numourous white rapids going on for a long stretch. Here we go for half a day rafting session as we embrace this mighty river - also considered a lifeline of India. During our stay at Rishikesh, we also visit the prominent holy city of Haridwar. In Hindi, Haridwar stands for Dwar of Hari or Gateway to God, with 'Hari' meaning god and 'dwar' meaning gate. Haridwar is regarded as one of the seven holiest places to Hindus.Haridwar is one of the holiest town for Hindus all accross the world I it believed that drops of the elixir of immortality, Amrit fell here when the pitcher was being carried by a celestial bird Garuda. We can witness the evening Aarti (prayers) at Haridwar and also witness the rituals that are constantly performed by pilgrims fro all across India on its banks. Estimated train travel time: 5 hours.
Days 5-6 Agra
This morning we take the train to Agra arriving late in the afternoon. On day 6 we see sunrise in the city of Agra a city that is best known as the site of India’s most famous landmark, the Taj Mahal. We visit the great icon of Mughal architecture the Taj Mahal in the early morning for the best light- be sure to have plenty of memory in your camera! This afternoon we visit I’timad-ud-Daulah, also known as the ‘Baby Taj'. It was built before the Taj Mahal by Nur Jahan, Queen of Jehangir, for her parents. The first Mughal building to be faced with white marble and where ‘pietra dura’, (precious stones inlaid into marble) was first used. We also ride one of the cycle-rickshaws to visit the Agra Fort. Constructed between 1631 and 1654 by a workforce of 22 000, the Taj Mahal was built by the Muslim Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his favourite wife, Arjumand Bano Begum, better known as Mumtaz Mahal. It is the romantic origin of the Taj as much as its architectural splendour that has led to its fame worldwide. Actually an integrated complex of many structures, the Taj Mahal is considered the finest example of Mughal architecture, itself a combination of Islamic, Hindu, Persian and Turkish elements. The walled city of the Agra Fort was first taken over by the Moghuls, at that time led by Akbar the Great, in the late 16th century. Akbar liked to build from red sandstone, often inlaid with white marble and intricate decorations, and it was during his reign that the fort began changing into more of a royal estate. However, it was only during the reign of Akbar's grandson, Shah Jahan (who would eventually build the Taj Mahal) that the site finally took on its current state. Unlike his grandfather, Shah Jahan preferred buildings made from white marble, often inlaid with gold or semi-precious gems, and he destroyed some earlier buildings inside the fort in order to build others in his own style. At the end of his life Shah Jahan was imprisoned in the fort by his son, Aurangzeb. It is said that Shah Jahan died in Muasamman Burj, a tower with a marble balcony with an excellent view of the Taj Mahal. The fort was also a site of one of the most important battles of the Indian rebellion of 1857, which caused the end of the British East India Company's rule in India, leading to a century of direct rule of India by Britain. On Day 6, we catch the overnight sleeper train to Allahabad. Estimated train travel time: 8-9 hours
Day 7 Allahabad
We arrive early in the morning at Allahabad. Allahabad is another very imporant pilgrim town on the banks of River Ganges. It is also the confluence point of two of the greatest rivers Ganges and Yamuna. It is also believed that a third river, which is extinct now also merged with the two rivers. This point is known as Sangam. Hindu pilgrims from far away lands come here to wash their sins. During the day we go for a boat ride to the point where the two rivers meet. Every fourth year the Kumbh Mela where holy men, priests and common pilgrims gathers in millions to take a dip at the point of Sangam. We visit this area by boat ride.
Day 8 Riverbank camp (L,D)
This morning after breakfast we drive to Mirzapur Board our sail boats and cruise along the river. This boat cruise during brings you face to face with the plural importance of this mighty river. One it is source of life to North India with its vast plains considered as the granary of the country, the rural and semi urban settlements along and the religious significance. Ganges is considered as the mother of Indian civilisation. As you cruise along the fresh water dolphins, you will be taken care of by a team of cook and helpers. Overnight we will camp along the river bank in a Tented accommodation.
Days 9-10 Varanasi (B)
Morning after breakfast we sail to Chunar Fort. A medival fort with a very turbulent has a lot of stories behind. The mere sight of the Fort binds you in a spell. After exploring this magnificient Fort we drive for about an hour to Varanasi. Varanasi is the quintessential Indian holy city where millions of Hindu travel to for pilgrimage, to worship, to mourn or to die. Walk the narrow twisting alleys, poke around some of the literally thousands of temples and shrines, and experience the energy of the dawn rituals of bathing and burial as you float past the famous ghats of the Ganges. Sitting on the banks of the River Ganges, you can contemplate what it means to be in Varanasi, the oldest continually inhabited city in the world, dating back thousands of years. The culture of Varanasi is deeply associated with the river Ganges and its religious importance; the city has been a cultural and religious centre in northern India for thousands of years. Or wander through the Old City with its maze of narrow alleyways full of small shops and stalls. Perhaps you could visit the monasteries and ruins of nearby Sarnath, the site of Buddha's first sermon. We take boats out onto the sacred Ganges River, both for sunrise and sunset. For the evening boat journey we enjoy a candle flower ceremony on the boats. During our stay in Varanasi you will have time to shop, wander and absorb the atmosphere of this unique city, while optional activities include the monasteries and ruins of nearby Sarnath, site of the Buddha's first sermon.
Days 11-12 Bodhgaya
Estimated travel time: 5 hours Bodhgaya is the birth place of Buddhism. It is believed that Lord Buddha achieved its enlightment under the Bodhi Tree. It is said that Buddha, then Prince Siddharth after the renunciation dwelled in the area for six year, but when it did not lead to realisation, he sat under the Banyan Tree facing east; her resolved that he would not stand till he got enlightened. The Mahabodhi Temple was later constructed by Emperor Ashoka. Today this place is a pilgrimage place for every Hindu and Buddhist. The basement of the temple is 15 mtr. square, 15 m in length and eight of 52 mtr. Inside the temple there is a huge image of Lord Buddha in a sitting (touching the ground pose. Here we explore the serene Mahabodhi Temple and the Banyan tree. It has become an international place of pilgrimage for Buddhists from all over the world. A host countries like Srilanka, Thailand, Burma. Tibet, Bhutan and Japan have established their monasteries and temples near the Mahabodhi Comlex.
Days 13-14 Kolkata (Calcutta)
Early this morning we catch the day train to Kolkata. Kolkata, capital of the state of West Bengal, is primarily a British legacy and was their capital till the 1911 when it was shifted to New Delhi. There is a strong influence of European architecture on the administrative and state buildings. The city, the banks of Hoogly, a major tributary of Ganges as it flows into the Bay of Bengal, got its name from Kali temple at Kali Ghat. Kali symbolizes victory over evil and that reflects in the many festivals celebrated in Bengal. We explore the city by local transport of Trams, Metros and Ferries on the river. City is also known for its intellectual contribution to Indian philosophy, Rabindranath Tagore, , Swami Vivekananda, Raja Ram Mohan Roy and many others were the biggest influence on the social reforms in India during the British period. Film Maker like Satyajit Ray, economist Amartya Sen, Artist Jamini Roy , freedom fighters like Netaji Shubash Chandra Bose are all names that turned the course of Indian History and Culture. Mother Teresa an Albanian born nun is today considered a saint and revered by everybody in Kolkata. She established her Missionaries of Charity here in 1952 and served the poor people of Kolkata all her life. Here we visit the home of Mother Teresa, Kalighat temple, the botanical garden with the great Banyan about 250 years old with 2800 prop roots and covers an area of 1.5 Hectares and the Victoria Memorial.
Day 15 Kolkata
Depart at any time