Classical India Tour

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Delhi

Upon arrival in Delhi you are met and transferred to your hotel. Delhi is steeped in history, which dates back 3,000 years. 'Indraprastha', the seat of the Pandavas in the early centuries of the era, was situated in Purana Quila and is believed to be Delhi's earliest city.The planning of New Delhi started in 1911 under the guidance of Sir Edwin Lutyens, following the declaration made by

King George V at the Delhi Durbar to shift the capital of India from Calcutta to Delhi. This emphatically reinforced the permanence of the British Empire in India and the new city was officially inaugurated on February 9, 1931.

Day 2: Delhi

This morning visit Old Delhi, pausing on the way at Raj Ghat, the monument to Mahatma Gandhi, erected on the site of his funeral pyre and an important place of pilgrimage for people from all over the world.  In Old Delhi, you will see the Jama Masjid Mosque and the Red Fort, both built by the Emperor Shah Jahan.

Enjoy a cycle rickshaw ride along the main street of old Delhi, passing the colorful Chandni Chowk bazaar. In this old market area of winding, narrow walkways, there are entire streets devoted to the sale of a particular item, such as a street dedicated for the sale of silver, one for gemstones, one for fabric, etc.

This afternoon visit New Delhi. Begin with a visit to Humayun's Tomb (a UNESCO World Heritage site), constructed in the 16th century as a monument to the Mughal Emperor Humayun, the second Mughal emperor. The structure represents a synthesis of Persian and Indian styles, the result of part of Humayun's rule being spent in exile in Afghanistan and Persia. He returned in his last years and was the first Mughal Emperor to be buried in India. The monument was built by Haji Begum, his senior wife, and she is also buried here.

Afterward you visit the significant sites in the oldest part of New Delhi. This area is composed of the former Seven Capitals, which were built between the 12th and 17th centuries. Visit Qutub Minar, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This five-story sandstone tower was built to commemorate the victory of Muhammad Ghuri and Qutub ud Din over the infidel Chauhans of Prithvi Raj in 1192. Construction of the monument began in 1199 by Qutub ud Din, who later became the first Sultan of Delhi. The tower is inscribed with quotations from the Koran.

In the city you see the resultant plans of Edwin Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker as you drive along the two main avenues, Rajpath and Janpath passing the India Gate and Rashtrapati Bhawan the official residence of the President of India.

Day 3: Delhi / Udaipur

This morning after breakfast you transfer to the airport for Jet Airways flight #707 departing at 1:45 p.m. for Udaipur, a serene desert city on the shores of Lake Pichola.  Known as the “City of Sunrise,” Udaipur was founded in 1568 and is surrounded by walls containing bastions and five gates.

Romantic, wistful and serene, Udaipur is built around shimmering, clear blue water lakes, which reflect the green hills of the Aravali ranges. On arrival at 2:55 p.m. you are met and transferred to the Taj Lake Palace.  The famous lake palaces that seem to emerge from placid Lake Pichola whisper the memories of a bygone era. The city was the last capital of Mewar, and remained so until the state was merged with the Republic of India in 1947.

This evening you take a boat ride on the placid waters of Lake Pichola. From the boat you can see the city of Udaipur as it rises majestically above the lake in the middle of the Rajasthan desert.

During the boat ride you also visit Jag Mandir Palace. An unforgettable sight on Lake Pichola is the island of Jag Mandir. Maharana Karan Singhji built the palace in 1622 A.D. as a pleasure palace for royal parties and functions. This magnificent monument with its domes, marble pillars and fountains has a special approach of a row of marble elephants that seem to be guarding the island.

Please note: Water levels at Lake Pichola can vary widely between normal, extremely low and extremely high, and as a result may affect some sightseeing options. On these occasions, we will endeavor to offer alternative sightseeing specifics to ensure as minimal disruption to the scheduled itinerary of your holiday as possible.

Day 4: Udaipur

This morning you visit the small but beautiful complex at Nagda. Known as the “Sas” and “Bahu” temples (literally Temples of the Mother in law and Daughter in law), these elaborately carved 10th century temples are dedicated to Lord Vishnu.  On the larger Sas temple, there are beautiful friezes with scenes from the Ramayana, meeting of lovers, and images of the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.  The Bahu temple has a richly carved archway and columns profusely carved with female figurines.

Arrive at Devigarh Fort Palace for lunch.  In the village of Delwara, the Palace has a commanding view over one of the three main passes into the valley of Udaipur. This strategic principality was awarded to Sajja Singh, in recognition of his bravery and loyalty to the Maharana, and the Fort Palace was built in the 1760s, but later abandoned in the 1960s. After years of restoration and rebuilding, the Devi Garh Resort embodies the look of modern India, with a contemporary, sleek interior, designed with simple colors using local marble and semi-precious stones.

The restaurant at Devi Garh offers an innovative menu with delicious Asian and International cuisine, each dish made with the freshest ingredients for an authentic home cooked flavor. Enjoy your lunch on whimsical, marble table-tops with inlays of semi-precious stones in the form of various indoor games.

On your way back to the city you will visit the 8th century Eklinji Temple.  Eklinji was a reincarnation of the Indian deity Shiva, and the patron god of the Maharanas of Udaipur.

Day 5: Udaipur / Jaipur

In the morning, go across the lake by boat to the opulent City Palace, standing on a crest overlooking Lake Pichola. The majestic palace is a stunning blend of medieval European and Chinese architecture, surmounted by balconies, towers, cupolas and terraces with wonderful views of the city and lake. The entrance is through Hathi Pol (Elephant Gate) along the main street of the old city.  The main part of the palace is now a museum with an interesting, eclectic collection.

Stop off to see the Crystal Gallery in the Fateh Prakash Palace. This amazing museum in Durbar Hall houses the world’s largest cut crystal collection, with ornaments, fountains, vases, crockery, furniture and beds.

Continue on to Sahelion-Ki-Bari Park, the Garden of the Maids of Honor, on the shores of the second major lake of Udaipur, Fateh Sagar.  The park was constructed for forty-eight young ladies-in-waiting who were sent to the royal house as a part of a lavish dowry.  It is beautifully laid out with extensive lawns and shady walks and is an excellent example of the Hindu art of landscaping.

You then transfer to the airport to board your flight to Jaipur.

The origins of the beautiful city of Jaipur can be traced back to the 18th century, during the reign of Jai Singh II who ascended the Amber throne in 1699. Jaipur today epitomizes the spirit of Rajputana.

Although it’s grown into a bustling metropolis, Jaipur still retains its character and history, a beautiful fusion of yesteryears and modernity. For many years it was called the Pink City because of the extensive use of the locally abundant pink plastered stone, painted so in honor of the visit of the royal consort of Queen Victoria. Jaipur thrills the soul with its massive forts, magnificent palaces, exquisite temples and lush gardens.

On arrival you are met and transferred to the hotel.

Day 6: Jaipur

This morning visit the Amber Fort, where you can enjoy a short Elephant ride like Maharajas and Maharani. This beautiful fortified palace was once the capital of the state of Jaipur (until 1728 AD) and the capital of the powerful princes of Jaipur. Among the best hilltop forts in India, with stern exteriors of white marble and red sandstone that seem to grow out of the rugged hills, the Amber Fort has mighty gates leading to beautifully decorated temples, huge ornate halls, palaces, pavilions and gardens.

The architecture is a combination of both Mughal and Rajput styles, and the chambers and hallways of the palace are decorated with paintings depicting hunting scenes, intricate carvings, mosaics and detailed mirror work.

This afternoon, explore the city, beginning at the Jantar Mantar, an observatory built by Sawai Jai Singh ll in the 18th century. The Maharajah, a scientist as well as an astronomer, had the principles of Euclid translated into Sanskrit. One of the most remarkable sites in Jaipur, the Jantar Mantar has fourteen major geometric devices for measuring time, predicting eclipses and tracking stars and planets.

Go on to the City Palace built within the fortified area of the original city, with one of the finest monumental entrances in India. The Palace is now principally a museum housing a collection of great treasures, including miniature paintings, carpets, royal garments and other interesting objects from Jaipur's intriguing past. The former royal family retains a part of the palace for their personal use.

Hawa Mahal, or the Palace of the Winds, is a beautifully designed facade built in 1799 by Maharajah Sawai Pratap Singh, to extend the zenana, or womens’ chambers, of the City Palace.

Five stories in height, and built of red and pink sandstone highlighted with white quicklime, it is thought that the women of the royal harem used the many casements to observe everyday life in the street below without being seen. (Rajput women traditionally observed strict ‘purdah’.) The side facing the street outside the palace, has 953 small windows and the breeze (hawa) which circulates through these windows gives the palace its name, and keeps it cool even in the hot summer months.

Day 7: Jaipur / Agra

This morning you travel overland to Agra, renowned as the home of the Taj Mahal. Your journey today takes most of the day and covers approximately 150 miles as you travel through rural India for an insight into village and countryside life. Lunch will be taken at Laxmi Vilas Heritage Palace.

En route you stop in Bharatpur to visit the Keoladeo bird sanctuary, home to over 100 species of birds. You stop at Fatehpur Sikri (a UNESCO World Heritage site), built by Emperor Akbar as his capital and palace in the late 16th century and abandoned after just a few years when the water supply was exhausted. It was a veritable fairytale city and its "ruins" are still in pristine condition. You also visit the Bulund Darwaza, the largest gateway in the world.

Continue your drive to Agra where upon arrival you check into your hotel, located just 600 yards from the breathtaking Taj Mahal.

Two great Mughal monarchs, Akbar and Shah Jahan, transformed the little village of Agra into a befitting second capital of the Mughal Empire - giving it the name Dar-ul-Khilafat (seat of the Emperor). Today, a visitor to Agra is caught up in a world of contrasting edifices of red sandstone and white marble, narrow galleys and quaint buggies, and that irresistible charm that this favorite city of the Mughals still retains. It is not surprising, that modern Agra still reflects its Mughal heritage most conspicuously.

Day 8: Agra

This morning (weather permitting) you begin your day with a sunrise visit to see the glorious Taj Mahal at sunrise. The Taj Mahal is the mausoleum of Empress Mumtaz Mahal, the beloved spouse of Shah Jahan who died in 1630. It is often considered to be the “world’s monument to love."

The Taj complex comprises a forecourt, a lofty entrance, a charming formal Mughal garden with canals, and a central tank with a series of fountains, the tomb proper, and an attached mosque on the west, with its symmetrical counterpart on the east. The Taj is remarkable for its perfect proportions and rich pietra dura, with minute details executed with great skill. The building, often styled “a dream in marble” is said to have taken at least 22 years to build.

From here you continue on to the Agra Fort (a UNESCO World Heritage site), which lies on the bend of the River Yamuna, almost in the heart of the town. The Fort was built by Akbar as his citadel over the years 1565-1573 in the finest architectural style with imposing gates, walls of red sandstone and a moat. You also see the Tomb of Itmad Ud daulah, sometimes called “Baby Taj.” This ornate mausoleum is considered an imminent precursor to the Taj Mahal and has elaborate carvings and inlay work.

This afternoon you have some leisure time at your hotel. Your day is complete as early this evening you return to the Taj Mahal at sunset to watch the beautiful white marble turn slowly to a soft, rosy pink.

Day 9: Agra / Jhansi / Khajuraho

This morning you are transferred from your hotel to the railway station to board the Shatabdi Express train departing at 8:15 a.m. to Jhansi.

Upon arrival at 10:40 a.m., you continue overland by coach to Khajuraho, journey of approximately 6 hours covering about 112 miles.

En route you will visit the small town of Orchha whose claim to fame is based on rulers who managed to stay on friendly terms with the Mughals and produced marvelous palaces and temples. Along the river on the outskirts of the city stands a group of long-abandoned Hindu temples, presenting quite thrilling sight against the sky.

The palace-fort complex in Orchha is a 17th century structure, containing three palaces known as mahals. Jahangir Mahal, the most commanding of these palaces, was built by Bir Singh Deo to honor the Emperor Jahangir’s visit to the city. It is a magnificent example of medieval palace-fort architecture. Many of the impressive structures were built by the Mughals who migrated to India in the 16th century and ruled for 250 years until the takeover by the British.

The temples of Khajuraho are India’s unique gift to the world, representing, as they do, a paean to life, love, and joy; perfect in execution and sublime in expression. Life, in every conceivable form, has been captured and immortalized in stone. Architecturally they are unique, being very different from the temple prototype of their period. The three main compartments are the entrance (ardhamandapa), assembly hall (mandapa) and sanctum (garbha griha), with further additions in the more developed temples. Three geographical divisions group the temples: western, eastern and southern.

Day 10: Khajuraho

Today, enjoy a morning and afternoon tour of Khajuraho. You have the opportunity to visit temples in both the Eastern and Western Groups including:

Kandariya Mahadeo: This 31 meter high temple is the largest and most typical Khajuraho temple. Dedicated to Shiva, the inner sanctum enshrines the lingam. The exquisitely carved main shrine pays homage in delicate detail to the gods, goddesses, celestial maidens and lovers. Particularly noteworthy are the entrance arch, the ceilings and the pillars of the inner compartments.

Lakshmana Temple: The lintel over the entrance of this beautiful Vaishnavite temple shows the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva with Lakshmi, Vishnu’s consort. The finely carved sanctum has a three-headed idol of Vishnu’s incarnations - Narasimha and Varaha.

Varaha Temple: This temple echoes the same sentiment as the Lakshmana Temple; i.e. the various incarnations of Vishnu. The boar incarnation of Vishnu - Varaha appears in a nine-foot high statue at the temple.

Patasvanath Temple: The largest temple in the group, it is typically Jain and exquisite in detail. The sculptures on the outer wall are particularly noteworthy. The themes depict, in charming detail, the intricacies of everyday activity. Within, a throne faces the bull emblem of the first tirthankara, Adinath. The Parasvanath image was installed in 1860.

Adinath Temple: Dedicated to the Jain saint, Adinath, the temple is lavishly embellished with sculpted figures, including that of yakshis. This temple is exquisitely carved and echoes the true spirit of the Khajuraho temples.

Day 11: Khajuraho / Varanasi

Enjoy a leisurely morning before transferring to the airport for your flight for Varanasi. Upon arrival you are met and escorted to your hotel.

Varanasi stands on the banks of the holy river Ganges, a city of more than a thousand temples and shrines. It is here that millions of Hindus come to wash away their sins; where the great Gautam Buddha first preached 25 centuries ago; where Asia’s largest residential university was founded and is still a center for art and learning. Varanasi’s principle attraction is a long string of bathing ghats where pilgrims belonging to all religions/castes gather. Also renowned for its silk saris and carpets, Varanasi draws huge crowds of people who throng the shops to buy the famous Benarasi saris.

Later this afternoon, look around the ‘eternal city’ of Varanasi. Stop off at a few of the many Hindu temples that line the Ganges River, each dedicated to a different deity. (Please note: non-Hindus are not allowed inside the temples).

Continue by strolling along the fascinating lanes and colorful bazaars full of shops selling, among many other things, the world-famous Benaras silks.

In the evening, go down to the banks of the River Ganges and board your private boat to witness the ‘aarti’, a prayer to the mother river, conducted every evening by five priests on the banks of the river.

Day 12: Varanasi / Delhi

Early this morning, drive to Daswamedh Ghat and take a sunrise boat ride on the sacred Ganges River. Here the faithful walk down steps into the river to perform their religious ablutions. For the devout Hindu, Varanasi must be visited at least once in a lifetime to wash away sins. Watching the people worshipping at the ghats is sure to be one of the most extraordinary experiences of your visit to India. You may also see a funeral pyre, which is a part of the traditional Hindu funeral ceremony.

Later this morning you pay a visit to the buried Buddhist city of Sarnath. Located just outside of Varanasi, Sarnath is as holy to Buddhists as Varanasi is to Hindus. Here you witness the ruins of a once flourishing Buddhist monastery and visit a fine museum which houses an excellent collection of Buddhist art and sculpture.

This afternoon you are transferred to the airport to board your flight for Delhi where you connect with your onward flight.

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