Heritage India Tour


Day 1: Arrive Mumbai

Arriva in Mumbai and after clearing immigration and custom you will be met and transferred to your hotel.

Day 2: Mumbai

This morning you will visit the Gateway of India for an introduction to the Indo Saracenic architectural styles that influenced many of India’s monuments. From here we board a private launch across Mumbai harbor to the cave temples on Elephanta Island (remains closed on Monday). Excavated during the 9th century, the caves are dedicated to the trinity of Indian deities – Bhrama, Vishnu and Shiva. Some of the sculptures were destroyed when the island was used as bivouac for the Portuguese who used the images for target practice.

Later you will visit the Prince of Wales Museum (remains closed on Monday), the dome of glazed tiles giving it a very Persian and Central Asian flavor. The whole is Indo Saracenic in keeping with the Gateway. At the museum we will be walk through the excellent archeological section which has a well displayed section on the Indus Valley civilization, a sophisticated and advanced people who inhabited the Indus Valley from 8500BC to 3500BC. In 2000 BC the main city of Mohenjo Daro was deserted and within the next 250 years the entire civilization disappeared. The museum also houses an excellent collection or jade and silver jewellery and Indian miniature paintings.

Day 3: Mumbai/Delhi

This morning you will visit the city of Mumbai. On the way to the Hanging Gardens we will pass the Victorian Gothic buildings of the city, stopping at the most remarkable of them all, the Victoria Terminus built in 1878. The frontage is symmetrical with a large central dome flanked by two wings. The dome is capped by a 4m high statue of Progress. The booking hall with its arcades, stained glass and glazed tiles was inspired by London’s St Pancreas station. The Hanging Gardens offer a panoramic view of the harbour and a glimpse of the Towers of Silence, the rather unusual crematorium of the Parsi community. We stop for pictures at the Dhobi Ghat a sight unique to Mumbai and end at Mani Bhavan. This is a private home where Mahatma Gandhi used to stay and today is a museum dedicated to him and his achievements.

In the afternoon you will be transferred to domestic airport where you will board your flight for Delhi. Upon arrival in Delhi you will be met and transferred to your hotel.

Day 4: Delhi

After breakfast you tour some of the sights of the capital city. Today you will explore the area referred to as Old Delhi. This was the former Imperial capital of the Mughal Emperor, though very little remains of the grandeur of the Emperor Shah Jahan’s city. You will visit the Red Fort (remains closed on Monday) which was built in the mid 17th century when the Emperor moved his capital from Agra to Delhi. From here you drive to the 300 year old Chandni Chowk market, its narrow lanes best explored in a cycle rickshaw. As you wind your way through the narrow alleys you will see remnants of the grand houses that were once the homes of wealthy nobles. Today it is a busy market selling an extraordinary variety of items – silver, jewellery, aromatic spices, leather, fruit and vegetables. Apothecaries sell home grown medicinal items, and roadside dentists display their bizarre array of equipment and false teeth. This is an excellent introduction to the organized chaos which is quintessentially Indian. You will disembark at the Jama Masjid, believed to be the largest mosque in India and which was Shah Jahan’s last architectural legacy. Originally it was called Masjid-I-Jahanum which means “The mosque commanding a view of the world”.

In the afternoon you will visit one of the architectural triumphs of the Mughal Empire – Humayun’s Tomb. Humayun’s tomb is the earliest example of Mughal architecture in India. Recently renovated with the gardens restored to their former splendor and the fountains working, it is a very attractive site. Architecturally the mausoleum drew its inspiration from the styles prevalent in Samarkand, and the design of the Taj Mahal is based on this tomb.

From here you will visit the Qutb Minar complex which has many historic monuments. The first mosque in India – The Quwwat-Ul- Islam – built from the dressed and carved stones of demolished temples lies in this complex. It establishes the political victory of Islam in northern India. The Qutb Minar was begun in 1199 by Qutb ud din Aibak and was completed by his successors. This fluted elegant tower is decorated with elegant balconies and carvings.

You return to your hotel via the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Combining what Lord Hardinge, The Viceroy suggested “western architecture with an Oriental motif”, this former viceregal lodge, today is the home of the President of India. Though the incorporation of Indian motifs in the final design was superficial, the enormous dome was fashioned on the great Buddhist Stupa at Sanchi.

Day 5: Delhi/Udaipur

In the morning you will be transferred to the airport and you fly to Udaipur. Arrive and check in at the hotel.

Udaipur is a very romantic city, with the palaces built around Lake Pichola and the Aravalli Hills forming the backdrop. Home of the Mewar Rajputs, whose symbol is the rising sun, Udaipur was built as a result of the former Mewari Capital, Chittorgarh being destroyed in a bloody siege.

Day 6: Udaipur

In the morning sightseeing will start at the City Palace. Home of the Maharanas of Udaipur who claim descendence from the Sun, the whole complex appropriately faces east. This sprawling palace was built over three centuries and is a series of four interconnecting palaces, illustrative of various architectural styles. In the main it is a blend of Rajput military architecture and lavish Mughal inspired decorative art on the inside. In terms of an exemplary eye to detail and craftsmanship, few palaces match the artwork in this palace. Extravagantly decorated in mosaic, mirror and tile work, the palace somewhat bizarrely also has a whole porcelain painted Gallery decorated in striking blue Dutch inlaid tile work, one of them unexpectedly showing Joseph and Mary on their flight to Egypt with the infant Jesus. Also of particular note here is the exquisite collection of priceless Rajput Miniature paintings done in the Mewari tradition. You walk through the Crystal Gallery which has a rather eclectic collection of Crystal Object d’art and furniture including a complete bedroom set, discovered recently in a store room in the palace.

After completing the city tour you will check in at your hotel.

Late in the afternoon you take a sunset cruise on Lake Pichola, sailing past its picturesque ghats and palaces. This lake as originally created in the 15th century by a grain merchant who built the dam allowing to create a roadway for his grain carts in the monsoon. You will stop at Jag Mandir which witnessed two important historical events. This 17th century water palace was the refuge for Prince Khurram later known as Shah Jahan when he was exiled by his father. His palace here is a curiosity – the upper floor designed in the Hindu style while the lower floor is built in the Muslim style. Later in during the uprising of 1857, the Rana of Mewar offered safety to several British families who fled from nearby Neemuch.

Day 7: Udaipur / Jodhpur

This morning drive to Jodhpur visiting Ranakpur temples on the way. The drive today takes you across the Aravalli Hills, the oldest mountain range in the world. The scenery along the way is superb and you will see many vignettes of Rajasthani rural life. Among the sights you see are colorful villages, farms where an ancient system of irrigation using bullocks and a Persian wheel are still in practice, outdoor schools and the sartorially vibrant people who add a splash of color to the countryside. There are endless opportunities for photography. This is an opportunity to see life in India outside the cities and towns. Your destination for the morning is the white marble temples at Ranakpur. Considered one of the architectural gems of this area, this profusely and intricately carved temple belongs to the Jain religion. An austere religion, the temple belies the dictates of simplicity promoted by the founder.

The Kingdom of Jodhpur was established by the powerful Rathor clan who claim ancestry as far back as 470 AD. In the mid 15th century, Rao Jodha, the ruler of Marwar, abandoned his old capital and built a new fort on the rocky cliffs of what is now Jodhpur. According to legend, in the process of building the fort, he displaced a hermit who was meditating on the site. The hermit placed a curse on the descendents of Rao Jodha saying they would be plagued by famine every year. This is the reason the locals claim that the area has drought every three or four years. The gigantic Umaid Bhavan Palace where you are staying was built as a result of a project initiated by the Royal family during a famine to provide employment.

Day 8: Jodhpur / Jaisalmer

Of all the many forts in Rajasthan, very few compare to majesty of the Meherangarh Fort. Built on a high rocky cliff, the views from the fort stretch all across the plains as far as the Mewari fort at Kumbalgarh. Almost impregnable, the fort is entered through seven fortified gateways. Beside the last gate , the 15th century Loha Pol, or Iron Gate are the handprints of 15 royal sati, Jodhpur queens who immolated themselves on the funeral pyres of their husbands. The fort is divided into three sections – the public areas, the Maharajas palaces, and the zenana, or queens’ palaces. The zenana is decorated with exquisite sandstone filigree work. Within the fort is the museum which among its varied exhibits has an excellent collection of royal palanquins and the howdah section which has perhaps the finest collection of old ornate elephant howdahs in the world. Walking down from the fort you stop Jaswant Thada, the graceful marble cenotaph of Maharaja Jaswant Singh II (1873-95) and other Maharajas of Jodhpur who died after that year. The cenotaphs of other maharajas and maharanis

This afternoon you will drive for six hours and your destination today is the charming desert town of Jaisalmer. This classic desert fort at Jaisalmer, a World Heritage Site, is built of sandstone. It looks tawny during the day, the color subtly changing to an almost honey gold at sunset.

Day 9: Jaisalmer

This fascinating play of color inspired one of India’s leading film directors to make a world renowned film called “Sonar Kela” or The Golden Fort. Much of the town lives within the ramparts, making this a kind of living museum. The Fort encloses palaces decorated with delicate jali or lattice worked screens, carved doors and flora carvings, and elaborately carved 12th to 16th century Jain temples and the Jain Bhandars or store houses. The Havelies of Jaisalmer are exceptional. Similar in style to the homes of Venetian merchants, the havelies were the mansions of wealthy traders. The houses are decorated with beautifully carved facades, jali screens and oriel windows. Each Haveli has an inner courtyard surrounded by richly decorated apartments. After touring the fort you drive to a high point in the city to watch the sunset.

This afternoon you drive out to Samm Sand Dunes to watch the sunset. For the adventourous there are camel rides available. Surrounded by sand dunes this village is a superb example of desert architecture, the huts built with thick mud walls as protection against the extremes of climates and desert winds.

Day 10: Jaisalmer/Bikaner

After breakfast you will drive for six hours to Bikaner Founded by Bikaji, the second son of the Maharaja of Jodhpur, Bikaner was a major trading center on the caravan route linking central Asia and North India. The rocky outcrop provides a dramatic backdrop for the forts, palaces and temples.

Day 11: Bikaner/Jaipur

As in most cities of Rajasthan, the best place to trace the history is the fort. The Junagarh fort was begun by Raja Rai Singh in the 16th century, but palaces were added to it over the next three centuries. The outer wall, built of light red sandstone is surrounded by a moat, and within are beautifully designed palaces with balconies, kiosks, fine jali or lattice work screens with richly decorated interiors. The Badal Mahal has walls covered with stories from the life Krishna, whilst the walls of the oldest palace, the Lal Niwas, are elaborately decorated in red and gold. Of not is the magnificent Coronation Hall in Maharaja Surat Singh’s, 18th century palace, Anup Mahal, which is richly decorated with plasterwork, lacquer, mirror and glass. There is also a museum housing sculptures, seals, domestic implements and toys. We also visit the Camel Breeding Farm and the Karni Mata Temple that lies on the road to Jodhpur. An unusual temple which is not every ones cup of tea, mice and rats, revered and fed with sweets and milk.

In the afternoon you will drive for six hours to Jaipur and you will arrive in Jaipur late in the evening and check in at your hotel.

Day 12: Jaipur/Agra

After breakfast you will visit the Amber Fort. Hill forts were always important to the Rajput rulers. Belonging to the Hindu “Kshatriya” or warrior class, they believed in the line from the sacred holy book, the Purana that “a fort is the strength of a king”. They built a number of such forts all over the state of Rajasthan; some made for purely defensive purposes, but most built as fort palaces. Amber is one of the finest examples of a fort palace, built similar in style to the surrounding richly decorated Mughal courts.

Later you will visit the city. There are two “cities” – the old walled Pink City and the Jaipur that extended beyond the city walls. You start at the City Palace which at the behest of Sawai Jai Singh was built near the temple of his personal deity Govinda Deva. The seven storey Chandra Mahal (Moon Palace) is a sprawling complex with multiple courtyards, public buildings, astronomical observatory and zenana mahals (harems). Within the palace complex are several museums including a interesting textile gallery exhibiting a fine selection of textiles and costumes from the royal collection. The Jantar Mantar which you visit next is a collection of futuristic structures and astronomical instruments designed by Sawai Jai Singh the founder of Jaipur. This was a result of this intense study of Astrology and Astronomy, and these 17th century extraordinary structures are accurate even today. From the palace you pass the Hawa Mahal or the Palace of the Wind, entering the busy markets of Jaipur. Jai Singh the founder of Jaipur after his palace was completed concentrated on building the bazaars and inviting traders from as far as Iran to come and settle in the city. As a result these artisans who have been practicing their trade for generations have become an integral part of the city’s economic growth and strolling through the bazaars is a lesson in the diversity of Rajasthan’s hand made goods.

Late in the afternoon you will drive for five hours to Agra and upon arrival you will check in at your hotel.

Day 13: Agra

Agra at one time served as the capital city for the great Mughal Empire, and it is the repository of some of their finest architectural creations.

You start your tour of the two great monuments of the city, at the Agra Fort. The present structure stands on the site of 14th century fort that was occupied by the Lodi Sultans of Delhi. When the Mughal Emperor Akbar established his supremacy in Northern India, he began his first architectural venture, rebuilding the fort as a beautiful fort palace. The work was completed by his son and grandson, highlighting the Mughal’s ability to blend defensive and decorative architecture. Richly decorated with marble and mosaic, it was in a part of this fort that Shah Jahan spent the last years of his life, imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb. His private quarters where he was confined, has a magical view of the Taj Mahal across the river Yamuna.

The Taj Mahal, (remains closed on Friday) which you visit next, is perhaps the world’s most perfectly proportioned monument. This stunning mausoleum immortalized the name of Shah Jahan’s last wife Mumtaz Mahal, “light of the palace”. Built by Indian artisans and artisans from neighboring Islamic countries, it is aptly described by the poet laureate Tagore as “A tear on the face of eternity”. Decorated with a mosaic of semi precious stones and Persian calligraphy recreating verses from the Koran, the mausoleum is an “Urs”, an important place of pilgrimage since the empress died in childbirth making her a martyr. Prayers are said and passages from Koran are constantly recited in the mosque and cenotaph chamber.

The afternoon is free for independent activities.

In the evening you will visit the Taj Mahal by sunset.

Day 14: Agra/Khajuraho

This morning you will travel by Shatabdi Express (8:00 AM / 10:48 AM) for Jhansi. Upon arrival you will be met and drive for five hours to Khajuraho. En route you will visit Orcha temples, is a small town between Jhansi and Khajuraho. It’s claim to fame were rulers who managed to stay on friendly terms with the Mughals and produce marvellous palaces and temples.

On the outskirts of the city, along with river, presenting a thrilling site against the sky, are a group of Hindu temples, which have been abandoned.

The palace-fort complex in Orcha is a 17th century structure. It contains three palaces or Mahals. Jahangir Mahal is the most commanding of the palaces built by Bir Singh Deo to honour the Emperor Jahangir’s visit to the city. It is a magnificent example of medieval palace-fort architecture. Much 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.

Day 15: Khajuraho/Varanasi

This tiny village is famous for its remarkable complex of temples built in an inspired burst of creativity between 950 and 1050 AD under the Chandela kings. Of the original 85, only 25 survive and each is a masterpiece dedicated to different deities. The temples were lost among the forest for centuries and were accidentally discovered by a British army engineer in 1858. The presence of erotic temple sculpture, which accounts for less than 10% of the total carvings, has resulted in many theories. The most popular being that the Chandelas were followers of the Tantric cult which believed that gratification of earthly desires was a step towards attaining moksha or release from the cycle of rebirth. You spend the half day exploring the temples, their remarkable sculptures are unique in that they show great sensitivity and warmth displaying one aspect of Hinduism – a genuine love of life.

Later you will fly 9W 723 (1330/1410 hrs) for Varanasi. Upon arrival you will be met and transfer to your hotel.

Varanasi is sacred for both the Hindus and the Buddhists. In the afternoon you will visit Sarnath (Museum remains closed on Thursday) which lies a short distance from the main city is the place where the Buddha came in 500 BC to give his first sermon after gaining enlightenment. Other than the archaeological park which has the remains of the monastery that developed here, of interest is the fairly new Buddhist temple. On the walls are paintings depicting the most significant episodes from the birth of Buddha as Prince Siddhartha, to the time he gained enlightenment and became The Buddha.

Later you will drive to the Ghat and witness the Aarti ceremony. Aarti a ritual with the help of light (lamp) and music (bell) is an important part of Hindu worship Hindu gods and goddesses are imagined as kings & queens everyday as human being they wake up in the morning, take bath, get dressed, work and in the night go to sleep defying the forces of nature Hindus take ganges as a goddess and in the holiest of holy cities of Hindus goddess ganges is given a wake-up call in the morning and ceremonial fare well in the evening. This ceremony begins at the time of dusk .the light of lamps removes the darkness when five priests starts the Aarti on the main Ghat with hundred of cotton wicks on one lamp stand the sound of chanting prayers and mantras, drums, and bells in presence of hundred of people ties the soul to the place and gives the peace to the mind. It is a wonderful and unique ritual place for an hour in Varanasi.

Day 16: Varanasi/ Delhi

A visit to Varanasi is incomplete without a tour of the ghats at sunrise. This is the most auspicious moment in Hinduism and people flock to the river to greet the rising sun. You will watch the activity from a boat, and as you drift down river you will see a panorama of life in a pilgrim town. People take dips in the holy river, yogis practice their art along the steps, mud wrestlers, women doing laundry and washing vessels, pilgrims worshipping at shrine – and in the background the constant sound of temple bells and chanting.

This evening you will be transferred to airport where you will board your flight for Delhi where you will connect with your flight for onward destination.

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