This tour will portray "The Diversity of India" in many ways. One can see the best of temple architecture coupled with history and religion. The architecture in view is literally poetry in different types of stone. The edifices bring about the complex nature of its people and their customs. Starting in the North in Mughal heartland, briefly touching Rajput splendour in the west, moving eastward into the land of Chandelas and the region of gods, ghats and the Ganges. Sample the many wonders of the east in the City of Joy and the city of the thousand temples. Take a respite in the Deccan-empire of the erstwhile Nizam in the heart of India before losing yourself in the myriad temples of the Dravidian region. If this is not enough take a brush with wildlife in cool and green Periyar before meeting the spice rich Arabian seacoast replete with palm fringed beaches and inland waterways. Your journey ends in the business capital of India and the gateway to the west
Day 1: Delhi
Flight to Delhi. Transfer to the hotel. Check in time is 1200 hrs.
Day 2: Delhi
In Delhi's 3000 years of existence, seven cities stood where the present capital of India stands. Here you'll encounter a fascinating blend of the ancient and the contemporary - where government buildings, medieval palaces and bazaars exist besides a modern metropolis. Delhi is a city waiting to be explored.
After breakfast sightseeing of Old and New Delhi.
Visit the 7th city of Delhi, Shahjahanabad (Old Delhi) which was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan (1639-48 AD) after he shifted his capital from Agra to Delhi. Red Fort – the 17th century imposing fortress built in red sandstone is surrounded by a huge boundary wall 33m high. Inside are exquisite palaces and beautiful gardens. Opposite the Red Fort lies Jama Masjid (Friday Mosque) made of red sandstone and white marble, completed in 1656. It is India's largest mosque where more than 20.000 people can kneel in prayer. Visit Raj Ghat on the banks of the river Yamuna, Mahatma Gandhi's Memorial, where he was cremated following his assassination in January 1948. The memorial lies in the midst of landscaped gardens and made of a simple square platform of black marble inscribed with his last words "Hey Ram". An eternal flame burns 24 hours.
Afternoon visit New Delhi.
The Humayun's Tomb, built by his wife Haji Begum in the 16th. Century. An early example of Mughal architecture considered the predecessor of the Taj Mahal. The Qutub Minar – the landmark of Delhi, a huge tower of victory started in 1199 and completed in 1368. The minar is 72.5m high with a diameter at the base 14.4m and 2.7m at the top. Proceed to the Rashtrapati Bhawan once the Viceroy's residence is now the official residence of the President of India. Designed by Lutyens, it combines western and eastern styles – the dome reflects the Buddhist stupa, the chattris Hindu and the graceful colonnades very British. It has 340 rooms. The Government Buildings designed by Baker, are topped by baroque domes and decorated with lotus motifs and elephants, while the north and south gateways are Mughal in design. The northern building has an inscription with "Liberty will not descend to a people; a people must raise themselves to liberty.
It is a blessing which must be earned before it can be enjoyed". The Parliament House, designed by Baker is 173m in diameter. Inside is the library and chambers for the council of state, chamber of princes and legislative assembly. The India Gate (42m), commemorates the 70,000 Indian soldiers who died in the 1st world war. 13516 names of British and Indian soldiers killed in the Afghan War of 1919 are engraved on the arch and foundations. Under the arch, the Amar Jawan Jyoti commemorating Indian armed forces' losses in the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971.
Overnight in hotel.
Day 3: Delhi - Jaipur (261 km)
After breakfast drive to Jaipur.
Jaipur was built in the 18th century by Maharaja Jai Singh II. It is a planned city built with ancient Hindu rules as the colonial capital of a richly colorful state. It was made attractive with the pink wash - a traditional colour of welcome in 1853 in honour of the visit of Prince Albert.
On arrival in Jaipur check in at the hotel.
Rest of the day is free for leisure activities.
Overnight in hotel.
Day 4: Jaipur
After breakfast, half-day excursion trip takes you to Amber Fort. En route, make a photo stop at the palace of winds the Hawa Mahal. A 5 stored building with 25 cm thick facade from the 18 century having 953 windows and niches so that ladies of royal family could see the procession and events in the city without being visible to the people. Proceed to the Amber City Fort situated 130m high with the Aravalli hills around and 11 km north of Jaipur. It was the ancient capital of the Kachhawaha Rajputs till 1037. Enjoy an Elephant ride to the top of the Palace fort.
Return to Jaipur.
Afternoon visit the "Pink City" of Jaipur. The City Palace occupies the center of Jaipur. It now houses the Royal residence and museums with collections of textiles and costumes, armoury, manuscripts, paintings etc.
Also visit Jantar Mantar (1728-34) by king astrologer Jai Singh II. The instruments are built of stone with marble facing on the important plains for measuring the harmony of the heavens. Each instrument serves a particular function and each gives an accurate reading.
Overnight stay at the hotel in Jaipur.
Day 5: Jaipur - Agra (246 km)
After breakfast leave the opulence of the Maharajas, drive to Agra. En-route sightseeing of Fatehpur Sikri. 40 km (1 hour) before Agra, lies the beautiful and deserted medieval city built by Akbar the Great in the 16th century to serve as the capital of his vast empire. It was mysteriously abandoned 13 years later. Today, it is perfectly preserved as a ghost city built at the height of the empire's splendor.
Continue an hour's drive to arrive to your hotel in Agra.
Agra stands on the right bank of the river Yamuna, was once the seat of the Mughal rulers, the zenith of art and an enshrined romance. A town famous for its beautiful medieval monuments. The passion of the Mughals for building endowed it with some of the loveliest buildings in the world.
In the evening visit the world famous monument of India, the Taj Mahal (1631-1653), a poem in white marble, built by Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife, Mumtaj Mahal, who died giving birth to their 14th child. It employed 20,000 workers from the Central Asia and Europe for 22 years to construct this extravagant monument of love, inlaying the white marble edifice with precious and semi precious stones.
Overnight in hotel.
IMP: Taj Mahal is Closed on Friday.
Day 6: Agra - Khajuraho
After breakfast visit Agra Fort (Fort and Palace), situated on the west bank of the river Jamuna, made by the Mughal King Akbar in the 16th century and completed by his grandson Shah Jahan, who was imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb for 8 years in this fort, before his death. The fort is crescent-shaped and the perimeter is 2.4 km long.
After sightseeing, in time transfer to the airport to connect flight to Khajuraho. On arrival in Khajuraho and transfer to the hotel.
Overnight in hotel.
Day 7: Khajuraho - Varanasi
Khajuraho, home to the most famous erotic temples built in the 10 & 11th century by the Chandella Rulers, with the Vindhyan Hills as a backdrop. Of 85 temples only 20 survive. This is a world heritage site. Morning after breakfast visit the Eastern and Western Group of temples.
The Eastern Group of temples are mainly dedicated to the Jain teachers - tirthankaras - The Parsvanatha Temple, the Adinatha Temple and the Santinatha Temple. There is a 4.5m statue of Adinatha in the main place of Jain worship. The temples are ornately carved on the outside with beautiful figures of Hindu gods, goddesses.
The Western Group consists of a group of artistic temples built in sandstone. The sculptures of Hindu deities, dancers and musicians appear to be so natural as if they would come alive any time. We will visit the Varaha Temple dedicated to Vishnu, and also the Lakshmana Temple also dedicated to Vishnu. It is one of the earliest of the western enclosure temples dating from 930 to 950 AD. The Kandariya Mahadeva Temple is not only the largest of the temples, it is also artistically and architecturally the most perfect. Built between 1025 and 1050 it represents Chandella art at its most finely developed phase.
Afternoon transfer to the airport to connect flight to Varanasi. On arrival in Varanasi transfer to hotel.
Overnight in hotel.
Day 8: Varanasi - Kolkata
Varanasi derives its name from the two streams – Varuna in the north and Assi in the south, the British corrupted the name Varanasi to Banaras. The oldest name is Kashi, which means `the City of Light'. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is the holiest city for the Hindus, also for the Jains, because the three tirthankars, 7th, 11th & 23rd were born here. It is believed that anyone who dies here goes straight to heaven The city draws pilgrims from all over the world, to worship, meditate and above all to bathe.
Today early morning you experience the life of this ancient city. See the beauty of the rising sun on the Ganges Boat Ride. The boat ride passes along some of the 100 ghats, with numerous palaces built by Hindu kings. Experience the early morning rituals of the Hindus being performed, thousands of people taking a bath in the holy river believing they will be free from the circle of rebirth. It is interesting to see the pilgrims offering sweets, flowers and holy water to the Sun God.
Return to the hotel for breakfast. After breakfast proceed for an excursion to Sarnath, 9 km from Varanasi, one of Buddhism's major centers in India. It was here that Buddha gave his first Sermon after attaining Nirvana. In the complex is the Dhamekh Stupa (5th-6th AD) or Dharma Chakra, the most imposing monument at Sarnath built to commemorate the place where Buddha delivered his first sermon to the five disciples. Also visit Dharmarajika Stupa that was built by Emperor Ashoka (273-326 BC). From this stupa a green marble casket containing human bones and pearls was found, said to be the relics of Buddha. It was the seat for Buddha's meditation. To the rear is the 5m lower portion polished sandstone Asokan Column (3rd century). The Deer Park on the south – west, has several species of deer. On the way back to the Hotel visit a modern Buddhist temple which has beautiful life size frescos of Buddhas life. In the vicinity is the sapling of the Bodhi tree brought from Sri Lanka, under which Buddha sat and attained enlightenment.
Rooms till 1200 hrs. In the evening transfer to the railway station to connect overnight train to Howrah ( 2030/0645 hrs).
Overnight in the train.
Day 9: Kolkata
Arrival in Howrah at 0645 hrs ( Rooms will be available from 1200 hrs onwards) and transfer to the hotel.
Kolkata, a mere village in the 17th century, has grown in just 300 years, into one of the biggest metropolis in the world, with the dubious distinction of being India's second largest city, and the commercial hub of the eastern region. A proud cultural and intellectual capital of India, with an outstanding contribution to the arts, science, medicine and social reform in its past and rich contemporary cultural life.
Afternoon half day sightseeing Kolkata. As the former Imperial capital, Kolkata retains some of the country's most striking colonial buildings, yet at the same time it is truly an Indian city.
Visit : Victoria Memorial : A splendid architectural structure in white marble, modeled on the Taj Mahal, was built in the early 20th century in memory of Queen Victoria and was formally inaugurated by the Prince of Wales in 1921 who later became King Edward VIII of England. The stately bronze statue of the queen near the entrance, the brass canons, wrought iron street lamps, manicured lawns, gardens and pathways, the magical lighting effect in the evening and a fairy tale 'Fountain of Joy' facing the memorial building create an atmosphere of unforgettable charm. Botanical Gardens: There Gardens have great variety of flora and fauna, all carefully classified. There is also a 250 years old great Banyan tree measuring around 400 meters in circumference. Kali Temple: Famous temple dedicated to Goddess Kali and located at Kaligha, built in 1809 in typical Bengal style of architecture. A large number of devotees visit the temple on festive Durga Puja.
Overnight at the hotel.
Day 10: Kolkata - Bhubaneshwar
Morning transfer to the airport to connect flight to Bhubaneshwar. On arrival in Bhubaneshwar transfer to the hotel.
Bhubaneshwar is the capital of Orissa State. Set on the edge of the lush green rice fields of the Mahanadi Delta, the pleasantly broad street of the planned town, offer a striking contrast to the architectural legacy of its period of greatness over one thousand years. The graceful towers of those early temples, complemented by the extraordinary fineness of the stone carving make Bhubaneswar one of the most rewarding destinations in East India.
Afternoon excursion to the caves of Udayagiri (hill of sunrise) and Kandagiri (broken hill). These 2nd -3rd century BC caves on the two low hills of Udaigiri and Khandgiri are 8 km from Bhubaneswar. Around 63 caves said to be made by the Jain ascetics. There are monasteries in the caves of Udaigiri, where small monk cells are found.
Cave 1 Rani-Gumpha (royal caves) is the largest and most impressive of the 17 caves. It is a double storeyed monastery cut on three sides with fine wall friezes and some pillars. The pilasters at the entrance to the cell and the arches are beautifully carved with religious and royal scenes while the main with an inner yard.
Khandagiri: Noteworthy are caves 1, 2 known as Tatowa Gumpha, cave 3 Ananta Gumpha and cave 7 known as Navamuni Gumpha, and 9 known as Trisula Gumpha. These caves have arches, pilasters, doorways, friezes, with carvings of birds, animals, various symbols like the svastika regarded as auspicious by the Jains. Royal elephants with a turbaned royal person, identified as Surya, the Sun god. Lakshmi the goddess of wealth in the lotus pond with elephants holding pots from which she is taking a bath. Cave 7 has the sculptures of 7 Tirthankaras and two reliefs, one of Parsvanatha and the sage Rishabanatha.
Return to Bhubaneshwar.
Overnight at the hotel.
Day 11: Bhunbaneshwar
After breakfast sightseeing in Bhubaneshwar. You will see the important temples, with time to explore the city.
The Lingaraja-Temple (1000 AD) with its 54 m high square tower known as the Sri Mandir dominates the landscape. It represents the peak of achievement of the Orissan middle period, one of India's most remarkable architectural achievements. Non Hindus are not allowed inside. However, it is possible to get an impression of the main features of the temple from a specially constructed viewing platform outside.
The Mukteshwara-Temple (around 900 AD) is one of the most beautifully decorated with outstanding carvings. New Designs are in evidence, which include graceful female figures and pilasters carved with snake figures. Most strikingly, the porch has a new and more dramatic layered form. In this temple the Torana - gateway arches with flower ornaments, medallions with 2 female figures are very unique.
Raja Rani Temple (early 11 century) a form of a sanctuary is striking. The main tower 18 m high is surrounded by four miniature copies, giving the sanctuary an almost circular appearance.
The Vaital-Temple (7.-8.century) has a double story carriage shelter and what surprises one, is that it gives an impression of being influenced by Buddhist cave architecture. Another striking feature is the temple's tantric associations, marked by its presiding deity, Chamunda (a terrible form of Durga).
Overnight stay at hotel.
Day 12: Bhubaneshwar - Puri (91 km)
After breakfast drive to Puri. Around mid noon you arrive in Konark one of the most vivid architectural treasure of Hindu India and a World Heritage site. The shore temple is the last phase of the temple architecture of the Kalinga dynasty (13 Century). Dedicated to the Sun God "Surya", the temple is in the form of a chariot. It has 12 wheels, which denote the 12 months in a year and 7 horses denote the 7 days in a week. The temple was conceived to reflect a picture of life, with sculptures of every aspect of life – dancers, musicians, figures from mythology, scenes of love and war, court life, hunting, elephant fights. A significant section is erotic art.
Further drive to Puri, one of the 7 holy cities of India, most holy for the followers of God Vishnu.. After arrival check-in in the hotel.
Afternoon visit Jagannath Temple, an attraction for the Hindus. Non Hindus are not allowed into the temple. From the terrace of a Library opposite the temple, you can have a view of the inner temple. The original temple built in Kalinga style consisted of the sanctuary and the jagamohan audience hall. The wooden figures of the three deities, Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra stand in the sanctuary garlanded and decorated by the priests. The Rath Yatra, Lord Jagannath's car festival commemorates Lord Krishna's journey from Gokul to Mathura in an extraordinary riot of colour and noise. Shaped like a temple sanctuary and brightly decorated, a 13 m car of Lord Jagannath with 16 wheels, accompanied by bedecked elephants. The procession is led by Balabhadra chariot, followed by Subhadra's and Lord Jagannath in the rear. About 4000 pilgrims need to draw each chariot.
Overnight stay at hotel.
Day 13: Puri - Bhubaneshwar - Hyderabad
Drive to Bhubaneshwar to connect flight to Hyderabad ( operates only on Tue, Thu, Sat). Arrival in Hyderabad and transfer to the hotel.
Hyderabad, the capital of Andhra Pradesh, along with its twin city Secunderabad, resembles a legendary city from the
Arabian Nights The City was founded in the late 16th century by the Qutub Shahi Dynasty. The City of Hydrerabad is known for its minarets and its pearl bazar.
Overnight at the hotel.
Day 14: Hyderabad
After breakfast an excursion to Golconda Fort (1512 – 1687) The fort city built in the phase ending Muslim architecture in the Deccan. It was the former capital of the Qutab Shahi dynasty. The fort known for the use of acoustics in its architectural design – sound signals could be passed from the gates to the top of the fort without the use of modern equipment.
While driving back to city visit city's landmark, the Char Minar (four minarets built in the 16th century) in the middle of the old city. There is a beautiful mosque on the second floor and a large water tank in the centre. Drive further to an old palace of the Nizams, the Purani Haveli (1671-1748), a vast mansion comprising 11 buildings, and Salar Jung Museum which has probably the most comprehensive one-man-collection of the Nizam, once the wealthiest man in the world. 33 rooms housing Indian textiles and bronzes, Indian sculpture, minor arts of South India, printed fabrics and glass, children's section, Ivory room, armaments, metal ware, modern Indian painting, Indian miniatures, European art, jade, European bronzes, clock room, manuscripts, Far Eastern porcelain and a Kashmiri room. Needs more than a day to see it in detail.
Overnight at the hotel.
IMP: Salar Jung Museum closed on Friday.
Day 15: Hyderabad - Chennai
After breakfast transfer to the airport to connect flight to Chennai. Upon arrival, transfer to the hotel.
Formerly Madras is now Chennai. The city traces its origin to 1639 when Francis Day a trader with the British East India Company, built a trading post – Fort St. George, near the village of Madraspatnam. Today Chennai is the fourth largest city of India with a population of 5,5 million people. Also called as "Hollywood of India" it is the center for making South Indian films.
Afternoon half day tour of Chennai. Visit Kapaleshvara Temple in Mylapore, dedicated to God Shiva and offers a good example of South Indian colourful temple architecture. An opportunity to mingle with the pilgrims. Fort St. George – a British trading post and powerful bastion and entrance to South India. The 16th century Portuguese old Cathedral of St. Thomas Church in which the remnants of St. Thomas is buried who came to India in 52 AD. Pass by the University built in Indo-Sarscenic style, as well as 5 km long Marina Beach, a lovely esplanade by the sea, and National Museum with sculptures from Pallava, Pandava and Chola time which houses archaeology, art, exceptionally beautiful bronzes statues, with exhibits of stone and iron age.
Overnight in hotel.
Day 16: Chennai - Madurai
Transfer to airport to connect flight to Madurai.
Madurai is the cultural capital of Tamilnadu. Here, the Dravidian culture reached its zenith in art, architecture, palaces and temple buildings. Once the capital of powerful Nayaka kings, a bustling city packed with pilgrims, businessmen, bullock carts and legions of rickshaw pullers. Its narrow overcrowded streets seem to be bursting at the seams with activity. Southern India's oldest center for pilgrimage and learning.
Upon arrival in Madurai check-in to the hotel.
Visit The Meenakshi – Temple an outstanding example of the Dravidian temple architecture from the Vijaynagar kingdom. Meenakshi, the fish eyed goddess and the consort of Shiva has a temple to the south and Sundareswarar (Shiva) a temple to the west. One of the biggest temples of India. Its nine "Gopuram"-Temple towers (23-30m ) have wonderful stucco images of gods, goddesses and animals from the Hindu mythology. Also visit Thirumalai Nayak Palace, a palace in Indo-Saracenic style built in 1636, with huge domes and 240 columns rising to 12 m, a beautiful garden and a attached museum. The celestial Pavilion, an arcaded octagonal structure is curiously constructed in brick and mortar without any supporting rafters.
In the evening enjoy a rickshaw ride to Meenakshi temple to watch the night ceremony. The temple is a hive of activity, colorfully decorated temple elephant, flower sellers and performances by musicians. At 21:30 hours, the image of Shiva is carried in a procession accompanied by musicians, temple singers and priests from his shrine. Enroute Shiva visits the other deities before entering Parvati's (Meenakshi) temple to sleep with her for the night.
Overnight in hotel.
Day 17: Madurai - Periyar (145 km)
After breakfast drive to Thekkadi the Periyar National Park through the cardamom country.
Periyar National Park, a unique wildlife sanctuary, is about 780 sq. km centered around an artificial lake fed by the Periyar River.
This afternoon game viewing is on board boats, which carry you through the jungle along convoluted waterways and afford sightings of elephant, bison, deer and occasionally, tiger. Small animals include black Nilgiri langur, bonnet and lion tailed macaque, Giant and Flying squirrel. There are some 246 species of birds and 112 species of butterfly. There are trees more than 100 years old and over 50 m high.
Overnight in the hotel at Periyar/Thekkady.
Day 18: Periyar - Cochin (185 km)
After breakfast drive to Cochin. On arrival in Cochin check in at the hotel.
If Kerala is India's most beautiful state, which many tourists believe, then the lovely port of Cochin is its jewel. It has been variously hailed as Queen of the Arabian Sea, Venice of Orient, etc. Some choose to call it simply a museum city for its rich past and colorful present. Cochin displays a blend of peoples and architecture. It is one place where you can see a Jewish synagogue, Portuguese churches, Dutch architecture, a couple of mosques, Hindu temples and Chinese fishing nets all in one day.
Evening enthrall yourself with a special presentation of the colourfully costumed Kathakali Dance Drama. This mask dance form is originally from Kerala and 1500 years old. This classical dance has 24 mudras expressing the nine emotions of serenity, wonder, kindness, love, valor, fear, contempt, loathing and anger.
Overnight in hotel.
Day 19: Cochin
After breakfast sightseeing of Cochin, a city till today influenced by medieval Portugal, Holland and England. You visit St. Francis Church, built in 1503 by Portuguese Franciscan friars where Vasco da Gama was buried for 14 years before his remains were transferred to Lisvon. His tombstone still stands. Nearby is the Mattancherry Palace or "Dutch Palace". The central hall on the Ist floor was the coronation hall of the rajas of Cochin. Other rooms depict scenes from the Ramayana and Puranic legends connected with Hindu gods. Amazing are the Chinese fishing nets. These cantilevered fishing nets line the entrance to the harbour mouth. They were introduced by traders from the courts of Kublai Khan. You also see the Jew City with the Jewish Synagogue , constructed in 1568, with hand-painted, willow-pattern floor tiles brought from Canton in the mid-18th century by a Rabbi, who had trading interest in that city.
Afternoon enjoy a boat ride through the back waters of Cochin, an idyllic experience. Waterside activities of coir-making, toddy tapping, fishing, rice growing along the palm lined banks and narrow strips of land that separate the water-ways, and the constant traffic are typical. It also offers the opportunity to see tropical vegetation, bird life and crops.
Day 20: Cochin - Mumbai
Transfer to the airport for flight to Mumbai. On arrival in Bombay transfer to the hotel.
Mumbai formerly known as Bombay. India's most cosmopolitan city, an ancient port and trading centre. This palm- fringed shore of the Arabian Sea was the British Empire's entrance to its `Crown Jewel'.
Rest of the day is free for independent activities.
Overnight in hotel.
Day 21: Mumbai
Morning an excursion to the rock-cut temples on the Elephanta Island, 10 kms across the sea, north-east from Mumbai's harbour. The island houses the temples wonders of the 7th century dedicated to Lord Shiva as the Creator, Preserver, and Destroyer.
This afternoon a short tour Mumbai city, rich blend of East and West. The tour includes the 26 mtr high British-built Arch "Gateway of India", Mumbai's landmark built to honour the visit of George V and Queen Mary in 1911. Marine Drive dubbed as the Queen's Necklace is Mumbai's most popular promenades and a favourite sunset watching spot. The Kamla Nehru Park from where you have a picturesque view of the city, Hanging Gardens are so named since they are located on top of a series of tanks that supply water to Mumbai. Pass by the `towers of silence' the crematorium of the Parsis. Also visit Mani Bhawan a private house where Mahatma Gandhi used to stay when he visited Mumbai. It is now a museum and research library with 20,000 volumes.
IMP: Elephanta caves are closed on Monday.
Day 22: Mumbai - Home
Early morning transfer to Mumbai's International airport to connect flight back home.