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Day 1 : Arrival in Delhi
Arrival in Delhi. Met at airport & transfer to hotel
Day 2 : Delhi (B)
A full day of sightseeing in Old & New Delhi including: the Red Fort,Jama Masjid (the great mosque), a rikshaw ride through the Chandi Chowk bazaar in Old Delhi; Gandhi Darshan/Raj Ghat which marks the spot where Gandhi was asasinated; the Gandhi Memorial Museum and Qutab Minar.
Day 3 : Delhi - Kangra - Taragarh. (B/D)
Transfer to airport for a flight to Kangra (flight IT4354 dep 14:30/arr 16:00)From there, we drive (1.30 min) to the Taragarh Palace. Formerly known as Al Hilal (land of the crescent moon), Taragarh Palace was built in 1931 by the 27 year old Nawab of Bahawalpur as a large European - style summer residence for himself up in the cool Himalayan jungle of the Kangra district. He laid out lush gardens, built a glass pavilion and a mosque. It was bought by the royal family of Jammu & Kashmir in 1951 for the Maharani who lived there for several years. It is now run as a hotel by the present royal family. In the evening, we visit Baijnath Temple, a Shiva temple dedicated to Shiva Vaidyanatha. It is supposed to be the temple where Ravana worshipped Shiva to gain immortality. The Baijnath is one of the twelve 'Jyotirlingas' and is thronged with pilgrims at the festival of Shivratri.
Day 4 : Taragarh (B,D)
Drive to Sherabilling Monastery, one the the world's largest buddhist teaching centers. The monks received a Grammy for their Sacred Buddhist Chanting. Afternoon attend the monks’ prayer and chanting session.
Day 5 : Taragarh - Dharamsala (B)
An hour and a half's drive will take us to the headquarter of Tibet in Exile. Dharamsala. After checking into our hotel Surya we will have a short walking tour of the town, visit the main prayer wheel, and a nunnery. The Namgyal Monastery, which houses the Buddhist School of Dialectics, also known as the "Tsuglagkhang" (cathedral) is opposite the Dalai Lama's residence. It resembles the center of a similar one in Lhasa. Inside are large gilded bronze statues of the Buddha and it is a good place to chat with the monks. Next to the Tsuglagkhang is the Kalachakra Temple with modern murals of mandalas - protectors of the Dharma, as well as Buddhist masters, with the central image being of the Shakhyamuni. Sand Mandalas are constructed throughout the year. This temple is particularly important as it practices Kalachakra Tantra, which is instrumental in bringing about world peace and harmony. If the Dalai Lama is in Dharamshala he leads the prayers on special occasions.
Afternoon visit to the Offices of the Tibet Government in Exile, Museum of Buddhist Artifacts, Medicine and Astrology and some free time to stroll town independently & shop if interested afterwards an excursion to the Norbulinka Institute, which is a major center for Buddhist teaching and practical work. Named after the summer residence of the Seventh Dalai Lama, it was set up to ensure the survival of the Tibetan Buddhism cultural heritage. Over 100 students learn a variety of crafts in wood, metal, silk and thangka painting. The temple has a 4.5 meter (15 foot) high gilded statue of The Buddha and over 1000 painted images.
Day 6 : Dharamsala - Amritsar(B)
In the early morning, at 6 am, we walk to the Namgyal Monastery (Dalai Lama's monastery) to witness the monks chanting/meditation. Join the locals for a walk circumambulating the monastery complex. It is a breath-taking and inspiring experience -- not to be missed! The walk will take 20-30 minutes, depending on how long you care to linger at the mid - pont, where there are large prayer wheels and often monks chanting and playing music while locals pray at the chortens. Retrun to hotel for breakfast.
After breakfast drive to Amritsar (160 km) Check into hotel.
Afternoon witness the religious traditions of the Sikhs at the Golden Temple. This will include both a guided tour by one of the Sikh priests as well as time for individuals to stroll independently and reflect/meditate. The temple complex is a community where pilgrims travel for days from all over and are offered shelter and food for free. The whole operation is run by volunteers and is truly amazing to witness the efficiency by which thousands are feed each day and also inspiring, as elsewhere in India, to see the devotion of the people to their faith. You will have opportunity to volunteer in the kitchen. Voluntary service is one of the main paths of Sikhism. Eveyone is contributing in some way or the other at the shrine; chopping veggies, cleaning utensils, making chhappatis, cooking daal, serving, cleaning, offering water, participating in ongoing maintanence and repair. Everyone is giving back to humaity by way of self less service.
Day 7 : Amritsar - Haridwar (B):
Morning train to Haridwar (dep 06:30/arr 13:30 except Thu). Afternoon spend in Haridwar visiting various sites including the Neel Parvat Temple, dedicated to the Goddess Chandi Devi (Durga), which is on top of a hill overlooking the Ganges and about 6 km (3.7 miles) from Haridwar. Local Indian women will be there performing devotionals to the goddess.
Attend the prayer ceremony to witness aarti (ceremony of lights) at the Ganges, which starts at 6:15pm, we'll enjoy the pre-ceremony festivities on the promenade. Overnight at the Hariganga Haveli.
Day 8 : Haridwar - Rishikesh (B)
Morning drive to Rishikesh (45 min). After Checking in walk to The Sivananda Ashram and then across the Ram Jhula (now called the sivananda bridge) on the Ganga visiting several ashrams and temples Gita Bhawan, Gita Ashram, Swargashram and Parmarth Ashram. There are many shops stocked with spiritual books and music, clothes, articles of spititual nature. Evening reach Parmarth Ashram in time for Ganga Aarti (chanting, bhajan, kirtan) 5:30 6:00 pm.
Day 9 :
Rishikesh - Delhi (B)
Morning attend yoga class. Chech out around 1200 hrs. Rest of day independent. OR we will drive to the Lakshman Jhula Bridge along the river, visiting several ashrams and temples. After lunch at one of the restaurants we return to our hotel for a brief wash and change, pick our bags and drive to Haridwar to connect evening train Shatabdi Exp. dep. 1815 / arr. Delhi 2245 (dinner will be served on the train). On arrival transfer near airport hotel.
Day 10 : Delhi - Varanasi (B)
Tansfer to airport for flight 9W723 dep. 1040 / arr. 1150 to Varanasi. Transfer to hotel. Afternoon visit Sarnath, the spiritual center of Buddhism (where Buddha gave his first sermon). The ancient ruins are fascinating, including the Dhamekh Stupa which is believed to mark the spot where Buddha preached his famous sermon; the archaeological museum is excellent. There is also a monument dedicated to Buddha and a modern Buddhist temple with murals by a Japanese painter depicting the story of the life of Buddha.
Day 11 : Varanasi (B)
A visit to Varanasi reveals the spiritual heart of India, and the best way to experience this is to tour the Ganges in a country boat at sunrise. Pilgrims, yogis and mystics flock to the ghats (steps) which lie along the banks of the Ganges, to take a cleansing dip in India's holiest river, practice yoga, meditate, or to complete mundane earthly chores such as washing clothes and vessels. Early morning life in this city revolves around the ghats. A contemporary of Nineveh and Thebes, Varanasi today is the oldest living city in the world. One of India's most sacred cities, a devout Hindu believes to die and be cremated in Varanasi is to gain "moksha" or release from the eternal cycle of rebirth. The visit to the old city is a fascinating insight into the rituals of Hinduism. Every temple is well attended and every street corner has roadside shrines and vendors selling garlands, incense sticks and other items used in worship.
After our boat ride, we walk through the narrow alleys where we share space with cows, scooters, cycle rickshaws, shops and people to the banks of the Ganges, visiting Return to the the temples and being able to watch the rituals of Hindu worship. hotel for breakfast and independent time.
Evening attend aarti (light ceremony) on the banks of the Ganges.
Day 12 : Varanasi - Khajuraho (B)
Morning transfer to the airport for a flight to Khajuraho (Flight 9W723 dep 12:20/arr 13:00). Afternoon, we visit Classical Temples from Chandella Style of the 9th- 11th century, illustrated with remarkable sculptures of the classical erotic literature, the KAMA SUTRA.
Day 13 : Kahjuraho - Orchha - Agra. (B)
Drive to Orchha. (170km/ 105 miles) which was the capital of the kingdom of the Bundella Rajputs from 1531 to 1783, visit Jahangir Mahal Palace, an Indo-Persian style palace of the Mughul period and the Ram Raja Temple, built in the 17th century. Lunch on your own at the Orchha Palace Hotel. Afterward, we drive to Jhansi and board Shatabdi Express to Agra (dep 1755/ arr 2030).
Day 14 : Agra (B)
Sunrise visit to the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. Return to hotel for breakfast. Then excursion to Mathura, birthplace of Krishna, and Vrindavan, where Krishna spent his childhood. We visit Krishna temple and the birth place of Lord Krishna. Drive to Vrindavan; visit Radha Raman, Madan Mohan, Govinda Mandir, Raga Ji Ashram; witness religious ceremonies--music & chanting--at ISCON Temple, the temple devoted to Krishna.
Day 15 : Agra-Fatephur Sikri-Jaipur (B)
Departure (8 am) for Jaipur (260 km), visiting Fathepur Sikri, the deserted city, enroute. Fatehpur Sikri was erected after a holy man, Sheikh Salim Chisti, living in Sikri, decreed the births of three sons to Akbar after all his children had died in infancy. There are three sections to the City: The Royal Palace (notable for the Emperor’s throne), outside the Royal Palace and the the Jami Masjid (the location of the Tomb of Sheikh Salim Chishti, a masterpiece in brilliant white marble). The centerpiece of this remarkable monument is the Jewel House of the Diwan I Khas. Architecturally extraordinary, the four doorways lead into a single story room where a huge central pillar carved to baroque richness, supports a seat reached by mid-air walkways. It is over 400 years old and today its pristine red sandstone buildings are as perfect as when they were first chiseled.
During his stay in Fatehpur Sikri, Akbar spent much time studying religions other than Islam. From discussions with Hindus, Jains, Parsis and recently arrived Portuguese Jesuits from Goa, he developed a new religion called Deen Ilahi, which attempted to combine elements from all major religions. Fatehpur Sikri itself can be seen as a similar synthesis: a place where Islamic architecture fuses with Hindu and Jain decorative art. Akbar, as was common of the Muslims of the time, had several wives--one Hindu, one Christian and one Jewish. You can see the reflection of her religion in decorative style of each wife's palace.
Day 16 : Jaipur (B)
Morning visit Amber, the ancient kingdom of Jaipur. Amber was also the name of its ancient capital, situated 7 miles away. It's history can be traced backed to the 12th century. Amber Fort is superbly located, protected by wild Arrival Hills on all sides. Originally built in the 11th Century, it was extended by Raja Mannish in the late 16th century. The ascent to the Fort will be on elephant backs.
Afternoon visit Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds), Jal Mahal (Water Palace), the City Palace and Jantar Mantar - the observatory built my Maharaja Jai Singh in 1728. The City Palace museum has an extensive collection of art, carpets, enamel ware and weapons. (Note: Akbar's magnificently illustrated Ramayana and Razmnama are sometimes on display at the Jaipur Library - if so, we can view these).
Day 17 : Jaipur - Delhi
Morning at leisure. Drive to to Delhi (240 km). Arrive Delhi transfer to hotel near airport for rooms for wash and change at Ashok, late night transfer to international airport for flt home.
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